Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kierkegaard and God and Individuality

Suppose for a moment that the Absolute, in the words of Kierkegaard, had nothing to do with God, the Christian one for that matter. In my opinion, if Kierkegaard’s philosophy only applies to Christians and the Christian God, then what happens to all of the other individually aware non-Christians? I am fairly certain that most existentialist philosophers are hardly exclusive, or at least relatively so when compared to certain religious organizations (whether they practice more for public satisfaction than their own, private satisfaction is a whole other issue).

Take my case for example. I am not a very religious person, only because I need to understand more about who I am before I can understand who or what God and religion is. So here I am, a not-so religious nineteen-year-old who is neither an atheist nor agnostic (yet, who knows), listening to the philosophy of Kierkegaard which depends, if not solely, partially on the existence of God (and more narrowly, possibly a Christian God). Well, I happen to really appreciate and enjoy the three realms the philosopher presents: the aesthetic, ethical, and absolute. However, to modify Kierkegaard’s philosophy to meet my needs (which, to me, seems like the purpose of philosophy: to think about one’s beliefs and modify them to fit your own), the absolute no longer means God. Rather, the absolute to me seems to be more logically a complete self-understanding, to understand everything physical and mental about ourselves, and even the things we don’t even know we’re capable of yet.

So, why is it then, that Kierkegaard delegates the personal, individual aspect of, well, individuality to be more of an absolute aspect rather than an aesthetic one? Perhaps it is for the very reason that I have already mentioned: that in order to even understand the concept of God, you must first understand yourself. Maybe then, Kierkegaard’s argument of “watered-down” Christianity stands to say that generally speaking, “public” Christians need to step back from the safety blanket that is life after death, and begin to understand themselves. Perhaps then, with self-knowledge will then come the ability to really “get” religion, or at least the concept of it. For me anyway, Christianity these days is more about “being seen in church” than it is about private salvation and inner faith, and that might be why I have so much trouble delving into the Christian realm of believing in a God that would ask a man to kill his own son.


  1. I don't really see a case for the absolute as some sort of just doesn't seem robust enough. There's no transcendence in it. Can you explain why you think that complete self-understanding operates beyond the ethical and is mediated by it?

  2. I really do agree with you when you say that there is no transcendence in mere self-realization. But I do believe that there is something more to understanding yourself than can be explained by the ethical and aesthetic alone. It seems to me that most all philosophy that I've read (which I'm sure pales in comparison to many of you), the end point seems to be some sort of closer self-connection, and that connection is one step closer to the divine or absolute. I'm not quite sure if I answered your question at all, but I gave it a sort of round-about shot.


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