PHIL 367 - Kierkegaard: Fear and Trembling (Epilogue)
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“Once when the spice market in Holland was a little slack, the merchants had some
cargoes dumped at sea to force up the price... Is this something similar we need in
the world of the spirit?” (149)
I found this analogy, which utilizes the market concepts of supply and demand, and
the fact that Kierkegaard chose to use this analogy really interesting, since at the
beginning of Fear and Trembling he decries the commercialization of religion and
faith. Using the very thing being criticized as an instrument of criticism.
However, the concept itself is very striking. What the Dutch merchants did involved
an act of sabotage in the name of a greater good – in this case, greater profit.
Kierkegaard seems to be advocating for an attack on what has formerly passed as
faith and as Christian in order to secure the greater goal of true faith, the faith that
has real value rather than the worthless faith carried around by the people of the
Kierkegaard's ideal Christianity is one that is “charming to behold and inviting to all,
yet hard too and an inspiration to noble minds” (149), a perhaps difficult request to
make of religion!
“However much one generation learns from another, it can never learn from its
predecessor the genuinely human factor [passion]... Every generation begins
afresh... the task of no later generation is shorter than its predecessors” (149).
Thus, this focus on subjective rather than objective faith is a direct criticism on
those that advanced the “ladder of faith” idea.
This makes complete sense to me personally. How could my personal faith and my
relation with God be dependent or supported or developed by the faith of another,
and not only of another, but another in the past? Another that might no longer exist
in my world?
It seems to me that all that could happen is for the path to be made clearer by
others; that is, by reading the thoughts and works of past thinkers (such as
Kirekegaard!), the concept and definition of faith now becomes clearer to me; if I
had existed in a Kierkegaardless world, I might never come to my current
understanding of faith. However, that still wouldn't mean that I started out from an
a priori, absolute position that was higher than past generations. And I think despite
the theological writings of past thinkers, it is rather more difficult to attain and
maintain faith in today's world, not less difficult as the Hegelians would hold.
Kierkegaard addresses a criticism: doesn't this way of viewing faith as purely
subjective mean that man is essentially stuck in a rut, that we can never make
progress on matters of faith? Kierkegaard responses with a resolute yes. But he
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