Kierkegaard on Ethics and Religion : From Either/or to Philosophical Fragments [1 ed.] 9781441146731, 9781847060785

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Kierkegaard on Ethics and Religion : From Either/or to Philosophical Fragments [1 ed.]
 9781441146731, 9781847060785

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Kierkegaard on Ethics and Religion

Continuum Studies in Philosophy Series Editor: James Fieser, University of Tennessee at Martin, USA Continuum Studies in Philosophy is a major monograph series from Continuum. The series features first-class scholarly research monographs across the whole field of philosophy. Each work makes a major contribution to the field of philosophical research. Aesthetic in Kant, James Kirwan Analytic Philosophy: The History of an Illusion, Aaron Preston Aquinas and the Ship of Theseus, Christopher Brown The Challenge of Relativism, Patrick Phillips Demands of Taste in Kant’s Aesthetics, Brent Kalar Descartes and the Metaphysics of Human Nature, Justin Skirry Descartes’ Theory of Ideas, David Clemenson Dialectic of Romanticism, Peter Murphy and David Roberts Hegel’s Philosophy of Language, Jim Vernon Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, David James The History of Intentionality, Ryan Hickerson Kierkegaard’s Analysis of Radical Evil, David A. Roberts Leibniz Re-interpreted, Lloyd Strickland Metaphysics and the End of Philosophy, HO Mounce Nietzsche and the Greeks, Dale Wilkerson Origins of Analytic Philosophy, Delbert Reed Philosophy of Miracles, David Corner Platonism, Music and the Listener’s Share, Christopher Norris Popper’s Theory of Science, Carlos Garcia Role of God in Spinoza’s Metaphysics, Sherry Deveaux Rousseau and the Ethics of Virtue, James Delaney Rousseau’s Theory of Freedom, Matthew Simpson Spinoza and the Stoics, Firmin DeBrabander Spinoza’s Radical Cartesian Mind, Tammy Nyden-Bullock St. Augustine and the Theory of Just War, John Mark Mattox St. Augustine of Hippo, R.W. Dyson Thomas Aquinas & John Duns Scotus, Alex Hall Tolerance and the Ethical Life, Andrew Fiala

Kierkegaard on Ethics and Religion From Either/Or to Philosophical Fragments

W. Glenn Kirkconnell

Continuum International Publishing Group The Tower Building 11 York Road London SE1 7NX

80 Maiden Lane Suite 704 New York NY 10038

www.continuumbooks.com © W. Glenn Kirkconnell 2008 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN-10: HB: 1-8470-6078-1 ISBN-13: HB: 978-1-8470-6078-5 Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of C ongress.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: For Orientation

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2. Either/Or and the Two Upbuilding Discourses of 1843

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3. The Writings of October 16, 1843 and the Emergence of the Religious

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4. The Nine Discourse Bridge

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5. The Philosophical Fragments and the Religion of Paradox: Sin and Redemption

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6. Conclusion

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Notes

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Bibliography

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Index

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Chapter 1

Introduction: For Orientation

There are two remarkable things about Kierkegaard: the incredible variety of his writings, and the incredible variety of interpretations of those writings. This makes him a joy to read, but a bear to write about; how was I going to write anything that had not already been said better? This suggested, to me at least, a third remarkable fact: no one reads Kierkegaard as he wrote. Long before Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message,” Kierkegaard had come to the same conclusion and invested much of his thought and effort in settling not only what he wished to say, but how it must be said. How odd, then, that we who write about him pay so little attention to this! I thought, if I cannot be more clever than the giants on whose shoulders I stand, perhaps I can just try looking at Kierkegaard from another angle, from below as it were. Perhaps these three remarkable facts are related. Kierkegaard himself said that a true genius is a lousy reader; the great mind is always thinking its own thoughts, and its own growth matters more than strict accuracy of understanding what is read. When an author has something to say, he or she can find Kierkegaard saying something similar, particularly if context and historical situation are ignored. So Kierkegaard can become a forerunner of Nietzsche (Jaspers), or a champion of moral arbitrariness (Alasdair MacInytre), or a prophet of anxiety and nothingness (Heidegger), depending on the idea which the genius is gestating. As we pick our favorite book or books, copiously consult Kierkegaard’s journals for references, look forward and back in the history of philosophy and/or theology, we develop a view of Kierkegaard tinted by the light in which we are reading him. But his original readers had no access to his journals; and they knew nothing of the books which were to come later, whether from his pen or others’. How would Kierkegaard’s thought have appeared to them? Throughout the first phase of his professional authorship, Kierkegaard was careful to present two very different sets of writings to the nineteenth century Copenhagen reading public: a series of complex, esoteric and pseudonymous philosophical books, and, under his own name, a series of

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religious discourses which “accompanied” them. Today we bind the “upbuilding discourses” together as a collection, but originally they were presented as separate books: two in this one, four in that. Kierkegaard imagined an ideal reader, who would divine the works were related and would compare the two series to one another, reading Either/Or with the two discourses which “accompanied” it and so on, noting the contrasts and convergences between them. When we read them as they were intended to be read, we see themes highlighted that were only obscurely presented by the pseudonyms alone, or notice comments in the discourses that echo more extensive pseudonymous discussions. Some readings of Kierkegaard become difficult to support, despite or because of the fact that they spring from great geniuses; other views seem more consistent. Perhaps this gives us a more accurate view of what Kierkegaard really thought, if anyone cares about authorial intent in this postmodern age. At any rate, we will only find the value of such an approach by trying it out; and it might allow a non-genius like myself to still say something helpful. This work will examine Kierkegaard’s authorship from Either/Or and the Two Upbuilding Discourses of 1843 through Philosophical Fragments. This will review his pseudonymous discussions of the life of egoism, morality, religion and Christianity, and the first fourteen of the upbuilding discourses which “accompany” those writings. While both the discourses and the pseudonymous works are important, the pseudonyms are the more complex and confusing, and thus like naughty children will demand more attention. Even so, these works are so complicated that it will not be possible to fully exegete them; we will have to be content with discussion of those chapters which most contribute to the conversation between the pseudonyms and the discourses. We will seek to understand the significance of both the differences and the parallels between these two sets of books, and see if any unifying themes present themselves. And in doing so, we will discover whether the task of looking for unity within such a diverse authorship is a fruitful or futile task.

Chapter 2

Either/Or and the Two Upbuilding Discourses of 1843

I. Either/Or as Religious Polemic In Kierkegaard’s famous account of the spheres of existence, the subject matter of Either/Or would seem to be prereligious. The first volume treats the esthetic sphere, which is supposedly as far from the religious as possible. The second volume deals with the ethical sphere, which is intermediate between the esthetic and the religious on the ladder of existence. In fact, Either/Or ends with a sermon, seemingly breaching the boundary of the religious. Thus the book would seem to start well before the religious and progress toward it, serving to define the religious (if at all) primarily through the via negativa. This matches the obvious reading of the text, and also fits with some comments Kierkegaard makes under his own name. I would not contradict this understanding here, but I would supplement it with another— Either/Or as a religious polemic. In Kierkegaard’s society there were two main rivals to the sort of understanding of the religious he wished to defend. His presentations of these views are both tinged with Hegelianism, so it is more helpful to distinguish them in terms of Hegel’s predecessors—the Romantic spirituality and the Kantian ethical religion. The first view, perhaps the most common among the cultured and intellectual of Denmark who were Kierkegaard’s first readers, depicted the religious as akin to the poetic spirit: an immediate spirituality, a creative and an intuitive sense which enables the genius to perceive a primal transcendent reality invisible to the culturally and conventionally bound (such as the masses of religious believers and their priests). In the second view, the religious is treated as an element or extension of the ethical, unable to stand on its own and demonic if it should try. Seen in this context, the writings of A become a reductio ad absurdum of the amoral spirituality of the poet, and the ethical writings of Judge William likewise push the ethical religiousness (the “religion within

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the limits of reason”) to the breaking point, until it becomes clear that there are in fact serious limits for both the ethical and the religious in this approach. In this way even the supposedly nonreligious portions of Either/ Or serve to refute the two most common understandings of the relationship between the ethical and the religious of Kierkegaard’s day, which he needed to discredit if his own views were to find a place. One advantage of this view of Either/Or is that it allows for a much more essential connection between Either/Or and the two Upbuilding Discourses which accompanied it. In the standard treatment of these works, the two discourses seem like an afterthought. Either/Or progresses through the three spheres of existence, and then the two discourses continue what the sermon in “Ultimatum” started, though perhaps not so well. The alternative here seeks to find a dialog between Either/Or as a whole and the two discourses, to see whether the thrust of both books might lead in similar directions. Either/Or, Part 1: The religious as construed from the esthetic standpoint Since Kierkegaard defines the esthetic largely in contrast to the ethical, an “esthetic religiousness” (if such a thing can be presented) might be expected to be either an amoral spirituality (if ethics and religion are really distinct) or an oxymoron (if ethics and religion are in fact really one thing, as suggested by Kant among others). To the extent that an esthetic religiousness can be presented, it will undoubtedly serve to highlight and exaggerate some elements that might be more hidden in a more ethical religiousness. To the extent that an esthetic religiousness can be shown to fail, the elements that made it up can be shown to be either unimportant or insufficient for true religiousness. It is important to remember that, despite their being bound as two volumes, the two halves of Either/Or are in fact part of one book, encompassing the writings of the pseudonym known only as A, which are devoted to esthetics (both as a subject and a way of life), and the letters of B, or Judge William, who writes to A trying to persuade A to mature beyond the esthetic and embrace the ethical life. The whole has allegedly been collected and arranged by one Victor Eremita, who passes them on to the reader with a few introductory comments of his own. While A’s writings may be esthetic in orientation, they are far from silent regarding the religious; there are in fact many religious or spiritual observations, though hardly any which would be considered “orthodox Christianity.” Examining the overall structure of

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this first volume of Either/Or will help to place the specifically religious observations of the pseudonym “A” within a larger framework. The first volume begins with a series of aphorisms, the “Diapsalmata,” ostensibly intended by the author as private and personal observations of varying moods and subjects. Despite their disparity, they may be generally described as the author’s observations on life, particularly his own. They reveal him to be a man of intelligence, wit, melancholy, and no real goals. Next follows a series of esthetic essays, at least one of which A intended for publication (and therefore it is more structured and finished, and less private and introspective), also showing a variety of moods and subject matter. Again, they reflect an author with a clever and sophisticated nature, philosophically knowledgeable, and with a melancholy nearing cynicism. Noteworthy among this selection is “Rotation of Crops: a Venture in a Theory of Social Prudence,” because it is the closest A comes to actually directly discussing what it means to live esthetically. Lastly, there is the “The Seducer’s Diary,” ascribed by A to a third party, from whom he copied the presented section surreptitiously. A’s philosophy of life is briefly summarized in “Rotation of Crops:” “I assume that it is man’s destiny to amuse himself.”1 Conversely, he writes that “Boredom is the root of all evil.”2 To combat this evil and pursue this highest good, he advises a person to rotate enjoyments, not primarily by altering one’s objects of experience but by altering one’s self, and how one experiences one’s life. One should live poetically, artistically, squeezing every last drop of enjoyment from even the least of things and avoiding the ultimately self-defeating pursuit of more and bigger pleasures. One must seek to control oneself, manipulate one’s own moods, and to avoid all but the most arbitrary pursuits or social relationships so as to be ready to alter or drop them if they threaten to become boring. On reflection, the placement of this essay is striking: it is more than halfway through the book, after every other selection except “The Seducer’s Diary” has already appeared. The entire preceding selection, particularly in the diapsalms but even through to the last esthetic review, is calculated to suggest that A’s grand strategy is failing. It is not merely that he is melancholy; sorrow can after all be fully as effective an antidote to boredom as joy. A properly poetic melancholy might even be enjoyable in a way, as a sad song can be. However, A is also losing his fight against the sense of emptiness and boredom.3 At best, therefore, “Rotation” appears to be a brave counterattack in a lost cause. The pseudonymous editor of the collection of papers suggests that “The Seducer’s Diary” which follows “Rotation of Crops” is, in fact, a work of fiction by the author of the rest of the first book, who has become so repelled and

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unsettled by his creation that he now wishes to distance himself from it.4 The irony of this passage appears as the fictitious editor of the papers accuses the fictitious author of the first volume of himself creating a fictitious author for the “Diary.” The point of the irony appears to be to draw attention to A’s attitude (the alleged author of the “Diary” also responsible for the rest of the volume) to the contents of the “Diary.” Supposedly, the editor Victor Eremita found the papers of A lying in a drawer and published them in the order in which they were lying, along with a series of letters to A from B which Eremita found at the same time (which became the second volume). Obviously, this is fiction; it is more than coincidence that the “Diary” concludes the first volume, and more than coincidence that the Seducer seems to be living out the theories of A. The truth is that the work is carefully structured to depict a range of esthetic life-possibilities, from the romantic lyricism of many of the diapsalms to the demonic amoralism of the “Diary.” Although we would expect similarities between the different views (as they all spring from the same pen), we may expect to find important differences between the views of the “Diary” and rest of the work. The Seducer’s essay is a running commentary on the daily events and activities of his life, and it is in keeping with this orientation that he rarely discusses religious or philosophical matters at length. He is reflective, but his reflections arise from external happenings rather than interior self-examination. A’s writings are more introspective; it is in keeping with this orientation that we know less about his religious activities but know far more about his thoughts. A presents us with a surprising number of orthodox doctrines and observations. His second diapsalm is a defense of the concept of original sin.5 He offers a philosophical discussion of the Incarnation in his commentary on Mozart’s Don Juan.6 His discussion of tragedy contains an analysis of the interrelationships between the esthetic, the ethical, and the religious.7 He also offers as convincing a debunking of the central confusions of Christendom as is found anywhere in Kierkegaard’s writings: This is part of the confusion that manifests itself in so many ways in our day: something is sought where one should not seek it; and what is worse, it is found where one should not find it. One wishes to be edified in the theater, to be esthetically stimulated in church; one wishes to be converted by novels, to be entertained by devotional books; one wishes to have philosophy in the pulpit and a preacher on the lecture platform.8

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A’s discussion of the connection between sin-consciousness and the concept of an eternal happiness foreshadows the Fragments.9 References to despair, renunciation, repetition, passion, and other important concepts in Kierkegaard’s religious thought are first mentioned by this esthetic pseudonym. If being a Christian depended solely on knowledge and intellectual assent to Christian doctrine, there could be no obstacle to declaring A to be a good Christian. Particularly tantalizing is A’s proof for the existence of God, which he draws from Aristophanes: DE(mosthenes): Stat-at-es is it? What, do you really think that there are gods? NIC(ias): I know it. DE: Know it? How? NIC: I’m such a wretched god-detested chap. DE: Well urged indeed.10 This passage is open to various interpretations. It might be simply a lament over the bitterness of life, wherein one always feels persecuted. In that case, calling it a “proof for the existence of God” would be a misdirection. On the other hand, it could be meant to suggest a genuine religious consciousness of a sort. Even a negative experience of the world might be seen as some sort of evidence that there is indeed some sort of transcendent reality behind it all, albeit malevolent. God could be primordially experienced as a power bearing down on me as easily as a power bearing me up. Just how God is experienced might depend on the nature of the experience, or on the attitude and interpretation of the experiencer, or both. This reading gains credence from the suggestions in Kierkegaard’s other writings that whereas Christianity may be a revealed truth, the existence of God is believable to anyone willing to believe it. The person who properly follows up on this primordial experience would become religious; one who chose to ignore or avoid this hint would not. This reading would therefore suggest a prereligious consciousness of God, still needing further development to become anything definite. Further, a third possible reading is that this passage is quite specifically meant as a dig at theologians like Schleiermacher who overemphasized the importance of primordial feeling in Christian religiousness; for who has a “feeling of absolute dependence” more than Nicias, with his perception of being hated and persecuted by the gods?11

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The general theme of Either/Or, as stated by Victor Eremita, is the inconsistency between the internal and the external—specifically, between people’s external appearances and internal reality.12 The most striking (and relevant) incongruence between the Seducer’s thoughts and actions is the fact that he goes to church.13 He also remembers and is able to quote the words of the preachers and theologians of his day. It is true of course that church attendance in one’s own parish of birth was then national law; but it is also true that this law was rarely enforced except in the countryside.14 So it really is by choice that the Seducer attends church. By this one stroke Kierkegaard reduces the objective elements of worship to insignificance: even this fiend can attend church and quote the preacher. What makes his worship esthetics and not piety is of course his attitude toward church—his subjective orientation. He marks out future victims from among the young girls of the congregation; or he contemplates the esthetic inadequacies of the church environment. His fear is not the devil but the tedious; the church is simply part of his campaign to ward off boredom.15 While the Seducer externally observes Christian forms, his inward heart is pagan. His constant use of animistic and mythological allusions are really only hints in this direction; more significant are his idolatrous references to Cordelia.16 His entire orientation really is toward his esthetic project, finite and arbitrary as it is. He further seems to believe that she also is absorbed entirely in earthly rather than heavenly pursuits, although there is no hint that she is anything other than a good Danish Lutheran girl.17 Perhaps most suggestive are the Seducer’s two references to Licentiate Hansen.18 The young future cleric is evidently a friend of the Seducer. They both go courting at the same time, though Hansen is less artistic about it. They both get engaged at the same time, though only Hansen is seriously interested in marriage. And when the licentiate explains why he has chosen this particular girl, the reasons he offers are purely esthetic ones; she is charming, she is young, and he hopes to shape her into his ideal. In fact, the Seducer’s reasons for choosing Cordelia parallel the licentiate’s reasons for choosing his fiancée almost perfectly: that is, each seeks a girl with the esthetic qualities to make her suited to be remade according to his own specifications. If anything, the Seducer’s reaction seems to have more respect for the girl’s personhood than the licentiate expresses. At least, he claims that he first learns from the girl and starts with her natural gifts before presuming to work on her, unlike Hansen who seems to be chomping at the bit to get on with the task of molding his fiancée into his ideal. (Of course, this is little better than one artist having more respect for the marble than another.)

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Then what difference is there between a Seducer and a Christian? According to the Seducer, it is primarily a matter of degrees. Most girls never learn to love decisively or totally. In such a way one may manage to make one’s Christian way through the world.19 However, if one learns to love energetically and decisively, as he hopes for from Cordelia, then she falls prey to the temptations of seducers. So it seems that it is primarily mediocrity and passionlessness that keep most people from violating Christendom’s mores. In this view as in so many other ways, the Seducer echoes earlier passages of the book.20 This age, says A, lacks passion: “The thoughts of their hearts are too wretched to be sinful.”21 In great ages or great literature, great passions were felt and acted upon, great deeds and great sins committed; today folk pride themselves on doing their duty while still hoping to cheat God out of a little something for themselves. Piety these days consists in going to communion once a year, so philistine has the age become. Such lives are unworthy of beings made in the image of God, he says, and they are also unworthy of great sins. Such people are incapable of seduction or of being seduced, as either requires passion; so they will surely manage through life without offending against the standards of Christian society. The religiousness of A Just as his opinion of the state of general Christian piety agrees with the Seducer’s, A’s personal religious state foreshadows the “Diary.” His affections are for paganism. His literary allusions to pagan references are too numerous to count. The more enthusiastic A becomes, the more likely that he will produce an image of an animistic or mythological nature. However, more significant is his central principle: “I assume that it is man’s destiny to amuse himself.”22 This is idolatry; it makes each person his or her own God, while the Lord only serves (if at all) to further the central concern of enjoyment. However, the religious tends to be a jealous and demanding power, and it is best never to allow it the decisive importance it demands for itself.23 In fact, there is something charming in the existential theories of A. The writing is alternatively witty, lyrical, erudite, dialectical, and/or filled with pathos. The content appears to be considered and insightful. The lifestyle it advocates seems beautiful and interesting: enjoyable, but with a dash of melancholy for flavor. To the cultural elite of nineteenth-century Copenhagen who constituted Kierkegaard’s primary audience, the first half of Either/Or should have been particularly entrancing. Given as they were to Romanticism and Hegelianism, each of which virtually deified the genius as cultural hero

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and harbinger of new spiritual insight for the race, the intelligent, witty, creative, touchingly melancholic young esthete would have seemed admirable and even somewhat familiar: not unlike some of those up-and-coming young authors touring the parlor circuit. It would thus be potentially as much a shock for the reader as it is for A himself to see how demonic his program would turn out in practice. Eremita points out that the Seducer is a realization of the idea of a reflective Don Juan found elsewhere in A’s writings, but he is more than that; he is also a person who consistently lives out the advice found in “Rotation of Crops” immediately preceding the “Diary.”24 Whereas the theory seems witty and even jovial, the actuality strikes A (and hopefully the reader) as malicious and inhuman.25 The young esthete presented as the author of the bulk of the first volume of Either/Or turns out to have a fairly developed religiousness. His views on central Christian dogmas and concepts are relatively orthodox, he is acquainted with the theological currents of his day, and he seems both to genuinely believe that there is a God and to be genuinely moved by “spiritual” powers rather than material pursuits. At the same time, he combines Christian and pagan concepts and imagery with no effort to distinguish between them. In this he is religiously in line with other important estheticists of Danish Christendom, and their clerical supporters. A’s most thorough discussion of the religious, the ethical, and the esthetic comes in his comparison of ancient and modern tragedy.26 Ancient tragedy saw the destruction of the hero as much as an event as an action. Even the hero’s own guilt was something suffered, something that happened to the hero, inherited from past generations. There is always an element of fate in Greek tragedy. The hero is therefore guilty (since there is no tragic collision in the destruction of a totally innocent person) yet also innocent (since the guilt is incurred through fate). The modern age, on the contrary, would ignore the hero’s past and make the hero totally responsible for his or her actions. Whatever happens now is the result of the hero’s free choice; the hero is guilty because the hero has committed a crime. In doing this, the modern consciousness transmutes the esthetic guilt of tragedy into an ethical guilt.27 Instead of the ambiguous guilt of the Greek tragic hero, it presents the total evil of the morally criminal. The modern ethical consciousness seeks to make everyone a morally autonomous agent. While the esthetic mitigates guilt by emphasizing the agent’s history and social environment, it cannot really excuse it. Once the agent has really become guilty, and has really fallen under ethical condemnation, the only true relief for the individual is the religious.28 The religious contains an isolating ethical

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element, but it also recognizes universal guilt; the moral agent is part of the race, and labors under the constraints of the influence of universal sinfulness on his or her own self. The tragic makes the hero the victim of a hereditary guilt of the family, or of an accident of fate; the ethical makes one ultimately solely responsible for his or her character, actions, and destiny; and the religious makes the repentant sinner one whose own crime merely brings to fruit the universal guilt of all before God. However, while A may have this primitive religious awareness and this intellectually orthodox understanding of Christianity, his heart is in fact neither Christian nor really religious. His central value is enjoyment, and his devil is boredom. He has a sort of religiousness, but it is an esthetic religiousness without the elements of faith or the ethical. The irony of the situation was that it was the poet such as A, rather than the cleric, who was often regarded as the true seer of the Infinite and true prophet of the Divine—at least by those who considered themselves “cultured,” both laity and clergy. This irony climaxes in the “The Seducer’s Diary,” where we see the full practical conclusions of A’s pretty words: a demonic, immoral consumption of people and events for personal entertainment, leading to an inability to experience the genuinely independent reality of anyone or anything. The Seducer has really lost his world; he has only reflections on his world and his neighbors.29 At the same time, the Seducer is himself not so unlike many of his good Christian neighbors, particularly to an external observer. So in the course of the whole volume we see A, who exhibits true esthetic and religious profundity by the standards of much of Kierkegaard’s reading public, together with the appalling logical fulfillment of such attitudes.30 The esthetic/religious situation in Kierkegaard’s Denmark It is impossible to appreciate the extent to which the first volume of Either/ Or functions as religious satire unless one takes time to ruminate upon the vast differences between nineteenth-century Danish Christendom and twentieth-century Western secularism. If Kierkegaard’s three existential spheres may be broadly defined as the spheres of egoism, responsibility, and faith, the normal modern assumption would probably be that the esthete/egoist would not be a churchgoer, would likely be an avowed atheist or agnostic, and would for the most part favor materialist rather than transcendent categories. Such a stereotype would have been less obvious in Kierkegaard’s world. First, church attendance was compulsory, so one made more of a statement by not going than by going. While Copenhagen residents may not

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have attended often, to be an avowed atheist would have been a radical step. Second, the dominant philosophies were Romanticism and Idealism, not Materialism. So while the philistine bourgeoisie might walk around with their purses clutched close to their hearts, the cultured elite who set the standards were much too occupied with matters of spirit and the infinite to bother with strictly material concerns.31 A sign of this is the literature these literati wrote and read, such as the trendsetter of early nineteenth-century Copenhagen—the poet Adam Oehlenschläger.32 Three of his greatest poems, “The Golden Horns” (1802), “The Death of Hakon Jarl” (1802), and “The Life of Jesus Christ Repeated in the Annual Cycle of Nature” (1805) deal primarily with spiritual and religious themes. Clearly, his audience (the cultured elite and their bourgeois followers) expected and appreciated such spiritualism. At the same time, the poems tend to equate Christianity, nature pantheism, and Norse paganism. If anything, orthodox Christianity is seen as an alien invader on Danish cultural soil, and as a religion suited for the mediocre rather than for the intuitive genius who is portrayed as the source of all human achievement. “The Life of Jesus Repeated . . .” has a particularly interesting history. Initially, the Primate of Denmark denounced the work as pantheistic. It is after all unclear whether the poem better suggests that the life of the historical Jesus is reflected in the annual cycle or that the life of the Christ of faith really is the cycle of the year attributed to a single heroic figure. In a country where the state church was an extension of royal authority, a fullblown condemnation for heresy would have been a disaster for the poem and possibly the poet. Oehlenschläger’s circle of friends decided that one of their number, a young up-and-coming cleric, should provide a defense of the poem. The cleric stalled for months, evidently uncomfortable with the idea of defending the work and its contents, but his literati friends continued to petition him to show himself to be one of their own. Finally, he laid aside his qualms and produced a wholeheartedly favorable review that praised the poem as a true proclamation of the universal importance of Christianity, and the poet as a true preacher of this gospel. That young cleric, whose personal correspondence details how he swallowed his personal theological misgivings to defend the poet’s questionable Christianity on behalf of the cultured circle he sought to join, was J. P. Mynster, who went on to become the next Primate of the Church of Denmark.33 The next Primate after him, H. L. Martensen, had an almost identical episode where he too was called upon to defend a poet of literary fame and questioned orthodoxy (the Hegelian and accused pantheist J. L. Heiberg), an act by which he likewise assured himself of passage into the ranks of the cultured

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and influential.34 The third great church leader of that time, the reformer and political agitator N. F. S. Grundtvig, never did achieve entry into the elite circles. He did however get his start as a thundering prophet for religious rebirth along similar romantic lines to Oehenschläger, with a similar mishmash of Christianity and Norse paganism. Later he did reject the pagan themes of his youth, though he retained a political nationalism as part of his religion. (Nationalism had been a primary motivation for the resurgence of interest in Nordic native religion.)35 It is thus far from surprising that Kierkegaard’s esthete should show such a predilection for religious thought and imagery, or that he should move so comfortably between Christian, pagan, and spiritualist categories. What do attract one’s attention are the differences between Either/Or’s first volume and the estheticism practiced by Kierkegaard’s primary audience, the Golden Age cultured elite. For example, given Oehlenschläger’s preference for Norse paganism, Mynster’s historical allegiance to Oehenschläger, and Grundtvig’s onetime attachment to Norse themes, it would seem that the irony of the work would have been more perfect if A were depicted as spouting off about the Aseir rather than the Olympian deities. The most likely explanation is that Kierkegaard is here parodying not the somewhat passé Oehenschläger, but the currently fashionable J. L. Heiberg, a Hegelian poet of decidedly mystical and pantheistic tendencies and a preference for Greek allusions; and through him, his clerical defender, the then professor Martensen (Kierkegaard’s former tutor). There is also an interesting contrast between the heroes of the poets and the esthetic pseudonyms in Either/Or. In Oehlenschläger’s “Golden Horns,” the discoverers of these gifts of the gods are two simple, unpretentious, soulful youths, a boy and a girl a century apart. It is the immediate, intuitive genius who discovers the divine secrets of the universe. The prying curiosity of the bourgeoisie and the rationalistic analysis of scholars displease the gods, who eventually return to reclaim the horns for themselves. In Heiberg’s poem “Divine Services: A Spring Fantasy,” a solitary and soulful individual walks out to commune with God in nature, not in the gloomy churches of orthodoxy. When he finds his God, it turns out to be Pan, the God of wilderness. Again, the ideal seems to be immediate awareness rather than reflection. In contrast, Kierkegaard’s esthetic pseudonyms are both highly reflective individuals. In this case, the pseudonyms seem intended to mimic not the poetic characters but the poet’s character. A is himself a person reflective almost to the point of losing the world; but his hero is Don Juan, the immediate, unreflective example of sensuous genius.36 The poets too must have been reflective individuals, particularly Heiberg who brought Hegelianism to Copenhagen almost

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single-handedly. The parallel between Kierkegaard’s fictional author and his hero/and the real esthetes of his day and their heroes is perfect. The implication seems to be that there is an inherent self-contradiction in the esthetic agenda; it idolizes the immediate, prelinguistic consciousness that its high priests (the poets) have irrevocably lost. You really cannot successfully carry out the esthetic agenda intentionally; intention equals reflection, and with the appearance of reflection immediacy is destroyed. He makes his point by parodying not the poetic ideals, but the poets who themselves have become ideals for the clerics and elite of Christendom.37 The esthetic and poetic construal of the religious Kierkegaard was thus writing for an audience who thought of themselves as moral and pious Christians, and saw no conflict between this ethical/religious claim and avowed paganism. Poets were as much (or more) spiritual leaders in their eyes as Christian priests. It was therefore in order that Kierkegaard should start by examining the esthetic religiousness, and by exposing the real relationship between estheticism and religiousness. The “immediate,” untutored and immature mysticism which these poets praise is so far from being “Christian,” despite what their clerical defenders claimed, that it even opposed itself to Christianity on occasion. However, more significantly, it is depicted by Kierkegaard as existing quite comfortably in the heart of an esthetic philosophy that is morally and psychologically destructive. Heiberg himself was so appalled by the depiction of the esthetic life that he suggested readers might well throw the book down in disgust, and hence never even bother with the second volume.38 It is a credit to Kierkegaard’s masterful work of irony that Heiberg so failed to recognize himself in the portrait that, like David before Nathan, he condemned himself. An “esthetic religiousness” then seems to be an amorphous concept, but not therefore totally unrecognizable. It is a religion based on feelings and mood, not so much because it has developed so far as to be beyond dogmas and formulas as because it is so unclear to itself that it has not reached so far. Like an “esthetic ethic,” it serves only to support the esthetic in its fight against boredom. At the same time, it can also be said that we have here at least some of the elements of a “religious esthetic”; that is, those esthetic qualities which lie at the roots of the religious life. The yearning for the eternal, which manifests in the poets as a ubiquitous mysticism transcending doctrinal boundaries, really does seem to be something important in the life of genuine religiousness. The “religious esthetic,” as seen in the poets and in the first volume of

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Either/Or, includes the impression of the eternal, whether this is understood as God or just some ineffable object of mystical contemplation. It includes the feelings and intuitions which the poets associated (somewhat romantically) with the simple religious genius of the “Golden Horns,” and which the Golden Age public associated with the poets. It includes the human passions, particularly as these are turned toward religious objects: “the love of God,” as much as “the fear of the Lord.” However, while all of this is clearly a part of any meaningful religious life, it is not itself enough to establish a religious life. One can have all this and still end up like the Seducer. However, without this much, one remains merely part of “the crowd,” and perhaps never even gets so far as the Seducer. What is needed therefore is not simply to abandon the religious esthetic, but to mature it, and integrate it into an entire religious life. Either/Or, Part 2: The ethical, and the religious as construed from the ethical standpoint The second volume of Either/Or is written by B, also known from the text as Judge William. He is married, and a responsible civil servant—the perfect persona for Kierkegaard’s incarnation of the ethical sphere. The volume itself consists of three chapters: two long letters by B to the aesthete A, and one sermon by a pastor friend of William’s, sent by B to A along with a brief cover letter. The three chapters also provide a fairly strict structure, much more coherent (fittingly) than seen in the first volume. The first chapter, “The Esthetic Validity of Marriage,” follows naturally as a rejoinder to the Seducer’s views on male–female relations. It purports to be a defense of marriage (i.e., the ethical love-relationship) as also being the most beautiful and human. It is a discussion of the subject of love, from the ethical viewpoint, rather than being a discussion of the ethical view per se. It is more of an example of the ethical life-view than an examination of it. The second chapter, “The Balance between the Esthetic and the Ethical in the Development of the Personality,” remains much more within purely ethical bounds. This too is fitting, since this letter is a self-conscious examination of the ethical, and hence ought to show more precision in its use of concepts. The final chapter consists mostly of a sermon by a separate persona, a country pastor in Jylland. While the Judge presents and recommends it as a summation and explanation of his own views, in fact the sermon moves beyond the ethical per se into the religious sphere. So the volume begins with an essay depicting the ethical life-view in application to a particular problem, moves to a more theoretical consideration

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of the nature of the ethical in general and its relationship to the esthetic, and ends with a suggestion of the ultimate bankruptcy of the ethical and its need to move on to the religious. One can see a similar structure in the first volume: everything up to “Rotation of Crops” shows the esthetic life-view more than explains it; “Rotation of Crops” offers itself as a theory of the esthetic life-view and how it can be realized, and finally “The Seducer’s Diary” reflects the emptiness and despair of the esthetic when taken to its logical fulfillment. In both volumes, the reader is thus allowed to develop his or her own idea of what the esthetic or ethical life is before being instructed by the author. The examples presented are just that—examples; the reader may compare his or her own theories to them at will. This method also allows the pseudonyms’ own points of view to show through most clearly, as they are seen working out problems and living their lives according to their beliefs rather than merely talking about their beliefs. The esthetic, ethical, and religious elements: In marriage In Either/Or (as elsewhere throughout his writings), the subjects of love and marriage serve Kierkegaard as a touchstone to reveal the nature of whatever existential viewpoint he brings to it. In the case of the esthetic view, the connection between love and marriage is denied. The esthetic contains the immediate, poetic, and romantic qualities, as well as the primal pleasures of the erotic. The esthetic includes the sensuousness of Don Juan with its total lack of reflection and total immersion in the pleasure of the act, as well as the reflection and artistry Mozart brings to the subject by his talent. It would be easy to see the erotic and carnal as animalistic, and the romantic and poetic as somehow a purer and more spiritual love; but Kierkegaard includes both the erotic and the romantic under the same rubric: estheticism. What makes both essentially identical is that both rely on what is immediately given: the one on physical desire and appetite, the other on emotions and moods. In the cases of A and the Seducer, the estheticism represented is too reflective to really carry through either the pure sensuousness of Don Juan or the carnal debauchery of Nero. Instead, A endorses a more refined and poetic eroticism. What he praises are the moment and the mood; what he recommends is the understanding and talent to control them.39 This opinion is also seen in the Seducer. He prizes the moment and the fortuitous, as when he first encounters Cordelia.40 However, more than that, he enjoys crafting situations to bring out the most interesting or poetic elements possible.41 He appears at times to live for the ecstasy of love, and to be carried away by his emotions.42 However, it is also essential to his plan that he know

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how to conjure up moods in himself, seeking situations that will set him in the proper spirit for his next encounter with Cordelia.43 At all times it is ultimately his intellect that commands, not his passions; he manipulates others and himself to create interesting situations and to carry out his plan for an interesting seduction. This then is the end of what A advocates and the Seducer represents: the emotions in the service of the understanding, and reflection ruling (even ruling out) romance. A’s review of Scribe’s First Love reflects how absurd he finds such romantic notions as the heroine’s.44 Neither does he admire the seemingly prosaic existence of the numerous bourgeois married couples he sees cluttering the scenery. He sees the prereflective sensuality of Don Juan as a comparative state of Paradise, a union of humanity and nature from which he and (in reality) all of us are cast out once we begin to reflect. For this reason Don Juan can only be described musically, as in Mozart’s opera, since music is nonlinguistic and hence nonreflective. So what is really left to A, the Seducer, and all esthetes who have learned speech and have exhausted illusion, is the deliberate choice to pursue a detached and reflective eroticism, gaining the most enjoyment from each affair as long as it lasts, and getting out as soon as it either begins to lose its ability to enchant/or begins to acquire too much significance and reality, so that dropping it later might prove difficult. As A writes: When two people fall in love with each other and sense that they are destined for each other, it is a question of having the courage to break it off, for by continuing there is only everything to lose, nothing to gain. It seems to be a paradox, and indeed it is, for the feelings, not for the understanding.45 “The Esthetic Validity of Marriage” takes up the defense of marriage against the views of A and the Seducer. It does not attempt to do this by arguing that marriage builds character, or is a social duty, or by any other assertion of a purpose or ethical motive to marriage. This is the very sort of thing the esthetic has the most objection to: namely, that in equating love with marriage, the ethical either trivializes love (by justifying marriage in relation to some adiaphora) or turns it into a straitjacket (by making it a matter of duty, a moral burden endured rather than a pleasure enjoyed). In fact, William insists that marriage has no “why,” any more than love does.46 William’s tactic instead is to argue that it is the ethical interpretation which in fact realizes the dreams and desires of love, while the esthetic approach fails to satisfy love’s demands (or even fulfill its own paltry promises).

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William starts with immediate, unreflective romantic love, such as any novelist or poet could recognize as the proper subject for esthetic production and consumption.47 The classic myth of romantic love is that the lovers are attracted to each other by a kind of necessity. The love and its necessity are based upon beauty.48 Though their love is thus based upon the sensuous, romantic lovers feel their love to have an eternity, a completeness and unchangeableness. This is of course most clearly visible in the myth; the lovers are supposed to “live happily ever after” at the story’s end. Of course, there must be obstacles to overcome, such as monsters or malicious parents, but in the end the obstacles are surmounted and the lovers come together as the curtain closes. This consummation is what love longs for: that this attraction, this ecstatic joy of the lovers should last. William has only one objection to the myth—it ends where it should have begun.49 It externalizes the obstacles love must overcome, but the real dangers to love are the internal threats: complacency and lassitude now that the prize has been won. Love is not threatened by external powers; in fact, they may actually incite love to greater exertions in overcoming opposition. However, when the curtain falls, and love must be kept alive over 5, 10, 50 years of constant togetherness, without giving up love or letting it become merely habit and complacency, then the real dangers appear. The threat of time is the one threat esthetics does not know how to face. Hence, the modern consciousness has really lost faith in love.50 In general, modern consciousness does not believe love will last. Hence it substitutes either love with a planned obsolescence, or marriage of convenience—either love without durability or durability without love. However, the spiritual bonding between two people which was supposed to be able to overcome Heaven and Hell if need be—no one believes in it anymore. In contrast, William argues that the ethical can reunite love and marriage, and that it alone can. It alone can because only the ethical takes on the threat of change over time, and attempts to actualize love over time (i.e. in the real world). How is it then that love is to be sustained through time? Love is protected against the ravages of time only by being drawn up into a “higher concentricity.” It is not annihilated or essentially altered by the appearance of the ethical; it simply enters a new orbit. Instead of being allowed to revolve simply around one’s own private desires (as it does for the Seducer), William suggests love should be enrolled under the banner of the religious and the ethical. His project begins with the premise of a religious couple, who are in the habit of referring everything to God. In this case, it follows that they should thank God for the gift of the love they have for one another. When they do this, the love is referred to a transcendent power, and away from the

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will of the lovers. One cannot treat love as one’s own creation or prize; one must humble oneself before it to receive it as a gift. Such humility, of course, also means that one cannot treat the other as a prize one has caught; the beloved is not prey but gift. At the same time, both lovers are on an equal footing, each receiving the gift from God, so there can be no question of considering oneself as nothing before the other, happy simply to become the other’s prize; for each receives the other as a gift from God, and not from the other. So the effect of thanking God is to make the love-relationship something transcending both individuals, something which each humbles himself or herself under, and something which humbles each (or builds up, if need be) to the same level since both stand equally related to it. Just as the religious element of marriage is no threat to the esthetic beauty of love (but rather sustains it over time), so too the ethical element proves no enemy to love, but rather its best friend. Duty commands nothing which the lovers themselves do not wish; it commands that they shall love each other for life, be faithful to one another, and so on. By its becoming a matter for duty as well as impulse, it becomes something the lovers humble themselves under; it becomes a transcendent reality above and beyond their own arbitrary and vacillating whims. Thus conceived, duty becomes a reinforcing power for the will, which itself would be prone to fluctuating moods and warring commitments. Conjugal love conceives it as a duty to love; romantic love and esthetic love recognize no higher power, and hence are ultimately arbitrary. It thus is natural that romantic love without the ethical and religious factor should fade with time. When the lovers humble themselves before the ethical demands of marriage, they retain the same commitments to one another; only now those commitments come from somewhere beyond themselves. Duty also contains an element of promise. When duty says, “your love shall be preserved,” it has both imperative and predictive force. (“Ought” implies “can.”) So when the marriage vows state that they shall love, this does not sound to them like a burdensome command but like reassurance. How can the ethical have such confidence that love can be preserved? Partially through the transfiguring power which is created simply from making love a matter of duty. In that, love is assumed into a higher, eternal concentricity, made a matter of responsibility rather than whim, made a matter of the universal and essential nature of humanity rather than a mere peculiarity of two people.51 There is also the suggestion that God will step in to help supplement any weakness in the human efforts to fulfill the duties of conjugal love.52

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In this essay then we see an attempt to distinguish the esthetic and the ethical approaches to a particular issue (love), and also an attempt to reconcile the two to some extent (giving the ethical priority and transfiguring the esthetic to become a component in the ethically centered life). The religious is sometimes referred to as if it were something separate from the ethical, but it apparently acts only to supplement and reinforce the ethical. The esthetic, the ethical, and the religious: In general The Judge’s second letter, on “The Balance between the Esthetic and the Ethical in the Development of the Personality,” draws conclusions about the relationship between the esthetic and the ethical that largely parallel his observations concerning love and marriage. Just as he argued that marriage was (despite its forbidding reputation) the fullest and most beautiful realization of love, so too does he argue that the ethical life as a whole is the most beautiful and fullest realization of human existence. In examining romantic love, William argued that it was based upon illusion, that it was essentially doomed to pass away in time, and that most modern estheticists themselves didn’t even believe in it anymore. This judgment William now applies to the esthetic life as a whole. William cataloges and classifies a variety of esthetic positions, ranging from the most superficial to the most sophisticated (the last identified with A himself).53 For all the differences between them, they have one thing in common: “But the person who says that he wants to enjoy life always posits a condition that either lies outside the individual or is within the individual in such a way that it is not there by virtue of the individual himself.”54 Thus, as he writes later, “You are running the risk of getting into bad and vulgar company, you who are so distinguished.”55 Although these words are ostensibly addressed by William to A, they are just as much addressed by Kierkegaard himself to his contemporaries among the Golden Age literati. Essentially, there is no difference between the self-proclaimed cultural and spiritual elite of Golden Age Denmark and the lower classes they scorn; both live lives based on what is immediately given (or lost) by chance. Estheticists are divided only between those whose illusions are intact, and those whose illusions have collapsed with time. Essentially, everyone living on the esthetic level is in despair: the romantic girl in her dreams of love, whether the merchant with his economic conquests or Nero in his imperial court. Normally, one is said to despair when that around which one has built one’s life fails as when the romantic despairs over being jilted or the mercantile enthusiast over bankruptcy. When one

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pursues joy as one’s chief end and fails to attain it, one despairs. However, the Judge believes this is too narrow a definition of despair; in his opinion, any life-view which seeks the condition of its fulfillment in what is only accidentally related to the person is despair.56 The person who lives for joy lives for what is essentially contingent and transient, and can only rest secure by remaining unaware of this transience. When this awareness is aroused, reflection begins, and the esthetic life is undermined. The person (like A) who realizes the essential futility of the life of enjoyment might seek to escape instead into a life of sorrow and self-pity. However, sorrow proves to be as fleeting as joy, so the life lived for sorrow is as futile as one lived for joy. If this were all the ethicist could say against the esthetic life, however, it would be a pretty weak statement. Many estheticists would gladly remain in the illusion of their existence as long as possible, only taking refuge in the ethical when the illusion finally fails. However, the esthetic life is more than just harmless illusion. There are consequences for choosing a life of self-delusion and failing to achieve a fully human existence. As William says, the boredom consuming A is the symptom of despair, and the only escape from it is to choose to carry through this despair as it moves him out of the esthetic and into the ethical life.57 Another consequence of the esthetic life is the disintegration of the self.58 William points out that A has no apparent depth or constancy to his person. He is what the situation demands; that is all.59 The contradictory appetites, desires, moods, which the environment evokes in the esthete all strive to be expressed at once, and as the esthete has no higher goal or deeper ground to order and unite them, the self is pulled apart.60 Even if the multitude of desires, moods, and passions did not contradict each other, it would be impossible to actualize them all in one human being and one human lifetime. The esthetic self has no organizing principle by which it can impose order on the anarchy of forces within the self, nor does it have the requisite organizing power. The esthetic, after all, is that whereby the self is what it is; it is the ethical whereby the self becomes what it becomes.61 So as long as one shuns the ethical, one rejects the only power whereby one would be able to harmoniously develop one’s personality from the elements of one’s immediate nature. The derangement which A so fears in the Seducer is thus in fact not unique to him; it is something which A (and every aesthete) suffers from to some extent, due to the very nature of the esthetic life. The pseudonymous editor, Victor Eremita, alludes to this fact when he accuses A of having invented the Seducer.62 The inconstancy, inconsistency, incoherence, meaninglessness, and boredom which A clearly exhibits in his writings and which finally block his attempts to enjoy life, are all symptoms of a single psychological condition which William terms “despair.”63 A treats all his

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projects as toys, to be picked up and put down at will. For the ethicist by contrast some things truly are important. The absolute categories of good/or evil reduce the multifariousness of the esthetic to an ethical dichotomy; either truth, righteousness and holiness /or lust, base propensities, and obscure passions.64 Hence the title of the book: each major pseudonym uses either/or as his motto, and each means by it the opposite of the other. For A, the motto means you might as well choose either/or; whichever you choose you will regret.65 For William, it means the choice of either moral values/or the trivial, salvation/or perdition, life/or death; whichever you choose will determine the course and quality of the rest of your life.66 If the sickness of the esthetic is despair, the ethical is the cure, but what is the nature of the cure? The Judge uses various terms to characterize it: to know oneself, to choose oneself, to despair, to choose good and evil. The apparently primordial expression is also the most paradoxical—to despair. He says further that the cure for despair is to despair. But what does this mean?67 William immediately qualifies this statement to prevent the misunderstanding that he might himself be suggesting one should remain in esthetic despair. Nor does he mean to imply that despair is self-curing, or that the self in despair will inevitably and necessarily grow out of it. “To despair” in William’s terms means to concentrate the consciousness in the act of confronting the emptiness of those things which the life of enjoyment treasures. While A’s despair is a state where he consciously remains in a life-view with no values and no hope, William’s is an act whereby he tastes the bitterness of the esthetic life, recognizes its nullity, and moves beyond it. All the immediate, contingent goods we might possess— health, wealth, wit, or whatever—are essentially worthless. However, when one has removed all these worthless trappings from one’s vision of oneself, something still remains—oneself in one’s eternal validity.68 The personhood anyone possesses simply because one is a person, the universal human, is what is truly valuable. William echoes Kant’s claim that nothing is good but a good will (i.e., a will that wills the good), and that this is something anyone can have who wills it. So when one chooses to despair, one also chooses oneself in one’s eternal validity. In doing this, one is also said to choose the absolute, for “I myself am the absolute.”69 What is this “absolute” which I am said to be identical with, and what does it mean ethically to say that I=the absolute? The ethical choice But what is it, then, that I choose—is it this or that? No, for I choose absolutely, and I choose absolutely precisely by having chosen not to choose

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this or that. I choose the absolute, and what is the absolute? It is myself in my eternal validity. Something other than myself I can never choose as the absolute, for if I choose something else, I choose it as something finite and consequently do not choose absolutely . . . But what is this self of mine? If I were to speak of a first moment, a first expression for it, then my answer is this: It is the most abstract of all, and yet in itself it is also the most concrete of all—it is freedom.70 So the “universal human,” the essential personhood which is I myself in my eternal validity, is defined as both the most abstract of all things and the most concrete: freedom. When all the various finitudes of life are stripped away in despair, there is still an essential core to my personhood left over: my own freedom as a person. This is what I ethically ought to express in all my other choices, and what is at stake when I choose the essential either/or. “Freedom,” alas, is not itself an unambiguous term. It is clear that William (and Kierkegaard) does not mean to define “freedom” as freedom to indulge one’s desires without outside constraints. Both volumes of Either/Or argue, in different ways, that this sort of esthetically construed freedom is in fact unfree. The unfreedom of being determined by obscure passions and subconscious compulsions is at least as great a bondage as any external prison. In the “Esthetic Validity of Marriage” William argues that no external obstacle can threaten true love; such limits only serve as an incitement to passion. However, the lassitude which threatens to arise within the lovers over time is a real danger, which can only be overcome by ethical commitment. So the lovers must seek to free their love and themselves from the vicissitudes of mood, desire, and passing fancy; which they do by binding themselves to one another and to their love ethically in the marriage oath. It is clear, therefore, that William’s definition of “freedom” is similar to Kant’s: freedom is the ability of the will to direct itself purely, without determination by the appetites. Now, when William identifies the essence of the self as freedom, it is clear that this is not meant to replace his earlier equation of the essentially human with the universal human.71 This definition is what he returns to when he argues for the existence of a duty to marry, work for a living, or any other particular duty.72 Rather, William is seeking to define the essential kernel of the self. A seems to see the self as like an onion; when one peels away all the layers of desires, relationships, attachments and other finite elements, nothing is left. William argues instead that there is in fact something more that remains when despair has stripped away the significance of all of one’s

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esthetic glories. That “more” is the eternal validity of the personality itself: that is, its ability to relate itself to the transcendent ethical ideals, above and beyond immediate esthetic determinants. Freedom is thus what allows the self to have this eternal validity. The abstractness of this definition of the self as “freedom” leaves it open to criticism of ahistoricity and asociality. For example, one author writes: Whatever Wilhelm does he does in the name of duty; that is, his being is a subjugation to the universal. His is an a-personal existence . . . For constitutionally he lacks the requisite spiritual elasticity to disengage himself from the ponderous claims of an a-personal ethics. He has very little interpersonal pathos . . . From start to finish everything about him is irreal. The dense texture of life is missing in his persona.73 William has himself anticipated these objections and attempted to head them off as misinterpretations of his position. First, he seeks to avoid the interpretation of the self as essentially unrelated to the individual’s own characteristics-—“as if his inmost being were an algebraic symbol that could signify anything whatever.”74 In fact, says William, the self as freedom chooses itself, the concrete, individual person that it is. The person in whom the passion for freedom has been aroused does not seek to ignore any element of his or her self as unimportant. William writes: In other words, when the passion of freedom is awakened, it is jealous of itself and by no means allows what belongs to a person and what does not to remain unspecified and confused. Therefore, at the first moment of choice the personality seemingly emerges as naked as the infant from the mother’s womb; at the next moment it is concrete in itself, and a person can remain at this point only through an arbitrary abstraction. He remains himself, exactly the same that he was before, down to the most insignificant feature, and yet he becomes another, for the choice penetrates everything and changes it. Thus his finite personality is now made infinite in the choice, in which he infinitely chooses himself.75 The self which has thus chosen itself therefore prefers to take responsibility for every element of itself, without seeking to determine whether something might not be forced on it by circumstances. It desires to take responsibility for its whole self, not to seek exemptions for certain elements. In choosing itself it chooses its own history, and itself as a result of that history, even its failures. It thus recognizes itself as guilty and repents of its

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guilt, and even the guilt of its forbearers which history bequeaths it.76 It is not ethically a question for me whether I personally or intentionally did some wrong; the only question the passion of freedom asks is whether this self which I choose is the result of a history which includes this deed. In that sense I may repent (to use William’s examples) both the unintentional harm I may do my children or my part as a descendent of those who stoned the prophets; or (to use a modern example) my being a child of the people who enslaved the Africans or destroyed the Native American cultures. William writes: The greater the freedom, the greater the guilt, and this is the secret of salvation. If it is not cowardice, it is a faintheartedness of the soul not to will to repent of the guilt of the forefathers; if it is not abject meanness, it still is smallness of mind and lack of magnanimity.77 So in choosing myself, I choose myself as personally guilty, even where I meant no harm, and as a member of a guilty race with a responsibility to repent the guilt of the whole of which I am a member. William’s sense of the corporate nature of the ethical life begins with the experience of the ethical individual of feeling united to the race through participation in and repentance of the guilt of the race. In addition, the ethical self participates in the race through practice of the civil virtues.78 The self which the self chooses is after all a particular person with a particular place in the world, with social, political, and personal relationships. The self must choose these freely if it freely chooses itself. It must take responsibility for its social life and position. When William writes that the ethical person “possesses himself as a task,” and that the task here is to “produce an evenness in the soul, a harmony which is the fruit of the personal virtues,” it is easy to believe that William (and Kierkegaard) see the ethical life solely in terms of the individual’s own inner character development. However, when he goes on to write that “The self that is the objective is not only a personal self but a social, a civic self,” and “Here his task is not to form himself but to act . . .” it becomes harder to maintain this interpretation.79 William does in fact usually emphasize the despair and freedom of the individual, and only secondarily the question of social ethics. He evidently intends to assert that it is individuals who must act morally in society, so the foundation of any ethical social ethical interaction is the individual. If an individual can be brought to the point of choosing himself or herself absolutely, concretely, then it follows that he or she will seek to live ethically in relationship to others. On the other hand, if (as the Hegelian mentality

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seems to) one attempts to begin with society, world history, politics, institutions, and other various groups considerations, one will never really get to the point of considering the individual at all. Instead, the group will remain the focus and arbiter of all values, and the individual will be valued only as part of the group. When such a mentality prevails, persons may unreflectively (that is, esthetically) join with a number of like-minded folk for some purpose or other. In this case, whether the cause be noble or base, the manner of joining it will lack full ethical consciousness, the persons involved will lack true ethical seriousness, and in short, the group remains frivolous regardless of the cause it follows. The ethical individual seeks to become the universal by uniting the universal and the particular in his or her own personality.80 The ethical is the universal, and hence abstract. Therefore, ethical duties cannot be specific commands; for the most part, they are general guiding principles.81 This conception of the ethical strives to respect the particularity of the individual, while subordinating the extraordinary. For example, it is a duty to work, since it is part of the essential human condition to need to work in order to live; anyone who does not need to work in order to live is extraordinarily fortunate. However, it cannot be a duty to have any particular job, since every individual is different, and hence better suited to one task rather than another. Instead, it is the duty of each individual to have a calling—that is, a job to which he or she feels especially fitted and committed. The positions William rejects are those which suppose either that a person should seek to avoid work, or should accept mere drudgery and empty toil as the price for enjoying the rest of one’s time. William wants the individual to seek work which is fulfilling, and for which the individual is competent.82 The ethical person does not simply seek to apply abstract ethical principles to the particularities of his or her life. Rather, the ethical individual uses these principles to help construct an ideal self, to which he or she seeks to conform.83 “The person who lives ethically works toward becoming the universal human being,” and thus “has himself as his task. His self in its immediacy is defined by accidental circumstances; the task is to work the accidental and the universal into a whole.”84 The individual does this by seeing his or her self as a work in process, with the final intended product being the ideal expression of the universal human in the particular circumstances of life. And one does this largely through conscience, which internalizes the ethical, so that the ethical is no longer an abstract, external commanding power, but rather an inward and particular duty which is incumbent on the individual due simply to his or her own essential nature.

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A presentation of ethical religiousness This second volume of Either/Or has implications for the religious on three levels: (1) in the development of the self from the esthetic to the ethical personality; (2) in the ethical religiousness as expressed by William himself; and (3) in the breakdown of the ethical in guilt-consciousness, leading to the appearance of the religious proper. When the self develops ethically it is said to become a “personality.”85 A personality is (or more accurately, strives to become) a unified, harmonious self, relating its immediate desires, qualities and talents to one ultimate goal—the realization of the ethical in one’s own life. A personality sees itself as a task, and seeks to take responsibility for its own development. It respects the givenness of its situation and its own nature, but rather than be ruled by this immediacy, it seeks to wed the immediate to ethical principles and values. It seeks the essentially human values, understanding the essentially human as being essentially universal to human nature per se; and it further seeks to apply these universal realities to the complex particularities of its own unique existence. To aid in this task, it creates an ideal self, a self which perfectly conforms to the ethical in every situation, to which it then seeks to conform itself. In all this the self wills, strives, and seeks with passion that which is beyond the immediately given. In thus seeking and gaining freedom from the determination of the immediate, the self acquires and develops true passion, the highest achievement of the individual. The esthetic individual may well have a religiousness of a sort, as we see in the writings of A. Such a religion must, however, be limited by the nature of the esthetic self. It is unfree, dominated by mystical moods and other internal and external determining factors. It may be an unreal, dreamy sort of eccentric mysticism such as the Golden Age elite so admired in their poets. It may equally well be the mass-movement sort of religion which allows itself to be swept along by some fiery orator or by the opinions of “the others,” as in the Grundtvigian movement which Kierkegaard and his Golden Age contemporaries both despised. However, in essence, both the Gruntvigians and the Golden Age elite held to what William would recognize as an esthetic religiousness. The ethical personality experiences the same religious moods and impulses, the same solitary soulfulness, the same thrill from fiery oratory, and the same social pressures toward religious conformity as any esthete or philistine. However, the ethical personality responds to these religious immediacies as it does to any other immediacy. It seeks to integrate them

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into its overall ethical task, striving with ethical passion and seriousness to relate all these religious elements to the eternal (i.e., universal ethical values) and to form an ethically informed religiousness from them, which will integrate harmoniously with the other facets of the personality. The ethical individual is an individual, with a unique concreteness interpenetrating the universal ethical law. We should therefore assume the Judge’s own religious beliefs are an example of an ethical religiousness rather than the only or even best expression of ethical religiousness. William serves us, to use his own expression, as does a paradigmatic verb in a grammar book.86 The Judge’s religiousness is one example which reflects common formal elements of the ethical religiousness. In William’s religious views, as reflected in his essay on marriage, there is an attempt to fuse the esthetic, ethical, and religious implications of one’s life.87 He takes as his starting point the physical and emotional attraction of the two lovers. There is further a social sense, first in sensitivity for the other which seeks to move beyond mere erotic self-gratification to genuine love, and then in affirming the wider social context in which the love must be lived out by confessing it before the congregation. There is the striving for continuity over time, even to the end of time, just as the ethical personality strives for continuity throughout its whole life until its end. It looks to the religious to provide the support of the power of eternity to the individual’s attempts to preserve love through time. It is also the religious, through the religious service before the congregation, which helps to bring the private love affair into the life of the community. Although William does recognize that Christianity has at times opposed marriage, he regards that as a misguided attempt to preserve the sanctity of the individual which ethics (and ultimately ethical marriage) depends on.88 So it would be wrong to claim that Christianity came to oppose human nature; it really came to help fulfill human esthetic and ethical impulses in a fully integrated human life.89 God in fact does not seem to act in any particular sense in William’s theory; his conception of sin and grace are in some ways even more ill defined than A’s. God, the religious, or the eternal are all congruent expressions for the transcendent power beyond the merely human, which provides a foundation and a buttress for the goals and strivings of the ethical.90 It is a supra-human support for the ethical striving for the universal human. At the same time, this universal human, plus the esthetic religious moods and feelings, provide virtually all of the material for William’s religiousness. Although it is discussed as something above the human, this “aboveness” is more a matter of the humility the individual feels before the religious than any description of the origin of its content. I humble myself before God;

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I take the religious upon myself as something given to me from beyond rather than as invented by me or any other human; but at the same time, I find nothing in it to contradict or undermine my human personality with its esthetic/ethical equilibrium. How could I? The religious under which I humble myself is itself constructed from these elements. In sum, a definite progression of the self and of the religious life of the self is depicted through the course of Either/Or. The starting point, discussed but never depicted, is the herd-mentality of the philistines to which A feels himself to be superior.91 Their religion, like everything else they do, consists of joining with the others so as to feel their significance as part of a group, and to avoid being left out of whatever the others proclaim is good. Next comes the reflective esthete, whose life consists of mood and reflection, including religious moods and reflections at times, combining an essentially pagan mysticism with Christian themes and phrases. This tendency culminates in the Seducer, who seems flat-out pagan if not demonic, but with full command of the practices of conventional Christianity. Finally, in William we see a religious life which is linked to the subject’s ethical life, which is intended to permeate the whole of life rather than the occasional passing moment of mystical mood, and which has real links (social and historical) to the real world in which the subject lives. Although it would be a worthy purpose to develop the philosophy of Judge William for its own sake, I wish to examine what significance the views espoused by William have for Kierkegaard, particularly in his accounts of religious ethics and the self’s religious development. Does Kierkegaard ultimately reject the ethical as it is described by William, or does such an ethic continue to be important even in his description of the decisively religious life? To what extent does he himself hold to the developmental scheme implied in Either/Or, where the self seems to move progressively from the lower to the higher stages? What continued significance, if any, do William’s religious views have for the rest of Kierkegaard’s authorship? The religious and the breakdown of the ethical We can begin to answer such questions within the body of Either/Or itself, with the chapter entitled “Ultimatum.” The bulk of this chapter is written not by William, but is the yet-unpreached sermon of a pastor friend of his. It is easy to remark on how the views of the (religious) preacher differ from those of the (ethical) judge, and on the irony that poor William cannot see how far apart their positions are. However, it might be more profitable first to consider why William would believe his views and the sermon’s are actually

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identical. As noted above, William tends to conflate the ethical and the religious, as when he offers God as both foundation and guarantor of the marriage vows. In particular, though, it must be the Judge’s own views on repentance which lead him to identify with this sermon.92 In William’s ethical philosophy, taking responsibility implies repentance. One must honestly take stock of oneself; and this means recognizing that there is much in one’s past and even present that does not measure up to the absolute standards of the ethical. These things are rejected, not in the sense of ignoring them or denying that such evil things are part of one, but in the sense of looking back with abhorrence, casting them away, and hastening off down the good path. This is repentance. Repentance is both the recognition that some things are part of one’s past (and hence inextricably part of one) and the resolution that they shall not continue to be part of one’s future. William’s discussion of repentance comes in the context of his discussion of choosing to despair of the finite, and to choose oneself in one’s eternal validity. “Repentance” is the movement that comes after one has apparently become completely abstract, the naked self standing in its freedom before the harsh light of the ethical. It is the recognition that one has a definite past and a definite present, and is in fact a definite, concrete person, with elements which belong to one like it or not. However, repentance also moves on, accepting responsibility for the wider social whole of which one is part, and which is part of one’s concrete self. The ethical self must recognize it is a social being, and that as a member of a society it is involved in evils it may not have sought consciously. Furthermore, the ethical self is an historical self, and much of the past which made it includes the ethical failures of past generations. This too the self repents, simultaneously accepting these inherited guilts as constituent elements of itself and accepting the ethical judgment that such things are to be rejected. In this discussion of repentance I have used far less theistic language than does William. William describes repentance as the proper love of God, whereby one turns away from one’s own sins and inherited guilt and turns toward God. However, in fact it is not difficult to redescribe repentance in more purely ethical terms; and this together with the strictly ethical nature of William’s letter immediately preceding his discussion of repentance suggests that even here he is not really moving beyond the ethical view. He is undoubtedly pushing the envelope, but has not yet broken through. Most telling in this regard are his comments on radical evil.93 It was the notion of radical evil that led Kant to begin to move beyond the purely ethical and take up religious concerns.94 “Radical evil” is described by Kant as a propensity to evil (i.e., to the subversion of the moral law for selfish reasons)

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indwelling in the ground of the will itself. Radical evil is thus universal throughout the human race, and present in the very heart of each individual. It is a corruption in the very root of the self. Although the individual may undergo a moral transformation and grant the good principle sovereignty over the evil in his or her own personality, it can never be totally eradicated. Kant is thus left with a dilemma: the moral law demands that we turn to good and be holy “as God is holy” (and “ought” implies “can”); but we start from guilt and corruption in our very heart of hearts (implying the impossibility of discharging our moral debt). His attempts to solve this puzzle hinge on a dualism between the inner person of the will and reason and the outer person of the historical world.95 For all his affinities with Kant, William rejects just this sort of dualism. He admits the presence in the self of conflicting impulses and dualities which can never be resolved, but he identifies the actual self not with only a portion of this duality but with the concrete whole. The self is the historical, empirical, social individual, and any attempt to deny this by only accepting moral responsibility for part of the whole is moral failure. So he does not have access to Kant’s conception of a “vicarious atonement.” If the self suffers from anything like what Kant has described as an “infinite guilt,” William does not have the resources to deal with it. Thus, despite his belief in the need to repent past sins, inherited guilts, social crimes, in a way far more inclusive than Kant seems to imagine, William rejects the notion of “radical evil” in order to preserve the reality of repentance. Despite the staggering burden that the ethically mature and sensitive person may feel, guilt is never so total that repentance before God cannot heal it. At least part of the reason for this is the different viewpoints Kant and William take. Kant’s concerns are largely judicial. My own practical reason indicts me, and I know from my own reason that I am guilty, and infinitely guilty, so that not only do I convict myself but I know that the Divine Judge,96 also having a moral reason like mine, must also convict me. Judge William’s concerns by contrast are largely psychological: how to overcome the despair and disintegration of the self that I have incurred (or risk incurring) by embracing the esthetic over the ethical. Repentance is the proper love of God (that is, the absolute, the ethical, the moral law), and is equivalent with choosing myself absolutely.97 It is equivalent also with the despair I have for my whole finite self, through which I break with finitude and embrace the eternal. Although this repentance may not be able to wipe out the legal guilt I am under for past or inherited sins, present unintended sins or even conscious moral failures, it can give me the moral seriousness, integration,

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inwardness, and consistency which mark the ethical personality. I will thus become another self, a true personality, and be freed of the despair that is the inevitable punishment for the esthetic self. The sermon agrees with both Kant and William regarding the universality of human guilt. However, while Kant treats the problem in judicial terms and William treats it largely in psychological terms, the sermon treats it largely in passionate terms; specifically, the passion of love. It is the worshipper’s love for God that the sermon says prompts the thought that as against God we are always in the wrong.98 It is not a recognition of practical reason, or a psychological self-diagnosis, that leads the worshipper to see himself or herself as guilty; it is the worshipper’s own desire to see God in the best light, and hence also to accept the blame for any disagreements. However, for both William and for Kant, there is an atonement (at-one-ment, reconciliation). The effects of guilt and sin are to be overcome, and the guilty is in some measure restored to moral health. For Kant, there is a reconciliation with the Divine Judge, and I once again am reunited with the moral commonwealth from which my own guiltiness had exiled me. For William, I become at one with myself as well; by accepting the universal as my telos I take my place as a citizen of the universal human race, and I unite the various elements of my psyche under the ethical banner. For this sermon there is no reconciliation in this sense, nor does the worshipper desire it. Rather, the love of the worshipper for God is so great that one forgets to worry about whether he or she is being tried too hard, or whether God has ceased to be good and loving. The thought that we are always in the wrong before God is said to “express . . . that God’s love is always greater than our love.”99 So it is our longing and love for God, and our trust that God loves us, that is to allow the reconciliation; but this is not an “atonement” in the sense of wiping out our guilt or its effects on us. It is only a bracketing of the question of guilt, a determination to have a relationship to God, and a trust that God’s goodness and love are sufficient to effect the relationship we desire. The gulf between the positions of Kant and William on the one hand, and the sermon on the other, explodes into full view only toward the end of the sermon: If your wish were what others and you yourself in a certain sense must call your duty, if you not only had to deny your wish but in a way betray your duty, if you lost not only your joy but even your honor, you are still happy—in relation to God, you say: I am always in the wrong.100

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For Judge William, as for Kant before him and for Hegel, the religious is pretty much of a piece with the ethical. The religious might supplement or undergird the ethical; it might answer certain needs of ethical thinking which practical reason alone could not prove; it might make abstract notions more concrete, sensuous, and hence accessible to the non-philosopher. If, however, the religious contradicts the ethical, then the religious is defective and must yield.101 The sermon’s refusal to directly equate God and duty indicates that it conceives of the God-relationship as more personal than even William can allow. It is personal in the sense of being both intimate and private: God is loved (and is conceived as loving) personally and directly, and this relationship is not completely commensurate with public and universal standards (since otherwise the conflict between God and duty would be inconceivable). In sum, the bulk of Either/Or traces the breakdown of the esthetic life in despair, and the redemption from despair through the ethical. It then continues to follow the ethical through the appearance of guilt-consciousness, which opens the door to a new, more personal relationship to God. Each stage has its own distinctive religiousness; religious concerns are not necessarily confined to the “religious” stage. William insists that the esthetic is never left behind; it is retained in a “transfigured” form. This obviously implies that the esthetic religiousness continues to play a role in the ethically conceived religious life. The insights of the “Ultimatum” seem to be prefigured by the maturation of the ethical, suggesting a natural progression through all three stages. Assuming such a progression exists, it is still unclear what continued role the esthetic and the ethical might have in the final religious stage. What is the religious self like, and specifically, what role do the esthetic and ethical varieties of religiousness play in the fully religious life? Is the religious person ethical? Is fully developed religion at all concerned with the universal human? Might it, for example, support marriage in the way William suggests? Or does it appear only when we see ourselves as in the wrong, as against God? Although we may have to wait longer to find the answers to some of these questions, we may begin searching for these answers in the Upbuilding Discourses which accompanied Either/Or.

II. The Two Upbuilding Discourses of 1843 These two discourses were meant to “accompany” Either/Or, the former under Kierkegaard’s own name and the latter under an interlocking collection of pseudonyms. Given that these two discourses were published days

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after the two-volume pseudonymous work, we might expect to find the discourses to be some sort of direct communication of the maeutic message intended by Either/Or.102 It would of course be impossible for two short discourses to offer anything like a commentary on the whole of Either/Or, and in fact the general theme of a debate between esthetics versus ethics is completely absent.103 Nor does there appear to be a direct correlation between the first discourse and first volume, for example. Not surprisingly, the discourses have the most in common with the sermon from “Ultimatum;” but even here the relationship is less than direct. Instead, it seems that general themes are treated in the discourses that are also discussed in Either/Or. The prayer which prefaces “The Expectancy of Faith” is said to be set for New Year’s Day, and states that “The new year faces us with its requirements.”104 That is, we are looking at the future and at our responsibilities; we are looking at the ethical, or it at us. However, the prayer also recalls that “we shall indeed also take along with us recollections of the fearful doubts that were set at rest, of the lurking concerns that were soothed, of the downcast disposition that was raised up, of the cheerful hope that was not humiliated.” Kierkegaard mentions other emotions as well, some of which we repent and some we might wish: anger, lust, courage for examples. All of these are feelings or moods, and are “that by which we are what we are;” they are esthetic aspects of the personality. So the prayer brings ethical and esthetic concerns forward and offers them to God, and likewise the discourse offers faith as the answer to the esthetic yearning for happiness and escape from despair, as well as the ethical quest for integrity and constancy over time.105 Likewise the second discourse, “Every Good and Every Perfect Gift Is From Above,” begins with a discussion of those who are fortunate (an esthetic category, something that “just happens” rather than something you can strive for). While the ethical has life as a task, for the fortunate “life has no riddle;” it is just fine as it is, and requires neither thought nor effort. Only when their good luck runs out do they realize that there are questions unasked and unanswered, or as Judge William observed, the esthetic life is despair, even though it only realizes it is despair when things go awry. However, quickly the discourse moves on to consider the “good gifts” we might wish from God in such a time, and concludes that we should certainly not wish that God should come around to our way of thinking, but rather that we should come around to God’s.106 In this the discourse seems to do no more than echo “The Upbuilding that Lies in the Thought that in Relation to God We are Always in the Wrong.” One argues that God always gives good gifts, and if we think otherwise we are wrong; the other

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argues that God is always good, and if we think otherwise we are in the wrong. The sermon from the “Ultimatum” deals largely with the thought that we are to love God, and trust that God loves us, even if it seems that we are suffering unjustly. “The Expectancy of Faith” discusses how faith expects victory in the future despite setbacks in the present, because it wins an eternal prize despite temporal setbacks, and “Every Good and Perfect Gift” adjures us to trust God to give us good and perfect gifts, even if when we receive them they appear to be anything but good. The three approach similar themes from slightly different angles; for example, the notion that the worshipper cannot really wish to be in the right before God is similar to the admonition to accept that God always knows best what is a good gift.107 The assertion that love for God never disappoints as love for a human being might is similar to the argument in the first discourse that faith in God never disappoints as faith in another person can.108 Another common theme is the eternity of God, defined both as unchangeableness and transcendence above the finite and temporal. All three deal primarily with the relationship between the individual and God, and the attitude the individual should cultivate; all three downplay concrete practical actions while affirming that the God-relationship is to influence how the faithful person lives (e.g., one should have confidence concerning the future). So it is unclear whether the discourses move beyond the ground already covered in Either/Or. It is difficult even to gauge whether the discourses even move beyond Judge William’s ethical religiousness. Faith is extolled as what makes me most like everyone else, the universal human.109 Having the expectancy of victory through faith, instead of the many expectancies and hopes for finite goods, is said to help integrate the person—which is of course a prime concern of the ethical as well.110 The highest love of God is affirmed in the second discourse as being not thankfulness, but repentance—that beloved theme of William.111 Other points of contact between the discourses and William’s letters could easily be listed, until one can easily imagine William reading these discourses and believing they say exactly what he sought to say. True, they are more individualistic than his own discussion of repentance; they deal almost exclusively with the individual’s God-relationship, without the elements of social and historical continuity the William produces; and in this they more resemble the sermon in the “Ultimatum.” This alone, however, does not indicate whether they really move beyond the ethical.

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There does seem to be a hint, however, that the position of the discourses has in fact moved beyond the ethical. As this first set of discourses is drawing to a close, Kierkegaard writes: Then when everything went wrong for you, when everything you had slowly built up vanished instantly into thin air and you laboriously had to begin all over again, when your arm was weak and your walk unsteady, then you still held fast to the expectancy of faith—which is victory. Even if you did not tell others, lest they mock you because in all your misery you still expected victory, you nevertheless hid your expectancy in your innermost heart.112 This seems to contradict William’s belief that an individual should be able and willing to disclose himself or herself to others; in particular, “it is every human being’s duty to become open.”113 Although William is not such a fool to believe that a person should (or could) explain each and every thing he or she does, or that one should (or could) explain oneself completely to every other person, it would certainly upset his theories if the religious person were unable to reveal his or her essential nature to even a close friend. However, this seems to be what the discourse is suggesting; the faithful person may have to keep his or her expectancy hidden because, to all other human eyes, it is hopeless. While the discourse does not specifically enjoin this silence about one’s faith, neither does it condemn it. If such an essential element of one’s self as this faith is so absurd and ineffable that it cannot be explained even to a friend who knows one’s nature and circumstances well, then it really is true that the religious self has moved beyond universalizable categories. It has moved beyond the ethical, beyond language and reflection, and entered a private relationship understood only by itself and God—perhaps only fully understood by God. God is defined in terms of eternity, the infinite, unchangeable, but also as loving the individual as an individual, eager to forgive and accept the penitent. Whereas there are intimations that this religious relationship goes beyond the limits of the ethical, many of the concerns of the ethical are echoed in the discourses. This suggests that the ethical continues to play an important role in full religiousness, although the discourses themselves only vaguely allude to what would commonly be called “ethical concerns”—that is, concerns for other persons and society as a whole. We simply do not find a “religious ethic” here at all; but we do find a religiousness which is concerned with ethical concerns such as the integrity of the self, the primacy of what is universally attainable versus what only a select spiritual elite can achieve, and the need of the individual to base his or her life on what is one,

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eternal, and unchangeable so as to have a base from which to deal with the flux and variety of the empirical world without being absorbed and torn apart by it.

III. Conclusions Kierkegaard’s first collection of discourses were described as seeking “that single individual whom I with joy and gratitude call my reader.”114 If it had found that ideal (or idealized) reader, what might such a person have thought? Kierkegaard clearly imagined his reader discerning the fact that both Either/Or and the discourses came from the same pen. Either/Or works to describe and depict the true nature of the esthetic, and to undermine the easy equation of the esthetic and religious embraced by most of Copenhagen’s intellectual elite. It then attacks, criticizes the esthetic, and presents the ethical alternative, only to end by likewise undermining the easy equation of the ethical and the religious endorsed by the Kantian liberal wing of Copenhagen’s elite, a sizeable minority of the intellectual and political leaders. Finally, the Upbuilding Discourses largely ignore the central debate of Either/Or, but do echo religious themes that have been raised in that book. Elements that seem like asides or minor points in the larger work are central topics in the discourses. Kierkegaard expressed the hope that his reader would give greater weight to his direct writings than to the pseudonyms; this suggests that the themes of the discourses are in fact the main points. Instead of the “Either esthetic/Or ethical” of the pseudonymous work, we see a much more complex opposition: “Either one of the two wrong-headed philosophies of Christendom/Or genuinely upbuilding religiousness.”

Chapter 3

The Writings of October 16, 1843 and the Emergence of the Religious

In Chapter 2 we saw the emergence of an understanding of the religious as part of the ethical, subject to the same principles of duty, responsibility, and universalizability as any other area of human life. However, we also saw the appearance of cracks in this unity of the ethical and the religious, and the appearance of a personal and private God-relationship that was not universalizable or public. Kierkegaard’s following pseudonymous works continue this development: Repetition traces the story of a young man who turns to an interest in the religious because of a broken engagement (i.e., a failure to realize the ethical ideal of marriage), and Fear and Trembling presents perhaps the most apparently immoralist picture of the religious in Kierkegaard’s authorship—“faith” is virtually defined as the willingness to commit the most heinous and absurd crime because God asks it. Each of these works picks up on themes raised in Either/Or and responds to them in ways that are essential in understanding the relationship between the ethical and the religious. Repetition, Fear and Trembling, and a collection of Three Upbuilding Discourses were all published on October 16, 1843. This implies some sort of unity among the separate works, possibly even that a single picture of the religious might guide them all. It also makes any decision as to which one to treat first rather arbitrary, as the author has given us no hints. I shall pick the order which best suits my purposes and inclinations, looking for both differences and connections between these works.

I. Repetition The first part of the book Repetition begins with the speculations of one Constantin Constantius on the significance of the concept of “repetition,” considered philosophically and generally as well as personally. Although he considers the concept important philosophically, he fails to find any experience of it in his life, and despairs of its actuality. He also describes a

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young friend who has become engaged and now despairs of his ability to become a husband; Constantin believes this man too seeks, and despairs of, repetition. Part two of Repetition contains letters from the young man to Constantin, together with some comments and asides by Constantin to the reader concerning the letters and their relevance to the question of repetition. Constantin describes the concept of “repetition” as having truly cosmic significance: Say what you will, this question will play a very important role in modern philosophy, for repetition is a crucial expression for what “recollection” was to the Greeks. Just as they taught that all knowing is a recollecting, modern philosophy will teach that all life is a repetition . . . . . . If one does not have the category of recollection or of repetition, all life dissolves into an empty meaningless noise. Recollection is the ethnical view of life, repetition the modern; repetition is the interest of metaphysics, and also the interest upon which metaphysics comes to grief; repetition is the watchword in every ethical view; repetition is the conditio sine qua non for every issue of dogmatics.1 It is not immediately clear, however, why Constantin attributes such significance to this concept. After all, his own attempt at repetition, a return trip to Berlin, seems absolutely arbitrary and trivial. Whether or not one is able to repeat a vacation with as much pleasure as the first time really is unimportant and uninformative; after all, I have been back to Disney World several times and almost always enjoyed it. So what? Constantin’s own attempt at repetition seems not so much to disprove the possibility of real repetition, but to mock it. However, this may be by design on the pseudonym’s part; by caricaturing one understanding of repetition, perhaps he hopes his reader will grasp that this is not the sort of repetition that really matters, not the true repetition. Perhaps Kierkegaard means to suggest that his fictitious author has in fact failed to grasp the true meaning of repetition. In either case, the effect is to raise the issue of repetition for the reader, only to snatch away any pretense that the author is going to explain the concept and save the reader the effort of discovery. Either/Or and Repetition We can begin to decipher the concept by first noting the curious fact that Constantin has read Either/Or, and is developing his views in part in contrast to those expressed therein.2

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Repetition, recollection, and ethical resolution A has written that only recollection’s love is happy, while Constantin argues that in fact only repetition’s love is happy.3 He further goes on to define repetition metaphorically: Hope is a lonely maiden who slips away between one’s fingers; recollection is a beautiful old woman with whom one is never satisfied at the moment; repetition is a beloved wife of whom one never wearies; for one becomes weary only of what is new. One never grows weary of the old, and when one has that, one is happy. He alone is truly happy who is not deluded into thinking that the repetition should be something new, for then one grows weary of it.4 “The Unhappiest One” serves as the culmination of a “dialectic of the unhappy consciousness.” When A declaims that “. . . only the person who is present to himself is happy,” we may well assume that the immediacy of Don Giovanni is one example of this.5 His immersion in the present moment of desire is total, swallowing his past and future. True, this present lacks historical context or reality, but at least Don Giovanni is present to himself in it. As A runs through the roll call of unhappiness, he mentions a variety of cases, each progressively more reflective and more unhappy. Included in his list are Antigone, star of A’s discourse on tragedy, and a young girl deceived by an enigmatic lover, as depicted in “Silhouettes.”6 This last he awards second place in the contest for the title “unhappiest.” The unhappiest is described as one whose recollection prevents him/her from being present in his/her hope, and whose hope blocks him/her from being present in his/her recollection.7 Thus the person is unhappy in the present, cut off from his/her ideal or substance, and furthermore is unable to lose himself/herself in hope for the future or recollection of the past. This is because what is hoped for is already past, and has been or should have been experienced, and thus what is hoped for should be recollected. At the same time, what is future has already been imagined and experienced in thought, and thus instead of hoping for the future he/she recollects this experience. So the unhappiest one hopes for what should be recollected and recollects what should be hoped for. In this unhappy consciousness we see one who has indeed “circumnavigated life before beginning,” as Constantin puts it.8 This person has already imaginatively anticipated life’s possibilities and considered them, and hence does not need or desire to chase after the novel. However, the unhappy consciousness does not dare to hope for a repetition.

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A has not given up on recollection yet, however. His review of Scribe’s The First Love differs markedly in tone from the preceding essays: while we started exploring the unhappy consciousness with an examination of tragedy, this new phase commences with a review of a comedy.9 “Comedy” implies both happiness and a positive resolution of whatever issues confront the protagonists, in contrast to the misery, ambiguity, and frustration that has haunted the preceding three essays. The play opens with all the main characters imprisoned by the past— specifically, the heroine Emmeline’s belief that when she was eight she loved her cousin Charles, and that the first love is the only true one. Due to her idee fixé, Charles fears to approach his uncle (her father) for money, for he seeks to be rid of Emmeline; Rinville is unable to secure her for himself; her father is faced with the threat of gaining the dissolute Charles as a sonin-law. By the end of the play Charles gets his money, Rinville gets the girl, and the father gets rid of Charles: and this is accomplished because of Emmeline’s revision of history; for now she avows she never really loved Charles, but only Rinville, and that he is her first (hence true) love. Emmeline does not merely recollect her past; she reconstructs it in the process. She believes she loved Charles because it made her life sweet and romantic: when she can no longer have him, she believes she never loved him. Charles, whose romantic notions were knocked out of him by hard times, still believes in his own power to mystify others—that is, he still believes in the power of illusion. Rinville likewise believes in his power to mystify and deceive others. The only character not attempting to deceive himself or others is Emmeline’s father, who is too incompetent to pull it off anyway; besides, he is in fact tossed about on the winds fanned by the other’s illusions, particularly his daughter’s. As A persuasively argues, the play ends with no one having really learned anything: since each one’s plans succeeded, the characters take the events of the play as confirmation of the power of illusion (either fantasy or mystification).10 So in one sense, the play does not really end—it stops. All remain immersed in the power of illusion, and are sure to be swept along by it indefinitely. The “Rotation of Crops” devotes extensive consideration to recollection. The point A strives to make is that accuracy of recollection is to be avoided. One should rather seek to remember, and even to experience, poetically. The experience is recollected and forgotten simultaneously, in that it is remembered inaccurately, deliberately distorted by the artistic license of the recollector. So A’s method is first to abandon hope (since one who hopes cannot limit himself intensively to the art of recollecting), and then to recollect poetically. To keep one’s life such that it can be poetically

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reconstructed at will, one avoids all obligations or attachments (i.e., marriage, friendship, or and official post) that would restrict one in the present or commit one to a particular future.11 As was mentioned above, “The Seducer’s Diary” serves as an illustration of A’s theories in the “Rotation of Crops,” and it can be seen as either a proof or a refutation of his views.12 The Seducer does indeed seem to be living out A’s advice on artistic living and poetic recollection. Furthermore, he seems to be the reflective Don Giovanni intimated by the “Silhouettes.” In this sense, he represents an attempt to return to that mythic, Edenic unity of person and essence found in the prereflective sensuousness of Mozart’s opera. However, the Seducer is also deranged.13 He is so entangled in his poetic manipulation of his own and other’s lives that he has “lost the thread” of his existence. He has not, in fact, repeated the lost immediacy; rather, he is further from it than ever. His whole life is a poetic abstraction from the actual present, past, and future. His inability to achieve true repetition is so profound that he can scarcely stand to see Cordelia once his planned seduction has been achieved.14 Once his project is concluded, the actual girl is uninteresting, even repulsive. One night is thrilling; two, unbearable. Repetition and ethical resolution In the esthetic stage we saw love as immediate desire become separated from its object by reflection, overcome its essential unhappiness by selfdeception and romantic illusion, and finally culminate in the reflective, cynical manipulation of others for the satisfaction of one’s own plans. Reflection’s attempts to recapture the idyllic satisfaction of immediacy only drive it further away, until the self is completely alienated from the actual reality of the other and itself, left only with illusion. So Constantin’s statement, that recollection makes a person unhappy, perhaps needs qualification: accurate recollection makes a person unhappy, whereas poetic recollection makes one deranged.15 Beginning with a discussion of immediate attraction, William seeks to show how romantic love can be actualized and preserved in time. As Constantin says, repetition is a beloved wife, and Judge William’s description of marriage is in fact a model of repetition. The immediacy which is threatened by reflection (i.e., language, consciousness) is transfigured but preserved in the ethical, by the will and resolution of the personality making the commitment to the other before the community, and by the lovers’ finding an eternal reality on which to anchor their immediate hopes and intentions against the storms of time.16

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The whole of William’s understanding of the ethical life can be seen as an attempt to unite past, present, and future in one act of repetition. He seeks to recollect the past, accurately and with particular attention to its ethical implications.17 He anticipates the future in making commitments and resolutions for future actions and relationships, and particularly by resolving to bring the eternal ethical values to actuality in his own future life. He ties past and future together in the present ethical act that is born of these past actualities, future intentions, and present resolutions. The moral of Either/Or seems to be that repetition is impossible for esthetic reflection, but is possible for ethical resolution. It is easy to see why this would escape Constantin, despite his having discovered the great importance of repetition. His own attempt at repetition reveals him to be an esthete himself, seeking an esthetic repetition of a past pleasant vacation.18 Constantin is forced to reluctantly agree with A that (this sort of) repetition is impossible. Repetition beyond the ethical? If the only sort of repetition available is that described in William’s writings, what of the person who stands outside the universal? Does that one have no hope for a repetition? This is the problem faced by Constantin’s friend, the young man whose writings constitute the core of Repetition. He has attempted to realize the universal in his own life; he has turned from poetic love toward marriage, going so far as to get engaged to his beloved.19 However, almost immediately he became convinced that he could not marry her. Essentially, his love has already passed into recollection almost before it has begun.20 Constantin’s advice, to fake an affair to aid the girl in making a clean break, reflects his lack of hope for any future with this girl; but the young man backs out of the plan at the last moment. Instead, he flees to Stockholm to await a repetition. What sort of repetition is he hoping for here? Clearly not the sort Judge William advocates, and not only because he stands outside the universal (as expressed in marriage) which William realizes. The young man is awaiting a repetition, not striving to realize one. His striving, after all, has already failed to effect a repetition; so he seems to hope for one to come from beyond himself. This “beyond” suggests a transcendent (i.e., religious) source, thus raising the question: is this young man religious? At the end of part one, Constantin believes his friend to be on the verge of a poetic breakthrough.21 This observation, and the plan Constantin suggests for extricating his friend from his betrothal, suggests that Constantin

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sees his friend as a fellow esthete. The first letter seems to Constantin to confirm at least some of his own views: he still finds his young friend “melancholic” and “poetic.”22 The girl continues to be little more than the poet’s muse, and his relationship to her continues to be a recollection—essentially, he was finished with the relationship before it began.23 However, at the same time, Constantin writes, there is something religious in the young man’s psyche.24 It is the “marvelous,” the “absurd,” which is the source of the young man’s hope; in short, he seeks a religious repetition. This is something Constantin does not claim to understand, though he accepts its existence. This suggests that either the young man is living in esthetic and religious categories simultaneously, or that he is metamorphosing from the esthetic to the religious as Constantin watches—and incidentally bypassing the ethical. Repetition, Job, and the exception How does the young man understand himself? Ethically, the category he is wrestling with is “the exception.” He believes that, under universal categories, he is guilty for having deceived the girl rather than marrying her. At the same time, he feels he is innocent in that he could not have acted otherwise and that he did the best, given his particular nature and circumstances.25 His model for his situation is Job.26 Job’s friends serve as the representations of the universal, to accuse him of wrongdoing, while Job defends his innocence, and hence his incommensurability with their universal categories. However, he is not incommensurable by choice, nor is he contemptuous of the universal; rather, he continues to love the universal and seeks to understand himself and his experiences in relation to it. Religiously, the category the young man wrestles with is “the ordeal.”27 This is not a “dogmatic” category; that is, it is not part of the science of religion (or any other science). How could it be, when an ordeal is what befalls the exception, who has passed out of universal categories and hence language itself? It is a transcendent category, and a personal one. Job does not know his experience is an ordeal, a spiritual trial, while he is undergoing it: if he had this knowledge it would no longer be an ordeal for him. Part of the trial is the feeling of being condemned, yet in the right, as well as the uncertainty that the one in the ordeal must fight through to find repose. One knows that one has somehow fallen outside of universal categories and explanations for one’s sufferings. Rather, one must be “examined” by the ethical and receive its pronouncement that one is in an ordeal.

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It is worth noting how perceptive Repetition’s treatment of Job really is. The traditional stereotype of the “patient Job” is vigorously rejected here. As one biblical scholar writes: This traditional view of the patient Job, as it is stated in the New Testament Epistle of James (v 11), is familiar to nearly everyone. It is, however, scarcely a balanced view, since it ignores the thrust of more than nine tenths of the book and appears to take account only of the beginning and end of the story.28 Constantin’s young friend might almost have been responding to this analysis when he himself writes: Why is this kept secret? Woe to him who devours the widows and the fatherless, and cheats them out of their inheritance, but woe also to him who would cunningly cheat the sorrowing of sorrow’s temporary comfort in airing its sorrow and “quarreling with God.”29 The Job of Repetition is not the patient Job of the prose sections of the book, but rather the sorrowing, lamenting, quarreling, angry, despairing Job of the poetry. This is the Job who gives expression to what the young man himself is feeling. In this Repetition shows an understanding of Job more sophisticated and sensitive than that reflected in the New Testament, or in the commonplace image of the “patience of Job.” At the same time, this use of Job is essentially an esthetic comfort, as A’s discussion of tragedy particularly shows.30 The esthetic can offer the comfort of sympathy, of expression for one’s sorrow. This treatment shows how important the role of the esthetic is in the religious life; without it, our life is as impoverished as our understanding of Job. At the same time, Job’s comfort is something more than merely esthetic, due to his orientation toward God. He refers his suffering to God, and through Job, the young man refers his own suffering to God as well. Sagacity and the thunderstorm In his “Incidental Observations” following the penultimate letter from the young man, Constantin treats his young friend’s religious expectations with a certain amount of disdain.31 He doubts the possibility of the “thunderstorm,” the crisis his friend is hoping will lead to his repetition. He also considers it a matter of indifference whether the young man chooses to give matters a religious interpretation; at any rate, he wishes his friend had the sagacity to try to ease the girl out of the relationship.

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Constantin assumes, rather than argues, that it is unimportant whether his friend chooses to give his hope for repetition a religious description. He also assumes that one in fact can resort to all that sagacity offers first, and then repair to the religious if need be. Neither claim seems self-evidentially true. First, to an esthete, the expressions “luck” and “providence” might seem interchangeable, and an esthete might use the second as a more colorful term for the first. However, to Judge William, for example, the decision to refer a matter to God is highly significant, for such an act lifts it (and the subject) out of the purely mundane, giving it “a higher concentricity.”32 Constantin’s second assumption, that one should exhaust sagacity first and then turn to religion, shows its faults in the light of the young man’s last letter. In his prior letters he has described his expectation that God would appear to him finally as he did to Job in the thunderstorm, restoring him at the end of his ordeal. His expectation is that when God comes to him, the thunderstorm will result in some radical remaking of his psyche that will render him a fit husband, able to return and claim his beloved. Instead, his thunderstorm comes as news that his beloved has married someone else.33 If he had followed Constantin’s plan and tricked the girl into believing him a scoundrel, her marriage would have been simply the result of a clever and successful plan. His ability to experience this as a “thunderstorm,” the visitation of God, would have been impaired or lost.34 “Is there not, then, a repetition?” Whether through expectation or weakness, the young man rejects Constantin’s plan and instead acts in a way that anticipates a repetition. When the girl remarries, he receives the news as just the “thunderstorm” he has been hoping for, and he claims that he has indeed received a true repetition. Has he? In a sense, yes. He had lost his self, his sense of wholeness, his integrity. This he has now regained; as he writes: I am myself again. This “self” that someone else would not pick up off the street I have once again. The split that was in my being is healed; I am unified again. The anxieties of sympathy that were sustained and nourished by my pride are no longer there to disintegrate and disrupt. Is there not, then, a repetition?35 If we grant him the affirmative answer he seeks, then we must ask: how did the young man gain this inner resilience? How is it that he is able to achieve a repetition when Constantin, A, and the Seducer have had to make

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do with recollection? Until now, the only repetition we have seen has been the ethical repetition, but the young man has failed to realize the universal ethical. Still, it seems to be through wrestling with the universal, and through the religious, that he gains his repetition. First, Constantin describes him as “the exception.”36 He does not seek to ignore or reject the universal; instead, he “battles his way through and affirms himself as justified.” Indeed, the young man’s letters seem largely preoccupied with this issue; for example: How did it happen that I became guilty? Or am I not guilty? Why, then, am I called that in every language?. . . Even if the whole world rose up against me, even if all the scholastics argued with me, even if it were a matter of life and death—I am still in the right.37 He has broken his betrothal and thus betrayed his fiancée, and has therefore violated the universal and become guilty. He also has failed to realize the universal by marrying. It is even possible to heap up more charges. However, he believes that he has done the best he could, that he cannot marry due to his peculiar character, cannot even explain himself to her—the best he can do is this. In thinking thus he is not, however, appealing to still another universal rule (“Do your best”), but is affirming that his case is not universalizable, no rules govern it or can be drawn from it, the only applicable universals condemn him—and yet he is in the right, as Constantin says: The whole thing is a wrestling match in which the universal breaks with the exception, wrestles with him in conflict, and strengthens him through this wrestling . . . The vigorous and determined exception, who although he is in conflict with the universal still is an offshoot of it, sustains himself. . . The exception also thinks the universal in that he thinks himself through; he works for the universal in that he works himself through; he explains the universal in that he explains himself.38 First the universal seizes the exception and condemns it as guilty. It is only after this prolonged, painful dialectical battle that the exception wins itself through as justified. It is important to note the parallels between Constantin’s discussion of “the exception” at this point, and William’s description of the “extraordinary person.”39 The extraordinary person seeks to realize the universal,

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as this “exceptional” young man did when he attempted to marry. What wounds him here, then, is not that he did not achieve the particular (this girl), but rather that he could not realize the universal (marriage). Having discovered that he/she is unable to realize the universal, the extraordinary one does not simply walk away. The truly extraordinary one continues to love the universal, to rejoice for the others that achieve it, and to witness to it by grieving that he/she is in fact the extraordinary who cannot realize the universal. Still, the ordeal of the extraordinary is not completed. The universal remains as an external, commanding power, demanding that the individual conform even though the individual continually assures it that he/she cannot. The extraordinary one must learn to trust in the existence of a “reasonable justice” that will absolve the one who cannot obey even when he/she would. In this sorrow over failing to realize the universal, in this debate over the universal’s demand and the rehearsal of the argument whether he/she should or can obey, in this learning to keep moving forward without the universal’s guidance and without rejecting it either, and in learning to trust that there is a justice which will treat the exception fairly, the extraordinary one is purged and refined. The truly extraordinary one develops intensively, develops himself or herself. As William writes: In other words, not everyone whose life is a mediocre expression of the universal is therefore an extraordinary person, for that would indeed be an idolization of triviality; for him to be called that legitimately, some question must be asked about the intensive vitality with which he does this. That other one will now have this vitality at the points where he is able to actualize the universal. Then his grief will vanish again, will dissolve in harmony, because he will perceive that he has reached the limit of his individuality. He is well aware that every human being develops in freedom, but he is also aware that a person does not create himself out of nothing, that he has himself in its concretion as his task; he will once again be reconciled with existence in perceiving that in a certain sense every person is an exception, and that it is equally true that every human being is the universally human and also an exception.40 Constantin’s discussion differs from William’s, although it is clear that they are seeking to describe the same phenomenon. William’s description is more detailed, but does not contradict Constantin’s as far as it goes. The real difference between them emerges in Constantin’s description of the poet:

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Such an exception is a poet, who constitutes the transition to the truly aristocratic exceptions, to the religious exceptions . . . A poet’s life begins in conflict with all life. The point is to find reassurance or legitimation, for he must always lose the first conflict, and if he wants to win immediately, then he is unjustified. My poet now finds legitimation precisely in being absolved by life the moment he in a sense wants to destroy himself. His soul now gains a religious resonance. This is what actually sustains him, although it never attains a breakthrough. His dithyrambic joy in the last letter is an example of this, for beyond a doubt this joy is grounded in a religious mood, which remains something inward, however. He keeps a religious mood as a secret he cannot explain, while at the same time this secret helps him poetically to explain actuality. He explains the universal as repetition, and yet he himself understands repetition in another way, for although actuality becomes the repetition, for him repetition is the raising of his consciousness to the second power.41 So the young man is not truly “religious:” he is a poet. He has the religious “as a mood.” This seems to be an esthetic way of being religious, but also something beyond the esthetic insofar as it actually brings a repetition. It is an “inexpressible substratum” underlying his psyche, giving him a resilience and depth the simple esthete lacks. Rather than being the focus of his being, the religious is an energizing power that fertilizes his poetic creativity. It is not his primary object of attention. He stands on the religious foundation looking out toward the infinite—which is what makes him a poet. A truly religious person would look toward the religious, and toward himself/herself in the religious relationship. In writing that the young man has the religious “as a mood,” Constantin may mean that the young man remains melancholy, and that this melancholy is an essentially religious mood.42 He may mean more generally that the young man maintains an immediate relationship to the religious, that it is part of his immediate personality as one element among others in his concretion, and that this is what makes him a poet. Both claims are certainly true of the young man. Early on, Constantin described him as melancholy, and his final estrangement from concrete finitude seems to fit what Kierkegaard elsewhere describes as melancholy.43 Likewise, his mode of relating to the religious seems to be immediate and emotional, not intentional or reflective. He looks to the Bible for inspiration and a model, but not for guidance or practical instruction. He looks to Job for company in his misery; he does not look to Paul, or Jesus, or Moses, or even Solomon, or any of the biblical figures

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who might be said to have taught on the subject of marriage. Presumably he thinks his case is too unique to benefit from moral instruction; however, we see little evidence that he has even tried. We would expect a “religious person” to consult the religious tradition, to weigh what learned and experienced authorities have said, and to come to a conclusion informed by this reflection. Instead, this young man treats the religious as A describes it in “An Ancient Tragic Motif”: as a kindly comforting power coming after the ethical has condemned. In this respect he relates esthetically to Job, and would seem to have the religious as part of his esthetic outlook rather than the other way around. He is not essentially turned toward the religious, nor is he turned toward himself. He is not clear to himself, nor does he really desire to be.44 In this he has failed to fully come up to the standards set by William’s agenda. Interestingly, despite all his wrestling with the universal (i.e., the ethical), he still operates primarily on the level of mood. Repetition and the spheres of existence One could argue that the young man is esthetic because he is so immersed in mood. Or one could argue that he is “still an offshoot of the universal,” and hence, in a sense, in the ethical sphere. If the universal can really best be understood by looking at the exception (as Constantin argues) then perhaps universal/exception should be understood as a conceptual dyad, with the opposites mutually defining each other in a Hegelian manner. Perhaps one might even argue that the poet stands within the vestibule of the religious, and hence is a claimant to citizenship in the religious sphere. Constantin gives evidence to support each of these positions in his writings. Perhaps the most prudent way to understand Constantin’s interpretation of the poet is as “the exception;” that is, one who does not fit the rules, even the theory of the three stages. However this is too simple a solution, since the questions raised cut to the heart of this investigation: the relationship between the ethical and the religious. If the poet had leapfrogged over the ethical straight from the esthetic to the religious, then this would refute the view that Kierkegaard held to a developmental theory of the self, moving from lower to higher stages, each preparing the self for the next step. However this has not happened: the religious foundered, and the poetic appeared. “If he had had a deeper religious background, he would not have become a poet.”45 This might mean he needed to be more ethically matured, or just that he needed a more direct and conscious orientation toward the religious.

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Why does he become a poet? If I may venture to answer, I would say it is because he lacks a firm footing in the concrete. As Constantin said, he was already straining to set sail on the sea of infinitude before he broke his engagement. His fixation on Job is a religious infatuation, just one part of his poet’s dream, with no more substance to it than his relationship to the girl. Both Job and his fiancée serve as his muses. Had his religiousness been more concrete, in the sense of being more of a practical guiding force and in the sense of being an actual religion (with traditions, authorities, and the other finite elements which define a religious community), he would have found another solution to his crisis than to slip the chains of mortal existence and fly away as he does, on poetry’s wings. The difficulty with any attempt to define this young man’s existential state is that he seems to straddle the three spheres of existence. Clearly, Kierkegaard is showing that the theory of the spheres cannot be understood so rigidly that a person exists solely in one. Here is a character with elements of all three, who seems to be an esthete who sought to become ethical, skirted the borders of the religious for a time, and finally became a poet with elements of all three harmonizing in his psyche. The description in this book suggests that the spheres are ideal types, only approximated in the conditions of existence. Let us return to the young man’s question: Is there not, then, a repetition? Well, yes, in a sense; or so he says. However, again, not exactly; or at least, not exactly what we were led to expect. In his penultimate letter the young man writes: What will be the effect of this thunderstorm? It will make me fit to be a husband. It will shatter my whole personality—I am prepared. It will render me almost unrecognizable to myself—I am unwavering even though I am standing on one foot. My honor will be saved, my pride will be redeemed, and no matter how it transforms me, I nevertheless hope that the recollection of it will remain with me as an unfailing consolation . . .46 This his “thunderstorm” did not do. It did not make him a husband; instead, it made him a poet—just as Constantin always believed him to be and even plotted to make him. This was not the repetition he hoped for, and more importantly, this is not the repetition we hoped for. After the somber guilt-consciousness of “as against God we are always in the wrong,” what we want (and what Either/Or suggests we need) is a repetition that can restore one to a relationship to the universal after the relationship has been broken. For this, the full and true repetition, we must look to Fear and Trembling.

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II. Fear and Trembling For such a short book, Fear and Trembling has an incredibly convoluted structure. It begins with three introductory sections: First, a “Preface”; second, the “Exordium,” a series of four imaginative variations of the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22), and third, the “Eulogy upon Abraham,” a lyrical description and hymn of Abraham’s actions and how they made him “the father of faith.” The main section consists of three “Problemata;” this section has its own additional introduction, the “Preliminary Expectoration,” leading into the three problemata which each discuss a different aspect of the relationship between religious faith and ethics as it appears in the example of Abraham. Finally, the work concludes with an “Epilogue,” which returns to the themes and style of the preface: a comparison between the modern world of commerce and the world of ideas, passion and spirit. Fear and Trembling is notorious for its radically irrationalist and immoralist language: “faith” is virtually defined as believing the absurd, and as a passion which can make murder a noble act.47 At times it seems as if this book could be a better argument against religion than a description of it. At the same time, its pseudonymous author takes pains to argue that his position is not a simple equation of immorality and faith.48 How are we to make any sense of this? We can start by clarifying who this Abraham is whom the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio thus elevates above the ethical, and what is this “ethical” that de Silentio thus opposes. Who is this Abraham? It is clear from the text of Fear and Trembling, particularly the lyrical introductory sections before the first problema, that this is a Christian, New Testament version of Abraham. The most relevant Scriptures are Romans 4 and Hebrews 11.8–19, where Abraham the father of faith, and our model for the faithful life, is most clearly presented. When, for example, de Silentio posits “Let us go further. We let Isaac be sacrificed,” we can see the parallel in Hebrews 11.19, “Abraham reckoned that God could even raise the dead.”49 In contrast, the Abraham whom we encounter on a direct reading of Genesis alone, the crafty Abraham who twice passed his wife off as his sister to avoid danger to himself on her behalf, the incredulous one who initially thought the promise of a son by Sarah impossible and prayed instead that Ishmael might be blessed—that Abraham has no place here.50 Neither is there any significant evidence within Fear and Trembling of Jewish influence, such as the

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Talmudic tradition that Isaac might have been a grown man and voluntary sacrifice.51 Instead, the fictitious author is depicted in the “Exordium” as ignorant of Hebrew and not an exegetical scholar; in short, he did not study the interpretive traditions. This is significant for two reasons. First, the fact that this is a Christian version of Abraham raises the question of whether this is a Christian Abraham—that is, is the “faith” we see here supposed to be common to all mature religiousness or the private property of Christianity. The book makes no explicit references to Christ or the Incarnation, topics so central to “faith” as depicted in the Philosophical Fragments, for example. This does not by itself establish whether a basically Christian conception has been cloaked in Old Testament imagery, or unconsciously imposed on the original story by Kierkegaard. On the other hand, it is important to state at the outset that the fact that this is a Christian view of Abraham does not mean this Abraham is a Christian. Second, this treatment of Abraham reflects the confessional concerns of Fear and Trembling. Its Abraham is to be an Abraham for faith, for the present-day believer. “Or if Abraham perhaps did not do at all what the story tells, if perhaps because of the local conditions of that day it was something entirely different, then let us forget him, for what is the value of remembering a past which cannot become a present.”52 In the New Testament, Abraham’s offer of Isaac is the act of faith par excellence, a paragon and paradigm for the faithful. In this way Abraham’s actions and faith have more than just historical interest; they become present by being taken up into the faithful person’s intentions and imagination, becoming a model to be actualized in the present. If Abraham has this symbolic significance, it follows that Isaac might as well; as de Silentio writes: Only the single individual can ever give himself a more explicit explanation of what is to be understood by Isaac. And even though an ever so precise determination could be made, generally speaking, of what is to be understood by Isaac . . . the single individual would never be able to be convinced of this by others, only by himself as the single individual.53 In the course of exploring passages from this book we will determine more precisely “what is to be understood by Isaac.” For now it should be said that despite his tendencies to embellish imaginatively the narrative and to attribute typological significance to the characters, Kierkegaard/de Silentio shies away from full-blown allegorism. In fact, to allegorize the story (as Paul does in Gal. 4.21–31) would undercut the ability of the single

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individual to determine “what is meant by Isaac” in his or her own case. Rather, Kierkegaard seeks to engage the imagination as well as the reason in weaving around the concepts and images of the story, manipulating them and moving among them. Although the actual historical facts are relatively unimportant in their details, they are not specifically denied as historical realities. After all, if Abraham never did such things at all, it would be just as well to forget him. What is the “ethical?” So this is the Abraham that de Silentio lauds; what then is the “ethical” which he denounces? Despite repeated references to “the universal,” it is not described as the “ethical” which Judge William describes; nor is it that which Kant propounds. Instead, it is “social morality” in particular which he assaults.54 This is because it is Hegelian ethics, and its claim that Hegelian philosophy expresses the truth of Christianity, ethics, and society, all brought together in a higher unity, that de Silentio is particularly concerned to discredit. The Hegelian position holds that the individual should strive to express his or her own nature in the social arena, and that any purely private remainder is morally suspect—either a premoral or immoral element of the personality. Furthermore, Hegel’s understanding of “faith” is an immediate impression experienced in a socially conditioned manner. Our image of God is derived at least as much from our education and socialization as from any immediate mystical experience. The interpretive lens through which we view our immediate religious moods, for example, are culturally conditioned, though not yet philosophically clarified. So in the Hegelian scheme, personal ethics, religion, and social mores are all aspects of culture; any irremediable dichotomy between them would be unthinkable and intolerable.55 However if this is true, then Abraham must be condemned: he simply suspends the ethical (particularly the socially ethical) for the sake of a purely private relationship between himself and God; he maintains a private God-relationship and an absolute duty to God beyond the universal, and he remains silent before those persons to whom he has the closest social ties and responsibilities. If Hegelianism claims to represent the truth of Christianity, then it must praise Abraham as Christianity does; but if it does so it is inconsistent. In fact, this understanding implies a deification of culture, so that Abraham and the God of Abraham disappear as irrelevant (even dangerous) to the individual’s attempts to realize and express himself or herself through the social institutions of Christendom.56

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William’s criticism of Hegelian ethics is that it is obsessed with the past—even trapped in it. He writes: Philosophy turns towards the past, toward the totality of experienced world history; it shows how the discursive elements come together in a higher unity; it mediates and mediates. It seems to me, however, that it does not answer the question I am asking; for I am asking about the future . . . . . . I ask: What am I supposed to do, if I do not want to be a philosopher . . . I am a married man and far from being a philosophic brain, but in all respects I turn towards the devotees of this science to find out what I am supposed to do. But I receive no answer . . . This accounts for the repugnant spectacle that belongs to the order of the day in our age—to see young people who are able to mediate Christianity and paganism, who are able to play games with the titanic forces of history, and who are unable to tell a simple human being what he is to do here in life, nor do they know what they are to do themselves.57 In William’s view, “philosophy” (by which he means Hegelianism) mediates the past rather than looking or acting toward the future. Oriented toward the past, it can easily eliminate the absolute contradiction, the Either/Or, between good/and evil. The Either/Or arises when one orients toward the future, when one chooses.58 If an individual wishes guidance as to what to do, or how to choose, none is forthcoming from the dominant, Hegelian philosophy. There is no personal ethical guidance, no ethical choice or values to be found.59 Johannes de Silentio’s treatment of Hegel seems more direct and better researched than Judge William’s. Unlike him, de Silentio claims to have read and understood Hegel.60 He further quotes the correct books and passages to suggest the truth of his claim. But his understanding of “ethics” is first of all “social morality”—something Hegel represents fairly well, being the famous proponent of Sittlickeit and the hero of the Copenhagen cultural elite. Judge William offered an ethics which started with the individual’s choice of his or her self, and then from that choice claimed that good, evil, and social/political commitments arise. Hegel works in the opposite direction, starting with the grand vision of the ideal whole and working down toward the individuals—and never getting there, for some of his critics. However, even if de Silentio’s target is specified as social morality, this does not mean that his criticisms may not touch other, more individualist ethics that rely on universal standards, such as Kant’s or Judge William’s.

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Hegel is repeatedly criticized for his inconsistency. He reduces faith to “the immediate,” and asserts the primacy of social morality over such things but he fails to follow through on this position and condemn Abraham for relying on faith over ethics.61 Kant certainly cannot be accused of this confusion—he boldly steps forward to denounce Abraham.62 William has made a niche in his framework, namely “the extraordinary,” a region he has not himself explored but whose boundaries he has tried to fix.63 He thus has not ruled out that there might be someone who, for no morally impugnable reason, does not fit the universal standards. Whereas William seems to think the extraordinary can exist alongside the ethical without disturbing it unduly, de Silentio claims that Abraham is the proof that the particular is higher than the universal.64 As the “Ultimatum” argues in another context, sometimes the exception disproves the rule.65 Exegesis of the “Exordium” The “Exordium” provides an excellent doorway into this complicated work. Each of the four stories depicts Abraham at a different stage of existence. In this way each exaggerates certain elements of the actual Abraham figure (as conceived by de Silentio) for purposes of display. By sifting through the body of Fear and Trembling for clues to the deciphering of the Exordium, one discovers the key elements of faith which de Silentio wishes the reader to notice. The Abraham of Deceit and Silence The first variant Abraham seems to be the closest to the original. At least, there is little in the story to suggest that Abraham lacks faith, has failed either to resign Isaac or to receive him again with joy. However, unlike the original, this Abraham attempts to explain to Isaac what is going to happen on Mount Moriah, and why. Of course, Isaac cannot be encouraged. Abraham’s words and actions seem to contradict each other; he speaks love, he intends murder. Moreover, his continued belief that God’s promise will still be kept, that Isaac will become a mighty nation, seems absurd in the light of the action God has ordered and Abraham intends.66 Abraham’s attempts to communicate inevitably prove futile; so in order to save Isaac’s faith, Abraham takes on the guise of a madman. He “blackens” himself to wean Isaac of his attachment to his father, in order that he might turn to God. Clearly, in this version Abraham has failed to apprehend his situation clearly, or he would have realized the futility of trying to speak. It is

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questionable just how profound an error this is. Some see this as a major misstep.67 Abraham is forced to choose between his relationship to Isaac and Isaac’s relationship to God, and in doing so, Abraham loses Isaac, his joy in the world. Even if he would receive Isaac again, Isaac cannot receive him. Abraham thus fails to attain the full promise of faith through his failure to first understand himself. What sort of Abraham is this revision? What has he lost compared to the original, how has he failed, and what does this tell us about faith? Although there are multiple references to the problems of communication scattered through the work, the most extensive treatment is Problema III.68 Johannes de Silentio undertakes a lengthy discussion on esthetic silence, the upshot of which is that, esthetically, it is fitting for a magnanimous soul to keep silence to avoid causing another pain. If this were a tragedy, the Abraham of the first retelling would be an esthetic failure because he caused Isaac unnecessary fear prior to the event of the sacrifice. On the other hand, ethics demands disclosure. Silence is a betrayal of one’s trust with others (here, the child and his mother). Ethics demands that the inner life be brought out to the universal world of discourse and disclosure and duty. Abraham ignored his ethical obligation to speak to the intermediate ethical agents, so that their interests could be heard, and all relevant ethical arguments acknowledged and answered. In this retelling, by contrast, Abraham tries to speak. This seems to remove him from the sphere of esthetics, the “interesting” or “magnanimous.” However, at the same time, he fails to communicate. His words are nonsense to Isaac. So he is beyond the pale of the ethical as well, beyond the universal world of language. In fact, this Abraham does more than break silence; he retreats back into it again. Furthermore, he employs deception, vilifying himself to help “wean” Isaac to God. Is this a procedure de Silentio identifies with faith; or is it perhaps a slide into the demonic? Although de Silentio’s treatment of the demonic seems tangential to the work of understanding Abraham, it is valuable for the issues it raises. This discussion contains an especially intriguing retelling of the legend of Agnes and the merman.69 The merman sees Agnes walking beside the sea, and decides to seduce her and carry her off. He succeeds in luring her out onto the water; but just as he is about to plunge with her under the waves, he is overwhelmed by the complete trust and innocence of her love for him. He finds himself unable to carry out his plan; while he was able to carry her away as booty, he cannot give himself to her in love, however much he may now wish it. He repents of his original intention; but it is still undecided what sort of repentance this is to be. If it is to be repentance without

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confession, then the merman approaches the demonic. If he breaks with her, then he certainly will cause her pain, for she loves him. Ex hypothosi he loves her too, and therefore desires her happiness and well-being. If he can leave her fate to God, he still is saved from the demonic; but if he decides that she is better off without him and determines to deceive her into breaking off herself, then the demonic wins out. In the end she is deceived, and he is tormented by the love he is unable to declare, by the guilt he is unable to leave behind, and by the knowledge that he is now acting cruelly and hurting her further, “for her own good,” he believes. It is noteworthy that this course of action is precisely the one Constantin urged on his young friend: to use sagacity and duplicity to ease a girl out of a love relationship to the young man, who felt himself unfit to be a husband. It is precisely this recourse to sagacity that de Silentio labels demonic.70 On the other hand, the merman could simply break with Agnes without explanation, trusting God to help her rather than his own sagacity. This is more like the path taken by the young man himself. This strategy de Silentio identifies with the stance of resignation; it renounces its claim to the worldly good (the love relationship) and instead seeks refuge in the infinite. The way of faith, the “absolute relationship to the absolute,” is completely opposite. As de Silentio writes: Then he marries Agnes. He must, however, take refuge in the paradox. In other words, when the single individual by his guilt has come outside the universal, he can return only by virtue of having come as the single individual into an absolute relation to the absolute.71 If he has faith, he must marry Agnes. He must become disclosed, renounce his silence, and make the paradoxical move of realizing the ethical relationship after having fallen outside the ethical. He begins with deceit and guilt, intending to seduce and destroy Agnes. Then he repents, confesses, and even goes on to enter the marriage relationship for which he knows himself to be unworthy. This he can only do by first developing a faith relationship with God, trusting that with God all things are possible.72 De Silentio writes: As soon as sin emerges, ethics founders precisely on repentance; for repentance is the highest ethical expression, but precisely as such is the deepest ethical self-contradiction . . . In sin, the single individual is already higher (in the direction of the demonic paradox) than the universal, because it is a contradiction on

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the part of the universal to want to demand itself from a person who lacks the conditio sine qua non [indispensable condition] . . . An ethics that ignores sin is a completely futile discipline, but if it affirms sin, then it has eo ipso exceeded itself.73 “There is no doubt that he can speak.” In that case, he fulfills the universal by becoming disclosed; he confesses to Agnes his original intention to seduce and destroy her. He accepts that it is not his place to foresee how she will react; it is his duty to be revealed, whatever the consequences. Perhaps she will leave him, and he will become a tragic hero whose duty to disclosure undermined his duty to marry as well as his happiness. More likely, says de Silentio, this confession will not destroy Agnes’s love for him; then he can marry Agnes. However, he had not come into this relationship in the openness, trust, and love that ethics demands the lovers have before they are joined in marriage. He came in deceit, faithlessness, and seduction. Now he comes in repentance and guilt. The ethical itself cannot wipe out that debt, that sense in which he has wronged Agnes simply by intending to wrong her, regardless of his present intentions.74 Even if one does not wish to say he wronged her, he still has been in the wrong. In sin he has moved outside of the universal. To move from being thus in the wrong to being able to marry Agnes, the merman must come as the single individual into an absolute relationship to the absolute. This is a paradox, since the universal casts him out as a faithless lover, while he now wishes to realize the universal as a faithful husband: The merman, therefore, cannot belong to Agnes without, after having made the infinite movement of repentance, making one movement more: the movement by virtue of the absurd. He can make the movement of repentance under his own power, but he also uses absolutely all his power for it and therefore cannot possibly come back under his own power and grasp actuality again.75 The merman cannot win Agnes until he admits he does not deserve Agnes, does not have a claim to her, and in accepting his unworthiness, renounces Agnes, and then, believing that he can still receive her, he can still be healed, can still rejoin the universal even though the universal casts him out. This is clearly a paradox; he wins her only by admitting he has hopelessly lost her from the start, and then receiving her again by virtue of the absurd. There is a clear disanalogy between the merman and Abraham. The merman comes into his paradoxical relationship through sin, while Abraham

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“was a righteous man, God’s chosen one.”76 For Abraham the paradox arises because of God’s particular command ordering him out of the safety of the universal, not from his own guilt exiling him. This shows again how completely Abraham is treated as an ideal figure, a type—for has not Either/Or already asserted that as against God we are always in the wrong? The Pauline tradition, with which Kierkegaard (and apparently de Silentio) certainly is conversant, is that Abraham had faith in God, and that faith was counted as righteousness—an imputed, not actual righteousness.77 It is reasonable to assume therefore that no one, not even Abraham, is ever truly “righteous,” and that therefore everyone is in relation to the paradox in the sense that the merman is—through sin.78 This does not change the fact that, as far as de Silentio is concerned, Abraham is righteous, and his paradox is not the merman’s. The merman becomes disclosed by the aid of the paradox of forgiveness; Abraham becomes excommunicant by his paradox. The merman is paradoxically rejoined with the universal after having exiled himself from it; Abraham is paradoxically exiled from the universal after having faithfully fulfilled all its requirements. So Abraham cannot speak; anything he might say sounds like gibberish. This is illustrated in the parable; “Isaac could not understand him.”79 In this first variation upon Abraham, he tries to speak, to become disclosed, but finds he cannot. Realizing the futility of the attempt, he then tries to insure that Isaac keeps his faith in God, by using deceit to work him out of his relationship to his father. Certainly there is something very close to the demonic sagacity of the merman in this stratagem. But this Abraham, like the original, is righteous, does desire to realize the universal, and has been forcibly removed from it by God. He is a man of faith. Perhaps he does behave like a demon; but is this so different from the biblical Abraham, who keeps silent?80 The Isaac of the original, who can only judge his father’s actions, might surely have wondered whether his father was any better than an idolater. Certainly it is another extraordinary paradox that he could go on to love his father (and God) as before. The focus of the parable is not therefore the failure implied by attempting communication or the wisdom of not trying; rather, it is the difficulties Abraham (or any knight of faith) faces in trying to communicate, how it often may be futile, and hence how justified the actual Abraham was in keeping silent, despite the demands of “the universal.” The weaning story in this case seems to refer to Abraham’s need to “wean” Isaac from his earthly father to the heavenly. A mother might blacken her breast, but Abraham blackens himself. His gaze is not “as tender and loving as ever,” although he himself is; his love is hidden

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behind apparent hatred of his son. All this appears demonic; but it is in keeping with the paradox of faith. For a knight of faith, the absolute duty toward God determines how all other merely ethical duties will be expressed. In this connection, to say that it is a duty to love God means . . . [that] if this duty is absolute, then the ethical is reduced to the relative. From this it does not follow that the ethical should be invalidated; rather, the ethical receives a completely different expression, a paradoxical expression; such as, for example, that love to God may bring a knight of faith to give his love to the neighbor—an expression opposite to that which, ethically speaking, is duty.81 Abraham’s love of God brings him to a paradoxical expression for his love of his son, acting as if from hatred to help Isaac to the greatest good—a God-relationship. Perhaps this is a somewhat presumptuous procedure compared to the behavior of the actual Abraham’s understatedness; but practically speaking, I am not sure what real difference it would make in his relationship to Isaac (i.e., finitude, the world). The Abraham of resignation and despair Although the first variant Abraham may be construed as either a failure or a success by different readers, there is no such doubt regarding the second Abraham. He is the Abraham of infinite resignation.82 This Abraham’s Sarah is the “wife of his old age.” However, of the faithful Abraham we read, “he who always hopes for the best grows old and is deceived by life, and he who is always prepared for the worst grows old prematurely, but he who has faith—he preserves an eternal youth.”83 So whereas faith keeps one young, this Abraham has grown old. He has the courage for the deed, he offers God the best, Sarah’s (and his) joy and hope for the generations to come, resolutely and sincerely—but all this de Silentio believes he could do himself.84 However: . . . if I had gotten Isaac again, I would have been in an awkward position. What was the easiest for Abraham would have been different for me— once again to be happy in Isaac—for he who in all the infinity of his soul proprio motu et propriis auspiciis [of his own accord and on his own responsibility], has made the infinite movement and cannot do more, he keeps Isaac only with pain.85

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That is the situation of the Abraham of the second parable; he retained Isaac with pain; he could not forget God had asked this, and thus could not fully accept that God had returned Isaac, and thus “he saw joy no more.” This Abraham had died to the world, and the world is dead to him. He has lost his child, and the child has lost his parent; God comes between them. For faith, God becomes the middle term joining Abraham and Isaac the faithful person with the joyous responsibilities of the world, in that the faithful one gives up Isaac, God returns Isaac, and the faithful one receives Isaac back from God, and this receiving is itself an expression of faith. But in infinite resignation, the person gives Isaac to God out of love for God, without hope of receiving him back; if God should return Isaac again, nobody is there to welcome his return, for the sender has died to the world and a dead person cannot receive returned items. So God must keep Isaac, and becomes that which took and kept Abraham’s joy from him. However, God only comes between Abraham and Isaac because Abraham is unable to accept Isaac’s return, not because God wishes it. The accompanying mother parable then seems to focus on Isaac, the child who has lost a parent to infinite resignation. If the mother corresponds to Abraham, we notice the double movement implied by weaning; the mother withdraws from the child, yet continues to be as present and loving as ever. Even so the faithful person must withdraw from the world, not in the sense of no longer offering it sustenance but rather in no longer being sustained by it. yet he/she continues to live in the world and love it as before. Abraham and the ethical The third retelling of the Abraham story exposes, so to speak, the raw nerve running through the book: everyone who touches it shudders. Here, Abraham condemns himself for having been willing to sacrifice Isaac. In this he echoes what de Silentio says would likely be anyone’s judgment if such a thing occurred today.86 However, the Abraham who is depicted here is not merely some psychotic rightly condemned by the sane. This story represents specifically the position of the ethical. Sarah, about a century old, is described as “the young mother,” and Isaac as “her joy forever.” Later we read, “For Sarah, although well advanced in years, was young enough to desire the pleasure of motherhood, and Abraham with his grey hairs was young enough to wish to be a father.”87 The opening of the scene, with words of youth and joy, contrasts sharply with the second story with its images of old age. Abraham has not renounced the wish of his youth at the

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start of this third parable, and has in fact achieved it. This is not just a dream of pleasure, but one that grafts him into the continual universal history of the race in a most direct way. In taking his part in the propagation of the species, he also takes on the most solemn of ethical responsibilities: “the father shall love the son more than himself.”88 Therefore, de Silentio writes: The ethical expression for what Abraham did is that he meant to murder Isaac; the religious expression is that he meant to sacrifice Isaac—but precisely in this contradiction is the anxiety that can make a person sleepless, and yet without this anxiety Abraham is not who he is.89 This Abraham is impaled on the horns of this very dilemma: “he prayed God to forgive his sin, that he had been willing to sacrifice Isaac, that the father had forgotten his duty to his son.”90 He cannot understand that what he thought was the best sacrifice, the most pious religious act, should turn out to be the basest crime when construed ethically, and further, he cannot understand that he can be forgiven such a sin. So this Abraham remained in the ethical realm of universal joys and duties and never suffered the spiritual aging of resignation. He was joyful in his social, moral role as father and husband. Then came the fateful day when, rightly or wrongly, he left the safety of the guidance of the universal, and violated the ethical duty to a son, believing this to be religiously fitting. He ends up seeking in vain to return to the fold of the ethical, but unable to do so; he is unable to find peace, as he is unable to understand how his sin could be forgiven. 91 So here is a man who, in offering the highest sacrifice he could imagine, committed the basest crime imaginable. Religion and ethics appear in direct contradiction, with the religious appearing either criminal or insane, perhaps both. This is not just one perspective on Abraham; this would be the universal judgment of anyone who might attempt to do the same thing today. The weaning story which follows supports this reading. The “happy one” who kept the child close calls to mind the happiness Abraham felt as long as he kept his child close, the two joined in love and duty, prior to his attempt to give him to God. It also calls to mind the happiness each parent among us must feel that he/she is not tried as Abraham was tried, when he/she can remain within the realm of ethical commitments to others—a realm that also fulfills the emotional attachments of parental love.

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Abraham and faithless obedience The fourth story makes the point that it is only by faith that one achieves any resemblance to Abraham, not by murder.92 This Abraham makes the same motions as the original, he shows the same obedience, and yet he is just the opposite: the father of doubt, not faith. Isaac, father of Israel, loses his faith. He loses it the same way others gain it from the real Abraham—by his example. This fourth Abraham has not got as far as resignation. If he had any hope to begin with, it was “. . . the despicable hope that says: One just can’t know what will happen, it could just possibly be—those travesties are native to the paltriness of life, and infinite resignation has already infinitely disdained them.”93 Abraham’s vacillation is hinted at even before the climactic moment, with the mention of Eliezer. Abraham’s heir before the birth of Ishmael, presumably he could always be his heir again if things don’t work out with Isaac. Now, at the moment when everything is lost, the knife raised, and there seems no way out, Abraham flinches. His despair becomes visible, even if only momentarily. As the weaning story suggests, this Abraham does not have “stronger sustenance” at hand, either for himself or for Isaac. “His return is a flight, his future perhaps perdition.”94 This Abraham testifies to the horror of the ordeal, and further, he shows that obedience alone is not enough. It is not even the most important thing. Abraham obeyed in this story, and his son could see that his father obeyed; yet Isaac lost his God-relationship when he perceived that his father’s God-relationship was no deeper than obedience. What matters is faith, the internal state behind the act. Incidentally (though not insignificantly) it illustrates that the only way to help another in faith is to have faith oneself. Abraham, the father of faith, never talks or writes about faith; rather, he lives faithfully, and by his example becomes the father of faith. Abraham and the elements of faith These four variations on the story of Abraham act as a prism, refracting the pure white light of Abraham’s faith into its constituent elements so that we may better admire and consider each separately. The fourth parable reflects the “horror religiosus” at the terrible ride to Mount Moriah.95 Without a proper sense of the horror of the situation one cannot begin to understand Abraham, much less to emulate his faith. To sacrifice Isaac is a horrible thing, and one should feel this. However, this essential starting point is not in itself enough to determine whether one will respond with faith or despair; it is only the emotional crisis whereby the response of faith/or doubt

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becomes necessary or even possible. This sense of “how appalling it is to go to Mount Moriah” is the emotional substratum of faith, which perhaps many who glibly recite the story in church never reach; but it is not faith itself by any means. This emotional dimension represents part of what I have termed “religious esthetic”; the immediate, untutored reaction to the presence of the Divine. It could be said to be the ground of faith, both in the sense of underlying it and in the sense that faith grows from this soil, is rooted in it, though it is also infinitely more. The third version of the story highlights the distinction between the religious and the ethical. The conflicting interpretations of the sacrifice as either a breach of social/universal duty or a fulfillment of religious duty shows this distinction most starkly. At the same time, the emphasis on Abraham’s love for Isaac, a social, moral, and emotional bond, is the element without which Abraham’s ordeal is only a “spiritual trial”—that is, a temptation to evil which ought to be repented and abandoned as quickly as possible.96 Moreover, the final lament over the apparent impossibility of forgiveness of sin raises what may be the most important element of the distinction between the ethical and the religious, given that few are tried as Abraham whereas all have sinned. The problem of sin and the ethical impossibility of repentance shows the necessity of a personal religious relationship to God, not just for the “exception” such as Abraham, but for everyone. The second variant on Abraham illuminates the infinite resignation that, according to de Silentio, is the last step human effort alone can achieve or human reason decipher.97 The mere fact that de Silentio downplays his own resignation in praising Abraham’s faith is no reason to despise resignation; it is the last step before faith, and an essential one. “Only the one who draws the knife gets Isaac,” and this is the step that draws that knife.98 The knight of resignation has a personal relationship with God, which the ethicist does not. To William, God was the foundation and guarantor of the ethical; to de Silentio, God is love, for him personally as well as universally. As de Silentio writes: To me God’s love, in both the direct and the converse sense, is incommensurable with the whole of actuality. Knowing that, I am not so cowardly that I whimper and complain, but neither am I so perfidious as to deny that faith is something far higher. I can bear to live in my own fashion, I am happy and satisfied, but my joy is not the joy of faith, and by comparison with that, it is unhappy. I do not trouble God with my little troubles, details do not concern me; I gaze only at my love and keep its virgin flame

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pure and clear. Faith is convinced that God is concerned about the smallest things. I am satisfied with a left-handed marriage in this life; faith is humble enough to insist on the right hand, for I do not deny that this is humility and will never deny it . . . .

Moreover, because of this de Silentio has the devotion and the courage to sacrifice his Isaac (i.e., his earthly happiness and duties), if God should ask it; as he writes: . . . If I (in the capacity of tragic hero, for higher I cannot come) had been ordered to take such an extraordinary royal journey as the one to Mount Moriah, I know very well what I would have done. I would not have been cowardly enough to stay at home, nor would I have dragged and drifted along the road or forgotten the knife in order to cause a delay. I am quite sure that I would have been punctual and all prepared—more than likely, I would have arrived too early in order to get it over sooner. But I also know what else I would have done. The moment I mounted the horse, I would have said to myself: Now all is lost, God demands Isaac, I sacrifice him and along with him all my joy—yet God is love and continues to be that for me, for in the world of time God and I cannot talk with each other, we have no language in common.99 He is able to sacrifice Isaac; but he is unable to receive him back. The first parable reflects the absurdity of faith, that it both wields the knife and expects to get Isaac. Abraham’s faith has become so personal that it is incommunicable. He gives up everything for God, and yet his trust in God is so strong that he expects to get it all back from God again—and perhaps more strangely, he actually does. In receiving Isaac again, he receives all the joys and responsibilities of worldly life, for this is what Isaac represents to him. He renounces the entire substance of his life in resignation, and receives it again in faith.100 So the “Exordium” provide a cross-section of Abraham’s faith, revealing it to be a unity of esthetic, ethical, and religious elements, each of which is essential. The chapter begins with the upper, obvious elements of the absurdity, excavating down through layers that are more and more commonly found, finally reaching the substratum of the religious mood, the horror religiosus, which even a purely esthetic person might share. The comparison of the mood evoked by the sacrifice of Isaac to that felt by Israel at Mount Sinai is particularly apt. All the people of Israel felt awe; but of them, only a few (the tribe of Levi) remained faithful, and only Moses actually saw God.101

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III. The Three Upbuilding Discourses of 1843 This collection begins with two discourses on 1 Peter 4.7–12, the text “Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins.” The first describes itself as addressed “to the perfect”—that is, the morally and religiously blameless. It assumes the worthiness of the reader and describes how love can hide the sins of others. First, it points out how our perceptions are dependent on our own character, so one who loves sees love in others, not sins.102 Further, love can actually evoke a loving response, and smother hatred and sin; whereas suspicion or anger can stir up more evil.103 Moving to more specifically religious themes, the discourse then describes how the loving person in the midst of the unloving world might save the whole from judgment, as Paul’s presence on a pagan ship saved the crew from death by shipwreck.104 Finally, it discusses how God’s love for us hides a multitude of sins.105 The end effect is to urge the reader to remain loving, even when circumstances do not immediately seem to warrant it. Having faith that one’s own love is not deceived by this hopeful stance, not only does one become God’s co-worker making the world more loving, but one becomes an imitator of God as well. In many ways this is an ethical injunction; it does not urge a duty to a particular action, but it does enjoin an attitude or character upon the reader. The second discourse, by contrast, is addressed to the “imperfect.”106 Here the multitude of sins which love hides are the lover’s own. It begins with a personalistic interpretation of apocalyptic themes; these are the “end times,” in that each individual has only a limited time before “the end.” In such a time of urgency, one needs a sense of assurance of one’s own salvation, before death comes. If one loves much, one does not have time to dwell on one’s own sins, for one is too busy loving. Furthermore, God sees the love in one, and out of love will ignore the sin to look on the love, so love hides sins even from God. One who loves (God) does not care about the judgment of others, but only about God’s judgment, so the judgment of others becomes irrelevant; thus love can be said to hide one’s sins from others as well. As long as one trusts one’s own righteousness, or wallows in repentance because one longs for one’s own righteousness, one does not love. Such an attitude is too self-involved, too self-sufficient. Love loses itself in love for the other; therefore, one can only learn to love when one moves beyond concern for one’s own righteousness. Finally, when one loves much, one discovers one’s own inadequacies, and realizes that one must rely on the power of love, and not righteousness, for salvation. The fact that this discourse in particular was published under Kierkegaard’s own name, simultaneously with Fear and Trembling, seems to support the

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contention that the latter book has a hidden agenda (namely the problem of sin) which is even more central to Kierkegaard’s actual concerns than the text itself indicates.107 It is aimed at the “imperfect,” one who has already morally slipped, and therefore must find a way beyond the ethical to be restored to some sort of wholeness. Further underscoring this point, both discourses end with a New Testament story of an encounter between Jesus and a sinful woman. The first, the woman caught in adultery, has her sins hidden by Christ’s love, whereas the sin in her accusers had quickly discovered her sin; the second, the sinner who weeps at Christ’s feet while he dines in the house of a Pharisee, has her sin hidden both by her love and by his. The first says, “The punishment of sins breeds new sins, but love hides a multitude of sins:” the second, that Christ’s love and forgiveness enabled her to love even more.108 In both, the notion of sin (in the sense of moral unworthiness) is addressed, a new religious route is found around the ethical impasse of sin and repentance, and the notion of God’s grace is mentioned as making up for the faithful, loving person’s shortcomings. Although the second discourse deals most directly with the issue of sin (which is only briefly discussed overtly by de Silentio), the third discourse, “Strengthening in the Inner Being,” seems even more directly connected with the themes of Fear and Trembling. First there is the description of Paul and his message; “it had to be acquired slowly, appropriated in the ordeal that began with the renunciation of everything.”109 The message is “foolishness” to the wise, paradoxical and seemingly absurd. Paul’s only witnesses to the truth of his message are his hardships. Every human witness or criterion is against him. Still he maintains what he wishes also for the congregation: strengthening in the inner being. The description of this “strengthening” begins in terms laid down in the ethical sphere. First is a denunciation of the thoughtless drifting, or the worldly shrewdness, or the craven indecisiveness that reflect a bondage to the world. The human being is supposed to be ruler of Creation, as the Bible says, and this means that first one ought to rule oneself, not be ruled by circumstances, pain/pleasure considerations, and so on.110 With this the inner being begins to appear. One who is concerned in this way must know oneself, the world, and oneself in the world. One must ask about the meaning the world has for one, and the meaning one has for the world. The inner being announces itself in this concern; it explains this meaning in God, Lord of Creation and ruler of the person as well. This concern focuses not on the whole world equally, but on itself and God, and itself before God. This is what allows one to find the sort of meaning sought; one finds

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meaning in one’s relationship to the world by being related to God, and meaning for oneself in being God’s co-worker in the world.111 The inner being is then discussed in its relationship to fortune and misfortune.112 One is strengthened in the inner being through seeking the correct understanding of fortune or misfortune. One must not simply accept the pleasant as good or the unpleasant as bad uncritically; rather, one must seek to understand these in relation to one’s God-relationship. Either can lead one away from God, or be the occasion for a deepening understanding and strengthening. Similarly, one ought not simply to enjoy the power to accomplish one’s will, without considering how one ought to use one’s power in the world in the light of one’s God-relationship. Power can make one a responsible co-worker with God, or arrogantly self-sufficient; powerlessness can make one humbly trusting toward God, or bitter, dejected, and despairing. Ultimately, it would seem from this discourse that everything in the world is relativized; nothing is to be judged on its own, but only as it relates to the self’s relationship to God. Thus, paradoxically, the good can bring harm if it weakens the inner being, or the bad can strengthen it, and the same thing can be good for one person and harmful to another, depending on how each receives it. One particularly interesting remark is Kierkegaard’s claim that The person who loves God is strengthened in the inner being, and the person who loved people, and only through this love learned, as it were, to love God, has had only an imperfect upbringing; but the person who loved God and in this love learned to love people was strengthened in the inner being.113 Even in the New Testament, there is a certain tension concerning whether one loves God by loving one’s neighbor, or loves one’s neighbor in loving God. The Letter of James in particular seems to lean toward the former approach; for example, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.114 Consider the saying, “if he does not love the brother whom he has seen, he cannot love God whom he has not seen.”115 Given such passages, one might argue that the only true way to love God is by loving the people God has placed with you. One loves God by first serving one’s neighbor. Anything else is simply an empty attachment to an abstract ideal, largely of one’s own creation. An attachment to God prior to social engagement, such as seeking a mystical rejuvenation prior to moving out into the social world, might be seen as dangerous, leading one

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to reject the actual, present God-incarnate-in-the-neighbor in favor of figment or projection of one’s own ego. One can even find traces of such an understanding of religion in Judge William’s views.116 Kierkegaard was well aware of such biblical injunctions and such ethical/ theological concerns; but at the same time, he argues here as elsewhere that God should be the “middle term,” the bridge between the individual and the neighbor. The central concern of this discourse is that people can disappoint, returning hostility for openness and love. In this case, whether one is able to keep on loving, or turns cynical and bitter depends on one’s God-relationship. So God is to be the ground of one’s love for one’s neighbor, rather than one’s love for others forming the basis for one’s God-relationship. This does not seem to address Kierkegaard’s main point in this discourse, however. Social work can disappoint, either because the supposed beneficiaries may seem ungrateful or because the task seems impossible. In this case, Kierkegaard argues, one must be “strengthened in the inner being,” in one’s God-relationship and personal integrity, if one is to avoid succumbing to despair. Even if the object of one’s love and action is a group, it is the individual who must love, who must carry out this action; therefore, the individual must first be careful of his or her own personal moral and spiritual health if he/she is to go on to engage in this sort of “social gospel” activity. The discourse next considers “the person who was tried, “ a topic close to the concerns of Fear and Trembling.117 In Fear and Trembling, the translators use the phrase “spiritual trial” to describe the person in anxiety and distress at being drawn out beyond his or her usual capacities or expectations.118 We can assume then that this person described in the discourse is likewise not tried as Abraham was tried, but rather is trapped by some indescribable foreboding with little or no relationship to any external circumstance. He has nothing he can share with a confidant, no particular temptation, just a feeling of being beyond his depth and abandoned by God. This is akin to the “arid” periods described by many mystics, where the previous sense of God’s nearness is replaced by a feeling of being alone, drifting perhaps, with only one’s own meager capacities for a guide.119 This is not Abraham’s situation, for he feels God all too near perhaps, demanding Isaac from him despite the promise to bless Isaac. However, the one who endures this sort of spiritual trial with concern for the inner being learns what Abraham also teaches; “he who believes God contrary to the understanding is strengthened in the inner being.”120 Finally, the discourse ends by emphasizing the fact that Paul says this strengthening is not simply a matter of willpower; it is a gift from God.121 In fact, when God gives a gift, God is present in the gift; so God gives God in giving anything else. This is what really guarantees the goodness of the gift,

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since (as we have seen) nothing is good apart from God and anything serves for good that leads one to God. So we are brought again to the beginning of the discourse, discussing how God’s grace helped Paul, and can help the reader, to find this strengthening, even when everything in the world seems to argue against it. Although “no one can provide this strengthening for himself,” there does seem to be some sense in which the individual is active in receiving it, just as “the one who receives a witness is not the one who gives it,” yet that person does receive it and could presumably resist or reject it instead. There seems to be some idea of cooperation here. These three discourses offer a much starker view than those that accompanied Either/Or. The Two Upbuilding Discourses of 1843 offered a religion largely of comfort, barely moving beyond the ethical, although beginning the individual’s journey in relationship with God. The Three Upbuilding Discourses of October 1843 present a religion of paradox, trial, absurdity, consonant with the themes raised in Fear and Trembling and Repetition. The journey has hit a bend in the road, and the security of the universal, of visible guideposts and shared experience, is lost from view. The mention of the love that hides a multitude of sins also calls to mind the fact that there is a multitude of sins to be hidden, both around and within the individual. The ethical cannot really hide the sins of others, for it judges; even if the individual ethical person refrains from pronouncing judgment, the universal itself (which he/she seeks to realize) does pronounce judgment. The ethical cannot hide one’s own sins, for repentance is the rock on which ethics founders.122 So the ethical leaves one with a world of sinful neighbors, for whom the ethical person is a walking condemnation, and a personally sinful agent, who has failed to live up to the demands of the ethical he/she claims to embrace. In such circumstances, one can exist at moral ease with others and oneself only through a kind of forgetfulness. Love, by contrast, changes the standards. In loving God, and loving the neighbor through God, one sees God first; one seeks to embody God’s love and not universal standards. Love does not condemn, so the individual is freed from self-condemnation as well as condemnation by or of others. Clearly, a new religious alternative has been offered to the universal ethical commonwealth, which seems to offer the possibility both of an individual validation and a true community that the ethical, because of sin, failed to achieve.

IV. Summary of the Works of October 16, 1843 In dealing with the relationships between three such different works, one’s interpretation is dependent largely on the order in which one reads them. As I have arranged them, Repetition seems to be a bridge between Either/Or

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and Fear and Trembling. Conceptually, this seems natural to me since the problem of repetition, even when not mentioned by that name, seems to run through Either/Or on the one hand and Fear and Trembling on the other; in the former it is a problem raised but not entirely solved, while in the latter it is solved, though in a manner that seems absurd even to the pseudonymous author. Seen this way, Repetition picks up themes permeating Either/Or, draws them together under a single concept, gives that concept a name, and then passes the now precisely formulated problem on to de Silentio and Abraham for a solution. There are literary reasons for this arrangement as well; Repetition is written by an esthetic persona, and centers around another character seeking to realize the universal, who ends by becoming “extraordinary,” to use William’s word. At the same time, Fear and Trembling by no means requires another work to bridge the gap between itself and Either/Or. If Repetition is read later, it becomes a summary, picking up the problems of recollection and the unhappy consciousness, the problem of the “extraordinary” and of life after ethics and the fall from the universal, and the problem of the “ordeal,” drawing these issues together under the rubric “repetition.” In this way, it becomes clear that repetition is an issue in every stage, although each stage addresses it differently. In the esthetic sphere, repetition remains for the most part a will o’ the wisp, the promise of continued newness and vitality to which the esthetic alone can only aspire. In the ethical, it becomes the problem of first love: how to preserve over time the original vitality of immediacy. For the “extraordinary” or the “exception,” it becomes how to retrieve one’s self, which was only constituted as personality under the tutelage of the ethical, once one has been severed from the universal by some ordeal. As the third problema of Fear and Trembling suggests, the problem for the religious per se is how any of us is to achieve any sort of repetition, once we have defected from the ethical through sin and now stand condemned by the universal. Again, the treatment of the three discourses after the pseudonymous works is somewhat arbitrary. Given the success of Either/Or and the relative obscurity of the accompanying discourses, Kierkegaard must have known that pseudonymous works would likely have a priority in the marketplace, as first read and most widely read; but unlike the first batch of books from his “authorship,” here he has published all simultaneously, giving no clue as to which to read first. The discourses appear to pick up on issues raised by Fear and Trembling more than any other work, while at the same time turning those issues away from the association with extraordinary figures and onto the reader, whoever that may be. The issue of life beyond the ethical is

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universalized by raising the issue of sin. Although this problem is raised in the third problema of Fear and Trembling, how one is to live as a fallen agent in the midst of fallen agents, while still striving for some sort of salvation, vindication, or repetition, is not worked out. Again, while de Silentio notes that the religious person may give the universal a paradoxical expression, what this means in practice is left undefined. While the concepts may be demonstrated most easily through an extraordinary example like Abraham, the practical implications for the average reader are left to the three discourses. Love replaces duty, and a personal God able to love, forgive, and be trusted replaces the abstract standard of the universal. The elements of character and virtue-ethic submerge the deontological strains of Judge William’s writings. Where the measure of things is a personal God, a subject, even universal standards of judgment may be called into question; life becomes paradoxical since the same thing which undermines the inner being in one person strengthens it in another. Universal standards of good and bad, harmful or helpful must be assessed by each individual as to how they fit his or her unique case.123 In fact, this act of individual appraisal is an essential part of the individual’s own character development, whereby the “inner being” is strengthened. In this way the danger of a totalitarian universalism, where all persons are expected to conform to some externally imposed standard or be judged “defective,” is eliminated in theory. The reader is urged to judge his or her case as a unique relationship between an individual and God, who is a person, and as a person can and does tailor the relationship to the individual. Although one probably ought to take universal standards and judgments under advisement, to sacrifice one’s own sense of concern as to how to interpret oneself and the world is to sacrifice one’s self, and to try to force another to accept one’s interpretation is to assault the other’s personhood. This would apply whether one was being pressured to embrace such apparent “goods” as pleasure, fortune, and so on by one’s peers, or “the crowd;” or uncritically to accept moral or social standards by some institution or agency of one’s society.124 Another conundrum that appears to have been dealt with is the problem of repentance. The universal cannot forgive, cannot even consistently demand itself of one in need of forgiveness. Kant’s Religion was forced to introduce the notions of grace and atonement to deal with the fact that human agents neither begin the ethical task from a state of purity, nor can they attain purity over time, nor would a present purity in and of itself remove the sense of guilt over past impurity. Human practical reason can assume these things, Kant argues, because it must make such assumptions

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to function. However, it is unclear how consistently or successfully Kant can deal with these problems. For Kierkegaard, the problems of sin, repentance, and so on are addressed by the fact that a personal God is actively engaged with the individual.125 One treats with God as person to person, loves God and is loved by God, repents and is forgiven. Given that the individual initially comes to God in a state of personal fracture and moral debt, God acts first to heal that fracture and cancel that debt so that a relationship may be possible. Although sin is not yet described in its full radicalness, as it is later in the Fragments, there is still the notion present that God makes the first move in the relationship between God and the individual. This begins to raise the question of the nature of human freedom. It is not entirely clear how much the individual is active in the “strengthening of the inner being,” given Kierkegaard’s claim that no one gives this to himself or herself. Yet if the individual is totally passive, the language of the discourse would seem inconsistent; it urges the reader as Paul urged his readers, which suggests they can choose to respond. Similarly, the young man in Repetition awaits a thunderstorm to bring a repetition, suggesting that this must come from beyond his own limits; this leaves open the question of how far his own efforts hasten, or prepare the way for, this repetition. In Fear and Trembling resignation is described as the last stage prior to faith, and the last stage attainable by human effort alone; this suggests some sort of cooperation, where human efforts at resignation prepare one for the faith, which itself must be given from God. So this theme of grace versus human will is an important theme in all three books.

V. Conclusion The discourses that accompanied Either/Or largely restate the central issues raised there, in a “healed” form. That is, the pseudonymous works depict the esthetic and ethical spheres in their breakdown, as they attempt to stand alone as self-sufficient, but fail. The discourses echo some of the themes of the pseudonyms, but depict the esthetic and ethical in the wider context of the religious life, where they apparently function properly. The writings of October 16, 1843 continue this pattern. The two pseudonymous works deal with issues of repetition, the exception to the universal, the relationship between the ethical and the religious; but they are written from the outsiders’ perspective, and do not even claim to be accurate. As a result of their ignorance, the problem of repetition and the exception become just that: problems for exceptional people and circumstances. The discourses place

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these problems within a religious context, and in doing so make them both more universal and more intelligible. The problem then becomes how to deal with guilt, which is a problem everyone faces who admits moral categories. The problems of life no longer appear as challenges only the extraordinary few can face, but as obstacles all can and must overcome. Although Kierkegaard’s imagined reader might not have known what to make of the three books and the relationship between them (Which do I read first? Which comments on which?) the reader could still reasonably guess that three books from the same author, published simultaneously, are voices in a conversation on shared themes. Following up on that suggestion, the reader would search for such themes and discover that all three books deal with the relationship between the ethical and the religious, and specifically with problems of guilt, sin, and redemption. However, just exactly how these problems are solved is still vague. In the pseudonymous works it is explained as a “miracle” and “absurd”; in the discourses it seems to be more overlooked in love than really explained. Still another unresolved issue is the question of social ethics. All three of these works are intensely individual. Repetition centers around one man’s broken engagement; Fear and Trembling deals primarily with an exceptional individual’s unique call to be the father of a nation, and yet to sacrifice the son through whom he is to do this; the discourses are addressed to “that single individual.”126 The discourses on love seem primarily, though not solely, to mean “love of God” hides a multitude of sins. “Strengthening in the Inner Being” argues that one should love others through God rather than God through others, but leaves it unclear how one is to do this. So hints concerning interpersonal ethics are available, but little more. The relationship to the ethical sphere can certainly stand some more definition, since so much of these works seems to be defined by opposition to the universal and the ethical. We have been treated, particularly by the pseudonymous works, to discussions of the relationship between the ethical and the religious—two conceptually distinguishable spheres, however much traffic they may have with each other. What is so far lacking is an exploration of religious ethics—one thing; how a religious person is to act. The question Judge William asked of philosophy, “What am I to do?” has not yet been fully answered by the religious.

Chapter 4

The Nine Discourse Bridge

I. Preliminary Review Looking back, we see that in Judge William’s writings, the ethical was treated in terms of universal moral principles and duties, and a view of universal, essential human nature that the ethical person is to realize. The individual strives to become disclosed, to develop civic as well as personal virtues, and to enter into committed social relationships such as marriage. God is served primarily through such ethical activity, and is understood as supporting the ethical and the individual attempting to realize it. However, William shows some glimmer of recognition about how difficult this is and how necessary repentance is, he considers the individual who has moved outside of the universal to be a rare exception. The three works published October 16,1843 (Fear and Trembling, Repetition, and the Three Upbuilding Discourses) replaced this easy equation of the ethical and the religious with a paradoxical relationship. A picture of the religious began to emerge in the writings of October 16, defined by a personal individual relationship between God and the faithful person, beyond the constraints of the ethical which cannot aid the individual who, through guilt, has fallen outside its realm. These writings present a personal relationship between God and the faithful person, without the mediation of social institutions or the moral law. The religious individual is sometimes called upon to act in ways that seem to violate universal morality, since he/ she recognizes the God-relationship as the absolute value from which all other things, even moral rectitude, draw their worth. At the same time, the religious individual does not simply break with the ethical. The religious individual is only able to religiously renounce the finite because he/she has first learned to love it, ethically as well as emotionally. The religious person struggles with moral imperfection and personal guilt, and in this struggle comes to recognize the need for a direct relationship with a God who is able

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to love and forgive; this struggle would be meaningless unless the individual took the demands of the ethical seriously. The religious person is one to whom moral terms such as good and evil are important, even if “No one is good but God alone.”1 At the same time, the religious person continues to live in a world where pleasure/pain and ethical considerations make demands on the individual’s body and psyche, so that he/she is never quite free of pressure from non-religious priorities. Between October 16, 1843 and the publication of the Philosophical Fragments by Johannes Climacus on June 13, 1844, Kierkegaard published nine more upbuilding discourses. This series continues the developing description of the religious, and serves as a bridge between the earlier pseudonymous works and the Climacus writings. I will argue in this chapter that the discourses demonstrate practical applications of the concepts and theories developed by the pseudonyms. In particular, these upbuilding discourses depict how the esthetic and ethical elements are dethroned, yet preserved and integrated within a religious life.

II. The Upbuilding Discourses Prior to the Fragments These discourses do not accompany pseudonymous works as closely as the prior ones but there are connections of both style and substance between the direct and indirect authorships. These would have been particularly helpful to Kierkegaard’s contemporaries who might have read his books, but would of course have lacked his posthumous discussions of their unity which we have today. Literary and stylistic connections There are numerous and varied points of contact between these discourses and the pseudonymous authorship. At times, they are little more than catch phrases; for example, when the words “fear and trembling” appear in a discourse, it is hard not to be reminded of the book by the same name.2 Prior to Kierkegaard’s open admission of responsibility for Fear and Trembling in 1846, a reader might have found this to be a valuable clue toward discerning the overall strategy of the authorship. Even so, there is little shared content here, only a stylistic parallel. Similarly, the use of Job to begin the series of Four Upbuilding Discourses (1843) inevitably calls Repetition to mind; however, the treatment of Job in the discourse is almost opposite to that seen in the earlier work.3 Repetition

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drew on the Job of the poetry, who protests his innocent suffering and calls God to appear and explain things. The discourse takes as its text, “The Lord Gave, and the Lord Took Away; Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”4 That is, it draws on the patient, humble, resigned Job of the prose sections, as do the New Testament Epistles. The first Job is an example to the sufferer who seeks the catharsis of expression and the comfort of an explanation. The second Job is a role model for the religious individual to imitate, in receiving happiness and suffering from God’s hand with equal gratitude. The first version of Job combines the esthetic comfort of expression with an exploration of the ethical-religious category of “the exception.” The second Job is more closely concerned with resignation leading toward faith—a more overtly religious theme. So while the two works draw on the same Biblical book, their treatments are so opposite they could easily have been the products of different authors. Similarly, in the discourse on Ecclesiastes 12.1, there is a reference to the individual having to “retreat,” calling to mind the passage in Either/Or where William describes the self which has chosen wrong as having “to begin a painful retreat to the point where he started.”5 Furthermore, both use this language to discuss moral repentance; so basically identical concepts are being discussed using similar language in the two books. This same section of the discourse also discusses “recollection,” recalling the first parts both of Either/Or and Repetition.6 Like the recollection described by A, the recollection of one’s youthful God-relationship is not intended by Kierkegaard to be strictly accurate; rather, one is to assemble whatever scraps the past may have left to help one now develop spiritually. This recollection is partly remembering one’s Creator as one did in one’s youth and partly creating something useful from this past—an “artistic” recollection, as A might have said. Like Constantin’s interpretation, this view helps to provide continuity to the individual’s existence, allowing the present person to reappropriate the past, thus uniting one’s personal history to create a whole from what might otherwise be merely isolated incidents in one’s life. This discourse on Ecclesiastes thus provides a practical example of how the ethical and the esthetic can be dethroned, yet preserved, in the religious life. In “Rotation of Crops,” A’s strategy of artistically recollecting the past was part of a larger plan to trivialize and evade the present. He desired that nothing should have ultimate significance, exempting perhaps his own battle with boredom. As we saw in the Seducer, this sort of “rotation” of one’s own perceptions is ultimately demonic and self-destructive. However, in the religious life, this technique of artistic recollection can be adapted to help the individual achieve a coherent and meaningful life. Instead of focusing

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on the trivial, the individual is urged to review his or her life and focus on what is useful, important, and upbuilding. This sort of recollection is not arbitrary; it constantly refers to the consciousness of God and the need of the individual to be built up. This is not just an esthetic technique in a new context; it is the esthetic part of the religious life, functioning just as before but now centered on a higher object. The discussion of repentance likewise shows how the ethical remains, while being transformed, in the religious life. The individual who chooses and acts always risks choosing badly, and then having to somehow start over. The ethicist knows that one cannot just begin over; there is often much to be undone before one can return to a point where one can begin again. This is not merely in the sense of needing to undo the bad effects of one’s actions on others; it is more the need to undo the effects on oneself. The ethical choice constitutes the one who chooses; if one chose badly one may have to remake oneself, to change part of oneself so that one may become more what one was before going astray. The religious person likewise discovers this ethical fact of life. The person who decides that youth is for “sowing one’s wild oats” will find cause for regret later, if he/she is then religious, that he/she did not remember our Creator during youth. If one is to be built up, it is better if one has a foundation already laid. So here, in a religious context, Kierkegaard is discussing concepts described more fully by non-religious pseudonyms. While his discussions here are not very detailed, his use of these concepts is essentially consistent with the views expressed by the pseudonyms. And while repentance or recollection originally were ethical or esthetic concepts, they appear here as essential parts of the spiritual, religious life. By being related to God and by becoming part of the individuals striving to develop a God-relationship, these concepts take on new significance. Common themes In addition to literary connections between the two tracks of the authorship, there are concepts and themes common to the discourses and the pseudonyms. Kierkegaard discusses doubt and uncertainty, which is allowed by the heterogeneity of the individual with the world, and the fact that it is a gift from God to need God. Of these, certainly one of the most pervasive is the conflict between certainty and uncertainty for the individual. An area particularly associated with the pseudonym Johannes Climacus, it is also treated repeatedly in the upbuilding discourses. In varying ways these offer advice or opinions regarding the individual’s struggle to maintain a

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God-relationship in the face of uncertainty. Over the course of these discourses a fairly clear description of the relationship between faith, certainty, uncertainty, and knowledge emerges—a picture sketched not by detailed or esoteric philosophical argument, but by bare-bones practical instruction. There are different areas of uncertainty that the individual may encounter. One can experience anxiety about the world, and one’s ability to sustain oneself in it.7 In such circumstances, one may be tempted to seek to control the material conditions of life, pursuing power, wealth, or whatever. One tries to act shrewdly to control or at least anticipate the world. However, this sort of control is illusory, and leads in fact only to greater anxiety; for if one’s fate rests on such uncertain props, it is always in danger of destruction by the cosmic powers. The danger discussed here is not so much death as separation from God, or damage to one’s soul. How is the faithful person to remain faithful if the whole world should seem to turn hostile? How can one remain confident that God will still be there, and that one’s Godrelationship will remain intact, even if one’s health, wealth, and even loved ones should be taken away? How can one retain one’s integrity as a personality in the face of dangers that threaten to destroy one psychically as well as physically? One who seeks to safeguard himself/herself never attains a true sense of security, but only disquiet—unless that one succeeds in deceiving himself or herself into a false security. By contrast, if one understands as Job did that all things come from God, and can receive good and bad while still trusting God, then one can attain a true sense of security; that is, the knowledge that whatever happens will not destroy one, even if it destroys everything else. Similarly, doubt may creep in between the individual and the eternal.8 In the Garden of Eden, humanity existed in innocence. Had this state of original innocence continued, the temporal and the eternal would have remained indistinguishable. The eternal would have been immediately, unreflectively present. All of Creation would have rested in the perfection of the divine will, with no need to seek either to know God’s will or to do it since no one ever left it. God would have been invisible simply because God would have been so immediately omnipresent that God would be everything, and hence nothing that could be distinguished from Creation. However, with the coming of the knowledge of good and evil, the fall from innocence, everything changed. Now the eternal—God, the good, the perfect—is an object of knowledge. There is a separation between knower and known, and with this separation is the possibility of doubt. We seek to know what is the good we should do, what is the perfect we should desire,

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what is God, and in seeking to know, we find either not enough answers, or too many, contradictory answers. If one begins to doubt the object of faith, one may be tempted to seek proof. However, the search for knowledge or proof only yields more uncertainty. The God-relationship becomes dependent on the results of one’s own reason, and is only as strong as it is. If any fact is disputed or step in the proof questioned, the whole relationship is threatened. One can never attain total certainty, and in fact doubt will only increase as certainty becomes more obviously unattainable. Only when faith is grasped as a gift rather than the results of one’s own computations, and doubt is dismissed rather than argued with, can the individual attain a sense of assurance about his or her God-relationship. As Kierkegaard writes: Would you deny, my listener, that no doubt can invalidate this precisely because it remains outside all doubt and abides in God? . . . Even though doubt cannot understand it, it does not therefore become untrue, since, on the contrary, it would become doubtful if doubt could understand it. Even though it cannot and will not become involved with doubt, it does not therefore become untrue, since, on the contrary, by wanting to become involved with doubt it would not become any more true than the doubt. It remains true precisely because it cuts short doubt, because it disarms doubt. If it did not do this, it would have no power over doubt but would itself be in the service of doubt, and its conflict with doubt would be only an apparent conflict, inasmuch as it would be a friend of doubt, and its victory over doubt would be a deception, since it would indeed be doubt that was victorious . . . . . . False doubt doubts everything except itself; with the help of faith, the doubt that saves doubts only itself.9 Kierkegaard’s fondness for Socrates is well known, as is the Socratic dictum: “Know Thyself.” It is therefore surprising and significant that Kierkegaard should argue that it is even possible to be mistaken about one’s own nature. The reader is admonished to “gain” or “preserve one’s soul in patience.”10 Patience is “the weapon of the weaker.”11 It is a virtue of impotence, receptivity, and passivity. It is an expectant waiting for God to show one one’s own true nature, to receive it from God. The person who instead eagerly and aggressively reaches out to seize his or her soul, even to save it from dissipation by external powers, risks saving something which is not in fact the true self at all, but only a self-made simulacrum.12 God must show the individual

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what is the true self or soul, and must bestow this self on the self. This is because the self or soul is something that is only insofar as it is gaining itself. It is never a finished product, so that one could cease to be concerned about it; rather, it is more a potential to become a self. A soul is that which can gain itself through patience. Kierkegaard writes: But if a person possesses his soul, he certainly does not need to gain it, and if he does not possess it, how then can he gain it, since the soul itself is the ultimate condition that is presupposed in every acquiring, consequently also in gaining the soul. Could there be a possession of that sort, which signifies precisely the condition for being able to gain the same possession? . . . . . . The soul is the contradiction of the temporal and the eternal, and here, therefore, the same thing can be possessed and the same thing gained and at the same time. Indeed, what is more, if the soul is this contradiction, it can be possessed only in such a way that it is gained and gained in such a way that it is possessed . . . (O)ne who . . . does nevertheless possess his soul, that is, as something that is to be gained, does not have it outside himself as something new that is to be possessed.13 The soul is described as essentially heterogeneous with the world. If it were not, says Kierkegaard, it could not gain itself away from bondage to the world.14 This idea is interesting when compared to his description of the prelapsarian state, where God, humanity, and the world are in such intimate harmony that they can scarcely be distinguished.15 (This seems like a kind of felix culpa: The individual can only have a relationship with God because he/she is cut off from an immediate unity between the self, God, and the world, due to the loss of innocence.) The soul or self must therefore free itself from its immediate attachment to the world, into which it is born, in order to gain itself from the world, through God.16 He writes: It is a question not of making a conquest, of hunting and seizing something, but of becoming more and more quiet, because that which is to be gained is there within a person, and the trouble is that one is outside oneself, because that which is to be gained is in the patience, is not concealed in it so that the person who patiently stripped off its leaves, so to speak, would finally find it deep inside but is in it so that it is patience itself in which the soul in patience inclosingly spins itself and thereby gains patience and itself.17

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We have seen that uncertainty can creep into one’s relationship with the world, the eternal, or even one’s knowledge of one’s self. In the discourses on the theme, “Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins,” Kierkegaard discusses how knowledge of one’s moral unworthiness can tempt one to doubt God’s benevolence, unless one relies instead on love rather than the ethical to anchor the God-relationship.18 One can feel anxiety in the face of the forces of the world, which threaten not only one’s ability to sustain physical existence, but also to overwhelm one’s psychological strength to maintain one’s personhood even if left physically alive. One has doubts about the eternal, about one’s knowledge of the good and of God, its source. One can even be mistaken about one’s true essence, confusing either externals or some fraction of the true self with the whole. Moreover, in each case, the individual’s own efforts to attain certainty only lead to more uncertainty. By contrast, by remaining open and receptive toward God, one can gain the assurance of faith that God is and God cares; one can gain the strength to hold onto one’s faith even when “the Lord has taken away;” and one can gain one’s true soul from God even though one begins in ignorance of what this is. The discourses deal extensively with the threats of doubt, anxiety, and delusion, while there is another sense in which uncertainty is embraced as a good thing—even an essential element in the God-relationship.19 If the God-relationship is certain, it need no longer be a matter of concern. When a thing really is certain, it doesn’t even need a second thought. One wastes no effort or passion on it. One can “take it for granted,” since it is granted. However, one ought to be passionately concerned about one’s relationship to God. Anything else is simply inappropriate, given the great boon God grants to undeserving humans; thus: Even if you thought your salvation was ever so secure, you nevertheless would feel deeply ashamed every time you compared your life with theirs for whom concern about this issue time and again filled many a moment, many an hour, whether it was the wish that occupied them now or the heart that was moved in thankfulness or the disposition that they formed in order to be, according to their best insight and ability, pleasing to the giver, and by which they prepared for the transition.20 If one is passionately concerned about a thing, one does not “take it for granted,” even if it seems certain. One remains occupied with it, desirous of it. To desire something is to think of it as yet to be acquired. So if one

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is passionately concerned about God or the eternal, then these are treated as uncertain. There seem to be two sorts of uncertainty, or perhaps one uncertainty that acts differently on the self depending on how the self deals with it: the self feels uncertain in its uncertain world (uncertainty within the finite and temporal), and also cannot achieve full knowledge of eternal things since it is itself only finite and temporal (uncertainty of the eternal). The improper response in every case is self-reliance, whether by seeking control of the world, proof or knowledge of the eternal, or whatever. Being finite, the self simply can never have the power or the knowledge to know or control everything; it cannot even fully know itself. The more it tries, the more it runs up against its limits, beyond which uncertainty lurks. Soon it is obvious that uncertainty cannot be defeated, and the self remains locked in combat with a power it cannot ignore, cannot drive off, and which seems to threaten its very existence. The proper, religious response is faith, in the very basic sense of trusting God—to preserve the self, to remain in relationship even when this means forgiving one, to govern the world and be the ultimate foundation for the good. Accepting that many and varied things are humanly uncertain, while accepting the reassurance from God that God will preserve the self, allows the faithful person to dismiss doubt and anxiety.21 This raises another theme of the discourses: it is a gift from God to need God.22 Kierkegaard describes the fact that the person needs God as a “perfection” of human nature, since it is because the human soul is a “contradiction” of temporal and eternal elements that it does not simply and neatly blend into the world of finitude, as an animal does. Due to this heterogeneity with the world, the soul is not fulfilled unless it is in relationship with the divine. This is the source of the doubt that initially sends the soul off on its impossible quest for self-assurance. It is a gift to feel this uncertainty, since this is the condition for receiving the gift of faith. Only faith allows one to face reality with a sense of assurance. However, as we see both in these discourses and in the pseudonymous writings, the natural human reaction is to refuse to face reality. The esthete slips toward illusion or nihilism, either refusing to confront reality or refusing to grant it significance. The ethicist glosses over the significance of sin by not acknowledging that a direct, nonparadoxical relationship to the absolute is rendered impossible, and in this way it preserves the myth of human self-sufficiency. It is a grace when one is brought to realize that one must go beyond the human and into the religious. God gives the gift (faith) along with the condition for receiving it (a true sense of uncertainty and human inadequacy, and thus of the need for God).

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The themes of doubt, heterogeneity with the world, the need for grace, and so on are of course central topics in the pseudonymous writings, particularly those of Climacus. Whereas for Climacus the relationship of faith to uncertainty is primarily a philosophical question, for Kierkegaard’s upbuilding discourses this is a practical problem. There is relatively little philosophic analysis or argument; rather, a particular aspect of the problem is raised, the religious solution presented, and the reader is urged to adopt it. This discussion of the conceptual connections between the pseudonymous works and the discourses also practically illustrates something of the relationship between the spheres of existence, without referring to them. The esthetic was described as essentially unfree and reactive, not only in the pure immediacy of Don Juan but even in the reflective eroticism of the Seducer. The esthete responds primarily to external influences or to “obscure powers within the psyche,” as William might say. His or her actions, values, and character development are reactions to these forces. Kierkegaard describes this situation as the state of the person who sets out to “rule the world,” and hence ends up ruled by it.23 In the ethical, the self is free, is proactive in supervising its own growth and action. One rises above the determining powers of the esthetic, and the self’s own freedom is its primary controlling force. Insofar as it is a decision to break with the world, and to struggle free from this bondage of the will, its goal is certainly worthy. However, this sort of take-charge attitude is just what Kierkegaard is rejecting in these discourses. Instead, one is urged to cultivate virtues like love, patience, expectancy—attitudes reflecting a responsive rather than a proactive posture. One is urged to adopt the “virtues of weakness,” rather than power. In a sense, this really seems to be a “second immediacy,” as de Silentio phrased it. One seems to be rejecting autonomy and self-assertion, and returning to passivity. Whereas accepting the given in the esthetic led to unfreedom and the disintegration of the self, in the religious this leads to greater freedom and integrity for the self. This is so both because of what God gives, and how God gives it. God gives himself, and it is the Godrelationship that allows the individual to face doubt, fear, and moral guilt, and grow from this. God gives this in such a way that the individual’s freedom is actually enhanced through being reliant on God. As Kierkegaard describes it: Therefore, to gain his soul was a task that announced a struggle with the whole world, since it began with letting a person be at the goal of that earthly craving, possessing the whole world in order to give it away.

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This was a struggle that brought a person into the most intimate relation with God, promised him the gain not of the external, which cannot be possessed essentially by anyone and which because of and in spite of this imperfection in one way or another makes a debtor of anyone who actually comes to possess it. This struggle, however, promised him the gain of that which can be possessed essentially, which does not belong to any other soul in the world, which by being gained does not make him a debtor to fortune or fate or chance or people or friends or the world, since on the contrary through this gain he extricates himself from debt to the world by giving to the world what is the world’s and becomes a debtor only to God, which is not to be a debtor, since God is the only good and himself gives the possibility of becoming his debtor.24 So to become a “debtor” to God is not in fact to be a debtor, but one who is made rich by attaining the only absolute good there is. It is to be freed from bondage to the world and its false goods, and to gain one’s soul, one’s true self. Just as to lose one’s soul is a description of bondage, to gain one’s soul is the definition of freedom; so the self that becomes a “debtor” by giving itself over to God in fact becomes rich and free. The influence of Luther and Hamann: Two kingdoms to three spheres It is interesting to pause at this point to notice how thoroughly Lutheran much of the material in the upbuilding discourses is, given Kierkegaard’s lack of interest and relative lack of knowledge of Luther’s dogmatic writings.25 The pseudonyms are both more philosophical and more indirect, and hence show far less influence of the dogmatic, notoriously blunt Luther. Generally, philosophers have tended to concentrate their attention on the pseudonymous works and have ignored their context in the overall scheme of Kierkegaard’s authorship, which includes the pseudonyms (which may help explain why Kierkegaard has been variously described as a cryptoCalvinist, crypto-Catholic, and incipient atheist). By contrast, the upbuilding discourses show far more clearly the theological context for Kierkegaard’s thought, and the nature and extent of his use of Luther. Attention to the nature of Kierkegaard’s reception of Luther can help clarify some areas of his thought which are much more obscure when considered only through the pseudonymous writings. Kierkegaard’s primary exposure to Luther was through his sermons, which he read, and also through a variety of secondary sources, including church and religious education, his university and divinity studies, and

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perhaps most importantly his reading of the eighteenth century thinker Johann G. Hamann. Through these sources Kierkegaard picked up Luther’s notion of the “two kingdoms”: the first, the realm of “works,” the temporal socio-political order, the world of the Mosaic Law and human laws and actions; the second, the realm of “faith,” the Kingdom of God, the invisible fellowship of those few true Christians, citizens not under the Law but under the Gospel. In works such as The Freedom of a Christian and Temporal Authority: To what Extent it Should be Obeyed, Luther describes three main functions of the “law.” The first, to preserve social order, applies particularly to the great mass of people who will never become Christians. Their natural evil tendencies must be restrained, or chaos would ensue; and since no one, sinner or saint, really wants that, we all need laws and political/legal authorities to enforce them. This first use doesn’t really apply to Christians and furthermore doesn’t even lead to any sort of spiritual growth or end. The second, to convict us of our unworthiness and weakness, applies particularly to those few who might be touched by God’s grace to move from Law to Gospel. Drawing on Paul’s discussion of the Mosaic Law in the letter to the Romans, Luther describes it as a “tutor,” a preparation for full adulthood in God’s Kingdom. Through the Law, God shows humans what is good, telling them that they shall be saved if they remain righteous, so that they can try and fail. In this way some at least will recognize their bondage to sin and need for grace. In addition to this purely negative use, there is a third use of the Law: since even Christians must remain in the temporal world for a time, the Law helps to direct the actions of those who would do good not from a false desire for works righteousness, but simply from the goodness God’s grace creates in their hearts. In each of these uses, “law” serves this life and world; it has little relevance to the next and cannot bring a true relationship to God. The most it can do is bring about the consciousness of sin; that is, human pursuit of goodness only makes manifest the impossibility of attaining goodness through human effort, and the need for a source of forgiveness and empowerment beyond the human. The next step must be for God to make, since human striving has been shown to be bankrupt. What scope is left then for the human will? This question seems to find its answer in the title to Luther’s major work on the subject, On the Bondage of the Will. Here Luther compares the human will to a beast of burden, which goes left or right depending on whether God or Satan directs it.26 He opens his argument with a discussion of how God’s foreknowledge renders all things necessary, and his opinion of human free will declines rapidly from

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there.27 However, even in this manifesto of determinism and predestination, there is a glimmer of human free will. Refuting one of Erasmus’ arguments for free choice, Luther writes: We thus learn from Ecclesiasticus that man is divided between two kingdoms, in one of which he is directed by his own choice and counsel, apart from any precepts and commandments of God, namely, in his dealings with the lower creatures. Here he reigns and is lord, as having been left in the hand of his own counsel. Not that God so leaves him as not to cooperate with him in everything, but he has granted him the free use of things according to his own choice, and has not restricted him by any laws or injunctions . . .. In the other Kingdom, however, man is not left in the hand of his own counsel, but is directed and led by the choice and counsel of God, so that just as in his own kingdom he is directed by his own counsel, without regard to the precepts of another, so in the Kingdom of God he is directed by the precepts of another without regard to his own choice.28 A passage like this suggests a definite parallel between Luther’s two kingdoms and Kierkegaard’s three spheres. It seems that free will has some range in the kingdom of Law, just as it has in the ethical sphere; but God must take charge in the kingdom of God, just as in the religious sphere. What for Luther was lumped together as “the world” or “the kingdom of Law” becomes in Kierkegaard the esthetic and ethical spheres, while the religious sphere seems roughly equivalent to the “Kingdom of God” in Luther. A much more fundamental difference is that whereas for Luther this is primarily a dogmatic conception, in Kierkegaard it is a philosophical one. Luther bases his division on Scripture, particularly but by no means exclusively the Pauline writings, as well as his Augustinian heritage from his days as a monk. He argues dogmatically and exegetically for his conception, and works out the practical ethical and political implications largely in response to concrete situations, again more pastorally than theoretically. Kierkegaard works out his theory of the spheres in the pseudonymous works, which are theoretical and philosophical in tone and intent. His references are usually to eighteenth and nineteenth century philosophers, or else to Greek and Hellenistic thinkers. His practical works of the same period never directly refer to the three spheres, although something like this theory seems to be providing the philosophical underpinnings for the discourses.

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The explanation for this seems to lie in the writings of Hamann, whom Kierkegaard greatly admired. Hamann had reinterpreted Luther’s distinction of “Law” and “Gospel” as a philosophical principle, by equating the activities of human philosophical reasoning with the Mosaic Law.29 Philosophy (apart from revelation) does not itself lead to the truth. Rather, it reveals the limits of human reason to reach truth unaided, and hence its need of a prior initiative by God. In this way Hamann interpreted the philosophy of David Hume (which he introduced into Germany) as serving the sort of tutorial function Luther ascribed to the Law. The Law promises life to those who obey, only to instead teach the limits of human moral striving and the need for grace, thus preparing the individual to receive that grace: just so does philosophy such as Hume’s reveal the limits of human theoretical and philosophical striving, the bankruptcy of the Enlightenment quest to climb to Heaven on a Tower of Reason, and hence the need for God’s condescension to human weakness and need (particularly in the Incarnation). Insofar as philosophy can serve the purpose of disabusing humanity of its conceits, forcing it to renounce moral and philosophical self-sufficiency, it plays a vital role in the life of faith; but ultimately it must step aside. The parallel to Kierkegaard’s claim that “false doubt doubts everything except itself; true doubt doubts itself,” is too obvious to be coincidence. Hume’s philosophy ended in skepticism, which doubted every certainty except its own supreme confidence to determine what was truly certain. Hamann moves from Hume’s stopping point to question the competence of a Reason, or an Age of Reason, whose arrogant desire to be the sole arbiter of Truth could thus lead to a complete loss of Truth. This “true doubt,” which doubts its own ability to find the good rather than the good itself, seems to be what Hamann means by “philosophy” as “the Law.” And like the Mosaic Law, philosophy does not have to be conscious of its preparatory function to fulfill it. The fact that Hume sees his philosophy as an end in itself does not prevent Hamann from reinterpreting it as a stage along the way to faith, any more than the generations who took the Law as the final expression of God’s covenant prevented Paul from reinterpreting it as a tutor to prepare humanity for the Gospel. In this understanding of the kingdom of the Law, human reason and freedom are free to assert themselves in whatever efforts to attain truth, goodness, or pleasure that human ingenuity and self-reliance can conceive. Where the individual does genuinely strive to break with the base and cling to the noble, this is not without value. A sense of ignorance and uncertainty seems to be as important for faith in Hamann’s scheme as it is for Kierkegaard’s, and “the Law” helps develop this. Ultimately, human striving

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for goodness or truth fails, and must be laid aside when the individual yields to grace. The one who does not, misses the mark just as completely as the one who never shoots; for when the goal is infinite, to miss it is an infinite loss—degrees of rightness or righteousness don’t matter. However, the paradox still remains, that one needs to exercise one’s reason to discover one’s ignorance, and to exercise one’s moral will to discover one’s sin and impotence, in order to surrender these to God in resignation and embrace faith; whereas one who claims to be already convinced of the futility of the effort and never makes the attempt may never mature to the point of realizing his or her need for grace. Kierkegaard thus takes over Lutheran dogmatic concepts such as the two kingdoms and the uses of the Law, and alters them along epistemological and existential lines to suit his own purposes. This transmutation of Luther’s theology helps to explain the parallel between Kierkegaard’s discourses and passages such as this from Luther: For my own part, I frankly confess that even if it were possible, I should not wish to have free choice given to me, or to have anything left in my own hands by which I might strive toward salvation. For, on the one hand, I should be unable to stand firm and keep hold of it amid so many adversities and perils and so many assaults of demons, seeing that even one demon is mightier than all men, and no man at all could be saved; and on the other hand, even if there were no perils or adversities or demons, I should nevertheless have to labor under perpetual uncertainty and to fight as one beating the air, since even if I lived and worked to eternity, my conscience would never be assured and certain how much it ought to do to satisfy God. For whatever work might be accomplished, there would always remain an anxious doubt whether it pleased God or whether he required something more, as the experience of all self-justifiers proves, and as I myself learned to my bitter cost through so many years.30 This sort of struggle against uncertainty is a recurring theme in Kierkegaard’s authorship. Doubt and anxiety are said to be the fruits of original sin; if we still lived in prelapsarian intimacy with God, we would not have such uncertainty.31 In the present, fallen circumstances, one’s only hope is to tear oneself away from the world and hand oneself solely and completely over to God.32 To rely on one’s own power is to remain prey to the adversities of the world, which can tear one’s projects apart in a moment; only by relying on God’s power can one be preserved to eternity. Through God, even the threat of time can be overcome.33 And of particular concern to Luther, only

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God can help the individual overcome the burden of sin and guilt.34 One can be at peace with God and conscience only by relying on God’s grace and mercy, and by learning patience, love, hope, and the other virtues of one who humbly waits on the Lord. As Luther writes: But now, since God has taken my salvation out of my hands into his, making it depend on his choice and not mine, and has promised to save me, not by my own work or exertion but by his grace and mercy, I am assured and certain both that he is faithful and will not lie to me, and also that he is too great and powerful for any demons or any adversities to be able to break him or to snatch me from him. “No one,” he says, “shall snatch them out of my hand, because my Father who has given them to me is greater than all” (John 10:28ff.). So it comes about that, if not all, some and indeed many are saved, whereas by the power of free choice none at all would be saved, but all would perish together. Moreover, we are also certain and sure that we please God, not by the merit of our own working, but by the favor of his mercy promised to us, and that if we do less than we should or do it badly, he does not hold this against us, but in a fatherly way pardons and corrects us. Hence the glorying of all the saints in their God.35 Just as Luther and Kierkegaard agree that human free will cannot avail against worldly adversities or moral guilt, so too they agree that through God’s mercy and humanity’s humble acceptance of grace, the faithful can be saved. The only major change that would have to be made for this text to be seamlessly merged into Kierkegaard’s upbuilding discourses would be to alter Luther’s “I should not wish to have free choice given to me,” to something like, “I should not wish to return or to remain with free choice; for if I did, I should be unable to withstand adversities, my conscience would never be assured, and my faith would only be as strong as my reason and its proofs, which is to say not very strong at all.” What for Luther serves as a refutation of free will would serve Kierkegaard more as a description of it, and its limits. Far more than the pseudonyms, Kierkegaard’s discourses reflect the concepts and concerns of Luther and Lutheran theology. Kierkegaard does not slavishly reproduce Lutheran dogmatics, however; instead he reinterprets many of these dogmatic concepts to suit his own concerns. His Luther came to him through several channels and one of the most important of these is Hamann’s philosophy. This philosophical appropriation of Lutheran theology deeply influences Kierkegaard’s own thought. When we allow the

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discourses to lead us to consider the extent and nature of Kierkegaard’s Lutheranism, we in turn gain a context which can lead us to new insights into some of the more vexing problems within his pseudonymous authorship (such as the question of freedom of the will). Kierkegaard’s virtue ethics The upbuilding discourses have relatively little in common with the deontological portions of Judge William’s writings. By contrast, they show a keen interest in the virtues, a theme not alien to other aspects of William’s thought. In modern philosophy, it is common to associate virtue ethics with antifoundationalist, tradition-based ethics. A tradition or linguistic community will have certain character traits that it values, and these become its virtues. In Christianity these would include love and humility, whereas in the Homeric age courage would be more highly valued.36 Kierkegaard is himself heir to an ethical tradition running from Pauline Christianity through Augustine, Luther, Kant, Hegel, and many others. However, his adoption of virtue ethics is not here based on a selfconscious membership in this tradition. Rather, it seems more rooted in epistemological considerations. William assumes that he knows the essential human nature, and that he knows what is the universal that we are to realize, and hence he has a pretty good idea of duty as well. Kierkegaard by contrast has asserted that we do not know what the good is, or even our own nature. We do not know what our duty might be, what values or what human nature we should strive to actualize. However, we can know what character traits are appropriate to our state of ignorance. Love was discussed in the discourses of October 16. Patience is another virtue that receives extensive treatment, in the later discourses. Concern and expectancy are also discussed. Each of these virtues or character traits has one thing in common—receptivity. In adopting these virtues, one opens up to the other, to God, to the unknown. One must receive knowledge of one’s true self, of the good, of God, of the needs of the neighbors one ought to help. The religious individual must adopt the stance of positive passivity, actively awaiting some sort of revelation, however long it might take and however piecemeal it may turn out to be. While “patience” is specifically described as a virtue of weakness, in fact all the virtues described in these upbuilding discourses are virtues of weakness. One begins from a condition of ignorance, and must learn, often slowly, what one should do or become. After one has nurtured the proper virtues and developed the proper nature, right action and true understanding of duty will follow.

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It is interesting to note again how this parallels Luther’s approach. Luther also adopts a virtue ethic, believing that character must be reformed before talk of proper action can make sense; as he writes: The following statements are therefore true: “Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works; evil works do not make a wicked man, but a wicked man does evil works.” Consequently it is always necessary that the substance or person himself be good before there can be any good works, and that good works follow and proceed from the good person, as Christ also says, “A good tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” [Matt. 7:18]. It is clear that the fruits do not bear the tree and that the tree does not grow on the fruits, also that, on the contrary, the trees bear the fruits and the fruits grow on the trees. As it is necessary, therefore, that the trees exist before their fruits and the fruits do not make trees either good or bad, but rather as the trees are, so are the fruits they bear, so a man must first be good or wicked before he does a good or wicked work, and his works do not make him good or wicked, but he himself makes his works either good or wicked.37 Luther’s view is that God makes the person good, then good works flow naturally from the good heart. Therefore, there is little point in urging moral action on a yet unrepentant heart. On the other hand, a reformed heart will be eager and able to find the good and loving actions God desires of it, though the continuing influence of sin means that even the Christian still needs instruction and correction from the Law on occasion. It is natural that Luther, like Kierkegaard, should thus emphasize character issues over action and duty. Like Kierkegaard, Luther assumes a basic inability of the individual to know and do the good. Luther writes: Who, you say, will take pains to correct his life? (E., p. 41) I answer: No man will and no man can, for God cares nothing for your correctors without the Spirit, since they are hypocrites. But the elect and the godly will be corrected by the Holy Spirit, while the rest perish uncorrected. Augustine does not say that no man’s or all men’s good works are crowned, but that some men’s are. So there will be some who correct their life. Who will believe, you say, that he is loved by God? I answer: No man will or can believe this; but the elect will believe while the rest perish in unbelief, indignant and blaspheming as you are here. So some will believe . . .

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In this debate between Luther and Erasmus, Luther is arguing that no human being has the knowledge, or the will, to behave morally. Whereas Erasmus and others have urged that some sort of cooperation must exist between God and the human will, whereby the human does as much as he/ she can and God somehow overcomes the human deficiencies, Luther insists that this grants far too much credit to human pride. Humans can do nothing at all good apart from God, so it is better to admit this fact up front. Luther writes: First, God has assuredly promised his grace to the humble (I Peter 5:5), that is, to those who lament and despair of themselves. But no man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, and work of another, namely, of God alone. For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, he is not humbled before God . . . But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace, and can be saved . . .38 As long as humans assume that they essentially have the ability to know and do the good, they will not come to God and be healed of their sin. However, when one recognizes his/her utter impotence, says Luther, then one is in the state of humility which is necessary to receive God’s help, and which furthermore God has promised to help. Kierkegaard seems to concentrate in these discourses on the problems of ignorance. We lack knowledge of eternal things, and even ourselves, which we would need to do the good or achieve a God-relationship. Luther by contrast writes most forcefully about the impotence of the human will. This is partly because Kierkegaard does not really address “sin” in its Christian radicalness until later in his authorship, and partly because he sharply diverges from Luther on predestination. However, the similarities are as illustrative as the differences. Luther and Kierkegaard are both striving to develop a religious ethics based not on the assumption of human autonomy and self-sufficiency, but on human need and ignorance. Both Luther and Kierkegaard treat the ethical (the Law) as a valuable, probably essential preparation for the religious; moral striving leads to the knowledge of guilt and the breakdown of the whole moral project, helping the individual to see the need of the gift of grace.

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Equality, individuality, and distinction Of the whole series of discourses published between Fear and Trembling, Repetition and Philosophical Fragments, the third of the Four Upbuilding Discourses of 1843 (“Every Good and Perfect Gift is From Above”) is particularly interesting for its social and political implications. In fact, it offers the most sustained political commentary of any of the works we have examined thus far, although in a highly condensed form as part of a religious address. His theological reasons for objecting to egalitarian political movements, as well as to Golden Age elitism, are presented here in a nutshell, summarizing the essence of Kierkegaard’s unique political stance in nineteenth century Denmark. This discourse opens with a typical Kierkegaardian theme: equality— specifically, equality before God.39 As Kirmmse points out, the mainstream Golden Age culture did not share this belief. It hailed the “genius” as the harbinger of spiritual progress and power, the fullest manifestation of the Absolute although the masses were relegated to the slaughter-house of history, mere unwitting servants or passive witnesses to the acts of the genius and the forces he embodied. Kierkegaard rejects this division of the human race into spiritual haves and have-nots, heroes and rabble. In the ethical writings of Judge William, the equality theme had appeared as he emphasized the ethical value of the “universal human,” and corresponding devaluation of the “extraordinary.” This idolization of the extraordinary was identified in Either/Or with the esthetic sphere. The discourse continues the emphasis on equality, now grounding it on the universal human equality before God. There is also a difference of emphasis; whereas Judge William treats the theme of equality in terms of encouraging A to realize the universal human and eschew the extraordinary, Kierkegaard here exhorts the reader to strive to recognize the equality of others, and to learn to ignore the distraction of social distinctions: The idea so frequently stressed in Holy Scripture for the purpose of elevating the lowly and humbling the mighty, the idea that God does not respect the status of persons, this idea the apostle wants to bring to life in the single individual for application in his life. And this is perfectly true; if a person always keeps his soul sober and alert in this idea, he will never go astray in his outlook on life and people or “combine respect for the status of persons with his faith.” Then he will direct his thoughts toward God, and his eye will not make the mistake of looking for differences in the world instead of likeness with God . . . And even if he sometimes forgets about equality again and loses himself, distracted by life’s confusing

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distinctions, nevertheless his mind, every time he goes to the hallowed place, will be preserved in equality before God during that time and will be educated to preserve increasingly this equality in the clamor of the world and with it to penetrate the confusion.40 So the religious individual is exhorted to preserve a sense of human equality at all times, and to resist the world’s temptations to dwell on social differences or grant them essential importance. It seems logical that if the differences and distinctions of the social world are such a temptation, the religious person should be expected to work against them. Although the Golden Age mainstream may have been elitist and socially conservative, there was also a significant liberal movement active at this time.41 Furthermore, there was an active peasants movement, seeking to refute the Golden Age elitism by making the marginalized masses the new arbiters of value. Some of these, particularly the liberals, drew inspiration from Kant’s vision of the moral commonwealth and from his claim that each person, whether simple or educated, was essentially able to know and do the good as well as any other. It also cannot have escaped them that Hegel’s dictum that a moral concept should find social expression virtually demands that, if one believes in equality, one should strive to realize it in society and believe that it can and, eventually, will be. Grundtvig, a leader of the peasant movement, likewise believed for theological and philosophical reasons that each person was competent to judge religious and moral matters personally, without an elite to dictate its truths to the rest. His belief that this essential equality should and would be manifest in society is part of what allowed him, and not the Golden Agers or their liberal minority, to ride the wave of the 1848 revolution to the top of the political heap. However, unlike Grundtvig or the liberals, who shared a belief that the essential human equality called for political change, Kierkegaard was staunchly conservative. He is widely remembered today as a rigid monarchist and social elitist himself, who viewed even the peaceful revolution in his country as a disaster of near apocalyptic proportions. Aside from despising the “crowd,” he is often remembered as having no social interests or agenda at all. One author describes this common assumption (which he rejects) thus: According to the prevailing understanding of Kierkegaard’s authorship, he is the modern heir and propagator par excellence of this dimension of Augustinian spirituality. In opposition to the worldly philosophy of bourgeois society and the philosophical worldliness of Hegelian speculation,

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his radical religious individualism focuses all but exclusive attention on the self in its lonely confrontation with God . . . In the context of such a reading of Kierkegaard an essay on his politics could only be a biographical commentary on his sympathy for monarchy and his distaste for the revolutionary fervor of 1848. It could not be an interpretation of this authorship, for as a writer he had no politics.42 So we have what certainly seems like a contradiction: an author who claims that one should live one’s thoughts, and who espouses universal human equality, but who takes a social and political stance which seems dictatorial and elitist. One reason for this is that Kierkegaard’s social and political theory shows itself largely indirectly, through his criticisms of Christendom and social Hegelianism, rather than in direct calls for social change or revolution.43 Another reason for this is that Kierkegaard’s devotion to human equality is tempered by his high regard for human individuality (and vice versa).44 The highest human achievement, the only essentially important one, is to become “built up” as an individual before God. That is precisely what these “upbuilding discourses” are all about. So many forms of “equality,” particularly those that concentrate on material distinctions, are at least irrelevant and more likely a positive distraction from the true human goal. Kierkegaard writes: Only in this way is equality the divine law, only in this way is the struggle the truth, only in this way does the victory have validity—only when the single individual fights for himself with himself within himself and does not unseasonably presume to help the whole world to obtain external equality, which is of very little benefit, all the less so because it never existed, if for no other reason than that everyone would come to thank him and become unequal before him. Such a rash and worldly haste, which presumably even thinks that some external condition or other is the genuine equality to which anything that stands higher must be brought down, to which anything that stands lower must be lifted up, produces nothing but confusion and self-contradiction, as if true equality could be expressed in any externality as such, although it can be victorious and be preserved in any externality whatever, as if a painted surface were the true equality that brings life and truth and peace and harmony to everything, when on the contrary it seeks to kill everything in a spirit-consuming uniformity.45

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Several common Kierkegaardian themes find expression in this paragraph. First, equality is realized by the single individual’s own struggle to attain a sense of his or her essential equality before God. Equality is thus a theologically based concept, and a personal rather than a social achievement. This is because the equality exists from the beginning; it is not a matter of social engineers creating it, but of the individual recognizing it and learning to live it personally. Second, not only is material “external” equality largely irrelevant, it is also impossible. It “never existed,” suggesting an assumption that hierarchy is essential to human society (a view shared by Luther and Hegel, among others).46 Moreover, it cannot, since the bringer of equality stands in an unequal relationship to the liberated (foreshadowing the Fragments, where it is argued that only the God can essentially free another).47 Third, the fear that this sort of material pursuit will desire that “anything that stands higher must be brought down,” reflects Kierkegaard’s aversion to the leveling instinct he saw operating in modern society. This concern appears throughout his authorship, from the earliest diapsalmata to the attack upon Christendom. It is a social concern which Kierkegaard expressed socially, through his challenge to the Corsair’s lampooning of the best minds and talents of the day, and it is a spiritual concern, as expressed in the prologue and epilogue to Fear and Trembling, and in the preface to the Fragments (thus precisely bracketing this selection of discourses). Socially, this sort of anti-elitism suggests to Kierkegaard a mean-spiritedness and ingratitude on the part of those who feel less gifted, which would cut the head and heart from society (if it could) by silencing the best thinkers and artists. Morally, it is a failure to appreciate another whose gifts benefit all, and who may in fact be actively trying to help.48 Spiritually, the leveling instinct brings the goal down to a point where everyone already is, rather than giving due recognition to the highest achievements of the “knights of faith”—achievements which few ever match, even though any can who so will. In the particular paragraph quoted above, it is the social/political leveling which is first criticized, and it is noteworthy that this leveling is linked to the liberal desire to materially and externally raise everyone up. Both desires are confused, assuming that the “true equality” derives from external social/economic circumstances rather than inner spiritual equality. This true sense of equality before God does have social consequences, since by reforming the citizens and teaching them not to treat social distinctions as essential, it renounces both arrogance in the gifted and shame in the disadvantaged, thus bringing “life and truth and peace and harmony to everything.” Striving after social equality, by contrast, “seeks to kill everything

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in a spirit-consuming uniformity.” “Spirit” is a concept used by esthetic, ethical, and religious pseudonyms, each interpreting it in different ways according to their own life-view. But any of them would agree with this assessment of the liberal/leveling tendency. Whether considered esthetically as the capacity for esthetic passion and self will; ethically as a passion for duty, the good, and a capacity for moral striving and development; or religiously as faith, a passionate God-relationship transcending universal limits—“spirit” is always identified with the self’s ability to gather itself, marshal its forces, and turn these toward some worthy goal. In contrast, “spiritlessness” is always identified with philistinism, mediocrity, and the herd mentality—the bourgeois, mass culture wherein the individual self drifts, disintegrates, and is finally consumed by that amorphous beast “the public.” To be an individual, a full self, before God, is what is decisive for both the agent and the proposed recipient of moral action. A concentration on material equality distracts from this essential element of human flourishing, focusing instead on a much less significant problem. It is at best essentially trivial, and potentially destructive if it should turn to active neglect of the spiritual—or further, to leveling.49 Although Kierkegaard does affirm that God desires the religious individual to help the poor, correct injustice and meet material wants, he does not really believe that this effects the true (i.e., ethical-religious) flourishing of the recipient or that social inequalities can actually be eliminated. Rather, it is the duty of the individual to care for those less fortunate, and to do so in a respectful, loving manner that recognizes this essential equality beneath the exterior social inequalities. The discourse concedes the fact that persons are divided into haves and have-nots, “those who are able to give” versus “those who are obliged to receive.” However, whether it is better to be one or the other, or to renounce all traffic with society and economy, Kierkegaard refuses to consider. In fact, all such distinctions are depicted as trivial by apostolic authority. Rather, what is religiously significant is that one acts with an appropriate consciousness of God—which restores the essential equality between giver and receiver. This discourse thus moves more specifically toward the concerns of the other discourses: character, dispositions, and the priority of action over deliberation. The discourse next turns to the manner of giving. Kierkegaard tables metaethical questions of why one who is able should actually give. He takes a willingness to give as his starting point and exhorts the reader who is able and willing to give to first “humble himself and his gift under the words

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of the apostle James.”50 Seven times the giver is admonished (with slight variations) to remember that “you are more insignificant than your gift”51 This is so because, as James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above;” and therefore, the human agent shall consider himself or herself merely a conduit for God’s action.52 If the gift is given in a manner or consciousness inconsistent with this, then it is not given in a religiously appropriate manner.53 So even if the right action is done, it is not “giving a good gift” if it is given badly. It is more important to be a “good gift-giver” than a “good-gift giver.” Similarly, the gift must be received appropriately. One must be a “good gift-receiver” even more than a “good-gift receiver.” If one sees that one’s gifts are being received in a manner that undermines the receiver’s God-relationship, it would be better to refrain from giving at all. If God is truly the sole source of every good and perfect gift, then it is logical to ask whether one owes any thanks at all to another human being. Kierkegaard rules out the giver’s seeking thanks but that does not mean that the recipient is excused from giving thanks, or from seeking the proper person to thank. Rather, the receiver should thank for the same reason that the giver should seek to avoid being thanked—this is what best strengthens the God-relationship. Kierkegaard writes: No, the words [of the apostle] certainly will not abolish thankfulness, because just as it is a disgrace for the person who gives that he himself knows it, that he does not at least try to make himself invisible in every sense, or nevertheless know how to make himself invisible in a higher sense even though he is visibly present, just so is it a disgrace for the one who receives that he does not know and does not do his utmost to find out from whom he received. But in this effort of the one to find out what the other is hiding, both will be united in finding God, and when God is found, the disgrace is removed from both of them, the disgrace of being discovered from the one who wished to hide himself, the disgrace of not having discovered him from the one who should discover. In other words, if the person who receives the benefaction does not go out in his thankfulness to find his benefactor, he will never find God; it is in this search that he finds God: by not finding his benefactor, by finding him as he ought to be and then in turn with his assistance finding God, by finding him as he ought not to be and then in turn finding God in his thanksgiving’s search. If a person with his thanks romantically seeks to discover God and loses sight of earthly thankfulness, he had better watch out for himself, because if he is not willing to thank the benefactor he sees, how would he truly thank God, whom he does not see?54

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To deny that one should thank the giver turns “the giver of the gifts into the only injured party in life.”55 It takes from the giver as if only the disadvantaged had any claims, which is another violation to the essential equality of all people. To give thanks establishes a neighborly reciprocal relationship, if the giver gives the gift and receives the thanks correctly, referring everything to God. At the same time, the message of the apostle and the discourse is an exalting one for the recipient, in that though it urges gratitude, it denies any essential indebtedness to the giver. The good gift is still ultimately from God, and the recipient should remember this if the unequal social situation threatens to obscure the basic human equality before God. If, for example, the gift is given in a condescending manner, the recipient should remember that it really comes from God, who uses the powerful and gifted as servants to the needy. When the gift is both given and received in the appropriate manner, the true equality is then effected; as Kierkegaard writes: The one who gives admits that he is more insignificant than the gift; after all, it was this confession that the apostle’s words gladly accepted from the individual as willingly given or extorted from him against his will. The person who receives confesses that he is more insignificant than the gift, because it was this admission that the words gave as the condition in order to exalt him, and indeed this admission in all its humility is often heard in the world. But if the person who gives is more insignificant than the gift and the person who receives is more insignificant than the gift, then equality has indeed been effected—that is, equality in insignificance, equality in insignificance in relation to the gift, because the gift is from above and therefore actually belongs to neither or belongs equally to both—that is, it belongs to God . . . When the rich man thanks God for the gift and for being granted the opportunity of bestowing it in a good way, he does indeed thank for the gift and for the poor man; when the poor man thanks the giver for the gift and God for the giver, he does indeed also thank God for the gift. Consequently, equality prevails in the giving of thanks to God, equality vis-à-vis the gift in the giving of thanks.56 The whole problem of inequality and distinction arises, says Kierkegaard, because so much of our attention is given to material gifts, as if these were the paradigm. These create the bulk of social distinctions in the first place, and being obliged to depend on another for one’s material needs implies a debt, even a humiliation. However, the proper paradigm for gift-giving

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(religiously considered) is not money, but love: “the only good and perfect gift a human being can give is love.”57 Love actually establishes the equality as fact which material distinctions efface. When one gives love selflessly, and the other receives it gratefully, a true reciprocity is established. When love is the paradigm for gift-giving, the emphasis obviously is on how the gift is given, rather than what particular act or thing is provided. Kierkegaard claims that religiously, this is just where the emphasis should be. While the word “love” is introduced rather late in the discourse, looking back over the whole one can see that “love” fairly well sums up the text. “Give and receive in a loving way” would come close to summarizing Kierkegaard’s exhortation. One is to give or receive money as an act of love, and not one’s love as if it were money. In this discourse, however, Kierkegaard emphasizes the individual before God, and the essential equality all have before God: it is this that inspires the ethical acts and attitudes. The theme of love, as a relationship of person to person (with God as the bridge between), awaits fuller development in such writings as Works of Love. It has been argued that Kierkegaard’s vision of Christian love implies a self-sacrifice that can be destructive to the disadvantaged. For example, Linell Cady argues that Kierkegaard’s understanding of “love” as self-sacrifice— on which much of his later ethical thought centers—can have positively unethical consequences. As she writes: Many theologians from a liberationist perspective have noted the problems that ensue from conceiving of love as self-sacrifice, a common designation of love in Christian piety. Not surprisingly, women in particular have been most critical of this dimension of Christianity. This criticism is being voiced in many contexts—from theological writings to small church gatherings. The general consensus is that the ideal of Christian self-sacrificial love has had a detrimental effect upon those who already lack an equal share of power and status within society. To encourage those with a “diminished sense of self” to embody a self-sacrificial love is to exacerbate a condition which may be to no one’s advantage.58 Although Cady’s observations primarily address views expressed by Kierkegaard four or more years after this particular discourse was published, we can gain some helpful insights through discussion of this earlier work. First, clearly this discourse reflects Kierkegaard’s own social standpoint. He is himself one of those who can give more than he must receive, and he writes his ethical and religious exhortations first to himself and his peers, the Golden Age elite. This is illustrated by the fact that the givers are

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addressed first, for six pages, and in seven specific injunctions; the receivers are addressed second, with only three pages devoted to specific injunctions to remember “every good and perfect gift is from above” in order to ward off humiliation. Nearly as much effort is made to urge thankfulness—to avoid injuring the giver as much as to build up the receiver. However, there are specific exhortations to the “indebted” to resist any forces or messages implying anything less than full equality.59 Whether specific persons express explicit scorn for the lowly one, or general social forces grind away at one’s sense of one’s essential human dignity, or one even becomes one’s own worst despiser, Kierkegaard cites the Gospel of equality to raise the lowly up again to the same level of human dignity as any hero, genius, or monarch. So even though Kierkegaard often writes as for his peers, the elite in need of the humility of the Gospel, he does not forget that there are others who might read his words, who do not need to sacrifice and humble themselves because they are themselves sacrificed and humiliated already, and these need rather to be exalted. Unless one can show reason to believe Kierkegaard later retreats from this insight, it is wrong to simply describe his ethic as one of self-sacrifice alone, regardless of particular relevant circumstances. In fact, while Kierkegaard could benefit from a liberationist critique, the reverse is also true. With its view of the world, individuals, and sin primarily in terms of social groups, institutions, and corporate entities, it is difficult at times for some strains of liberationist thought to address all persons equally. A member of an “oppressor” group is guilty by association (a thought not too far from Judge William’s discussion of “repentance”), and a member of an “oppressed” group may be innocent by association as well (a notion abhorrent to Kierkegaard). Whenever sin is located primarily in one group—“patriarchialists,” “bourgeois,” “ice-people”—then the “oppressors” become guilty as a group, while the “oppressed” can only be condemned individually, usually for acts or attitudes which aid the oppressors and sell out one’s own group.60 It is important to distinguish between a healthy multiculturalism which seeks to overcome elite exclusivism, and an excessive multiculturalism that replaces one exclusiveness with another. Kierkegaard could argue that this sort of exaggerated multiculturalism actually exacerbates inequality, casting out demons through the prince of demons. It ignores sin in some, and in latching onto a sin that is not universal, fails to find the true sin even in those it condemns. Just as intercessory prayer is equally appropriate for both king and beggar, so every upbuilding approach must begin by ignoring distinctions and seeking equality, only allowing the question of social circumstances to arise in relation to application of the ideal.61 In this discourse, the true sin is not viewing all persons,

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oneself and others, before God, where distinctions disappear and the true equality is manifest: from this arises both the false pride and the false shame. Moreover, there is one virtue, namely to bear the holy sense of human equality before God in one at all times; this same thought exalts the humble and humbles the exalted. This view has the added advantage that it recognizes that societal and power distinctions are fluid: there is no one so low that he/ she might not at some time become “one who is able to give”; and likewise, there is none so mighty that he/she is completely immune from becoming at some time “one who is obliged to receive.”62 Kierkegaard seeks to overturn an elitist religious/social dogma that makes one social group the sole bearer of truth and value. He seeks instead to establish a Christian view of human equality, so that each individual or group is recognized as valuable, as bearers of truth, as loved by God. However, he is wary lest the process of overturning inequality should overrun its stated goal and end up establishing a new inequality instead. We can see therefore that Kierkegaard does have a social/political agenda, and his writings do have social relevance. He is chiefly concerned that whatever is done be done in the proper spirit, so as to be upbuilding for everyone. The equality of all and the individuality of each must be preserved, and love rather than struggle should be the motive power for social action. Whereas existing elites should learn humility and strive for equality, this is not to be accomplished by tearing the elite down and raising another in its place. Finally, social change in a Kierkegaardian mode is effected in a thoroughly Lutheran way: make the tree good, and the fruits will be good. It is by reforming the individual members of society, promoting love, humility, reliance on God, and by building them up as individuals, that they will become the kind of citizens who will form a better society. Social reform that outpaces individual upbuilding will ultimately prove superficial, replacing one sort of injustice with another.

III. Summary of the Nine Upbuilding Discourses of December 1843 to June 1844 This body of discourses provides a bridge between the earlier pseudonymous works, where the Incarnation and related elements are not examined, and the later more decidedly Christian investigations of Climacus and other personae. Many of the concepts discussed by the earlier pseudonyms are elaborated, and themes for further development are foreshadowed. Through this, a clearer conception of the religious/Christian ethical life emerges.

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The emphasis is on personal growth, both as a strengthening of individuating integrity and self-consciousness, and a cultivation of virtues and positive character traits. This conception of religious ethics eschews rules and abstract principles, except perhaps as these promote and express the proper religious consciousness. Likewise, this ethic is primarily a personal ethic; much more attention is given to personal rather than social issues, and its interest in social ethics is couched largely in terms of the promotion of the individuality before God of both the agent and recipient of good works. Individuality is juxtaposed with the sense of equality before God. Selfconsciousness is definable also as God-consciousness: the consciousness of God is what in fact allows a true consciousness of one’s own nature as well. One point, which remains ambiguous throughout the progression of these discourses, is the question of the relative roles of human effort and divine grace. For example, the first discourse on the text “Every good and perfect gift is from above,” asserts that a human only participates in the good through God. Human doubt and anxiety are driven out by the faith that God begins and finishes any good work in the individual. The only human perfection is the human need for God.63 All of this suggests that grace is all, human effort nothing or less than nothing. The second discourse on this text allows that human effort is at best ambiguous, since God gives the good gifts. However, as we have seen, it still urges the reader to recognize this fact, react properly, show humility and respect in recognizing human equality before God, and most significantly to refrain from certain actions and attitudes. So here human effort and will do seem to have a task: to actively hold back impulses to act or comport oneself in ways inimical to one’s own or another’s religious development. Similarly, Kierkegaard writes in one of the discourses on patience, “We have spoken as if patience were outside a person; we are well aware that this is not so.”64 Patience is treated as a virtue of the self and also as a grace working on the self from beyond. Part of the problem here is, of course, the infinite regress implied; the impatient self needs patience even to cultivate patience, so it seems a grace is needed to break into the self’s circle of impatience, self-reliance, and doubt of everything (except its own powers). The problem is summed up succinctly in “Patience in Expectancy,” where Kierkegaard writes of doubt and despair, “the error lies in the will.”65 Radical evil corrupts the font of human action; so how can human action or willing possibly overcome this corruption? In the Fragments the answer that will be given is that God’s intervention allows the will to turn from the error to which it was enslaved. As we have seen, some movement in the direction

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of this solution appears over the course of the upbuilding discourses leading up to the Fragments. However, the ultimate solution posited by the Fragments, namely the selfrevelation of the God through an Incarnation, is avoided for now by these discourses. Most notable is the treatment of John the Baptist in the last discourse prior to the publication of the Climacus writings; “He must increase; I must decrease.”66 This discourse universalizes the example of John’s humility, making him a role model for anyone who finds himself or herself needing to accept that another’s achievements can only come through one’s own curtailment. Even a parent, says Kierkegaard, must admit that as the child grows and matures, the parent must relinquish control. This universalizing of the example of biblical figures is nothing new for Kierkegaard; it is a stated principle for him that while the upbuilding is never abstract or general, it is always universal. It applies to everyone, equally and individually. However, John’s situation really was extraordinary, for the successor “who must increase” in his case was also God. It is true that this situation is not without its universal aspects. Kierkegaard could have noted how John must “decrease” so that God can “increase,” and further, that each of us must “decrease,” must limit our autonomy and self-assertion, resign ourselves to grace, so that God can “increase” God’s own activity in our lives. Instead, the one who must increase is treated purely as a human being; as Kierkegaard writes: He must increase—who is this “he”? In the sense in which we have used the word, everyone can identify him with another name; this is how change occurs here on earth: one increases and another decreases, and today it is I and tomorrow you. But one who in humble self-denial and with genuine joy saw another increase—his wish will be turned into a new joy, and this new joy of his will surely be full.67 Why even bother to treat this particular text at all, and still avoid the whole notion of the Incarnation, leaving it to a pseudonymous work published five days later? One possible gain for Kierkegaard in this strategy is to lay a foundation for the later development of the religiousness of Christianity. By exploring this sort of humility first in reference to human relations, he develops the concept so that it will be available later for use in a transcendent context. He writes: This was John, and this is how the single individual is to fulfill something similar in lesser situations. If he has first of all learned to deny himself humbly and to master his mind, then joy will also be victorious. But the

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first must be learned first—later, that which is greater; one is first initiated into the lesser mystery, later into the greater mystery.68 The message of this paragraph as a whole is that one must first learn renunciation, or resignation to the fact that one must decrease; once this is mastered, one can then learn to rejoice in the other’s success as John did. However, it is certainly not alien to this thought to further assert that only after one has learned this double movement of resignation and joy in reference to worldly things can one learn it in reference to God. In fact, this seems a logical development of the first discourse in this series of nine, where Job is commended in part for accepting the actions of other persons against him as expressions of God’s will.69 The obvious effect of discussing the forerunner to the Incarnation while avoiding the concept itself is to heighten the contrast between the religiousness of these discourses and the Christianity that makes its appearance in Climacus. Although guilt, doubt, and despair serve to push God ever further away, so that it seems impossible to reach God without some sort of proactive divine assistance, the mechanism for this is left vague. God must act first; God is not known automatically, it would seem. However, God is seemingly known directly, so that the individual comes to see God’s action or will immediately once his or her own ego ceases to obscure the view. Why this should be so, when the will itself is corrupted and the mind obviously inadequate for reaching God, is unclear. At this point, it is simply assumed that God is present to be seen, if only one’s own self-reliance and self-assertion are curbed so that what is there to be seen, is seen. It is not entirely clear at this point how far the ethical, or human practical reason, or human reason in general, serve as a necessary and/or sufficient preparation for the religious life, or how far these continue to be important in the religious life. These issues become clearer, however, in the next phase of the authorship: the writings of Climacus. Here is a pseudonym that, nevertheless, Kierkegaard publicly owns and with which he associates his name in a way he has not done with the earlier pseudonyms. The Climacean writings thus appear to stylistically link the two sides of Kierkegaard’s authorship, and presumably will link their interests as well.

Chapter 5

The Philosophical Fragments and the Religion of Paradox: Sin and Redemption

The Philosophical Fragments is the first of the pseudonymous works to deal with such specifically Christian themes as atonement or the divinity of Christ, and while the subject of sin has already been broached (most notably in Fear and Trembling), prior to the Fragments it is considered largely in ethical terms, as guilt before the moral law. As the ethical is conceived as infinite, this guilt is likewise infinite and hence irremediable by finite agents such as us. However, the historically Christian notion of the corruption and depravity of the individual’s moral will, particularly prominent in Paul’s teachings on sin as these are in turn presented in Augustine and Luther, is ignored or rejected by the earlier pseudonyms. The Upbuilding Discourses of this period, on the other hand, have steadily advanced toward this point.1 The epistemological, moral, and psychological challenges to faith are examined in increasing directness, and at each step it has become clearer that sin’s corrupting influence creates daunting, if not insurmountable, obstacles to faith. As a result, the two tracks of the authorship have come by different routes to the same point. The pseudonymous works have arrived at the concept of “sin” as both the necessary completion of ethics and its self-refutation. The direct discourses arrive at “sin” largely through an exercise in humility, as the necessary recognition by the religious person of his or her own limits. The first emphasizes the role of human effort, only to show that human effort could at best recognize demands which it could not meet unaided. The second emphasizes passivity and receptivity, only to suggest that even our capacities for sitting still and receiving the divine initiative may be impaired. What both suggest is that some sort of drastic divine action is needed if sin is to be overcome, which can restore the broken Godrelationship, reintegrate the guilty one back into the moral order, and repair the self-contradictions and hobbling compulsions of the universal (fallen) human condition. Up to this point, however, both the early pseudonyms and the accompanying discourses continue to move in the sphere of “immanence.” That is,

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both tracks of the authorship thus proceeded as if some sort of direct communication between God and humanity was possible, and hence that some point of contact must exist. Even when pointing out the various obstacles to the religious relationship, these works offer no alternative. So either a direct relationship must be possible (despite the difficulties of sin), or there can be no God-relationship at all. Since the discourses and Fear and Trembling at least agree that there is a God-relationship, it would seem that they assume a direct one. The attentive reader, on the other hand, may have begun to have doubts. Philosophical Fragments proposes to confront this paradox head-on. It considers two possible solutions. The first is to recognize that, if a direct relationship is possible, then the individual essentially has the God-relationship from the start. It is never really “lost”; it is only obscured. Once one recognizes one’s essential connectedness to God, the God-relationship can begin to deepen and mature. Alternatively, if the individual is not essentially connected to God in the midst of sin, no direct relationship is possible. In this case, God must take the initiative, and furthermore must act much more indirectly than the simple voice which commanded Abraham to Mount Moriah. After all, under this new description the individual lacks even the ears to hear such a command, or a heart to obey.

I. Ethical and Religious Argument in the Philosophical Fragments In the first volume of Either/Or, it was necessary to uncover a religious agenda largely obscured by esthetic and other considerations. In the Philosophical Fragments, the challenge would seem to be the opposite. The work is clearly concerned with philosophical analysis and clarification of Christian dogmas, but the ethical element is unclear. Just as William demanded of philosophy that it be able to tell a simple man what to do, so we might ask the same from the Fragments: So what? What do we do about this? If we find no hint of an answer forthcoming, we naturally conclude that the work lacks an ethical dimension. In fact, the work is brimming with metaethical implications, although how these relate to the task of formulating ethical principles is not always clear. The foundational consideration of the Fragments is the problem of sin. As de Silentio put it, “An ethics that ignores sin is a completely futile discipline, but if it affirms sin, then it has eo ipso exceeded itself.”2 So the themes of sin and redemption are external to ethics, but not in the sense which Kant sees in Religion Within the Limits. In Kant, these parerga (such as the

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work of grace in overcoming radical evil) are downplayed when possible, and seen as potentially dangerous to reason and morality. In Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms, these issues are seen as the actual heart of the matter, since if they cannot be established then ethics itself is overthrown as irremediably self-contradictory. In this way revealed, transcendent religion becomes not the opponent, but the foundation for ethics, resolving the paradoxes universal practical reason falls into so that it can get on with its proper tasks. Also relevant is the question of the will. Since Kant at least, it has become a truism that “ought” implies “can;” but the Christian doctrine of sin, as presented in the Fragments, entails the “bondage of the will.” This seems to suggest that the very religious dogmas which I said were necessary to undergird ethics also render it impossible. Likewise, the pursuit of the ethical is the pursuit of the good, but Climacus insists that the individual is in “error;” he/she does not know what is good, and cannot recognize the good should he/she somehow blunder upon it.

II. Thought-Project and Its Ethical Implications In his introductory question, “Can the truth be learned?” Climacus sets a rather vague agenda for the discussion that is to follow.3 “Truth” could mean anything from Cosmic Enlightenment to whether anyone really was at the door just now. Climacus clarifies this almost immediately by evoking the original, Socratic form of this question: “Can virtue be taught?” The ethical is present from the beginning of the discussion; “truth” is not something which we inquire about from idle curiosity or not at all, but is a question about what truth is to guide us, or how are we to relate our lives to what is true. As any student of Plato knows, “truth” does not mean empirical fact. The doctrine of recollection, as Climacus assumes the reader understands, holds that each individual learns through being reminded of the truths his or her soul glimpsed in an eternal, pre-existent state. While the particulars of the myth vary somewhat among the Phaedrus, Meno, and other dialogues, all agree that “the truth” is timeless and transcendent; it is not “facts.” Furthermore, “truths” such as the mathematical propositions discussed in the Meno are subordinate, understood by the philosopher as mere steppingstones to knowledge of the Good. This “Good” is what gives meaning or “truth” to everything else; existing objects are only real to the extent to which they manifest or participate in the eternal ideas, which themselves draw their reality from the Good. However, while this Good was identified with God early in the history of Christian theology, it is not an object of

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worship or faith for Plato/Socrates. It is an object of philosophic contemplation or meditation, a criterion for thought, and also for action—since all choices seek the “good” or what the individual thinks is good, whether that understanding is based on blind instinct or philosophic insight. The essential Socratic position, as presented by Climacus, is that every individual is essentially already in possession of this sort of truth. Some at least are not consciously aware that they have this knowledge, and for these a prompter or “midwife” like Socrates can serve to help them bring this inner truth to light. However, the “teacher” in this case is in a strictly external relationship to the learner; the “learner” is already impregnated with the truth before even encountering the teacher and only needs some guidance to bring it successfully to birth. Once this insight is achieved, the “learner” can safely forget the “teacher,” and go on to a life of self-instruction about the truth and the learner’s own relationship to it. The next major step in the “thought-project” is to hypothesize an alternative, namely that the individual is not in possession of the truth; in fact, the individual is much more accurately regarded as “untruth,” as moving away from the truth at top speed. In this case, the individual could not come into the truth with the assistance of a mere midwife, since a midwife’s role is to bring to light what is already present in the other. The only thing such a teacher could help bring to remembrance is the fact that the other is in untruth. If one who is absolutely barren of truth is to come into the truth, that one must not only receive the truth but also the “condition” to receive it. Climacus argues that to have the condition to receive the truth is like being able to ask about it, which in turn implies (as for Socrates) an implicit knowledge of it. The ability to receive the truth is said to be something no human being can give another; if it is given and not inborn, it must be given by the God. This is consistent with what Climacus has said earlier in reference to the Socratic position: “between one human being and another [to deliver] is the highest; giving birth belongs to the god.”4 This sudden introduction of “the god” is one of the most controversial moves of the argument.5 However, in fact, this move is a perfectly Socratic one, having already been foreshadowed in the Meno: SOCRATES: . . . If all we have said in this discussion, and the questions we have asked, have been right, virtue will be acquired neither by nature nor by teaching. Whoever has it gets it by divine dispensation without taking thought . . . On our present reasoning then, whoever has virtue gets it by divine dispensation.6

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So in the very dialogue which Climacus identifies as the source of the doctrine of recollection and the “Socratic position,” Socrates ends up conceding this very point: truth is not taught or recollected, and therefore it must be given by the god. It is possible to question whether Socrates was right to concede that point, but first we should acknowledge the legitimacy of Climacus’ move. He has simply accepted the dichotomy as the Socratic position has itself defined it: Either truth is recollected (and the teacher is a mere occasion)/or it is gained by divine dispensation (and the God is the teacher). Since ex hypothosi it is not recollected, the god is the teacher. The religious innuendoes continue to fly: “Now, inasmuch as the learner exists, he is indeed created, and, accordingly, God must have given him the condition for understanding the truth (for otherwise he previously would have been merely animal, and that teacher who gave him the condition along with the truth would make him a human being for the first time).”7 The claim that the individual is “created” by “God” certainly seems prejudicial. However, although Climacus appears to be letting his own allegiances show, this claim does not need to be interpreted quite so strictly. “Created” may here be understood as “derived,” in that the learner came from somewhere, and had some source of origin. “God” could be understood as simply the name for this unknown source. The Socratic/Platonic position, was that souls are immortal and continuously reincarnating according to their moral desserts from the previous existence.8 Even so, this learner here is both a soul and a body, both of which have a source beyond themselves and which have been brought together by a third power. In this sense, even the Platonic learner is “created.” In the Phaedrus the principle whereby souls enter bodies and become human beings is an impersonal “Necessity.” Still, Climacus has chosen a rather loaded term for this “unknown” source, and that can hardly be an accident. Leaving this question aside, there is also the debatable assumption that the learner must have had “the condition for understanding the truth” at some time. It appears that, for Climacus, this is largely a definitional claim. If the learner had never had the condition, he (or she) would not have been a human being. Later it is said that “the condition for the truth is an essential condition.” So an essential and distinctive part of being human is being related to the truth. Again it is helpful to remember that thus far “truth” has not been strictly defined, and hence this essential element is also left vague. This could be understood as the claim that “Man is a rational animal,” and hence is the only creature capable of abstract thought on universal verities such as the mathematical propositions of the Meno. It could also be noted that this discussion began by

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relating “truth” to “virtue,” and therefore perhaps the claim is that “Man is a political (or moral) animal,” who thinks about relating to neighbors guided by principles such as justice or the good. Given the increasingly religious tone of Climacus’ claims, perhaps we suspect that “Man is a spiritual animal” lies somewhere in the background. Any or all of these seem to be implied by the claim that the condition for the truth is an “essential condition.”9 If being capable of receiving the truth is part of the definition of “human,” and yet (ex hypothosi) the learner is not now capable of receiving the truth, then the learner must have lost that capacity. Climacus argues that it is a “contradiction” to assert either that the god or an accident could be responsible for the individual’s having lost the condition. Again, it is not immediately clear why. Although it certainly seems irrational that the god would give and then remove the condition for truth, this would not be inconceivable if “god” is simply an “unknown x,” a possibly impersonal source of the learner’s existence. Perhaps Climacus would say that whatever the learner’s creator might be, it is illogical to assume that the same source both creates and removes his human nature. Climacus shares with the Socratic dialogues a presumption of the basic rationality (and possibly goodness) of the “creator.” Perhaps he might also argue that a claim that the learner’s source is basically absurd would not in fact be an “advance” upon the Socratic, but a retreat. The claim that no accident could be responsible again seems controversial. Growing numbers of thinkers today are espousing just what Climacus seems to be rejecting: “moral luck.”10 However, here Climacus again is taking a Socratic principle as given: namely, the thought expressed in the Apology that no harm can come to the good man from outside.11 It is also true that this claim is largely grammatical for Climacus. It is part of what he means by “human.” And although there may be a certain logic in arguing for “moral luck” in general, to ascribe one’s own untruth to such a source seems more like ressentment than reason.12 What purport to be explanations for moral failure when offered in general begin to sound like excuses when offered for oneself. Climacus, like Kierkegaard himself, desires the reader who is able to read seriously, as if the matter affected him or her personally—not people who only reason “in general.” Climacus reviews his argument to this point: The teacher, then, is the god himself, who, acting as the occasion, prompts the learner to be reminded that he is untruth, and is that through his own

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fault. But this state—to be untruth and to be that through one’s own fault—what can we call it? Let us call it sin.13 This definition, tossed out so casually, really prejudices the case more than anything else has. There is no viable nonreligious alternative, as there was when “god” was understood to indicate “the unknown source.” Only an ethical-religious interpretation is possible. “Sin” implies guilt, and thus the fairly neutral term “untruth” is reinterpreted as a violation of moral and/or religious principles. The choice of the Meno as the starting-point for the Socratic position thus turns out to have been particularly favorable to Climacus’ plans. The Meno begins with the question of virtue, and from there moves to the doctrine of recollection as a general epistemological theory, and Climacus returns to specifically moral and religious knowledge in his proposed alternative to the Socratic position. However, as important as what this “definition” includes is what it rules out. The learner’s “untruth” is clearly not due to the difficulty a finite creature faces attempting to understand an eternal, infinite god. The god/teacher is not troubled by epistemological or ontological barriers. The estrangement of the learner is due solely to the learner’s rebellion. The teacher in this case is one who gives the learner occasion to recollect that he or she is untruth and therefore unable to recollect the truth, and furthermore, that he/she is thus exiled from the truth through personal sin. Such a person has, by a free act, lost his or her freedom; the learner may be “free from the truth,” but is not free to attain the truth. Moreover, the learner is not merely standing outside the truth, but is actively hostile toward it, is constantly moving away from it. Any other understanding of the learner’s condition would undermine the hypothesis of the non-Socratic alternative, by making the encounter between learner and teacher unessential, and learning another species of recollection. So this teacher becomes a savior, deliverer, and reconciler, who saves the learner from the bondage of a will and mind corrupted by sin—as well as from condemnation for the personal guilt of having chosen sin. To such a teacher, who has given one back one’s own human nature sacrificed through sin, who has restored one to the ethical and religious life after one has exiled oneself, one owes a real debt, not just the imagined debt Alcibides wished to owe Socrates. In fact, the teacher is the lesson. The “lesson” is that I am in untruth and sin, and that only the god-as-teacher can restore me to a relation to virtue or religious truth; God’s very presence, in my encounter with the teacher, is the clearest instantiation of that message. So to forget such a

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teacher would be to forget what was taught, and to attempt to try to grasp the lesson while letting go of the teacher14 would be a contradiction. The chapter ends with a constellation of distinct ideas: (1) the state of the learner; (2) the viability of the hypothesis; and (3) the “truth” of the hypothesis.15 The first follows from what has been said about the alternative hypothesis. In the Socratic position, the learner did not realize his/her own eternal nature; but once the learner recollected the truth, the learner also realized that his/her own nature had not changed, but merely that he/she had a greater self-consciousness than before. However, under Climacus’ alternative, the learner has lost his or her essential human nature, and had it restored again by the God as teacher. The learner goes through a rebirth and becomes a new person, with a completely new relation to the truth, a new level of freedom, and a new moral status (no longer guilty, but redeemed). As untruth, the learner had been moving away from the truth, even hostile toward it; now the learner has had a conversion and been turned around. The learner now is so far from building on or extending what he/she once took to be truth that the learner actually repents of the past. Now reborn into a new relation to the truth, the learner is truly like one who has come into a world as unknown and alien as that which the newborn enters; so the individual must start over from scratch exploring the changed landscape of life, discovering what is good, who are the neighbors, and so on. Second, Climacus sums up his hypothesis and asks, is it thinkable? He concludes that if it is, it is so only for one who has experienced this new birth. Just as only one who has been born can understand life, so only one who has been reborn can understand this new life. Only one who has experienced repentance, conversion, and redemption can even begin to grasp the transition from untruth to being in the truth; for this is a qualitative, essential change, not just acquiring new facts as the old “learning” had been. One who has not been reborn lacks the concepts, the framework, or even a reason to raise the issue. This not only seems like an overstatement, it would also render the whole project moot, since the only ones who could understand it would already believe. One answer lies in the distinction Climacus draws later between understanding Christianity versus understanding what it is to be a Christian. The former implies an algebraic, external understanding of how concepts and doctrines relate to one another, whereas the latter entails first-hand knowledge of how the phenomena these doctrines attempt to describe actually appear in real life.16 One can understand, “If one is redeemed by the god as teacher, one experiences

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repentance and rebirth,” without knowing what repentance or rebirth mean, what they feel like, how one reacts to them, and so on. The chapter ends with an apparently frivolous exchange between Climacus and an imaginary reader. This reader accuses Climacus of presenting as his own invention a “hypothesis” which is actually common knowledge and common property. Climacus admits the truth of this, and even goes further to assert that the “hypothesis” is not, could not be a human invention at all. No human being would or could have come up with the idea that he/she is in fact essentially estranged from the truth, by his/her own guilt, and therefore can only be restored to the truth by the God-as-teacher. However, this idea is in existence, which “proves” that this notion of the God-as-teacher is in fact true. As a proof, it is not convincing and even seems to contradict Climacus’ claims elsewhere; but the argument does achieve another purpose. The natural assumption always is that if some idea exists, some human being(s) invented it. This “proof” challenges that assumption, claiming that this idea does exist, and yet could not be a human invention.17 Climacus, at least, is not pretending to invent Christianity; rather, he proceeds as if he were doing so, only to drop the conceit immediately when confronted by the imaginary interlocutor. His goal is to ironically demonstrate the gulf between philosophy and revelation. This proof, the third in the constellation of ideas, has drawn attention to itself, although its relationship to the other two is not always fully explored. Although as a proof it has its problems, it at least presents a new possibility. In his imaginary dialogue, Climacus rules out the notion that anyone could generate this paradox, since it would involve supposing oneself not to be in the truth, and hence essentially nonexistent in relation to the truth. Anyone who really is thus epistemologically, morally, and religiously non existent (as Climacus has described the state of the learner) can no more recognize this than an unborn person can meaningfully discuss what it is to be ontologically nonexistent. So even if some philosopher were to realize the importance of subjectivity and desire to relate to a paradoxical version of the truth in order to heighten risk, he/she would draw on purely human reason and categories to formulate the paradox, and hence it would always remain a merely relative paradox. Even if a philosopher wished to relate to the true paradox, that would likewise be impossible, since the God must give the condition and the individual must be reborn into the truth. Without this condition, any relationship to the paradox is false, and essentially still only a relationship to one’s own creation—at best a Socratic relation. The claim that Christianity “goes beyond” Socrates (in the Moral) cannot be taken as implying a continuity between the two positions, as if Christianity

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were only an intensification of Socratic passion. Although the Socratic passion may be the necessary state to receive the revelation, Christian faith is far more than this passion alone, and this “more” consists largely of ideas, passions, and realizations which “could not arise in any human heart” and hence must be given by the god.18 So one of the things Climacus accomplishes by his imaginary dialogue and its “proof” is to emphasize that, even though he is presenting his “hypothesis” as a “thought-experiment” to attempt to make a philosophical advance upon Socrates, in fact it is something else. It is only in jest that it is presented as his deduction at all. In fact, any attempt to move qualitatively beyond Socrates by purely human means achieves only a relative advance (or loss). Human knowledge is all “recollection;” only the god/teacher achieves anything different. The fact that Climacus is pretending to deduce this philosophically should not delude anyone into believing that this project could arise in his or any other human heart; its source (if it is true) is the God. This proof, then, aims to prevent the reader from supposing Climacus to be doing what the speculative philosophers he skewers are doing: seriously purporting to “invent” Christianity, or showing how human reason alone did invent it. Another advantage Climacus achieves by this dialogue and its “proof” is to establish an anchor for the Incarnation in history, while simultaneously rendering the details only relatively important.19 If the mere fact of “the idea’s” presence is enough to prove that the God did in fact act in history just as the idea said, then this remains certain even if historical investigation renders the particulars of the event uncertain. So Climacus (and Kierkegaard) can remain committed to the reality of the Incarnation as an historical event without being enslaved to the vagaries of historical debate. It can in fact achieve this even though it is a “proof” with little force. The fact that this “hypothesis” could not be a human invention may be obvious to anyone who understands it—that is, to anyone to whom the God has given the condition for understanding. How will it appear to others? In the Socratic scheme, “self-knowledge is God-knowledge.”20 If so, then Godknowledge would also be self-knowledge. So if someone should receive the words of the god/teacher without receiving the condition to understand, they will sound (at best) like a doctrine of human nature—just as it is received by Hegelians, for example. What is the advantage of a “proof” which only makes sense to those who already believe, and hence need no proof? There is a “dogmatic” advantage— a clear statement of some element of Christian faith for the benefit of the community of believers. It is easy for a believer to be befuddled by a

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“speculative” preacher or other “authority.” The believer with a simple faith in the reality of the Incarnation faces daunting challenges in seminary, for example, where (in Kierkegaard’s day) Kantian and Hegelian theologians confidently lecture on the symbolic or mythic nature of the doctrine (or in our day, substitute “Tillichians” and “Bultmannians”). The laity in the pew, compelled by law as they were in Kierkegaard’s time to attend the local parish church no matter how alien the “speculative” priest’s sermons might be from their own simple piety, had it even worse—though perhaps the cultural divide between peasant and royal appointee might help protect the peasant’s faith from corruption. It is helpful in such circumstances to see the matter laid out, and to realize that it really is as one first suspected, a simple statement of what God has done rather than an esoteric myth of one’s inner nature—which presumably one has “forgotten” and now must “recollect.” This dogmatic payoff does not seem to be the goal of the argument, however. Although a clear delineation of dogma is certainly an important part of this endeavor, clearly the main thrust is polemic rather than simple presentation. In freely admitting that the “deduction” of the non-Socratic alternative is spurious, Climacus invites us to search out his true motives. The actual message of this chapter seems to be more like this: So far is the Hegelian attempt to meld philosophy and Christianity from being the truth, that if I wished to describe a complete opposite to any and all philosophy, it would have to be Christianity. Its central message is the complete denial of the most vital assumption of philosophy—namely, the presumption of the self-sufficiency of human reason. Without this assumption, philosophy is impossible, even untruth; with it, Christianity is either a lie or an absurdity. There can thus be no attempt to construct speculative truths from Christian revelation, unless one wishes to kill it first and build with its bones. On the non-Socratic alternative, the learner does not know good or evil, does not know his or her own nature, and does not know God; nor can the learner move toward these things. The individual prior to the encounter with the god/teacher is in fact actively hostile to the truth. Applying these principles back to the earlier pseudonyms, Climacus would judge that even fairly mature characters like Judge William and Johannes de Silentio do not know what they think they know, either about themselves or their life tasks. Although both seem to have made self-knowledge and understanding of the ethical their goals, in fact they lack the resources to pursue these goals. William correctly understands that the essence of his human nature is freedom, and that through freedom he should strive to realize the good; he does not realize that his own guilt has left him bound and ignorant.

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He is unable either to “know” or to “choose himself.” His claim that selfknowledge culminates in repentance is true enough, by the “hypothesis” of the Fragments, but his notion that this act can somehow liberate one shows how far he is from true repentance. In fact, his misinterpretation of the sermon in “Ultimatum” and his failure to see how his views differ from it demonstrates that he has not even fully recollected his own untruth. So the “good and evil” which he discovers by his own efforts are untruth and sin, just as much as the esthete’s are. De Silentio’s case seems to be further along, as he has a relationship to God which goes beyond the ethical. Still he does not know God, and hence does not know himself either. Perhaps this is why he has not achieved faith; for as Hartshorne says, he seems to conceive of faith as “absurd spiritual heroics.” Perhaps if he knew himself better, he would not have thought he could will himself to faith and instead might have been prepared to receive it as a gift. His fixation on Abraham, “the father of faith,” suggests this, because Abraham does not give faith. He is able only to teach Socratically, to serve as an example and occasion to another but not to bestow a quality that simply is not there. No amount of meditation upon Abraham will grant one his gift of faith; one can receive that only where Abraham did—from God. The Pauline-Lutheran treatment of Abraham, which de Silentio generally favors, makes this point clear.21 Abraham was called even before he had properly “resigned himself,” and it was only this call that allowed him to do so. De Silentio cannot have resigned himself as fully as he believes he has, since he does not know the self he is to resign, the depths of its sin and helplessness. He as much as says he does not know God fully, does not realize that God really does care about him as an individual. Although it may seem to be a radical shift compared to the views of the earlier pseudonyms, this “hypothesis” by Climacus completes the progress we have seen in the upbuilding discourses. As we saw in the last chapter, by the publication of the Fragments they had reached the point of recognizing the complete helplessness of the self, to the point where it was clear that if any progress was to be made, God would have to make it. The individual is increasingly urged to adopt a passive yet anticipatory stance toward God, until such help comes. They have still remained vague as to the precise nature of this “help,” apparently assuming that God will act directly upon the soul which is properly “expectant.” The immediate ethical implication of Climacus’ project, then, is to radically qualify the essential ethical assumptions that one can know or choose oneself, or recognize or approach the good, as William claims. Prior to being taught by the god, all striving is simply further development in sin. In this

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Hartshorne is clearly right; both sides of the “either/or” are simply two sides of one coin—sin. However, if one lacks the requisite courage, humility, and honesty to admit one’s own ignorance, even an encounter with the god will be of little benefit. In this the developmental interpretations of Kierkegaard seem to be right; to achieve faith, the learner must first achieve at least such self-knowledge as Socrates showed, and have worked through the Socratic standpoint at least far enough to admit the need for the god’s help when it is offered. The god as teacher and savior In discussing the first chapter I identified the anti-Socratic alternative proposed by Climacus as “Christianity.” That identification is, strictly speaking, premature. This is so not merely because Climacus does not in fact admit that his project is Christianity until the book’s close, but also because of the description of the thought-project offered. The actual project as initially laid out proposes a revelatory religion, and assumes a monotheism; but the precise nature of the revelation has not been explored. To further explore the implications of the thought-project, and incidentally complete the parallel of his thought-project with New Testament Christianity, Climacus turns from dialectic to imagination, from philosophy to parable. The second chapter resumes the contrast between the teachers Socrates and the god as a bridge to the more fanciful section. Socrates teaches, and teaches as he does, both out of concern for the learner and for himself. His environment and background have shaped him into the teacher Socrates, and now that he has become a teacher he must teach. He desires to share, to help others to recollect, and also to be helped by the learner as well in his own life-task of recollection. He influences and is influenced, teaches and learns, gives and receives; and he understands himself as equally indebted to his students as they are to him. The god, by contrast, needs nothing. No cause can change him from “the god” into “the teacher god,” as Socrates matured into his role as a teacher; no need can compel him to break his silence, and he has nothing to learn or gain. The god’s motives must therefore be internal and voluntary; therefore Climacus says that the god could only be moved by love.22 However, this love is from the start an unhappy one. Love seeks an understanding between parties, and understanding requires equality; but the love the god has for the learner is as unequal as can be. The Socratic teacher owes the learner as much as the learner owes the teacher, for both find in the other an occasion for recollection. The god-teacher neither forgets nor recollects, and hence

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owes the learner nothing; but the learner has been redeemed from self-incurred bondage to sin and guilt, has had his or her own human nature restored through the new birth, and hence owes the god everything. No greater inequality is possible. To explore this mismatch and how it might be resolved, Climacus evokes the poet to spin a tale of a pair of human mismatched lovers: a king who loves a humble maiden. The king fears that if he simply marries her, she will sooner or later begin to feel the gulf of station between them, and will lose confidence in herself. She will be unable to see herself as his equal and companion, and will instead see herself as the beneficiary of his generosity. The king does not want to be a benefactor but a lover, not a superior but a life partner. If he simply whisks her away from her drab life and carries her off to court, he destroys her integrity as a person, and whether she knows this or cares, he does. So he must instead remove the inequality between them not by changing her circumstances but his; he must come to her incognito, as a peasant himself, and try to win her love and confidence in a relationship between two persons without wealth or status to come between them. Similarly, says Climacus, the god must become the equal of the learner, even the lowliest human, in order to approach the lowliest without overwhelming them. Only in this way can the god possibly establish a true love relationship with the learner---even though this way also risks repulsing the learner by its very lowliness.23 Ethical implications of the “poetical venture” The biblical heritage Climacus is drawing from claims that it is a fearful if not devastating thing to approach the god, or to be approached by the god, and furthermore, at least part of the reason for this is the gulf of sin. The significance of this for Climacus’ task is highlighted when we remember what was claimed in the initial thought-project: that the individual is in untruth through his or her own guilt. It is the moral failure of the individual learner-to-be which makes the descent and self-humiliation of the god necessary, not the ontological gulf between creature and creator. The answer to the question, cur deus homo, is not found through any philosophical argument or analysis; rather, it is found in the learner’s grief and horror over his or her own sin. On the other hand, it is also significant that Climacus rejects one traditional Christian strategy for linking human morality and the Incarnation: Anselm’s doctrine of the vicarious atonement. The god’s incarnation is not in any direct way tied to the human moral condition, either because

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human striving has rendered it appropriate or because human moral failure has created a debt that can only be paid by the god’s self-sacrifice. Climacus not only ignores the traditional formulation of the vicarious satisfaction dogma, he also notably ignores Kant’s extensive reformulation and rehabilitation of it.24 The god’s incarnation is an act of love meant to show love and evoke love in the learner. It is a revelatory act, not a judicial one. It is a response to the epistemological, psychological, and existential limits of humanity, not to the demands of divine justice. Thus the actual death of the god, the crucial element of Anselm’s theory (and most twentieth century American evangelical theology) is relatively unimportant to Climacus. The true sacrifice by the god is not that he died, but that he lived. In the larger context of Kierkegaard’s authorship, the theme of “Christ the Pattern” becomes increasingly pronounced. The reader is urged to see Christ as the moral ideal, which he/she should realize, particularly in the aspect of self-renouncing love. In the Fragments itself, however, this theme is absent. This second chapter primarily treats the manner of God’s interaction with the individual and why the form of a suffering servant should seem more appropriate than a glorious wonder-worker. Of course, this does have an impact on the individual’s attitudes and expectations toward God as well. Just as it is necessary for the god to come as a suffering servant, so it is necessary that the individual not seek a direct theophany such as is discussed by Climacus as the way of “ascent.”25 Such a direct manifestation would be a betrayal both of the god’s love and the individual’s own human nature, so hankering after such in preference to the actual servant form God has chosen is a violation of oneself and God. Just as the god must come in the form of a suffering servant, so the individual who would be a true learner must be the sort who will receive a suffering servant; that is, one who attends to the earnestness of the love rather than the flashiness or dinginess of the lover. The second “proof” Like the first chapter, the second ends with a dialogue between Climacus and an imaginary reader, who complains that Climacus is passing off public property as his own creation. Climacus immediately owns up to the plagiarism, and presents his crime as proof that this poem is “no poem at all but the wonder.”26 Treatments of this exchange by the commentators largely parallel expressed views of the first exchange. The crux of the proof is the sentence:

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Presumably it could occur to a human being to poetize himself in the likeness of the god or the god in the likeness of himself, but not to poetize that the god poetized himself in the likeness of a human being, for if the god gave no indication, how could it occur to a man that the blessed god could need him?27 Examples of persons imagining themselves to be gods, and even being accepted as such, are as old as history; pharaohs, emperors, and even Führers have had a hand at it. Likewise, efforts to imagine the god or gods in human image are as old as recorded mythology; gods are hungry, lustful, sleepy, envious, and so on. Hegelian (particularly left-wing) attempts to appropriate divine attributes for the human race or its members, or to describe God as the same “spirit” embodied in human beings, can likewise be seen as species of these impulses. However, says Climacus, to have a correct image of “the blessed god,” the transcendent and all-sufficient One, and then to imagine that this Unmoved Mover should “need” one—not in the sense that the pagan gods hungered for sacrifices, but solely from the “need” of love for its object—that would be impossible if the god had not first indicated it. In this “poem,” we are not presented with a mythical depiction of human–divine monism, or with a finite god making a finite manifestation, but rather with a tale of an utterly transcendent God choosing to come down to the level of the lowest person, solely in order to do them the favor of restoring as many of them to the truth as will consent to be saved. So Climacus uses this “proof” to distance his project from imitators, and to clarify its uniqueness. At the same time, by distancing his poem from efforts to demythologize Christianity as a philosophical myth of idealist monism, he anchors it more firmly to the historical record of God’s activity as the suffering servant Jesus. The case of the contemporary follower After discussing the epistemological and metaphysical implications of this thought-project, Climacus returns to the imaginative narrative of the second chapter, where the god has now come as teacher in the form of a servant, seeking a relationship of love and understanding with the learner.28 Although the god-teacher may use a human forerunner to help prepare the scene for his arrival, only by personally coming to the learner could the god’s love be satisfied, or the true, non-Socratic nature of the relationship be conveyed. The god desires to establish an equality with the individual learner where no equality now exists. No mere prophetic message or sage

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lesson can convey this new relationship which the god wishes to have with the learner. The new relationship is the god’s presence with the individual as an equal, so that the learner might be raised up to a relationship with the god. This new relationship is created by the god’s coming in lowly form, and thus cannot be effected by any mere intermediary. So what is “the condition?”29 Climacus asserts that it must be a bridge between the two contradictory elements: the paradox (which states that the unknown has become the known so that the learner might learn that he/ she is untruth and hence the truth is unknown, so that by being thus rebuffed the learner might come into the truth), and reason (which has already declared the paradox to be absurd). Reason and its judgment must be set aside, if the paradox is to bestow itself; the paradox is indigestible by reason. The paradox has declared reason to be in untruth, so the paradox likewise spits out reason. The third entity which unites these contradictories is faith. It is a “passion,” which is the “condition that the paradox provides.”30 Climacus emphasizes this point: If the condition is not given by the paradox but essentially belongs to the learner and needs only to be awakened, then the situation is Socratic recollection and not the “moment.” Hence this passion is provided by the paradox itself; it is not merely awakened as a reaction to the occasion of the encounter with the paradox, but is bestowed by it. To say that the condition is provided by the paradox is to say that it is provided at a particular time—the moment. So faith is a temporal, historical condition, created when the paradox first came into existence and bestowed upon the individual when that one first receives the condition. It has a definite beginning in the history of the world, and makes its appearance in the individual’s history at a definite point in time as well. At the same time, it is an eternal condition, “since it is a condition for the understanding of eternal truth.”31 It is an eternal condition which has a temporal beginning in the history of the world; it is an historical event which conditions the learner’s relationship with the eternal. It is this conjunction of the historical and the eternal which Climacus says is the essential thing.32 If someone were to follow this teacher every minute of his life, and even employ a hundred spies to record every detail of the teacher’s life, until that one had a complete and flawless record of the teacher’s life, this would still not make one a follower. Such a person might have the most perfect historical record of the teacher’s life, but still would only possess objective knowledge. Likewise, if someone were to treasure and preserve every word and teaching that the teacher ever offered, employing a hundred scribes to help gather and save each fragment of thought until a perfect summation of the teacher’s teachings was procured, this

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would still not make one a follower. This might present the eternal truths the teacher offered, and allow one an occasion to recollect greater selfknowledge as Plato did through his encounter with Socrates, but it would still not represent a follower of that paradoxical teacher Climacus has described. However, if there was one who never met the teacher until the moment of his death, who knew next to nothing about his life or his teachings—except that this historical moment and person offered a new understanding of the eternal which revealed any other possible understanding to be untruth by comparison—that one would be the true follower, for that one would recognize the essential connection between historical and eternal knowledge which this paradoxical teacher represents. “As long as the eternal and the historical remain apart from each other, the historical is only an occasion . . . (T)he paradox specifically unites the contradictories, is the eternalizing of the historical and the historicizing of the eternal.”33 Climacus develops two “implications of the discharging of the understanding,” which go a long way toward clarifying the relationship between the paradox and the understanding.34 The first is that “faith is not a knowledge.” This is not to say that it is without noetic content or concern. Faith is not merely some “feeling of absolute dependence,” some emotional or psychic state of living with a sense of the numinous. It is faith in something (or someone) which happened. However, knowledge has to be knowledge of something knowable and comprehensible: “(A)ll knowledge is either knowledge of the eternal, which excludes the temporal and the historical as inconsequential, or it is purely historical knowledge, and no knowledge can have as its object this absurdity that the eternal is the historical.”35 If I am concerned with Socrates’ teachings, then it is of no matter to me whether thirty citizens voted for acquittal at his trial or only three. What matters is whether I have comprehended his thoughts, whether I have weighed their significance and, whether I have attained a measure of self-knowledge through my encounter with this philosophy. As far as the historical facts go, I can understand “Socratic” philosophy perfectly well even if it should turn out that Plato alone is entirely responsible for it. Likewise, if I am historically concerned with Socrates, the truth of his philosophy is irrelevant. I may be concerned with what he said, but I am not concerned with its truth, or whether it reveals to me the secrets of my own soul. However, the follower in this hypothetical case has faith that the historical life of the teacher is eternally significant; as Climacus writes: Now if we assume that the structure is as we have assumed (and unless we do, we go back to Socrates), namely, that the teacher himself provides the

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learner with the condition, then the object of faith becomes not the teaching but the teacher, for the essence of the Socratic is that the learner, because he himself is the truth and has the condition, can thrust the teacher away. Indeed, assisting people to be able to do this constituted the Socratic art and heroism. Faith, then, must constantly cling firmly to the teacher. But in order for the teacher to be able to give the condition, he must be the god, and in order to put the learner in possession of it, he must be man. This contradiction is in turn the object of faith and is the paradox, the moment. That the god once and for all has given man the condition is the eternal Socratic presupposition, which does not clash inimically with time but is incommensurable with the categories of temporality. But the contradiction is that he receives the condition in the moment, and, since it is a condition for the understanding of eternal truth, it is eo ipso the eternal condition.36 The second implication Climacus develops is “that faith is not an act of will.” This is a highly significant declaration, since Climacus (and Kierkegaard) is often understood as arguing that faith is in fact an act of will. Some understand Abraham’s faith in Fear and Trembling as “absurd spiritual heroics,” as if Abraham created his faith-relationship through his strength of will in offering Isaac while continuing to believe that God would not require Isaac.37 Others similarly equate Abraham’s faith with courage, asking whether an Abraham who in faith renounced God and kept Isaac might be considered just as “faithful” as the original.38 In reference specifically to Climacus, the “leap of faith” described by Climacus in his discussion of Lessing in the Postscript is often understood (with some provocation from the text) as suggesting that “faith” consists in simply willing to believe the absurd, to jump from inadequate and even incoherent historical evidence to faith that a simple man was also God. Clearly, this passage quoted above implies a different conception of faith. What this conception is becomes clearer when we consider the related question: What follows from the fact that the understanding has been discharged? Some thinkers have argued that faith is beyond the realm of the understanding, that it consists of grammatical or psychological remarks for example, and that as these do not essentially assert statements of fact they are not objects of knowledge, and hence the understanding must be set aside where matters of faith are concerned. However, this is clearly not what Climacus means. If “faith” made no claims relevant to the realm of understanding, it would not have to be discharged. Faith must therefore be not merely incommensurable with the understanding, but contradictory to it.

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It is contradictory in that it makes claims about the temporal historical order (the rightful province of the understanding if anything is) in order to claim that the eternal condition is given in time—something the understanding cannot comprehend. Faith cannot be an act of will, because the condition must be given to it. It must receive the truth from the paradox in the moment, as well as the condition for receiving it. Once the moment has come and the teacher has given the condition, “that which was valid for the Socratic is again valid.”39 Once the individual has received the condition, that one is as free—and responsible—in relation to it as the Socratic learner was in relation to the new self-knowledge Socrates helped him or her to recollect. Whereas the Socratic learner only has to will recollection in order to recollect the truth, the follower of the paradox must first be given the truth, and the faith to receive it, before he/she can will to continue in it. Faith is not a knowledge, because it is an understanding with the paradox, which defies assimilation by the understanding. It is not an act of will, since the paradox must give itself before any question of willing can even arise. The truth, the unknown, must give itself. It gives itself in time, in the moment: this is the paradox. The first thing it reveals to any who would receive it is that he/she is untruth; one cannot receive the truth without first accepting one’s own falsehood and guilt. Therefore, one must receive the condition (faith) as an unwarranted and unanticipated gift, which one receives from the teacher personally. It is the eternal truth coming into the untruth of the individual’s life in the moment, a particular moment in one’s personal history. This makes it just as paradoxical as the absolute paradox itself, where the eternal truth entered world history in the moment. “Faith itself is a wonder, and everything that is true of the paradox is true also of faith.”40 It is “a wonder” just as the god’s appearance as a lowly human is “the wonder.”41 Every follower must receive the condition from the god directly, since ex hypothosi only the god can give the eternal condition. If the god could be known immediately, one would not need any further condition; so again ex hypothosi the god cannot be known without the condition but only through faith. The historical contemporary with the teacher cannot know that this teacher is also the god: seeing is not believing. However, the follower, even if he/she never meets the teacher or hears him speaking, is taught by him and receives the condition from his hand alone. The one may be historically present without being taught by the teacher; the other learns from the teacher even if they never met historically. Only the one to whom the teacher is present in “the wonder” can be said to be really contemporary with the teacher; while one who is only historically contemporary without receiving the condition from him never sees the teacher, never sees

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that this is the teacher, the god-man. The only true contemporary is thus one through faith, which anyone can receive from the god at any time, and which everyone receives from the god or not at all. Climacus writes: But then is faith just as paradoxical as the paradox? Quite so. How else could it have its object in the paradox and be happy in its relation to it? Faith itself is a wonder, and everything that is true of the paradox is also true of faith. But within this wonder everything is again structured Socratically, yet in such a way that the wonder is never canceled—the wonder that the eternal condition is given in time. Everything is structured Socratically, for the relation between one contemporary and another contemporary, provided that both are believers, is altogether Socratic: the one is not indebted to the other for anything, but both are indebted to the god for everything.42 If every follower is taught by the god individually, what is the importance of the god’s life on earth? Some of Climacus’ most shocking statements are those which seem to dismiss the relevance of historical information to faith: It is at once apparent here that the historical in the more concrete sense is inconsequential; we can let ignorance step in here, let ignorance, so to speak, destroy one fact after the other, let it historically demolish the historical—if only the moment still remains as the point of departure for the eternal, the paradox is still present.43 Or again: Even if the contemporary generation had not left anything behind except these words, “We have believed that in such and such a year the god appeared in the humble form of a servant, lived and taught among us, and then died”—this is more than enough. The contemporary generation would have done what is needful, for this little announcement, this world-historical nota bene, is enough to become an occasion for someone who comes later, and the most prolix report can never in all eternity become more for the person who comes later.44 All of this suggests that anything else which is known of the god’s life as a human is at best historical trivia. Perhaps, just as a Quaker worship meeting consists of a gathering of the faithful to sit silently and commune with God

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individually and directly, it would have been better if the gospel writers had observed the same circumspection and published their books with blank pages, letting historical silence provide the backdrop for the individual’s encounter with the paradox. Still, Climacus writes: Yet the servant form was no deception, for if it were, then that moment would not be the moment but an accidentally, a semblance, which, in comparison with the eternal, infinitely vanishes as an occasion.45 Further: But for the follower the external form (not its detail) is not inconsequential. It is what the follower has seen and touched with his hands, but the form is not of such importance that he would cease to be a believer if he happened one day to see the teacher on the street and did not immediately recognize him or even walked beside him for a while without becoming aware that it was he. But the god gave the follower the condition to see it and opened for him the eyes of faith.46 The importance of the teacher’s life for the contemporary follower might best be understood if we first recall some historical alternatives to the Christian position Climacus is staking out. In certain Gnostic stories, the servant form is most certainly a deception. The god comes among humans in lowly form to mock human and possibly other enemies. One tale even has Jesus magically switch places with Simon of Cyrene; Simon is crucified, while the Christ looks on at a distance laughing at the ineffectual attempt to destroy him. If the servant form was only a deception of this sort, then it would be totally wrong-headed to pay it any mind; these are only distractions intended to fool the opposition. By contrast, the words of the teacher would have great importance, as they would represent the eternal truth which the god had desired to communicate. The signs and wonders the teacher did, which revealed the divine power beneath the humble incognito, would be further clues to the eternal significance of the teacher’s coming. However, if the teacher has come not to mock humans but to love them and win their love, if “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son,” and this love was what the god desired to show, this love which humbles itself to become equal with the lowest—rather than the divine power and wrath which can humiliate the highest—then actions really do speak louder than words. The teacher’s life not only shows the love; it is the love. The Gnostic position typically eliminates the paradox by concentrating on

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the significance of the teacher’s eternal truth and divine nature. The incongruous servant form it finds too appalling, and so it assumes this to be fundamentally untrue. However, for the paradoxical follower, who has come to an understanding with the paradox through faith, this “appalling” spectacle of the god’s self-humiliation becomes something dear; it is the moment when his or her own untruth was revealed and also overcome; as Climacus writes: Then may he close his eyes? Quite so. But if he does, then what is the advantage of being contemporary? And if he does close his eyes, then he will presumably envision the god. But if he is able to do this by himself, then he does indeed possess the condition. What he envisions will be a form that appears to the inner eye of the soul; if he looks at that, then the form of the servant will indeed disturb him as soon as he opens his eyes. . . . The god, however, cannot be envisioned, and that was the very reason he was in the form of a servant.47 The servant form was not unessential to the god’s teaching, much less a deception. It is the teaching itself; that the only access humans have to the truth is by faith in this particular historical person and moment. Once the condition for receiving the eternal significance of the teacher’s temporal life has been given, the follower realizes that it is here, in the life of this person, that the truth can be seen, and so the facts of this life can never be dismissed as trivial. They are the true form of the god. They cannot themselves give the truth, since they cannot be understood apart from faith. It is also not essential to know every detail, since salvation consists not in every historical minutia but only in the paradox; all the rest is elaboration.48 Ethical implications In this chapter we can discern several claims relevant to our investigation. First, describing faith as a passion does not rule out a role for the will or reason either in responding or even in acquiring it, although Climacus takes pains to emphasize that faith cannot be will or reason alone; the object must be given by the god. Nor does it precisely determine whether the god bestows faith, or the ability to choose faith, as if one implied more autonomy than another.49 There is no reason to rule out both grace and human will as simultaneously active. The paradoxical object of faith is given by the god alone, but the response of faith to the paradox is an action of divine and human powers together. The questions raised by speculations such as

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whether “the condition” given by the god is faith, or only the option of faith, or if faith is an ineffable divine gift or a human response, are unanswerable and largely unaskable in terms Climacus would use.50 We simply cannot distinguish between what God does and what I do in the same way as we can between what you do and what I do in response; for God is active in all activity. A second ethical principle shelters in the claim that “within this wonder everything is again structured Socratically.” The first is the strict egalitarianism between one believer and another. There is no hierarchy, whether of talent, intellect, social status, or ecclesiastical ordination, insofar as the relationship between believer and teacher is concerned: they are all taught by God. This does not completely rule out some sort of structure within the community of believers, but it does qualify it; there can be no intermediary power between teacher and follower. No one is able to tell another to believe x simply because some authority declared it to be true; no saints or priests need pray for believers; no exegetes or professors are able to interpose their teaching between the believer and God, so that believing a creed, confession, dogma, theological, or philosophical system could substitute for being taught by the teacher directly. In fact, it is hard to see what use—if any—Climacus would have for the institution of the Church. The relationship between an individual and the god is no third party’s business. This is not to say that it is not a matter of ethical responsibility, since the Kierkegaardian authorship consistently treats matters such as character, integrity, and other private matters as ethical questions; but in the final analysis, these are things the individual will have to work out for himself or herself before God. The follower at second hand It seems odd (to say the least) that Climacus would offer a chapter on the follower at second hand, given that he has spent the previous chapter and interlude arguing that there is no such thing: every follower learns from the god directly, first-hand. The irony is heightened when the imaginary reader, who had earlier claimed to have grasped this point already, jumps in with his stupidest objection to date, wondering whether it might be necessary to further subdivide the class of second-hand followers into third, fourth, etc. generations.51 He obviously completely missed the point he claimed to have grasped; since if the whole class is illusory, what could be the point of further distinctions? Climacus replies, only to reinforce the argument that there is no such thing as a follower at second hand, and along the way to take some more shots at those thinkers who obscure this point. In the process, though,

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he makes some of his most shocking and confusing statements regarding the relevance of historical information about the life of the god/teacher. The question of the relevance of historical information, and of the learner’s place in history relative to the teacher, is complicated by the unique nature of what is to be learned. Were the event in question a “historical” fact, the mediation of eyewitness would be essential. Historical facts are relative, and the closer one is to the actual event, the better one can appropriate it; one who has no link to the eyewitness has no knowledge, those who hear about it less than those who touched and smelled and saw. If it were a question of an “eternal” fact, such as some philosophical truth, then we would be back to the Socratic view of recollection; whether one came to the knowledge through the actions of some great teacher or none at all would be irrelevant, as all are essentially equally close to the truth. However, the object of Climacus’ thought-project is neither of these; it is an “absolute fact.” It is the eternal come into time, so that time is neither irrelevant nor the sole arbiter. As an “absolute” fact, the paradox must be equal in its relationships to all; hence historical nearness cannot be an essential determinant. As has already been extensively discussed, every follower is in essentially the same relationship, as each is taught by the god. However, unlike eternal truths, there is an essential temporal element in this fact; the god has come into time. Unless this is securely grasped, the fact will cease to be distinguishable from an eternal fact. The god came into time because humankind was in untruth, and the only way to reach any was to come to them and seek them; if it is forgotten that the god came into existence, then it is likewise forgotten that humankind was in untruth, and the truth becomes just one of those eternal truths which everyone really can grasp on their own, though perhaps many have forgotten. Climacus appears to make contradictory demands, insisting that this absolute fact has the universal significance of an eternal truth, but is tied to a particular historical event—the life of the god as teacher. Having claimed that the absolute paradox is an historical event, he doesn’t want historical “relativities” to have relevance. Ordinary historical concerns about the superiority of eyewitness experience over hearsay, the accuracy of information, and so on do not matter with an absolute fact. In fact, he seems willing to go to extremes to make this point: The heart of the matter is the historical fact that the god has been in human form, and the other historical details are not even as important as they would be if the subject were a human being instead of the god. Lawyers say that a capital crime absorbs all the lesser crimes—so also with

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faith: its absurdity completely absorbs minor matters. Discrepancies, which usually are disturbing, do not disturb here and do not matter. However, it does matter very much if by means of petty-minded calculation someone wants to offer faith to the highest bidder; it matters so much that he never comes to faith. Even if the contemporary generation had not left anything behind except these words, “We have believed that in such and such a year the god appeared in the humble form of a servant, lived and taught among us, and then died”—this is more than enough. The contemporary generation would have done what is needful, for this little announcement, this world-historical nota bene, is enough to become an occasion for someone who comes later, and the most prolix report can never in all eternity become more for the person who comes later.52 Often it is the latter portion of this paragraph, beginning with, “Even if the contemporary generation . . .,” which attracts the most attention.53 The seemingly cavalier dismissal of all historical detail about the teacher is almost shocking, and certainly debatable. I have offered a somewhat lengthier pericope, in the hope that context might make the statement more comprehensible. The context does reveal the motive Climacus has for making the statement: to eliminate bogus issues from questions of faith. Anyone who comes to faith in the god-teacher does so only because the god gives the condition, so there is no question of being persuaded by rules of evidence. Likewise, the quality or quantity of the historical information about the teacher’s life and activity is not important, since faith does not lie in the historical details but in whether one perceives the god in them—which one can only do if the god gives the condition and the reason is set aside. It thus becomes clear that the details of this teacher’s life are even less significant than the details of some mere human, even though this seems counterintuitive. Seemingly, the importance of a person’s life-history is related to the importance of that person, and since the god-man is most definitely the most important person who ever lived, the details of his life should be the most important as well—perhaps absolutely important. Certainly, if the teacher had not been believed to be the god, he would not attract so much attention from historians. However, for a human being, the life is contained in the history; even though perhaps much of that history may remain personal and private, it is still contained within existence. The significance of the god’s existence, by contrast, is not what he did, or thought, or any such thing; it is that he existed at all. The unknown came into existence, in a form equal to anyone: that is the paradox. What the god did as a human being, what he wore or looked like or even said, all that was

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done as a human being, as the god-come-into-existence. What the god did, after accomplishing this great miracle of becoming one of us, is only commentary on that paradox. Someone who misses this point and becomes preoccupied with the details and thus loses sight of the paradox, “never comes to faith.” It is possible to see therefore that the “nota bene” claim has a certain algebraic validity. It sums up the essence of the absolute paradox with a minimum of distracting secondary detail. The claim that the god came “in the humble form of a servant” may seem superfluous, but it speaks to the point that the god came as the equal of every person, even the lowliest. Some have suspected that Climacus is being ironical or rhetorical at this point, and not without reason.54 Certainly, it would take a miracle for someone to come across this little notice in some history book, and to jump from there to faith in the god-man. On the other hand, Climacus has repeatedly claimed that faith is a miracle; so it is possible on his principles for this minor historical anchor, coupled with the miraculous intervention of the god to give the condition, for a person to come to believe that this message was true. It contains all the essentials of the “absolute fact”—the coming into existence of the god: the eternal god in history. For the original thought-project to work, it might not even be necessary to know who the god was, humanly speaking; one need only know who the god is: the absolutely unknown, who so loved you that, taking on the form of a lowly man, he sought you out personally to save you from your sin and win your love. All of this is, however, only algebraic, and the purpose of an algebra is that one can specify concrete values for the variables in the formula and get a meaningful answer. If we “let the learner =x,” and x =me, how do I react to this nota bene on the pages of history? Ex hypothosi, I have read this little testimony, and it has indeed become the occasion for me to recollect my own sin and embrace the paradox as the only way out of my sin. I now know that everything I have thought and done up to this point has been untruth, even hostile to it, and I repent of this. I desire to move away from my sin; but in what direction? Without more guidance as to how to live my life, how will my life be any different—since if I have learned anything meaningful, it ought to change my life: “only the truth which builds up is truth for me.” Again ex hypothosi, I have no knowledge of what the god taught in this regard, so I must look to another source. I could live by miraculous guidance, which either directs me step-by-step or so regenerates my conscience that I can now direct myself. However, this does not seem to be Climacus’ opinion, since he claims that no generation of believers can proclaim triumph in time, and if being completely freed from untruth and the strain

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of making one’s own decisions and mistakes is not triumph, what is?55 This is certainly not Kierkegaard’s own view; for where would the fear and trembling be? The whole point of the theory of the stages, so laboriously developed over the course of the pseudonymous authorship, is that each lower stage is relativized by a higher, not abolished. So the practical reasoning developed in the ethical stage must still function, although in a changed and relativized form, even in the Christian.56 So if we rule out both the teacher’s words and miraculous guidance as the blueprint for the new life of faith, perhaps we could look to the contemporary followers themselves. This strikes me as a historically believable scenario. Suppose, for example, I were in Rome during the reign of Nero when I first hear the name “Christians.” I am told that they believe that their teacher, Christus, was dead but now is alive, and that furthermore he is the son of God. If I furthermore know that many of these people are former Jews and I have some understanding of the oddity of such staunch monotheists identifying their God with an ordinary man, I might become curious about such beliefs. Since I don’t know any Christians and have no knowledge of their god Christus, I can begin to explore their beliefs by exploring them. I hear that they are cannibals, that they set the recent fire, and that they are made up largely of slaves, paupers, and other riff-raff; I also hear that they share their goods freely, they die bravely in the arena for their faith, and so are both generous and courageous almost beyond comprehension. This incongruity between the rumors and the apparent virtues might provide me with the occasion to decide which to believe, concluding that cannibals and arsonists would not be generous, pious, and brave. Although I don’t know any Christians, if I grasp the significance of their claim that the one true God has been present in this executed criminal and if I am moved to repent of my former, self-reliant views to pursue this truth which is folly to Greeks and a stumbling-block to Jews, I might seek to shape my life in conformity to the way the coming of the god has altered theirs. I might thus try to become generous, pious, and brave so as to be pleasing to their unknown god, whom I now believe has indeed come to set things right. I believe this suggests a possible use for the Bible which Climacus, with his bare-bones presentation of his thought-project, has not considered. While little more than a one-sentence declaration of faith may be enough to provide later generations with the occasion to experience the paradox, a fuller record from the contemporaries can be of great practical benefit. It can testify not only that they believed, although it was folly and an offense, but also how they lived out their belief. It can suggest what sort of shock waves the original “jolt” sent out. It can preserve images, symbols, even

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poetry, and other emotional responses, which might help to shape the esthetic elements of the personality in a later follower. It can recall the deliberations, dilemmas, principles, and exceptions, which the “jolt” inspired in the ethical lives of contemporary followers, offering a guide for the later followers. In their remembrances of the teacher, later followers can glimpse what the contemporaries felt to be essential and compare their own experiences to this. None of this provides a direct insight into the mind of the teacher; all followers still learn faith from the god directly. However, after faith has been given, this sort of record can help in the effort to structure and elaborate the life of faith one seeks to live in response to the direct encounter with the paradoxical teacher. Perhaps even the community of later followers might have this same practical value: not a direct connection with the god as for Hegelians or Grundtvig, but a useful frame of reference for the individual’s efforts to live a life of faith. The book draws to a close with a final resumption of the dialogue with the imaginary reader, centering around the subject of equality.57 First, the interlocutor observes, “as the matter now stands, a contemporary’s advantage, which I originally was inclined to rate very high, seems to have been considerably reduced, since there can be no question of a follower at second hand or, what amounts to the same thing, all are essentially alike.”58 Or conversely: I am well aware that the contemporary generation must really sense and suffer profoundly the pain involved in the coming into existence of such a paradox, or, as you put it, in the god’s planting himself in human life. But gradually the new order of things must succeed in pushing its way through victoriously, and finally will come the happy generation that with songs of joy harvests the fruit that was sown in tears in the first generation. But this jubilant, triumphant generation that goes through life with singing and ringing, is it not quite different from the first and the earlier generations?59 Yes it is, says Climacus; in fact, it is so different that it cannot even be called a believing generation. He rejects both the advantage of the contemporary, which his reader once rated so highly, and the advantage of the successor that he now seems ready to embrace. Instead, he claims “equality is established.” It would be unworthy of the god to play favorites in such an arbitrary fashion that an accident of time would make faith harder for some than others. Instead, the god makes it equally difficult for everyone, “equally difficult because no human being is capable of giving himself the

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condition. . . but also equally easy. . . inasmuch as the god gives it.”60 As we have seen in the upbuilding discourses, equality is a persistent Kierkegaardian theme; he does not tolerate the notion of a moral or religious elite, no matter what sort of “unessential” hierarchies he may endorse. The theme extends here even across time, so that no generation may see itself as any more or less blessed than another. In fact, Climacus’ insistence on equal access to the god-teacher is so strident that one cannot help but believe that it must even reach backwards, to generations past before the teacher’s coming into existence. This would be consistent with the allusions scattered throughout the chapter to the gospel of John; for it is this gospel which reports Jesus to have claimed to have seen Abraham.61

III. Conclusions When we understand more about Climacus’ intentions and his targets for rebuttal, we can better understand the ethical and theological points he wants to make. Polemical implications of the Fragments Some twentieth-century writers interpret Climacus as offering some sort of strategy for defending faith.62 In this understanding, Climacus is seen as arguing that all beliefs are irrational, and that, therefore, an irrational choice to embrace Christianity is no worse than any other. All standpoints ultimately rest on presuppositions, so one might as well choose whichever presuppositions one pleases, rather than let anyone else argue you into adopting their more “rational” choice. Since all beliefs are based on willed choices, the only “criterion” for choosing well is to will sincerely and completely whatever one chooses. Such critics miss the whole point of the Fragments, because they assume that their philosophical concerns are shared by Climacus. They assume that Climacus is primarily concerned with articulating the rationality of faith, or worse yet, with defending it. Such a view misses what Kierkegaard (and Climacus too on this point) is all about. He does not wish to show that Christianity is reasonable or that it is no more unreasonable than any other commitment. Rather he wants to show that Christianity is most definitely unreasonable, when analyzed from the perspective of a person who lacks faith or “the condition.” The skeptical arguments in Philosophical Fragments are not directed at skeptical opponents of Christianity, who are regarded as doing Christianity a service by making the nature of offense evident.

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Rather, the target is the apologist for Christianity, who would make Christianity reasonable by showing its probability or speculatively reinterpreting its character.63 Kierkegaard does not see the danger to Christianity to lie in assault from without, but in incompetence and betrayal from within. Those who alter the paradoxical nature of the Incarnation to make it a more historically or philosophically appealing notion—or who alter the nature of sin so that it becomes a flaw in a basically sound nature rather than a totally corrupting, willful rebellion against the truth—render faith impossible by destroying the key concepts. With no willful, total untruth or miraculous, paradoxical truth there simply is no Christianity, and any message which uses the language of faith in a way which essentially alters this message only inoculates the hearers against the true message of salvation. So Kierkegaard is not primarily engaged in apologetics in this work, but in polemics against the most common apologetics of his day. The two major forces contending for the soul of the Danish Lutheran Church were the speculative theologians, led by Dr. Martensen, who had been Kierkegaard’s tutor in Hegelian philosophy at the University and N. F. S. Grundtvig, a popular preacher, writer, and leader of the peasant’s movement, who was known for his emotional appeal to the “masses” and his frequent attacks on the “heresies” of intellectuals such as Martensen and his circle. Martensen represented the educated and political elite; Grundtvig the uneducated majority, who for years had been compelled by law to listen to royally appointed, University educated priests whom they could scarcely understand, and who often scarcely understood them. Martensen held that the Kingdom of God advanced over the years, as the Idea first made clear in Jesus of Nazareth slowly came to full consciousness in the mind of humanity; Grundtvig vigorously denounced speculative Hegelian influences, arguing that the Kingdom advanced through the history of the Church from a persecuted band of apostles to a triumphant institution of a triumphant generation. Despite their class differences and personal animosities, Kierkegaard set both men together on the same skewer in the Fragments as betrayers of the faith, for essentially the same crime: reducing the enormity of sin to something which could be overcome in time, and the paradox to something commensurable with human standards. Speculative theology followed Hegel in making the Incarnation into an eternal, philosophical truth, which clever minds could help promote and which could in time conquer the spirit of humanity. Grundtvig’s populist, nationalist theology treated the Christian message as a historical expression of the spirit of the people (identified with the masses rather than the elite), with the same

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optimism regarding historical progress that Grundtvig had inherited from his own studies of Romantic and Hegelian philosophy. Both sides deified one of the two major class divisions of society, making it the direct expression of God’s activity; both lacked the sense that the cross might be a judgment on all human reasoning and politics, even their own. Although neither man is mentioned by name (Martensen is attacked through references to his mentor Hegel, Grundtvig by satirical references to his work), the desire to discredit both is the major impetus behind the Fragments. The desire to undercut any direct “fundamentalist” Christianity, which would make direct historical understanding of the words and actions of Jesus of Nazareth the mark of a Christian (concentrating on the teaching rather than the teacher, what he did rather than the paradox that he was), is a major secondary concern. This would create two elites: first, the contemporary witnesses, who alone would have full access to the facts, and second, the learned exegetes and historians who could sort out the historical details. It would also turn the believer away from the personal question of how he/she is to live in response to Christ, and toward questions of how past persons lived or taught. By paying attention to the polemical setting of the Climacus writings, it is possible to achieve a much clearer understanding of some of its key concepts: in particular, “the leap” or so-called “leap of faith.” Although Climacus may have been interested in making Christianity “irrational,” this need not be what he meant. “Rational” in his day meant logical, necessary, as the rationality of the world appears in its being a manifestation of the necessary unfolding of Absolute Spirit in time, and the movement of logic through history. “Irrational” in this case does not mean “nonsense,” but rather “contingent” and “qualitatively different.” It is this notion of a “leap” as discontinuity and qualitatively novel that captures the sense of the Fragments, much more than the popular notion of “leap” as conscious choice and volitional effort.64 It is introduced by Climacus in his discussion of the “proofs” for the existence of God: And how does the existence of the god emerge from the demonstration? Does it happen straightway? Is it not here as it is with the Cartesian dolls? As soon as I let go of the doll, it stands on its head. As soon as I let go of it—consequently, I have to let go of it. So also with the demonstration—so long as I am holding on to the demonstration (that is, continue to be one who is demonstrating), the existence does not emerge, if for no other reason than that I am in the process of demonstrating it, but when I let go of the demonstration, the existence is there. Yet this letting go, even that is

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surely something; it is, after all, meine Zuthat. Does it not have to be taken into account, this diminutive moment, however brief it is—it does not have to be long, because it is a leap. However diminutive this moment, even if it is this very instant, this very instant must be taken into account.65 The problem here, as the further discussion of the sorites further clarifies, is qualitative transition. The (certainty of) existence does not emerge from the proof while reason continues its logical exercises, but only when reason lets go and allows existence (or more precisely, belief in the existence) to emerge. Climacus is arguing that one cannot move from logic and deduction to existence and belief without some further element introduced to bridge the gap between ideality and actuality. Although it is easy to overlook the gap in certain qualitative shifts and treat them as simple progressions, this is an oversight—even when it masquerades as a philosophical breakthrough, as it does in Hegelian logic with its “movement” and necessary dialectical progress through history. Polemical concerns also dictate much of the structure of the Fragments. While there is meaningful content to be found, it must be sought among irony, imagery, repetitions, ellipses, and twisted arguments. If the aim were to reach nonbelievers, clarity of expression would have been preferable, as Paul came without clever words or persuasive arguments.66 But Kierkegaard is writing for an audience which has been inoculated against true Christianity by speculative theology, nationalist populist theology, and other attempts to pare down the paradox to human standards; so he must resort to subterfuges and stratagems to get past the picket of their false expectations and beliefs. Ethical conclusions of the Fragments In order to highlight the ethical implications of the Fragments, it would be helpful to review the implications of the preceding authorship to this point. Kierkegaard launched the pseudonymous track of his authorship first, with the publication of Either/Or. Even though this work deals primarily with the esthetic and ethical spheres, religious themes are pervasive and important throughout. The religious seems to be a topic of interest to the pseudonymous author of the first volume of Either/Or, though not of real concern; his only concern is himself. Kierkegaard depicts his fictitious esthetic author, and by implications all poets, as egocentric, frivolous, and trapped in despair to the point of being near some sort of breakdown. In doing this, he is subtly attacking one of the idols of

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the Golden Age mainstream culture: the belief that the poetic genius was somehow more spiritual and divine than most people, including (or perhaps particularly) the orthodox believing Christians. The intelligentsia and bourgeoisie of Denmark, influenced by Romantic and Hegelian philosophies, generally held that the intuitive genius had an immediate connection to spiritual realities which was missing from the priests and the unwashed, uncultured masses. In attacking the supposed superiority of the poet, Kierkegaard is engaging in a religiously significant polemic, undermining one of the main challenges to legitimate Christianity of his day. The second volume, by contrast, takes up the general standpoint of a large minority within the Golden Age culture, influenced more by Kantian liberalism than Hegelian elitism. The pseudonym Judge William depicts (by word and personality) the essence of the ethical sphere: emphasis on duty and responsibility; the universal as the essential; the development of character and personality, with one’s own life seen as a task to be undertaken and self-consciously directed rather than being allowed to drift (as in the esthetic). The religious is treated as buttressing ethical concerns and tasks, as when God stands witness for the wedding vows; the idea that God might actually come between lovers is seen as abhorrent and absurd. Fear and Trembling and Repetition continue the exploration of the “exception” and the downfall of the ethical project. In these works the ethical and the religious are clearly distinguished from one another, as separate but related spheres. “The ethical” is the sphere of the universal, where the individual relates to the world, God, and the self through universal standards, institutions, duties, and so on; “the religious” is formed by a particular individual’s having a personal relationship with God apart from, and even in opposition to, universal demands. The religious individual has, for one reason or another, fallen outside the bounds of the universal, and hence must seek another repetition to regain the sense of self and integrity that has been lost by this departure. In part, this is a “second immediacy” like that of the esthetic; the esthetic has never lived with the mediacy of the ethical, while the religious must learn, after having been nurtured by the mediacy, to live outside it again. At the same time, the religious continues to be related to the ethical and its tasks; but whereas before the individual and the Godrelationship were cultivated under the direction of the universal/ethical, now the universal must be integrated into the individual’s personal task of developing in the God-relationship. Whereas the person outside the ethical is still commonly treated as “the exception,” we also can see hints in these books that the “exception” is in fact the rule. No one really possesses the kind of ethical righteousness that William’s position seems to presuppose.

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Before God we are all in the wrong; like the merman in the legend of Agnes, we have all sinned and become “the exception.” Therefore, unless a solution to the problem of sin can be found, the ethical and the religious tasks will be rendered futile. The upbuilding discourses have roughly paralleled developments in the pseudonymous authorship. Beginning with a comforting, comfortable religiousness with God as sustainer, they have steadily moved toward a point where the individual’s own sinful corruption has seemed an insurmountable obstacle to any God-relationship. The individual’s will has been corrupted, so that there is no fount from which pure actions or attitudes might flow. Although one is urged to be patient and quiet while one waits on the Lord to work, the self is shown to be driven by doubt and anxiety to attempt to master its own fate, and in thus imperiously seeking to control itself and the world, the self fundamentally distorts both and hinders God from acting to heal. The pseudonyms have tended to treat of religion and ethics as two distinct spheres which were to be related to each other, while the discourses tend to present religious ethics: how should the religious person act, and specifically, how should one act if one is to develop religiously? Nevertheless, both tracks of the authorship tend toward the same point: the breakdown of the ethical and religious projects under the burden of sin. Although the discourses have not said as much, it is clear that some solution to the problem of the self’s corruption must be found if it is not to founder, and furthermore it is clear that this solution must come from God. The ethical heart of the Fragments can be bared as many ways as the central theme can be expressed: thought-project, lowly servant, absolute paradox. The “paradox” theme in the “Metaphysical Caprice” is particularly useful for revealing the differences between Climacus’ understanding and that of the other pseudonyms. In this chapter, Climacus begins with the assumption that we all know what a human being is. This is also Judge William’s assumption, since one could hardly obey the dictum to “Know Thyself” or “Choose Thyself” otherwise. Secure in this starting-point, the ethical project of determining one’s duty and one’s task, how to repeat the universal human in one’s particular life, can go forward. However, without knowledge of the unknown, Climacus says, we cannot have firm knowledge of the known either. Without a criterion to distinguish the known from the unknown, even the knowledge of the known is lost in the self-ironizing activity of reason. William could not recognize the gulf between his views and the “Ultimatum,” or even recognize a more deeply developed religious view than his own when he himself was quoting it.

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Similarly, de Silentio could not cope with the absurdity of a God-relationship after the break of sin rendered a direct relationship impossible. An ethics which ignored sin was said to be futile, and one which admitted it had transcended itself; so ethics remained a futile discipline until an answer to sin could be found. Attempts to answer sin “within the limits of reason alone” only confuse what human nature can do with what must be done for it, and ultimately confuse the ethical project itself. With the giving of the paradox, the known can be known distinct from the unknown; the enormity of sin can be faced, and the answer to sin can be found; the will can be freed from the bondage which seemed to keep it from doing what it ought, without releasing it from its felt duty to do it. In this, the coming of the god as teacher has allowed for the reestablishment of the ethical on a more stable foundation, freed from the danger of foundering on the rock of sin. So without endorsing a divine command morality, Kierkegaard has sought to give human practical reason a foundation in the fact of God’s revelation in Christ. The Socratic-Platonic position, which has stood as representative for the religion of immanence, assumes knowledge of human nature; at least, it is treated by Climacus as the hypothesis of self-understanding in his “thoughtproject.” However, even Socrates had run up against the “self-ironizing of the understanding,” and was forced to admit that he could not even understand himself.67 He lacked knowledge of sin, and hence assumed that self-knowledge was within human grasp but when he pursued it with ultimate passion, he could not decide even if his own nature was monstrous or divine. Although the parallels between the Socratic dialectic and the pseudonymous authorship are often discussed, it is generally not noticed that a similar dialectic slowly unfolds through the first fourteen upbuilding discourses, which were published simultaneously with the pseudonymous authorship up to this point. Beginning with exhortations and encouragements to the reader to trust God, to love God and neighbor, to practice patience, humility, and other virtues, and to reflect on oneself before God and on one’s relationship to God, they have arrived at the point (just prior to the appearance of the Fragments) of confessing that self-knowledge is impossible, salvation must come from God’s proactive grace alone, and that our sin renders us ignorant of what we need to know and too corrupt and impotent to do it.68 After the appearance of the Fragments, Kierkegaard approaches decisively Christian themes in his upbuilding discourses, but still never directly employs them. For example, the notion of the Incarnation is implicit (though not directly named) in the claim that it is a “blasphemy

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to say of God that he is inhuman . . . No, the God to whom he prays is human, has the heart to feel humanly, the ear to hear a human being’s complaint . . .”69 Although the upbuilding discourses never explicitly avail themselves of such decisively Christian concepts as the Incarnation or Atonement, or most of the other concepts Climacus introduces in his “thought-project,” it is clear that the religious impulses of the upbuilding discourses can only be carried through on the assumption that God has made it possible, through grace and through becoming known to us, and even through becoming like us. Each step of Kierkegaard’s existential dialectic moves by an irony. The esthetic stage embraces enjoyment and personal freedom, only to end in boredom, despair, bondage to appetites and compulsions, and personal disintegration. The ethical embraces self-understanding, self-direction, and righteousness, only to end with an infinite guilt and the self-deception to misunderstand this. The religiousness of immanence presented in the “Ultimatum” of Either/Or, Fear and Trembling, and the Upbuilding Discourses, likewise refutes itself on its own terms. Seeking God, it finds only its own sin—an ultimate barrier between itself and knowledge of God, and one it has itself erected. Just as the self-refutation of the earlier stages showed the need for a higher stage, so the self-refutation of the immanent religiousness has shown the need for a paradoxical religiousness—Christianity—which would solve the problems left insoluble by the resources of the earlier stages. Ethical-theological conclusions Climacus frames his discussion in epistemological and ontological terms such as belief and necessity, and many modern philosophers are in turn glad of his help with their own investigations. It must never be forgotten, however, that Climacus’ points here are ethical and theological: the “untruth” which Climacus describes as the obstacle to learning is sin, personally incurred through one’s own fault. The pseudonym “Climacus” seems particularly apt, for the Philosophical Fragments represents the climax of the developments of both tracks of the authorship. The guilt which made the individual an “exception,” the doubt and anxiety which plague the individual in the discourses—and the individual’s inappropriate and self-defeating efforts at control spawned by these—the corruption of the mind and will which are consequence of defection from God, are all summed up under the interchangeable rubrics “sin” or “untruth.” The “unknown” has become unknown because of the individual’s

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self-estrangement from the truth, not because it necessarily had to be that way. Were it not for sin, faith in the god might be just as easy and natural, and maybe even as unconscious, as belief in coming into existence. Perhaps it might even have been easier and more unconscious, as the discourses suggest, just as the creator and sustainer is infinitely closer to one than any external object could be. The god’s invisibility should not be because the god is alien and distant, but because the god is so close, omnipresent, and intimate that one never even thinks “God is here!” as if there could be a place God is not, or an activity in which God is not active. It is only because of the distortion of human nature by sin that we come to conceive of God as alien and unreachable, even doubtful.70 So the only obstacles to knowledge of the truth are those which the individual creates. Christ does not come as an ambassador from an alien world, so much as a psychiatrist (in the etymological sense) calling the individual back to relationships he/she has broken and truths long repressed out of pride or guilt. What the sinner needs from God is not an epistemological boost, but first and foremost a new perception of the eternal, the world, and his or her own self, undistorted by sin and unbound by anxiety and guilt. Without this, the direct appearance of the teacher from heaven would be useless, as it would be filtered through the individual’s sinful outlook in being received. That being said, we must also remember that knowledge of the god is not merely “forgotten” in sin, later to be “remembered” under the prompting of a divine “midwife;” it has been destroyed and must be renewed. That is why the redemption from sin does not eo ipso place one in direct relationship with the god within, but rather allows one to have a relationship to the god who has come as a suffering servant and teacher. Only by checking one’s own private notions against the revelation of God in Christ can one overcome to some extent the lingering effects of sin on one’s perceptions and personality. Salvation is thus not primarily a matter of an Anselmian judicial exoneration, or a Gnostic message of wisdom from the pleroma (although both of these have a point), but rather a vision of God and particularly God’s great love, which would even undergo the utmost humiliation for the sake of the individual. This revelation in turn allows the individual also to see himself or herself in a new and truer light, and to perceive the tremendous gap between the sinful person one is and the goodness of God which one desires and needs; In perceiving this gulf and the fact that God has stepped over it, the individual is enabled to enter a new life. Climacus attempts to show how Christianity alone offers both the diagnosis and the cure for sin, and thus is alone able to allow the ethical and religious

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projects to proceed. By contrast, counterfeit Christianities, which seek to make it easier for the offended human nature to accept, only conceal the radicalness of the disease as well as the cure. They are like using morphine to suppress the pain of a cancer, enabling the patient to avoid the need for surgery and to preserve the delusion that all is well.

Chapter 6

Conclusion

In his posthumously published Point of View for my Work as an Author, Kierkegaard claimed that he was from the beginning a religious author. The claims in Point of View are not always accepted at face value today, but we can, experimentally at least, imagine a hypothetical reader looking at Kierkegaard’s authorship as it was originally presented: chronologically arranged, with pseudonyms and discourses interspersed. This experiment does in fact yield interesting results. First, we are presented with Either/Or. The first volume appears to have little if anything to do with the religious; instead it appears to be a purely esthetic work in both form and content. However, when we use the fine historical research that has been done to place ourselves in the shoes of Kierkegaard’s original audience, we find that such an esthetic work is in fact very relevant to the religious understanding of his community, the salon circle of nineteenth-century Copenhagen. The Hegelian and Romantically influenced intellectuals and artists of Denmark’s Golden Age fairly revered the poet and the poet’s spirituality; nothing could have been more relevant to a religious author than to critique this and nothing could have been more intelligent than to do so using the poet’s own weapons of artistry and irony. Likewise, a duty-based morality and morality-based spirituality was the leading contender against this cult of the poet and in the second volume the judge’s own weapons are used against him: love of duty, recognition of the full extent of responsibility, repentance for past wrongs intended or not, solidarity with the community and human race, and recognition that the ethical is not complete unless it includes all aspects of human nature, including esthetic and religious impulses. These elements of the ethical stance, which any Kantian-influenced moralist of Kierkegaard’s day would have accepted, turn out to undermine the ethicist’s stance as thoroughly as the Seducer’s dissolution undermine the poet’s. If this had been all Kierkegaard had published, the only possible message of Either/Or would be: Either poet/or judge, esthetic/or ethical; none of it matters, there is no rational way to choose, it is all arbitrary and all absurd.1 The presentation of

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a sermon by Judge William suggests that this is not quite correct, since the religious seems to be breaking beyond the ethical limits despite the ethicist’s efforts to co-opt it. Even so, this could seem to be just one more option, no better or worse than the others. In the two accompanying discourses, however, we see hints at least that the religious is something more. In different ways, each discourse recalls themes from the pseudonymous works published days before. “The Expectancy of Faith” presents the proper mood the religious person should have; whereas the young esthete is melancholy, the religious person is expectant; while the esthete sees no significance in everything and grows bored, the faithful one sees Providence everywhere and remains hopeful. “Every Good and Every Perfect Gift” reflects the conflict between the religious and the ethical, which was already suggested by the “Ultimatum” in Either/Or. However, even more significant is that the ethical concerns are not forgotten, but are taken up by the discourse and given a new foundation within the religious perspective. What we see is that the religious does not simply oppose the ethical or the esthetic; it is taking up their concerns and even their methods at times and integrating them within the life of the religious person. There is one theme that appears in these first discourses but not in the pseudonyms, and reappears with increasing prominence in later works— doubt. For the esthete, the problem was boredom, which the ethicist identified as symptomatic of the essential despair of the egocentric life. William seems unaware that he has a problem, but his writings suggest otherwise; in particular, he has no way to account for moral guilt except to tear up the old bills every month, repent and start over. Kant took the infinity of the moral demand more seriously, and therefore wound up seeking help beyond the ethical, albeit in a “religion within the limits of reason alone.” William’s discussion of the “extraordinary,” who loves the universal yet cannot realize it, already suggests that he is hitting the limits of the ethical and simply ignoring this. His inclusion of the sermon in his “Ultimatum” is even more telling, as it shows that he has hit the limit (or it is hitting him through this sermon) and that he is unable to recognize this. The one trait both pseudonyms have in common is that they are certain they know what human life is, and how to live it. They are confident that they “know themselves.” From the start, Kierkegaard introduces the problem of doubt into his presentation of the religious. Although the expectancy of faith is victory, doubt expects defeat.2 Whereas trust believes that “every good and every perfect gift is from God,” doubt asks how we can know which gifts are indeed “good and perfect,” which are truly from God and which are not.3 Doubt is “a crafty passion,” “sly and guileful.”4 In these discourses doubt seems to be

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accepted as a given, which one should resist but which simply comes upon one. Although “what we require of the doubter is that he be silent,” “we do not judge you for doubting.” Having doubts does not here seem to be linked to sin; it is not a sin to doubt nor is it the fruit of sin. It is wrong to upset the faith of others with one’s doubt, and doubt says more about the doubter’s character than about God or the world; but for now doubt is simply doubt, and is not explained as a symptom of anything greater. It is unclear whether doubt provokes the individual to try to do something, or whether the thought that one can or ought to do something is what leads to doubt, but there is no doubt how one is to escape doubt. One is to be humble, thankful, expectant, or in a word, receptive: “if he simply kept himself receptive and accepted everything from God’s hands, how, indeed, could he ever be able to receive anything but good and perfect gifts?”5 In the discourses of October 16, 1843, Kierkegaard explicitly names the human problem as sin. Fear, doubt, mistrust, and so on are the fruits of sin. In these discourses, “sin” appears as being in the wrong before God; the cure for sin is to love God so much that one forgets one’s sin and to know that God loves one so much that God can forget one’s sin. When one forgets one’s own sin, God forgets it too and they are united in love. Sin is not discussed in what later writings call a “Christian decisiveness.” The problem of sin is purely the fact that the feeling of guilt makes it difficult for the person to dare to approach God, or to trust in God’s love. There is no essential separation; the problem is that the sinner feels there is a problem, and the problem is solved when one’s love for God hides one’s sins from oneself— for they are already hidden from God in God’s great love for each and every individual. The accompanying pseudonymous works appear to also treat the problem of sin (though clandestinely). In the stories of the merman, Constantin’s young friend, or Abraham, the problem is the same: once I have left the ethical and am no longer righteous by its universal law, how can I begin again? How can I return to the state I had before, when I had my son, or a woman’s love, once I have lost these or given them up? How can I receive from God what has been taken away by the judgment of the ethical? Abraham sought to murder Isaac, the merman sought to murder Agnes, and the young man betrayed his fiancée’s trust; they have no right to the love of those they wronged. Ethically speaking they ought to be punished, not forgiven. How can they return to the world of esthetic joys and ethical consummations? Moreover, the pseudonyms have no answers. In Constantin’s book there is no repetition; the young man founders and becomes a poet, not a husband. In de Silentio’s book this return of Isaac (and Abraham’s return to the status

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of father) is “absurd” and a miracle, beyond all understanding. These books only lay out the problems; they do not give answers. Kierkegaard himself gives none in his discourses either, unless ignoring the problem in blind and blinding love is a solution. In the nine discourses published between Fear and Trembling and the Fragments, Kierkegaard steps up his calls for “the virtues of weakness.” Although doubt, anxiety, mistrust, and faithlessness come from the takecharge attitude of both the esthete and the ethicist, faith comes from cultivating attitudes of love, thankfulness, patience, and generally waiting for God to act. It is this receptive attitude that seems to be the hallmark of the religious life and the only thing an individual can pursue if he or she would grow in faith. At the same time, there is increasing emphasis on the problems caused by sin. Sin causes a rupture between the individual and God; doubt and anxiety flow naturally from that loss of a sense of God’s closeness, and attempts to answer the questions and control the situations are natural responses to doubt and anxiety. However, the more one seeks a way out (rather than waiting patiently for God’s way to come on its own) the more deeply one works oneself into the grip of sin. In the pseudonymous works prior to the Fragments, the problem of sin is treated obliquely. In Either/Or it is discussed, but both pseudonyms understand it basically as ethical wrongdoing (or perhaps really major, passionate ethical wrongdoing). Constantin discusses the concepts of “repetition” and “the exception,” which may be seen as surrogates or partial descriptions of “repentance” and “sinner” but are much more neutral terms. Moreover, de Silentio’s discussion of sin is largely confined to an overlong footnote. For a reader who had only read the pseudonymous books, Climacus’ starting point seems like a radical jump. A reader who had read all of Kierkegaard’s published writings up to that point, however, would see that the problem of sin had been the central concern for nine months at least; in that case, Climacus’ hypothesis is natural and timely. If philosophy is right and truth is found through recollection, then there is no need for revelation or the Incarnation; but if the discourses have described the human condition accurately, then perhaps a new start is needed. If the Hegelian reinterpretation of Christianity is true, then the proper response to doubt, anxiety and mistrust should be to seek to understand more, and to do more but if the Pauline/Lutheran presentation of Christianity is true, then philosophical or moral striving can only make the problem of sin worse. Kierkegaard’s understanding of the problem of sin is psychological and epistemic. Had Adam not sinned, he would have known God intimately and trusted him completely; owing to sin this sense of God’s closeness is lost.

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Although Climacus has been interpreted in various ways, a careful reading shows that he has a similar understanding of sin. The problem between God and creature is not due to the fact that humans owe a debt to God that they cannot repay, since God stands ready to cancel the debt and even forget it in love. Nor can it be simply the ontological gulf between an infinite and eternal being versus finite and material beings; as creatures, humans by definition have a relationship with God, which can only be broken by the human’s free choice and guilt. By freely choosing to sin, humans have destroyed their relationship with God. Now humans do not know themselves or God because they do not know their own sin until God shows it to them. Moreover, because they do not know God, they cannot conceive of the depths of God’s love; the Incarnation seems so completely impossible because it violates human views of what God would do for a fallen humanity. The Incarnation therefore serves primarily to show them how much they are loved; for the moment, the role of Christ as teacher or role model is ignored. By contrast, those readings of Climacus that see him as advocating a blind “leap of faith” are completely ruled out. Such a view all but assumes that Climacus and Kierkegaard are atheists; or rather it assumes that Climacus shares the atheist existentialist agenda and simply ignores everything Kierkegaard wrote in his own name. The Climacus writings are deliberately cryptic but not indecipherable and certainly not completely discontinuous from the rest of Kierkegaard’s authorship; clearly a reading of Climacus that flows from the text and which can situate the work within the wider authorship is preferable. Even an ideal contemporary reader could be forgiven, however, for wondering why sin should have such a power over the individual. As late as “He Must Increase; I Must Decrease ( June 8, 1844) it still seems that it is in the individual’s power to recognize his or her own weakness and to choose to passively receive God’s grace. Five days later, the learner is said to be in Error, not only without the Truth but to be totally hostile to it and heading away at top speed; once free, now the learner is in bondage, and indeed is even said to have lost the “essential condition” and in a sense to no longer be a human being at all. Neither Kierkegaard nor Climacus has fully explained how this could be. Later works will explain this point more fully, and also explain why it ultimately cannot be explained but for Kierkegaard’s original readers fuller discussion was still in the future.

Notes

Chapter 2 1

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

12 13 14

15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

25

Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, v. 1, ed. and trans. with intro. and notes by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987) 290. Either/Or, v. 1, 285. Either/Or, v. 1, 19–20, 24, 29, and esp. 36. Either/Or, v. 1, 8–10. Either/Or, v. 1, 19. Either/Or, v. 1, 63–64; see also 150 on the life of Christ. Either/Or, v. 1, 145–146; see also 198–-199 on the religious. Either/Or, v. 1, 149. Either/Or, v. 1, 20. Either/Or, v. 1, 36–37. J. Heywood Thomas, “The Relevance of Kierkegaard to the Demythologizing Controversy;” in Essays on Kierkegaard, ed. Jerry H. Gill (Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Pub. Co., 1969) 175–185. Either/Or, v. 1, 3–4, 6. Either/Or, v. 1, 385–386, 435. Bruce H. Kirmmse, Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark; (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990) 27–28. Either/Or, v. 1, 328. Either/Or, v. 1, 379, 398, 429, for example. Either/Or, v. 1, 316. Either/Or, v. 1, 382–384, 390–391. Either/Or, v. 1, 377. Either/Or, v. 1, 27–28, 33–34. Either/Or, v. 1, 27. Either/Or, v. 1, 290. Either/Or, v. 1, 198–199. Compare from Either/Or v. 1; 292–295 vs. 304f, 295–296 vs. his “friendship” with Edward, 347–376, 296–298 vs. the Seducer’s whole attitude toward affairs and marriage. Either/Or, v. 1, v. 1, 303–310. A’s horror of the Seducer does not really refute the esthetic philosophy; rather, it makes perfectly clear to the perceptive reader what one is choosing in choosing the esthetic sphere: not only artistry but also antisociality, amorality, arbitrariness, and a basic rejection of what is usually recognized as “human nature.” In a sense this is an ironic refutation of A, as is evident from his

Notes

26 27 28 29

30

31

32 33 34 35 36 37

38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56

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revulsion. But in another sense, so far as the Seducer is a believable character and is satisfied with his own life-choices, he constitutes not a refutation but a verification of A’s theories. Either/Or, v. 1, 143–146. Either/Or, v. 1, 144. Either/Or, v. 1, 146. His fate is not unlike “The Unhappiest Man” described earlier in the work. What he is hoping for (namely the lost sense of immediacy for which he must now substitute artistry and reflection) lies behind him”; and he “what he recollects (namely the conquest of the girl whose seduction he has already anticipated imaginatively) lies ahead of him.” Either/Or, v. 1, 225. It is incredible, yet also enlightening, to see how totally Kierkegaard’s public misunderstood the work Either/Or in its day—particularly J. L. Heiberg, to whom, if anyone, this work might have been personally addressed. See Lowrie’s account in his introduction to Kierkegaard’s Either/Or, v. 2 trans. Walter Lowrie, with rev. and foreword by Howard A. Johnson (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974) xvii–xviii. Today, the mark of culture seems to be precisely a preoccupation with matters of material profit and pleasure. Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark, 86–97. Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark, 92, 108–117. Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark, 145–152, 181–184. Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark, 199–202. Either/Or, v. 1, 56, 64–66, 73–74, 96–103. Also relevant is William’s depiction of a typical esthete describing the simple rural life as beautiful to read about, but boring to actually live. See Either/Or v. 2, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987) 277. Either/Or, v. 1, xvii–xviii. Either/Or, v. 1, 298–299. Either/Or, v. 1, 313f, 330f. Either/Or, v. 1, 345f. Either/Or, v. 1, 351. Either/Or, v. 1, 384, 396. Either/Or, v. 1, 232–279. Either/Or, v. 1, 298. Either/Or, v. 2, 63–78. Either/Or, v. 2, 17f. Either/Or, v. 2, 21. Either/Or, v. 2, 18; Cf. Either/Or, v. 1, 23. Either/Or, v. 2, 19f. Either/Or, v. 2, 89–90. Either/Or, v. 2, 58–61. Either/Or, v. 2, 179–195. Either/Or, v. 2, 180, (Italics author’s) Either/Or, v. 2, 185. Either/Or, v. 2, 180, 192, 236.

154 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73

74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94

95

Notes

Either/Or, v. 2, 203–234. Either/Or, v. 1, 24–26, 298–300, 306 for examples Either/Or, v. 2, 157–161. Either/Or, v. 2, 225f. Either/Or, v. 2, 178. Either/Or, v. 1, 9. Either/Or, v. 2, 157–167. Either/Or, v. 2, 157. Either/Or, v. 1, 38–40. Either/Or, v. 2, 157–67. Either/Or, v. 2, 208f. Either/Or, v. 2, 211f. Either/Or, v. 2, 213f. Either/Or, v. 2, 214. Either/Or, v. 2, p.89–90. Either/Or, v. 2, 280ff. Roy Martinez, “Socrates and Judge Wilhelm: a case of Kierkegaardian ethics,” Philosophy Today, v. 34, (Spring 1990): 39–47. Either/Or, v. 2, 215. Either/Or, v. 2, 223. Either/Or, v. 2, 216–218. Either/Or, v. 2, 218. Either/Or, v. 2, 251f, 262f. Either/Or, v. 2, 262–263. Either/Or, v. 2, 261–265. Either/Or, v. 2, 280f. contrast Either/Or, v. 1, 33. Either/Or, v. 2, 255–265. Either/Or, v. 2, 256. Either/Or, v. 2, 160f. Either/Or, v. 2, 262. Either/Or, v. 2, 58–60, 146–147. Either/Or, v. 2, 69. Either/Or, v. 2, 245. Either/Or, v. 2, 146–147. Either/Or, v. 1, 25, 27–28, 33–34, 40, 140–143, 149. Either/Or, v. 2, 174–175, 216–249. Either/Or, v. 2,174–75. Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone; trans. with intro. and notes by Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt H. Hudson; with the essay “The Ethical Significance of Kant’s Religion” by John R. Silber (New York, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960) 3–72. Although the man (regarded from the point of view of his empirical nature as a sentient being) is physically the self-same guilty person as before and must be judged as such before a moral tribunal and hence by himself; yet, because of his new disposition, he is (regarded as an intelligible being) morally another in the eyes of a divine judge for whom this disposition takes the place of action. Ibid., 68.

Notes 96

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which the dialectic of pure practical reason shows is morally necessary for me to assume {Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans. with intro. Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis IN: Bobbs-Merrill Educational Publishing, 1949) 111–153}. Either/Or, v. 2, 218–224. Either/Or, v. 2, 348–351. Either/Or, v. 2, 352–353. Either/Or, v. 2, 353. Kant’s fear was the religious fanaticism which could lead to censorship, persecution, and even such immoral acts as murder in the name of God. William’s paradigm for misguided religion is mysticism (Either/Or, v. 2, 241–250). He seems to define “mysticism” as a religiousness which places love for God above one’s relationship to the world and the ethical commitments entailed. The mystic is insufficiently concrete, and hence lacks a sense of relatedness to others or of a personal history. In this regard William writes: It is not in this sense that one is to love God more than father and mother; God is not that selfish. Neither is he a poet who wishes to torment people with the most horrible conflicts, and if there actually were a conflict between love of God and love of human beings, the love of whom he himself has implanted in our hearts, it would be hard to imagine anything more horrible (Either/Or, v. 2, 245).

102

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105 106 107 108 109 110 111

It is true that the sermon only entertains this possibility hypothetically, and suggests it would occur only occasionally. But still, the sermon suggests it might occur, and by its own principles the fact that a happenstance might be rare is no argument against its significance (Either/Or, v. 2, 343) It is true that William also entertains the possibility of an exception from the universal, an “extraordinary” person, but it is also clear that he regards such a person as inferior, and expects the person to regard himself or herself likewise as something of a failure. The sermon implies no such thing; if anything, the opposite is suggested. Someone who could continue to affirm that “as against God I am always in the wrong,” even while being forced to give up a beloved ethical commitment, would seem to be extraordinary in a good sense. Søren Kierkegaard, The Point of View for my Work as an Author: a Report to History; trans. with intro. and notes by Walter Lowrie; ed with a preface by Benjamin Nelson (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1962) 11–12, 19–20. This would seem to bolster Hartshorne’s contention that the actual debate between A and B was not in fact Kierkegaard’s main interest. Søren Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses; ed. and trans. with intro. and notes by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 7. Upbuilding Discourses, 16–19. Upbuilding Discourses, 33–37. Upbuilding Discourses, 37; Either/Or, v. 2, 351; Cf. Upbuilding Discourses, 26. Either/Or, v. 2, 348f; Upbuilding Discourses, 24f. Upbuilding Discourses, 10. Upbuilding Discourses, 28. Upbuilding Discourses, 45.

156 112

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Notes

Upbuilding Discourses, 26, italics mine. Students of Fear and Trembling will be tempted to think of that faith by virtue of the absurd, but that comparison is somewhat premature; first because the hopelessness of the situation may not be so total as that of Abraham, and second because the expectation has nothing to do with any particularity (unlike Abraham’s faith in God’s promise of an heir). It is true of course that the discourse tends in that direction. Either/Or, v. 2, 322. Upbuilding Discourses, 5.

Chapter 3 1

2

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Søren Kierkegaard, Repetition ed. and trans. with intro. and notes by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 1983) 131, 149. It may seem too obvious for words, but recollection involves a relation to the past from the present (Repetition, 131). This being the case, however, it becomes clear that some life-possibilities cannot even achieve recollection. For example, Either/ Or’s “The Immediate Erotic Stages” describes a conception of sensuousness where the object of desire really has no independent reality. Don Giovanni is only the incarnation of the power of the sensuous. He is totally immersed in the present moment of desire: past and future have no reality for him, and so of course no recollection is possible. The essays “The Tragic in Ancient Drama” and “Silhouettes” begin to deal with the present’s relationship to the past, whether a past guilt or a past unhappy love. In both essays, though the event itself lies in the past, its implications and the passion it arouses reach into the present. These three writings thus trace the esthetic self’s progress away from the easy life of unreflective immediacy, and into an increasingly individuated (and estranged) reflective existence. Repetition, 131; refers to Either/Or, v. I, 41. Repetition, 132; compare Either/Or, v. I, 36. Either/Or, v. I , 223. Either/Or, v. I, 227–230. Either/Or, v. I, 225. Repetition, 132. Either/Or, v. I, 233–279. Either/Or, v. I, 254–262, 277. Either/Or, v. I, 295–299. Above, chapter 1, page 8. Either/Or, v. I, 8–10, 308–309. Either/Or, v. I, 445. Repetition, 131. Above, 35–40. Above, 52–53. Repetition, 150–171. Repetition, 133–150. Repetition, 145. Repetition, 137–144.

Notes 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

29 30 31 32

33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42

43 44 45 46 47

48 49 50 51

52

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Repetition, 180–181. Repetition, 136–138, 185. Repetition, 185–187. Repetition, 201. Repetition, 208. Repetition, 209–210. The Anchor Bible, Job; intro, trans, and notes by Marvin H. Pope (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1965) xv. Repetition, 197–199. Either/Or, v. I, 139–153. Repetition, 216–219. Repetition, 46–48. Writing of marriage, William argues that love gains an eternal referent and an eternal foundation when the lovers refer it to God; and so too here, the young man’s expectation takes on an air of the eternal. If the thunderstorm he had expected had come to make him into a fit husband, he would not have been able to describe it as a “nervous breakdown,” to use Constantin’s words. That phrase keeps things on the mundane level. To the young man, it would have been a grace—something coming from the eternal realm to heal his fragmented psyche and provide repetition. One might argue that this shows that the appearance of grace is imported by the believer’s expectation, but I believe Kierkegaard would argue that in fact the grace is there in any case, and that it is the unbelieving stance that blinds the esthete to its presence. Repetition, 220–222. Repetition, 136–146. Repetition, 220. Repetition, 226–230. Repetition, 200–201. Repetition, 227. Either/Or, v. II, 328–332. Either/Or, v. II, 331–332. Repetition, 228–229. So writes Vincent McCarthy, The Phenomenology of Moods in Kierkegaard (Boston: Martinus Nijhoff. 1978) 72–74. Moods, 60–72. Repetition, 230. Repetition, 229. Repetition, 214. Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling ; ed. and trans. with intro. and notes by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983) 17, 20, 30, & etc. Fear and Trembling, 31. Fear and Trembling, 36. Genesis 12: 10–20, 17: 15–21, 20: 1–7. Robert L. Perkins, ed., Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling: Critical Appraisals (University, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1981) 4; Ronald Green, Religion and Moral Reason: a New Method for Comparative Study (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988) 92–93. Fear and Trembling, 30.

158 53 54

55

56

57 58 59

60 61 62

63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72

73 74 75 76 77

Notes

Fear and Trembling, 71. Fear and Trembling, 55; Merold Westphal, “Abraham and Hegel,” in Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling : Critical Appraisals, 62–80. Westphal, 66–68; note that this use of “immediate” does not correspond to that seen in Either/Or, v. I, 66–71, where the “immediate” equals “prelinguistic”. It is intriguing that Fear and Trembling should choose to name Hegel as the champion of ethics, given that Either/Or (as well as other of Kierkegaard’s works) complains that Hegel in fact has no ethics. Assuming something other than a plain contradiction, the two pseudonyms must mean something different by “ethics.” Either/Or, v. II, 170–71. Either/Or, v. II, 154–170. Allen Wood argues that Hegel has taken a bum rap in this regard (Allen Wood, “Does Hegel Have an Ethics?” Monist, 74/3, July 1991, 358–385). In brief, Wood argues that Hegelianism offers a vision of a better future and invites the individual to work in the present to help that future become reality. One might question whether this offers an adequate framework for a personal ethics; but even granting this point, William’s objections are aimed more at the Hegelianism of Kierkegaard’s contemporaries. The depiction of Hegelianism in practice described in Either/Or fairly well resembles that depicted in Kirmmse’s Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark (Kirmmse, 196–97, 245–247). It has a romantic nostalgia for the past, a focus on the cultured and educated over the simple and unlettered, and a decided social conservatism. Whatever reforming or radical views Wood finds in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, they seem to have been largely lost on Copenhagen’s reading public. Fear and Trembling, 33. Fear and Trembling, 54–55, 68–69, 82. Religion within the Limits, 174–176; Ronald Green, Kierkegaard and Kant: the Hidden Debt, (Albany, NY : State University of New York Press, 1992) 10–11. Either Or, v. II, 328–332. Fear and Trembling, 55–56. Either/Or v. II, 343. Fear and Trembling, 20, 36, 59. Nancy Jay Crumbine, “On Faith;” Critical Appraisals, 198–203. Fear and Trembling, 82–94. Fear and Trembling, 96–99. Fear and Trembling, 98. Fear and Trembling, 98. In connection with the discussion of the demonic, it is significant that de Silentio offers reason to believe that A is demonic: “The demonic can also express itself as contempt for men. . . ”(Fear and Trembling 106); “. . . I laugh, for I despise people, and I take my revenge.” (Either/Or, v. I, 40) Fear and Trembling, 98–99. to say nothing of any past victims he may have. Fear and Trembling, 99. Fear and Trembling, 99. Romans 4:1–8; see also Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Notes 78

79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86

87 88 89 90 91

92 93 94 95 96 97

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Ronald Green takes this discussion of sin to be the real point of Fear and Trembling (in The Hidden Debt, 183–205). Essentially, he sees Kierkegaard’s project as one of working through the impasse Kant arrived at in the Religion in his attempts to deal with radical evil, (attempting and needing to affirm grace, yet reluctant to admit historical revelation or weaken moral autonomy) by analyzing sin more thoroughly than Kant had dared, so that the revelatory solution could be seen to be the only one. Green further points out that Climacus, too, takes sin to be the central issue of the book (The Hidden Debt, 196–197; see also Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, v. 1: text; ed. and trans., with intro. and notes by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992) 261–262). Fear and Trembling, 10; see also 58, 112–120. Critical Appraisals, 199. Fear and Trembling, 70. Fear and Trembling, 12. Fear and Trembling, 18. Fear and Trembling, 34–35. Fear and Trembling, 35. Fear and Trembling, 28–31. It is also close to Kant’s judgment of the affair; see Religion, 173–77 and Hidden Debt, 183. Fear and Trembling, 18. Fear and Trembling, 57. Fear and Trembling, 30. Fear and Trembling, 13. As de Silentio says, “ethics founders precisely on repentance; for repentance is the highest ethical expression, but precisely as such it is the deepest ethical selfcontradiction.” (Fear and Trembling, 98); or as the young man of Either/Or suggests, once one has been condemned by ethics, one must move forward, to the religious, to find consolation (Either/Or, v. I, 145–146). Fear and Trembling, 31. Fear and Trembling, 37. Fear and Trembling, 22. Fear and Trembling, 22–23, 52–53, 61. Fear and Trembling, 31. Fear and Trembling, 32–37, 45–51. It is also the standpoint of the “Ultimatum,” and the two edifying discourses which accompanied Either/Or. They each emphasize what we give up for God (even our sense of righteousness) and the fact that God is with us—but not the paradoxical idea that God will return to us the things we sacrifice. Fear and Trembling, 27. Fear and Trembling, 34–35. Fear and Trembling, 41–49. Fear and Trembling, 61; Exodus 20:18–20, 32:25–29, 33:17–23. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 59–62. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 62–64. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 64–67. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 67–68.

160 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119

120 121 122 123 124 125 126

Notes

Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 69–78. Hidden Debt, 183–205. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 67–68, 78–79. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 83. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 84–86. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 86–87. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 87–98. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 97. James 1.27. 1 John 4.20. Either/Or, v. II, 244–248. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 97–98. Fear and Trembling, 343–44. See Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: a study in the nature and development of man’s spiritual consciousness, 12th ed., (New York: E. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1961) 380–412; compare Either/Or, v. II, 242, on the “flat moments” of the mystic’s life. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 98. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 98–101. as writes de Silentio, Fear and Trembling, 98. Compare Fear and Trembling, 70. Compare Fear and Trembling, 62–67. Hidden Debt, 146–181. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 53.

Chapter 4 1 2 3

4 5

6 7 8

9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Mark 10.18. Upbuilding Discourses, “To Preserve One’s Soul in Patience,” 183. Upbuilding Discourses, “the Lord Gave, and the Lord Took Away; Blessed Be the Name of the Lord,” 109–124. Upbuilding Discourses, “The Lord Gave,” 109–124. Either/Or, v. 2. 157–75; Discourses “Think about Your Creator in the Days of Your Youth.” 248–51. Either/Or, v. 1, 292–95; Repetition 131–133. Upbuilding Discourses, “The Lord Gave,” 109–124. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift and Every Perfect Gift Is From Above,” 125–139. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 134, 137. Upbuilding Discourses, “To Gain One’s Soul in Patience,” 159–203. Upbuilding Discourses, “To Gain One’s Soul,” 171. Upbuilding Discourses, “To Gain One’s Soul,” 170, 187. Upbuilding Discourses, “To Gain One’s Soul,” 162–164. Upbuilding Discourses, “To Gain One’s Soul,” 164–172. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 125–127. Upbuilding Discourses, “To Gain One’s Soul,” 174. Upbuilding Discourses, “To Gain One’s Soul,” 170–171.

Notes 18 19 20 21

22

23 24 25

26

27 28 29

30 31 32 33 34 35 36

37

38 39

40 41 42

43 44

45 46

47

48

161

Upbuilding Discourses, “Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins,” 55–78. Upbuilding Discourses, “The Expectancy of an Eternal Salvation,” 253–273. Upbuilding Discourses, “Expectancy,” 257. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 134–38; “To Preserve One’s Soul in Patience,” 191–192. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 135–139; “To Gain One’s Soul in Patience,” 165–167. Upbuilding Discourses, “To Gain One’s Soul,” 164–167. Upbuilding Discourses, “To Gain One’s Soul,” 167 (Italics mine.). Niels Thulstrup and M. Milulova Thulstrup, ed., Bibliotheca Kierkegaardiana, v. 6: Kierkegaard and Great Traditions (Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzels Boghandel, 1981) 121–172. Martin Luther, On the Bondage of the Will ; trans. and ed. by Philip S. Waton, M.A., D.D. in collaboration with B. Drewery, M.A.; from Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation (The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1969) 284–285. On the Bondage of the Will, 117–124. On the Bondage of the Will, 183. W. M. Alexander, Johann Georg Hamann: Philosophy and Faith; (Martinus Nijhoff, The Hauge, 1966) 151–56. On the Bondage of the Will, 328–329. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 125–129. Upbuilding Discourses, 167, 199, 238–240. Upbuilding Discourses, 223–225. Upbuilding Discourses, 71–78, 201–202, 215, 247–48, 270–273. Luther, On the Bondage of the Will, 328–329. Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988) 1–29; 146–163. Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian, trans. by W. A. Lambert, rev. by Harold J. Grimm; from Three Treatises: from the American Edition of Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970) 297. On the Bondage of the Will, 136–138. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift and Every Perfect Gift is From Above,” 141–143. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 141–142. Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark, 45–58. Merold Westphal, “Kierkegaard’s Politics;” Thought vol. 55, no 218, Sept. 1980; 320–321. “Kierkegaard’s Politics;” 324. Gene Outka, “Equality and Individuality: Thoughts on Two Themes in Kierkegaard;” Journal of Religious Ethics, v.10, no. 2, Fall 1982; 171–203. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 143. Martin Luther, Temporal Authority: To what Extent it Should be Obeyed, pt. 1; G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 196–256, 272–320. Søren Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments/Johannes Climacus, ed. and trans., with intro. and notes by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, N. J: Princeton University Press,. 1985) 14–18. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 152.

162 49

50 51 52

53

54 55 56 57 58

59 60

61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69

Notes

“Equality and Individuality,” 177; Michael Plekon, “’Anthropological Contemplation: Kierkegaard and Modern Social Theory” (Thought, vol 55, no. 218, Sept. 1980; 346–369) 359. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 145. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 145–151. This is so not only in the case of material gifts, but even with gifts of advice, sympathy, teaching, or other instances where one might be said to be “giving of one’s self.” I would add that the assumption throughout the discourses is that the “religious” view is not simply one among many; it is the truest one. While an inappropriately given gift might still be praised by those living in a more limited sphere, the humility to recognize and express the essential equality reflects reality, not just religious mandates; a condescending charity by contrast reflects human distortion of reality, not “the way things are.” Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 152. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 153. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 156–157. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 157. Linell E. Cady, “Alternative Interpretations of Love in Kierkegaard and Royce;” Journal of Religious Ethics v. 10, no. 2, 1982; 238–263. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 141–142, 151–152, 156–157. For example, see Cain Hope Felder, “Afrocentrism, the Bible, and the Politics of Difference;” The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, (v. 15, no. 2 new series, 1994) 136. As he writes, “Eurocentrism is at heart hierarchical and exclusivist, but so are many schools within multiculturalism.” (Felder, 137). Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 142–143. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 149, 151, 155–156. Upbuilding Discourses, “Every Good Gift,” 134–137. Upbuilding Discourses, “To Preserve One’s Soul,” 202. Upbuilding Discourses, “Patience in Expectancy,” 215. Upbuilding Discourses, “He Must Increase; I Must Decrease,” 275–289. Upbuilding Discourses, “He Must Increase,” 289 (italics mine.) Upbuilding Discourses, “He Must Increase,” 288. Upbuilding Discourses, “The Lord Gave,” 119–121.

Chapter 5 1

Even so, the Upbuilding Discourses never reach as far as the Climacus writings, in that while they present some of the problems Christian concepts address, they never present a resolution of those problems. Even after the Fragments and its discussion of grace and the Incarnation, the discourses pull back and never explicitly draw on these concepts. In the terms Climacus uses in the Postscript, the Upbuilding Discourses, like the pseudonymous authorship apart from the Climacus writings, all remain within the sphere of immanence, even if they do bump up against it. Therefore, even though there are multiple allusions within the Upbuilding Discourses to passages and concepts within the Climacus writings, I have not paired the Fragments with any specific “accompanying” discourses.

Notes 2 3

4

5

6

7 8 9

10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

163

Fear and Trembling, 98–99. It is worthwhile to take time to notice that some things are already left out even from this rather vague agenda. The question assumes that there is such a thing as truth, and both the Socratic and the “alternative” positions assume that it can be learned. A Nietzschean position, that “truth” is created rather than discovered, is not considered, nor is the possibility that the world might be so convoluted and absurd that truth or the search for it might prove meaningless. Søren Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments /Johannes Climacus; ed. and trans. by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985) 11. Evans points out that this appears to be an illegitimate importation of Christian presuppositions by Climacus, although it could also be understood more as a grammatical statement (Passionate Reason, 37–38). H. A. Nielsen comments at this point, “Here is an apparent snag . . .. It would seem more appropriate at this point to say that if the individual is to receive the ability to recognize this Truth, it must come to him from a source unknown.” (H. A. Nielsen, Where the Passion Is; a reading of Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments (Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1983) 11. Plato, Meno, 100 a–c; trans. by W.K.C. Guthrie in Plato: The Collected Dialogues, ed. by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980) 383–384. Fragments, 15. (Republic Book 10, 614–621d; Phaedrus 246–253c). Note that in this, too, Climacus seems to follow the lead of “the Socratic position;” Timaeus 90, Protagoras 322, and other passages and dialogues can be cited to support each of these formulations of the nature of the “essential condition.” Passionate Reason, 36. A thought also found in the Gorgias 509, and elsewhere. Nielsen, Where the Passion Is. Fragments, 15; (italics author’s). as Socrates desired his followers to do. Fragments 18–22. Passionate Reason, 42–45. Nielsen, 24. Logic of Subjectivity, 65–75. M. Jamie Ferreira, “The Faith/History Problem and Kierkegaard’s a priori ‘Proof’” (Religious Studies v. 23, 1987) 337–345. Fragments, 11. Romans 4:1–17; Galatians 3:1–18. Fragments, 23–25. Fragments, 23–35. Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, 64–72. Fragments, 29–30. Fragments, 35–36. Fragments, 36. Fragments, 55–56. Fragments, 59–65. Fragments, 59. Fragments, 62.

164 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

49

50

51 52 53 54 55 56

57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68

Notes

Fragments, 58–66. Fragments, 60–61. Fragments, 62–63. Fragments, 62. Fragments, 62. Hartshorne, 28–44. Mooney, 85–89. Fragments, 63. Fragments, 65. Fragments, 36. Fragments, 65–66. Fragments, 59. Fragments, 104. Fragments, 63. Fragments, 65. Fragments, 63. The essential difference between the Gnostic and Climacean positions is that the former adjusts its understanding of the Incarnation according to its understanding of the eternal nature of the god, and what it is worthy to believe the god might do; whereas the latter adjusts its understanding of the nature of the god, and what the Almighty One might do, according to the nature of the Incarnation as seen in the actual life of Jesus of Nazareth. It does seem, however, that just as Kierkegaard writes that sin “presupposes itself” in The Concept of Anxiety, so faith also presupposes itself; to be able to choose it is in some way to have it already, although human cooperation appears to be necessary to realize the gift of grace. David Wisdo, “Kierkegaard on Belief, Faith, and Explanation;” Philosophy of Religion v. 21, (1987): 95–114. Fragments, 89–90. Fragments, 103–104. Nielsen, 180; Roberts, 138–139; Passionate Reason, 153. Roberts, 139. Fragments, 108. Nor is this the view of the New Testament; otherwise how could the apostles Peter and Paul have such violent disputes on ethico-religious matters? Cf. Gal. 2:11–14. Fragments, 104–108. Fragments, 105. Fragments, 107. Fragments, 106–107. John 8:56–68. Passionate Reason, 176–179. Passionate Reason, 177–178. Transforming Vision, 152–153. Fragments, 42–43. I Cor. 2:1–3. Fragments, 37, 47. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 271–276.

Notes 69 70

165

Eighteen Discourses, 387. Upbuilding Discourses, 125–127

Chapter 6 1

2 3 4 5

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, second edition (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1984) 39–43. Upbuilding Discourses, 22–24. Upbuilding Discourses, 40–42. Upbuilding Discourses, 23, 41. Upbuilding Discourses, 45.

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Index

Abraham 52–66, 70, 109, 119, 126, 149, 156 absolute, the 22–3, 30–1, 76, 84, 95 absolute contradiction 55 absolute duty 54, 61 absolute fact 132, 134 absolute good, absolute value 76, 86 absolute relationship to the absolute 58–9 absolute relationship to the Absolute 139 Absolute Spirit 139 see also dependence, paradox absurd 44, 52, 59, 75, 126, 150, 156, Adam 150 Agnes 57–9, 142, 149 see also merman anxiety 1, 63, 80, 83–4, 90, 105, 142, 144–5, 150 atheism, atheist 11–12, 151 atonement 31–2, 73, 108, 121–2, 144 Augustine of Hippo, Augustinian, Augustinianism 88, 92, 93, 96, 108 autonomy 85, 94, 106, 130, 159 belief 140, 144–5 Bible 49, 68, 135 Old Testament Genesis 52 Ecclesiastes 78 Exodus 159 Job 45, 77–8, 157 New Testament Galatians 163 Hebrews 52 James 45, 69, 100, 160 John, Gospel of 91,137, 160, 164 Mark 160

I Peter 94 Romans 52, 87, 158, 163 boredom 5, 8, 11, 14, 21, 78, 144, 148 bourgeois, bourgeoisie 12–13, 17, 96, 99, 103, 141 Christ 68, 93, 108, 122, 129, 143, 145, 151 Christendom 6, 9–11, 14, 37, 97–8 Christian, Christians 7, 9, 87, 92–3, 135, 141 Christianity 2, 4, 7, 12, 14, 28, 53–45 102, 106–7, 115–18, 120, 123, 137–41, 144–6, 150 communication 34, 57, 60, 109 community 28, 42, 51, 71, 117, 131, 136, 147 conscience 26, 90–1 Copenhagen 1, 9, 37, 147, 158 death 22, 67, 80 demonic 3, 11, 29, 57–8, 60–1, 78, 158 Denmark, Golden Age 3, 11–14, 20, 95, 141, 147 dependence, absolute dependence 7, 125 despair 16, 20–3, 30–4, 38–9, 61–2, 64, 70, 94, 105, 107, 140, 144, 148 dialectic, dialectical 143–4 Hegelian 140 of irony 144 of pure practical reason 155 direct relationship with God 76, 84, 107, 109, 143, 145 writings 34, 37, 77, 108 understanding 139

Index Don Giovanni/Don Juan 6, 10, 13, 16–17, 40, 42, 85, 156 doubt 64, 79–81, 83–5, 89–90, 105, 107, 142, 144–5, 148–50 duty 17, 19, 23–4, 26, 32–3, 36, 38, 57, 59, 61, 63, 65, 73, 92–3, 99, 141–3, 147 see also absolute duty Eden, Garden of 80 equality 123, 137, 95–105, 162 between generations 136–7 see also inequality erotic, eroticism 16–17, 85 see also sensuousness error 105, 110, 151 esthete, esthetic, the esthetic 3–22, 26–30, 32–4, 37, 42–6, 49–50, 57, 65–6, 72, 74, 77–9, 84–5, 88, 95, 99, 119, 136, 140–1, 144, 147–50, 152–3, 156–7 eternal, the 14–15, 24, 28, 31, 80, 125, 128, 132, 145, 157 eternal happiness, eternal life 7 eternal condition 124, 126–8 and uncertainty 82–4 eternal validity 22–4, 30 ethical, the; also ethical sphere, ethical stage 3–4, 10–11, 15–37, 38, 42–4, 50, 52, 54–9, 61–3, 65, 68, 71–2, 74–5, 76–9, 83, 85, 88, 107, 110, 119, 135, 140–4, 147–9 ethical-religious 78, 99, 114 ethics 4, 24–5, 28–9, 52, 54–9, 62–3, 75, 92–4, 105, 108–10, 142–3, 158–9 evil 22, 55, 77, 80, 105, 118–19 radical evil 30–1, 105, 110, 159 exception; also extraordinary 44–50, 56, 65, 72, 74, 76, 78, 95, 141–2, 144, 148, 150, 155 existence 3–4, 20–1, 24, 42, 48, 50–1, 56, 78, 85, 124, 132–4, 139–40, 156

173

expectancy 85, 92, 105 extradordinary, the; see exception fact, absolute: see absolute fact faith 11, 34–6, 38, 52–4, 56–8, 60–2, 64–6, 74, 76, 80–1, 83–5, 87, 89–90, 95, 99, 105, 108, 117, 119–20, 124–40, 145, 148–51, 156, 164; see also knight of faith “First Love” see Scribe forgiveness 60, 65, 68, 73, 87 freedom 23–5, 27, 30, 48, 74, 85–6, 89, 92, 114–15, 118, 144 future 30, 34–5, 40, 42–3, 55, 156 genius 1, 3, 9–10, 12–13, 15, 95, 103, 141 Gnostic, Gnosticism 129, 145, 164 God, the god 7, 10, 32–6, 62, 66–8, 80, 82, 84–6, 89, 105–7, 110, 111–17, 121–3, 135, 139, 144–5, 149–51, 157, 159, 164 and esthetics 9–11, 13–15, 45, 79 and ethics 18–19, 28, 30–3, 46, 63, 70–1, 73, 75–6, 83, 87–8, 93–6, 99–105, 109, 141–2, 155 as teacher 113–18, 120–1, 123, 126–33, 136, 143 God-Man 128, 133–4 God-relationship 38, 54, 58, 61, 64–6, 69–70, 73–4, 76, 78–85, 94, 99–100, 108–9, 119, 124, 141–3, 145 Golden Age Denmark; see Denmark, Golden Age good, the good 22, 55, 61, 69, 71, 73, 77, 80, 83–4, 86–7, 89, 92, 94, 96, 99, 105, 110–11, 118–19 grace 28, 68, 71, 73–4, 84–5, 87, 89–91, 94, 105–6, 110, 130, 143–4, 151, 157, 159, 162, 164 guilt, guilt-consciousness 10–11, 24–5, 27–8, 31–3, 44, 47, 51, 58–60, 75, 76, 85, 91, 94, 107, 108, 114–16, 118, 121, 127, 144–5, 148–9, 151, 156

174

Index

Hamann, Johann Georg 87, 89, 91 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 33, 55–6, 92, 98, 139, 158 Hegelians, Hegelianism 3, 9–10, 13, 54–6, 96–7, 117–18, 123, 141, 147, 158 see also speculative theology Heiberg, Johann Ludvig 12–14, 153 history, the historical 24–6, 54–5, 117, 123–8, 132–4, 138–40, 155 Holy Spirit 93 Hume, David 89 humility 19, 28, 66, 92, 94, 101, 103–6, 108, 120, 143, 162

logic 139–40 love 9, 15–20, 23, 28, 40–3, 57–9, 61, 63, 65, 67, 72–3, 75, 76–7, 83, 85, 91–2, 102, 104, 141, 149–50, 155–7 of neighbor 61, 67, 69–71, 75, 102, 143 of God, 15, 30–33, 35, 59, 61–2, 65, 67–9, 71, 74–5, 122–3, 129, 143, 149–50, 155 God’s love 32–3, 35, 65–6, 67–8, 73–4, 83, 93, 104, 120–23, 129, 134, 145, 149, 151 Luther, Martin 86–94, 98, 108, 150

ignorance 83, 89–90, 92, 94, 120, 128 imagination 53–4 immanence, immanent religion 108–9, 143–4, 162 individual, single 37, 53, 58–9, 75, 95, 97–8, 106 individuality 48, 97, 104–5 inequality 101, 103–4, 121 inner being 68–70, 73–5 inner life 57 inner truth 111 innocence 80, 82 irony 6, 11, 13–14, 29, 131, 140, 144, 147 Isaac 52–4, 56–7, 60–6, 70, 126, 149

marriage 15–20, 23, 28, 30, 33, 38, 42–3, 48, 50, 58–9, 76, 157 Martensen, Hans Lassen 12–13, 138–9 mediocrity 9, 99 melancholy 5, 9, 49, 148 mercy 91 merman, the; see also Agnes 57–60, 142, 149 moment, the 16, 23–4, 40, 140, 156 as a Christological/revelatory concept, 124–30 mood 5, 12, 16–7, 19, 21, 23, 27–9, 34, 49–50, 54, 66, 148 Moriah, Mount 52, 56, 64–6, 109 Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus 6, 16–17, 42

Job 44–6, 49, 51, 77–8, 107 John the Baptist 106–7 joy 21, 32, 49, 56–7, 61–2, 65–6, 106–7 judgment 63, 67, 71, 73, 124, 139, 149 justice 48, 113, 122

necessity 18, 112, 144

Kant, Immanuel; also Kantianism 3–4, 22–3, 30–3, 37, 54, 56, 73–4, 92, 109–10, 148, 155, 159 kingdoms, two; see “two kingdoms” knight of faith 60–1, 65, 98 Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim 126 liberationist theology 102–3

Oehenschlåger, Adam 13 offense 135, 137 pagan, paganism 8–10, 12–14, 29, 55 paradox 17, 58–61, 71, 90, 109–10, 116, 124–30, 132–6, 138, 140, 142–3 absolute paradox 127, 132, 134, 139, 142 particular, the 26, 48, 56, 142, 156 passion 7, 9, 15, 21–5, 27–8, 32, 52, 83, 99, 117, 124, 130, 143, 148, 156

Index past 10, 30–1, 40–3, 53, 55, 73, 78, 115, 137, 147, 156, 158 patience 45, 81–2, 85, 91–2, 105, 143, 150 Paul, the Pauline tradition 53, 60, 67–71, 74, 87–9, 92, 108, 119, 140, 150, 164 personality 15, 20–1, 24, 26–9, 31–2, 34, 42, 49, 51, 54, 72, 80, 136, 141, 145 Peter 164 philistine, philistinism 9, 12, 27, 29, 99 philosophy 1, 6, 12, 14, 37, 39, 54–5, 75, 86, 88–89, 109, 110–11, 116–17, 118, 125, 141, 144, 150 Plato, the Platonic 110–12, 125, 143 poet, the poetic 3, 11–16, 27, 43–4, 48–51, 140–1, 147, 149, 155 present, the 30–1, 35, 40, 42–3, 53, 73, 78, 156, 158; see also past, future pride 46, 51, 94, 104, 145, proof (for God) 7, 81, 84, 91, 116–17, 122–3, 139–40 pseudonym; also pseudonymity, pseudonymous works 1–2, 13, 16, 22, 37, 74, 77, 79, 85–6, 88, 91–2, 99, 104, 107, 108, 110, 118, 135, 140, 142–3, 147–50, 162 A 3–7, 9–11, 13, 15–17, 20–2, 27, 29, 40–41, 43, 46, 50, 78, 95, 152–3, 155, 158 B 4, 6, 15, 155 Constantin Constantius 38–40, 42–51, 78, 149–50, 157 Johannes Climacus 77, 79, 85, 104, 107, 150–1 and atonement 120–3 and Christianity 115–18, 145–6 on error/sin/untruth 110, 113–15, 144–5 and ethics/virtue 110, 130–1, 141–4

175 on faith 124–30 on history 128–37 and other writings 118–19, 141–4 and Plato/Socrates 110–12, 114, 117, 143 polemical concerns 137–41 Johannes the Seducer 5–6, 8–11, 15–18, 21, 29, 42, 46, 78, 85, 147, 152–3 Johannes de Silentio 52–73, 85, 109, 118–19, 143, 158–9 Judge William 3–4, 15–36, 42–3, 46–8, 50, 54–6, 65, 70, 72–3, 75, 76, 78, 85, 92, 95, 103, 109, 118–19, 141–2, 148, 153, 155, 157–8 Jylland pastor 29–33 Victor Eremita 4–6, 8, 10, 21 young man (Repetition) 38–9, 43–51, 58, 74, 149, 157

reason 3–4, 31–3, 65, 73–4, 81, 89–90, 107, 110, 116, 118, 124, 130, 133, 140, 142–3, 148, 155 recollection 39–44, 46–7, 51, 72, 78–9, 110–12, 114, 117, 120, 124, 127, 132, 150, 156 redemption 33, 75, 109–10, 115, 145 religion; the religious 2, 3–4, 6–7, 9–12, 14–16, 18–20, 27–30, 33, 36–7, 38, 43–7, 49–54, 63, 65, 69–72, 74–5, 76, 78–9, 84–5, 88, 94, 109–10, 140–2, 144, 147–8, 155, 159, 162 repentance 25, 30–1, 35, 57–9, 65, 67–8, 71, 73–4, 76, 78–9, 103, 115–16, 119, 147, 150, 159 repetition 38–9, 41–7, 49, 51, 72–4, 141, 149–50, 157 resignation 58, 61–2, 65–6, 74, 78, 90, 107 revelation 106, 116–17, 143, 145 Romanticism 9–10, 12

176

Index

sagacity 45–6, 58, 60 salvation 22, 25, 67, 73, 83, 90–1, 94, 130, 138, 143, 145 skepticism 89 Scribe, Eugêne 17, 41 self 21–7, 29–33, 36, 42, 46, 50, 72, 78, 81–6, 92, 99, 105, 119, 141–2, 145 156 self-ironizing of the understanding 142–3 self-knowledge; also selfunderstanding 117–18, 120, 125, 127, 143–4 sensuous, the; also sensuousness 16, 18, 42, 156 silence 36, 56–8 sin 6–7, 28, 32, 59–60, 63, 65, 67–8, 71–5, 84, 87, 90–1, 93–4, 103, 108–10, 114, 119–21, 134, 138, 142–5, 149–51, 159, 164 single individual see individual, single social, social context, social environment 10, 28, social differences, social equality, inequality, leveling 95–99, 101, 103–4, 131 social duty, social ethics, social morality, social theory, social virtues 17, 25, 54–6, 65, 75, 96–7, 104, 105 “social gospel” 69–70 social life, social relationships, social role, social self 5, 25, 30–31, 63 society 9, 25–6, 30, 36, 54, 73, 96, 98–9, 102, 104, 139 Socrates, the Socratic 81, 110–17, 120, 125–7, 143, 163, 165 soul 25, 49, 57, 61, 80–6, 110, 119 speculative theology 138, 140 spheres or stages of existence 3–4, 11, 29, 33, 50–1, 56, 72, 74–5, 85, 88, 135, 140–42, 144

spirit 99, 123, 138 see also Absolute Spirit spiritlessness 99 spiritual growth, spiritual life, spiritual progress 79, 87, 95 spiritual trial 44, 65, 70 spirituality 3–4, 12, 96, 147 subjectivity 116 suffering 45, 78 suffering servant; also god as servant 122–3, 128–30, 133–4, 142, 145 temptation 65 thanks 100–1 thankfulness 35, 100, 103, 150 time 18–9, 23, 28, 34, 42, 66, 72–3, 87, 90, 124, 126–8, 132, 134, 136–9 trial; see spiritual trial transcendence, transcendent religion 110 truth, the truth 54, 89, 97–8, 104, 110–12, 114–16, 118, 123–4, 126–7, 129–30, 132, 134, 138, 145, 150–51, 163 see also untruth “two kingdoms” 86–8, 90 understanding 16–17, 70, 124–7, 143 unhappiest one, the; also, the unhappy consciousness 40–1, 72, 153 unhappiness 40, 42 universal; also, the universal human 22–4, 26–8. 32–3, 35, 43–4, 47–51. 54, 56, 58–60, 63, 71–5, 76, 92, 95, 141–2, 148, 155 untruth 113–15, 118–19, 121, 124–5, 127, 130, 132, 134, 138, 144 virtue, virtues, virtue-ethics 25, 73, 76, 81, 85, 91–3, 104–5, 110–14, 143, 150

Index weakness 19, 85, 87, 89, 92, 150–51 will, the 18–9, 23, 29, 31, 42, 85, 87, 94, 105, 107, 110, 130, 143

177

world 7, 11, 13, 18, 25, 29, 31, 37, 61–2, 66–9, 71, 73, 77, 79–80, 82–8, 90, 96–7, 103, 124, 127, 129, 139, 141–2, 145, 149, 155, 163