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But obedience is not straightforward. We can obey willingly or begrudgingly. We can refuse altogether. We can be selectively deaf, or be so filled with our egotistical desires that we are altogether deaf to our duties. In order to obey we first need to cultivate faith, since obedience to a divine command is nonsense unless we at least believe the command has come from God.

To imagine the enormity of the consequences of sin, yet to relish the possibilities of freedom, engenders anxiety. We need to learn to navigate the treacherous maelstroms of despair, to recognize the self-absorption of demonic states, to veer away from prudence and vanity, and to avoid mere conformity to social mores. We need to cultivate hope, patience, devotion, and above all love. But we also need to be vigilant about our capacity for self-deception and be prepared to suffer for love and for our ultimate spiritual identity.

Kierkegaard styled himself above all as a religious poet. The religion to which he sought to relate his readers is Christianity. The type of Christianity that underlies his writings is a very serious strain of Lutheran pietism informed by the dour values of sin, guilt, suffering, and individual responsibility. Kierkegaard was immersed in these values in the family home through his father, whose own childhood was lived in the shadow of Herrnhut pietism in Jutland. For Kierkegaard Christian faith is not a matter of regurgitating church dogma.

It is a matter of individual subjective passion, which cannot be mediated by the clergy or by human artefacts. Faith is the most important task to be achieved by a human being, because only on the basis of faith does an individual have a chance to become a true self. This self is the life-work which God judges for eternity.

Anxiety or dread Angest is the presentiment of this terrible responsibility when the individual stands at the threshold of momentous existential choice. Anxiety is a two-sided emotion: on one side is the dread burden of choosing for eternity; on the other side is the exhilaration of freedom in choosing oneself. But the choice of faith is not made once and for all. It is essential that faith be constantly renewed by means of repeated avowals of faith. This repetition of faith is the way the self relates itself to itself and to the power which constituted it, i.

Christian dogma, according to Kierkegaard, embodies paradoxes which are offensive to reason. The central paradox is the assertion that the eternal, infinite, transcendent God simultaneously became incarnated as a temporal, finite, human being Jesus. There are two possible attitudes we can adopt to this assertion, viz. What we cannot do, according to Kierkegaard, is believe by virtue of reason. If we choose faith we must suspend our reason in order to believe in something higher than reason.

In fact we must believe by virtue of the absurd. According to Johannes Climacus, faith is a miracle, a gift from God whereby eternal truth enters time in the instant. This Christian conception of the relation between eternal truth and time is distinct from the Socratic notion that eternal truth is always already within us—it just needs to be recovered by means of recollection anamnesis. The condition for realizing eternal truth for the Christian is a gift Gave from God, but its realization is a task Opgave which must be repeatedly performed by the individual believer.

Crucial to the miracle of Christian faith is the realization that over against God we are always in the wrong. That is, we must realize that we are always in sin. This is the condition for faith, and must be given by God. The idea of sin cannot evolve from purely human origins. Rather, it must have been introduced into the world from a transcendent source. Once we understand that we are in sin, we can understand that there is some being over against which we are always in the wrong.

On this basis we can have faith that, by virtue of the absurd, we can ultimately be atoned with this being. The absurdity of atonement requires faith that we believe that for God even the impossible is possible, including the forgiveness of the unforgivable. Although God can forgive the unforgivable, He cannot force anyone to accept it. Kierkegaard is sometimes regarded as an apolitical thinker, but in fact he intervened stridently in church politics, cultural politics, and in the turbulent social changes of his time. This latter desire gradually left him, but his relation to women remained highly questionable.


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While Kierkegaard greatly admired Hegel, he had grave reservations about Hegelianism and its bombastic promises. Hegel would have been the greatest thinker who ever lived, said Kierkegaard, if only he had regarded his system as a thought-experiment. Instead he took himself seriously to have reached the truth, and so rendered himself comical. This authorship snipes simultaneously at German romanticism and contemporary Danish literati with J. Heiberg receiving much acerbic comment. However, it also draws heavily on the work of these authors, especially by taking seriously their framing of philosophical and theological problems.

Classical Greek art, in particular, is taken to be the gold standard by which artistic perfection is to be measured. However, Kierkegaard and the German romantics and German idealists share the view that classical Greek art lacks inwardness or subjective spirit.

Modern art, by contrast, while unlikely to match the formal perfection of classical Greek art, contains the potential to explore subjective spirit. One crucial dimension of subjective spirit is freedom, which becomes a distinctive preoccupation of modern art and post-Kantian philosophy. He uses narrative points of view, pseudonyms, vignettes, character sketches and case studies from life and literature to illustrate how dialectics of moods, emotions and spirit can both disable and enable individual freedom.

Moods such as melancholy, boredom and irony can become demonically self-perpetuating, but they also have the potential to lift the individual to a state of self-reflection that amounts to higher order consciousness, thereby enabling the individual to see his or her former existence as what Wittgenstein called a limited whole. The highest order of consciousness for Kierkegaard is God-consciousness, which enables the individual to see himself or herself as both a sinner and as open to divine grace.

So it had little immediate effect as discursive action. Kierkegaard sought to remedy this by provoking an attack on himself in the popular satirical review The Corsair. Kierkegaard succeeded in having himself mercilessly lampooned in this publication, largely on personal grounds rather than in terms of the substance of his writings.

The suffering incurred by these attacks sparked Kierkegaard into another highly productive phase of authorship, but this time his focus was the creation of positive Christian discourses rather than satire or parody.

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He realized he could no longer indulge himself in the painstakingly erudite and poetically meticulous writing he had practised hitherto. This addressed church politics directly and increasingly shrilly. One was the influence of Hegel, largely through the teachings of H. Martensen; the other was the popularity of N. Grundtvig, a theologian, educator and poet who composed most of the pieces in the Danish hymn book. Grundtvig emphasized the light, joyous, celebratory and communal aspects of Christianity, whereas Kierkegaard emphasized seriousness, suffering, sin, guilt, and individual isolation.

His intervention with respect to Hegelianism also failed, with Martensen succeeding Mynster as Bishop Primate. Hegelianism in the church went on to die of natural causes. Kierkegaard also provided critical commentary on social change. He feared that the opportunity of achieving genuine selfhood was diminished by the social production of stereotypes.

He lived in an age when mass society was emerging from a highly stratified feudal order and was contemptuous of the mediocrity the new social order generated. One symptom of the change was that mass society substitutes detached reflection for engaged passionate commitment. Yet the latter is crucial for Christian faith and for authentic selfhood according to Kierkegaard.

His pamphleteering achieved little immediate impact, but his substantial philosophical, literary, psychological and theological writings have had a lasting effect. Ibsen and Strindberg, together with Friedrich Nietzsche, became central icons of the modernism movement in Berlin in the s. Taking his cue from Brandes, the Swedish literary critic Ola Hansson subsequently promoted this conjunction of writers in Berlin itself.

Berlin modernism self-consciously sought to use art as a means of political and social change. Many other writers have been inspired by Kierkegaard to tackle fundamental issues in philosophy, politics, theology and psychology. Franz Kafka, Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida have all written extensively in response, to try to sort out the implications for ethics and faith.

Kierkegaard was a saint. This has produced quite a debate about the relevance of Kierkegaard for developing narrative accounts of the self, with notable contributions by Anthony Rudd, John Davenport, John Lippitt and Patrick Stokes. Paul Ricoeur and Judith Butler have also been influenced by Kierkegaard, especially regarding his use of rhetoric and narrative point of view to critique systematic philosophy. It is impossible to give an exhaustive list of the important thinkers who owe an intellectual or existential debt to Kierkegaard.

The diversity of the writers and thinkers mentioned above nevertheless testifies to the breadth and depth of his influence, which continues into the present age.

Theology – truly a naked emperor

Published against his Will by S. Kierkegaard passed final theological examination - proposed to Regine Olsen, who accepted him broke off his engagement to Regine Olsen - defended his dissertation On the Concept of Irony with constant reference to Socrates Om Begrebet Ironi med stadigt Hensyn til Socrates - trip to Berlin, where he attended lectures by Schelling returned from Berlin Either-Or: A Fragment of Life edited by Victor Eremita Enten-Eller. Af Johannes Climacus.

Udgivet af S. Studier af Forskjellige. Kierkegaard Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift til de philosophiske Smuler. Udgiven af S. Kierkegaard En literair Anmeldelse af S. For if the core of the Christian message — death first, then resurrection — is so existentially full-on that nobody can possibly endure it, then a church that successfully proclaims that message is likely to be empty and not full. Which is also why, quite possibly, a successful priest ought to be hated rather than feted.

For here, as elsewhere in the Christian story, success and failure are inverted. The first will be last and the last first. The rich are cast down and the poor are exulted. The true king is crowned with mockery and thorns not with gold and ermine. Christianity , properly understood, is a religion of losers — the worst of playground insults. We pointedly shun losers, as if some of their loser-ness might rub off on us.

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Or rather, more honestly, we shun them because others might recognise us as among their number. And because we secretly fear that this might actually be true, we shun them all the more viciously, thus to distance ourselves all the more emphatically. And so the cock crows three times. But it is true. Deep failure, the failure of our lives, is something we occasionally contemplate in the middle of the night, in those moments of terrifying honesty before we get up and dress for success.

Ecce homo, said Pilate.

The Atlantic gives the world’s worst advice: study more theology

Behold, the man. Descartes took for granted that he couldn't exist and not exist simultaneously. That means he presupposed the law of non-contradiction. He also took for granted that he either had to exist or not exist, one or the other. That means he presupposed the law of excluded middle. So, too, he took for granted that he was who and what he was—that the I of "I think" was the same as the I of "I am. Even a proposition as basic as "I think, therefore I am" invokes three of the first four laws of thought.

The laws of thought don't merely describe the way the human mind works; they're not just in-here rules. They're out-there rules as well. The world itself operates in accordance with them. They're the first and final arbiters of possibility—a point that can be illustrated using the fourth law of thought, the law of causality. The year was TWA Flight , a passenger jet with passengers and crew aboard, was flying off the coast of Long Island, New York when it vanished from air traffic control radar screens.

Theology – truly a naked emperor | Terry Sanderson | Opinion | The Guardian

The wreckage was soon discovered in the water. Eyewitnesses on the ground reported that the plane blew up in midair. But in the aftermath of the tragedy, there was no clear indication what had brought the plane down. Many theories were advanced. Conspiracy buffs thought the plane had been accidentally shot down by an American fighter jet, but none was reported in the area.

Plus, the fuselage of the airliner, which was painstakingly reassembled by NTSB investigators on the ground, showed no sign of missile damage. That fact also ruled out terrorists on the ground firing a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile—and, in any case, the altitude of the plane put it beyond the reach of such a weapon. There was no forensic evidence of a bomb on board, so that explanation was also nixed. Every probable cause of a midair explosion was ruled out. Once the probable causes were exhausted, the NTSB turned to highly improbable, unprecedented explanations. Perhaps a sudden, catastrophic structural failure caused the plane to snap in half—except the wrecked fuselage showed no signs of metal fatigue.

Or perhaps a missile had detonated near the plane, and a random fragment penetrated the fuel tank, triggering an onboard conflagration—except, again, where would the missile have come from? In the end, the NTSB concluded that the likeliest cause of the crash was an explosion in the fuel tank adjacent to the left wing. But the investigators puzzled over an ignition source; they couldn't figure out what could have set off such an explosion. They speculated that faulty wiring might have generated a spark. But there was no evidence of that.

As a matter of fact, faulty-wiring-in-the-fuel-tank became the official explanation only because the NTSB investigators couldn't definitively rule it out. In the final analysis, it was the only explanation left standing. But was that a legitimate logical move? What if the investigators had filed a report declaring that the aircraft was flying along as usual, with nothing wrong, and then it just blew up for no reason whatsoever? Could that have happened? The answer, of course, is no. The idea of an effect—in this case, the sudden flaming disintegration of a passenger jet—without a cause is inconceivable in the literal sense of the word.

Your mind rules it out with a degree of certainty that equals, or at minimum comes very near, the certainty with which it rules out a logical contradiction. You'll entertain the possibility that a space alien from Mars transported into the jet and struck a match in the fuel tank before you'll accept the conclusion that the plane crashed for no reason whatsoever. The Martian scenario strains credibility, but at least it's thinkable.

You can imagine it. The uncaused effect scenario, on the contrary, is utterly unthinkable. To be sure, the NTSB could've decided that there was a cause of the crash, but that it is unknown at the present time—and that it likely will remain unknown. To suppose an unknown cause is an altogether rational conclusion.

It's not very satisfying, but it doesn't violate the law of causality. The law of causality, in other words, is axiomatic. It's a sine qua non of rational thought. Along with the laws of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle, the law of causality forms the ground floor of knowledge, the bedrock certainty that underlies all subsequent rational certainties. The certainty and universality of the laws of thought collide headlong with the requisites of a rational theology.

For such a theology cannot skirt the problem of actual infinity: Actual infinity does not and cannot exist. Here is where Cusa's happy piety begins to turn on itself. What he stumbled upon half a millennium ago was not a metaphor for God's limitless grandeur but an intimation of God's non-existence. The claim that actual infinity does not and cannot exist sounds strange, of course. Many things are potentially infinite. For example, a line potentially may be divided an infinite number of times, but at no point will the actual number of divisions total infinity.

Likewise a line potentially may be extended an infinite distance, but at no point will its actual length stretch to infinity. To leave the world of plane geometry, future time may be thought of as another potential infinite. Revolutions of the earth around the sun, for example, can be added one by one ad infinitum , but at no point in the future, regardless how distant, will the actual number of revolutions add up to infinity.

Plus, astronomers assure us that both the earth and the sun will be lost along the way. The reason infinity can never be actualized is that it's a numeric plural, a hypothetical sequence of ever-increasing values. Saying that a thing is x and not-x simultaneously violates the law of non-contradiction.

Its Nonsesnse though but your reason sounds funny

Except the law of non-contradiction cannot be violated. Remember that the universality of the laws of thought constitutes our bedrock certainty. To illustrate this idea in a more familiar way, consider that it's impossible for a man to be two ages at the same time. Even as he's getting older, he can never be, say, 33 and 34 years old simultaneously.

The instant he turns 34, he ceases to be The reason is that 34 is, by definition, not His age cannot be 33 and not simultaneously because that would violate the law of non-contradiction. So, too, with actual infinity. Since it's a numeric plural, x and not-x , infinity cannot be actualized. An actual infinity, in other words, would be a logical contradiction, an impossibility. Which means, first of all, that the world itself cannot have always existed. If the world had always existed, it's age at the present moment—whether measured in milliseconds or millennia—would amount to an actual infinity.

As an aside, Thomas Aquinas, who perhaps saw where the logic was pointing, twisted himself into knots trying to avoid this very conclusion; he argued that since one year replaces another year, we don't need to add them up as if they existed at once. However, calculating a sum always supposes the simultaneous existence of units, whether the units are temporal milliseconds or millennia or physical marbles or melons. That's the nature of arithmetic. The mental act of adding them together for the sake of measurement supposes that the units accumulate rather than replace one another.

Past time, therefore, must be measured as a simultaneous existence—whether that past time stretches back to a well-known point, say, the number of years since the New York Jets won the Super Bowl, or that past time encompasses the entire duration of the world. The law of non-contradiction tells us that the world cannot have always existed. Thus, it must have come into existence in the beginning. Furthermore, the law of causality tells us it cannot have come into existence uncaused.

The existence of the world, in other words, demands a Cause. The beginning of the world is demonstrable since the only other possibility, a world that has always existed, isn't a possibility at all. We can rule that out because it would violate the law of non-contradiction; it would necessitate an actual infinity. But if the world came into existence in the beginning , then the cause of its coming into existence either: 1 requires a cause of its own, or 2 has itself always existed.

Which means you're still staring at the prospect of an actual infinity. Either you've got an actually infinite regress of causes a cause of a cause of a cause—with no first cause—which, taken together, amounts to an infinite multitude of causes ; or you've got a first cause of actually infinite duration an accumulation of milliseconds or millennia—stretching back endlessly—which, taken together, amounts to an infinite multitude of temporal units.

So pick your poison: Whether you choose an infinite regress of causes, or a first cause of infinite duration, the result is an actual infinity. Except the law of non-contradiction, one of the bedrock certainties of human reason, dictates that an actual infinity cannot exist. Nevertheless, there is a choice to be made. For even though both alternatives—an infinite regress of causes, and a first cause of infinite duration—result in a violation of the law of non-contradiction, their logical consequences are strikingly different.

The first alternative, an infinite regress of causes, entails the existence of an actual infinity which includes the knowable world —since the knowable world would stand as the latest effect in the sequence. But that cannot be the case; it is not possible. To suggest the reality of that which, by definition, is not possible would result in the annihilation of rational thought. The law of non-contradiction must remain universally binding in order for rational thought to retain the distinction between assertion and denial.

Consider: If an actual infinity were possible, then a logical contradiction, any logical contradiction, would also be possible. For example, a sentient stone—a "sentient non-sentient thing"—would also be possible. But a logical contradiction is not possible. The laws of thought are the laws of possibility. If a thing can simultaneously be and not-be, then it no longer makes sense even to talk about it.

Again, if I assert that Socrates is mortal, I must also deny that he's immortal—or else the initial statement had no content, no meaning. If a logical contradiction can be reconciled, then an assertion, any assertion, can be reconciled with its denial. Possibility becomes indistinguishable from impossibility.

But, of course, if you can rule out an infinite regress of causes because it would entail an actual infinity, why wouldn't the same reasoning apply always and everywhere? After ruling out an infinite regress of causes, how can you then turn around and accept a first cause with no beginning—since that would also entail an actual infinity?