Kierkegaard's Fear And Trembling Essay

1641 words - 7 pages

Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling

What is a human person? How do human beings relate to God? Who am I? Why do I exist?

I. Soeren Kierkegaard, a famous theologian of the 19th Century, wrote Fear and Trembling in 1843 in response to Hegelianism. Kierkegaard takes on the pseudonymous role of Jonannes de Silentio and speaks on modern peoples' attitudes toward doubt and faith. He believes humans are creatures entrenched in reason and doubt but not in the same sense as Descartes, a French mathematician, scientist and philosopher. Descartes doubted everything he had ever learned; his way of thinking is called hyperbolic or Cartesian doubt. According to his philosophy, within the world of ideas there is clearance sale; everybody has a shop (their mind) and everything in one's head is one's ideas and beliefs. Reaching a point where one doubts everything is not easy to attain, yet humanity, on the whole, believes this is the starting point. Descartes denied himself of many things in order to reach such a state of being. He believed he had knowledge, whilst everyone else had beliefs. A belief only became knowledge when one had reasonable proved it via logical thought. Kierkegaard argued that knowledge is "understandable" whereas faith is "absurd." This knowledge is useless unless one can make the "leap of faith." When one is bound by knowledge and rational thinking, he/she is said to embody the universal because one's individuality is made void for the sake of societal good. On the other hand, the individual characterizes a relationship with oneself in the case of the aesthetic and a relationship with God in the religious. The latter is highest relationship; therefore, humans will receive the most pleasure from it. Most men during Kierkegaard's time followed Hegelianism; Kierkegaard believed that there were "stages on life's way": "the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious." Hegel believed everyone should strive to be universal and embody the ethical. The ethical lifestyle is one of selflessness and commitment to the betterment of society. The universal is the enactment of the ethical. Man should strive to do the common good or that which benefits the most people. The ethical encompasses the laws that govern society (e.g. do not murder an innocent person). Although, Kierkegaard recognizes the inherent good in an ethical way of living, he still maintains that the religious should always take precedence. For example, people admire Abraham's story because very few people would have had enough faith to sacrifice their own son in terms of a religious outlook; with the ethical outlook it would be considered murder. With that in mind, God could ask one to contradict the ethical at anytime. Hence, men of faith, according to Kierkegaard, live a life of fear and trembling. Abraham represents perfectly how human beings should relate to God. The relationship between human beings and God is characterized by blind faith (sola fide). Abraham effaced his worldly...

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