Kierkegaard Fear and Trembling 01/28/2014
What is existentialism?
Kierkegaard and Nietzsche
One is Christian one is atheist
Existentialism: best expressed by Sartre’s famous slogan “existence precedes essence
This means no general account of what it means to be human can given, since that meaning is decided in
and through existing itself. As Nietzsche will say, life is “selfovercoming”
In contrast to other entities, whose essential properties are fixed by the kind of entities they are, what is
essential to a human being what makes him who he is—is not fixed by his type but by what makes him
himself, who he becomes.
Rocks stay rocks. Humans are rock stars
Ones identity is constituted neither by nature or culture it is constituted by you
The General Existential Dilemma
Does man have a destiny?
“I act without knowing what action is, without having a wish to live, without knowing who I am or if I am” –
“Adolescent entering life, to limit his curiosity as if with blinder? Each determination cuts off an infinity of
possible acts. No one escapes this natural mortification.”
your constituted self
(what you have produced thus far)
“the present moment”
you must now face the anxiety of constituting yourself at the moment of choice…
but once you choose, all of the other choices died. All the unlived life is still there you just
didn’t choose it. the existentialist doesn’t want you to regret your decision. So you need to consider every
choice you make. People get it in their head that some avenues are closed off o them from some belief in
religion or society, etc. but those allusions are not true. All the avenues are open. A new critique of Reason?
You’re no better off than your parents, your on your own. Any generation that thinks they’ve made some
progress on answering the key existential questions they are wrong.
It took Descartes a lifetime to get where he got. But people just start there now without doing the hard work
it took to get to that premise.
Everything in fear and trembling revolves around the story of Abraham.
The title is from Paul, “So then my beloved, just as you have always obeyed,, not as in my presence only,
but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling”
Were supposed to be able to regard what Abraham did not as unethical and also admire him.
Kierkegaard: Faith Over Reason (Hegel)
From the preliminary Expectoration:
“It is supposed to be difficult to understand Hegel, but to understand Abraham is a small matter. To go
beyond Hegel is a miraculous achievement, but to go beyond Abraham is the easiest of all.” (33)
Absolute Knowing: “The System”
The absolute includes both the false infinite and the finite you put opposite of it.
You cant stand outside the system when your in it and you cant capture my subjectivity
Anyone who claims they have a deep connection to god can use that faith to justify some great unmoral
Kierkegaard: an AntiHegelian Hegelian?
Kant uses Moralitate to describe his morality of the universal and necessary.
Hegel uses: Sittlichkeit
Aufhebung: to preserve and destroy
The moral law: (universal and necessary) = divine command
when the command is in harmony with the moral law then its fine to follow it. in the example of Abraham the
command is not in harmony with the moral law.
The teleological suspension of the ethical is when you suspend the moral law for god who ha a higher
The Epigraph and the Pseudonym
You may be like the messenger who sees the message in an action, like Tarquinius Superbus cutting the
heads off the poppies, but some people will take a lot from it. “the son understood but the messenger did
not.” You cant get your mind around Abraham, your too tuck on Kantian ethics where no human being can
be a means to an end.
Epigraph: Kierkegaard uses the pseudonym of Johannes de Silentio or “John of Silence”
De Silentio tells us he is “No philosopher and doesn’t understand the system” instead he “easily envisions
his fate in an age that has crossed out passion in order to serve science”
Those who claim it is easy to “understand” Abraham’s story perplex Kierkegaard.
Silentio doesn’t understand Abraham but your supposed to be like the son who understands the message
about Abraham the Silentio is delivering to you even though he doesn’t understand himself
What connect Kierkegaard’s discussion of Descartes and the Greeks with his discussions of faith in the
Essentially that what previous generations made a “task for a whole lifetime…” the previous generation
takes it as given and tries to go beyond
Just like in philosophy people do not start at the beginning figuring it our themselves they are starting on a
platform that Is somehow unauthentic. It takes a lifetime to get there you cant just start. The philosophers of
his age have started where other philosophers have left off without really getting there. If you think
Christianity is easy you are not doing something right. Recognize x is impossible but still hoping for it, which
he realized logically is an absurdity.
Two Wrong responses
One thing that seems definitive: de Silentio wants to dissuade us from two immediate and, on his view,
equally incorrect (kneejerk) responses to the story
The Ram (outcome based): “oh Isaac was fine in the end. That’s faith for ya!” (Uncritical CCD class)
The Knife (intentionbased): “Are you nuts? He was wiling to raise the knife and kill his son! He’s a
Attunement: bringing into harmo