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  • Counter :
  • 621
  • Date :
  • 11/29/2003

1- Fear and Trembling

 Soren Kierkegaard, Howard Vincent Hong, Edna H. Hong

Is Going Beyond Faith Possible?

Kierkegard first takes issue with the prevailing (i.e., Hegelian) notion that faith is something to be "transcended" by means of systematic philosophy, and almost baits the reader to consider what it means to go "beyond" faith anyway. Next, he postulates 4 thought experiments that (poetically) reconstruct the Abraham and Isaac ordeal, each of which is intended to show how the story might be harmonized with the prevailing Hegelian mode of understanding the "univeral" in ethical terms. Finally, the section on "Problemata" argues against three (at the time well-known) postulates of Hegelian ethical thought by showing that these are all inconsistent with some remarkable feature of the faith that Abraham evidences.

The section on the Knight of Infinite Resignation and the Knight of Faith provide, albeit obliquely, support for the view that the movement of faith is absolute, and cannot be transcended.

Hannay's introduction is excellent (however, I would suggest first skimming it, then reading Kierkegaard's book, then reading it in earnest at the end).
Review of John Parsons fromMpls., MN

Overall Summary

Writing under the pseudonym of "Johannes de Silentio," Kierkegaard discusses the story from the Bible, Genesis 22:1-18, of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac. For this deed, Abraham is normally acknowledged as the father offaith, but in this day and age, Johannes remarks, no one is content with faith. Everyone thinks that they can begin with faith and go further.

In the "Exordium" and "Eulogy on Abraham," Johannes suggests how incomprehensible Abraham's faith is. Abraham didn't question God, didn't complain or weep, he didn't explain himself to anyone, he simply obeyed God's orders. The Exordium presents us with four alternative paths that Abraham could have taken, all of which might have rendered Abraham more understandable, but would make him something less than the father of faith. The eulogy asserts that there is no way we canunderstand Abraham, or what he did.

Johannes distinguishes between thetragic hero, who expresses theethical, and theknight of faith, who expresses thereligious. The tragic hero gives up everything in the movement ofinfinite resignation, and in so doing expresses theuniversal. The knight of faith also makes the movement of infinite resignation, but he makes another movement as well, theleap of faith, where he gets everything back by virtue of theabsurd. While the tragic hero is universally admired and wept for, no one can understand the knight of faith. Johannes sets up three "problemata" to draw out this distinction.

The first problema begins with the Hegelian assertion that the ethical is the universal, and that it is the telos for everything outside itself. According to the ethical, what Abraham attempted was murder: his sacrifice cannot be understood in terms of the universal. Thus, he suggests, there must be ateleological suspension of the ethical. Abraham suspended his obligation to the universal to fulfill his higher duty to God.

The second problema suggests that, contrary to Kantian ethics, there is an absolute duty to God. Abraham by-passed all his ethical obligations to perform what God asked of him directly. As a result, he was constantlytempted by the ethical, but held fast.

The third problema provides hints as to why Abraham did not disclose his undertaking to anyone. Disclosure is associated with the universal and hiddenness with thesingle individual. Abraham acted as a single individual, isolated from the universal, and as such his actions could not be explained or disclosed.

Johannes concludes by pointing out that faith requires passion, and passion is not something we can learn. We have to experience it ourselves, or else we do not understand it at all.

2-The Essential Kierkegaard Soren Kierkegaard, Howard V. Hong (Editor), Edna H. Hong (Editor),

Editorial Reviews
Bruce H. Kirmmse, editor of encounters with Kierkegaard
"The crowning achievement of [the Hongs'] monumental translation of all of Kierkegaard's published writings.... A rich and stimulating volume.... A book for everyone with an interest in Kierkegaard, from the first-time reader to the more experienced."
Language Notes
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Danish --This text refers to theHardcover edition.
Book Description
This is the most comprehensive anthology of Soren Kierkegaard's works ever assembled in English. Drawn from the volumes ofPrinceton's authoritative Kierkegaard's Writings series by editors Howard and Edna Hong, the selections represent every major aspect of Kierkegaard's extraordinary career. They reveal the powerful mix of philosophy, psychology, theology, and literary criticism that made Kierkegaard one of the most compelling writers of the nineteenth century and a shaping force in the twentieth. With an introduction to Kierkegaard's writings as a whole and explanatory notes for each selection, this is the essential one-volume guide to a thinker who changed the course of modern intellectual history.

The anthology begins with Kierkegaard's early journal entries and traces the development of his work chronologically to the final The Changelessness of God. The book presents generous selections from all of Kierkegaard's landmark works, including Either/Or, Fear and Trembling, Works of Love, and The Sickness unto Death, and draws new attention to a host of such lesser-known writings as Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions and The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air. The selections are carefully chosen to reflect the unique character of Kierkegaard's work, with its shifting pseudonyms, its complex dialogues, and its potent combination of irony, satire, sermon, polemic, humor, and fiction. We see the esthetic, ethical, and ethical-religious ways of life initially presented as dialogue in two parallel series of pseudonymous and signed works and later in the "second authorship" as direct address. And we see the themes that bind the whole together, in particular Kierkegaard's overarching concern with, in his own words, "What it means to exist; . . . what it means to be a human being."

Together, the selections provide the best available introduction to Kierkegaard's writings and show more completely than any other book why his work, in all its creativity, variety, and power, continues to speak so directly today to so many readers around the world.

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