Kierkegaard on Absurdity

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ACB
 
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2009 06:50 am
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita;96138 wrote:
as I said abes situation is specific to him and his actions are unintelligible to us. Sk wants us to realize this before we call him the father of faith because he can just as well been considered a murderer.


There are two separate questions here:

1. Did Abraham act with a good motive (faith) or a bad one (e.g. sheer bloodlust)? For all we know, it could have been the latter. Either is (equally?) possible.

2. If he did act through faith, so what? Should we therefore respect him? If he jumped to the conclusion that he was genuinely hearing the voice of God, and did not consider other possible explanations, then he was being irrational and it could be argued that he was mad. If, on the other hand, he acted to satisfy murderous desires, he could be considered perfectly sane, in the sense that he was not making an irrational leap of faith.

What is SK's position on question 2?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2009 07:31 am
@ACB,
ACB;96204 wrote:
There are two separate questions here:

1. Did Abraham act with a good motive (faith) or a bad one (e.g. sheer bloodlust)? For all we know, it could have been the latter. Either is (equally?) possible.

2. If he did act through faith, so what? Should we therefore respect him? If he jumped to the conclusion that he was genuinely hearing the voice of God, and did not consider other possible explanations, then he was being irrational and it could be argued that he was mad. If, on the other hand, he acted to satisfy murderous desires, he could be considered perfectly sane, in the sense that he was not making an irrational leap of faith.

What is SK's position on question 2?


I don't think that faith has anything to do with motive. Faith is a species of belief, very firm belief without evidence. I don't see how that has anything to do with motives, mental states like jealousy. or greed.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2009 03:58 pm
@ACB,
ACB;96204 wrote:
There are two separate questions here:

1. Did Abraham act with a good motive (faith) or a bad one (e.g. sheer bloodlust)? For all we know, it could have been the latter. Either is (equally?) possible.

2. If he did act through faith, so what? Should we therefore respect him? If he jumped to the conclusion that he was genuinely hearing the voice of God, and did not consider other possible explanations, then he was being irrational and it could be argued that he was mad. If, on the other hand, he acted to satisfy murderous desires, he could be considered perfectly sane, in the sense that he was not making an irrational leap of faith.

What is SK's position on question 2?


1. Faith is inward and cannot be determined whether any person has or ever had it.

2. The question is more, how can followers in the three Abrahamic religions call Abraham the Father of Faith, when in the ethical realm, his actions would be considered deranged. The only thing that can save Abraham is if there is a teleological suspension of ethical and so the individual became higher than the universal (in other words, Abraham no longer falls under human codes of morality, including that murder is immoral, and appeals directly to God's commands). Is our Christian society willing to say there is, in principle, a teleological suspension of the ethical? If no, then Christians are contradicting themselves when they continue to call Abe the father of faith: "To want to continue to call him the father of faith, to talk of this to people who do not concern themselves with anything but words, is thoughtless." But if you do, then you must understand that faith isn't so easy to have, and that it is stressful, thankless, position to be in.
 
ACB
 
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2009 05:29 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Thanks for your clarification. But how could any serious Christian, faced with the Abraham story, not believe in the teleological suspension of the ethical? Failure to do so would be tantamount to calling God a sinner, which would be blasphemous. Or at least, it would be tantamount to saying that Abraham should have disobeyed him, which is almost as bad.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2009 05:41 pm
@ACB,
ACB;96399 wrote:
Thanks for your clarification. But how could any serious Christian, faced with the Abraham story, not believe in the teleological suspension of the ethical? Failure to do so would be tantamount to calling God a sinner, which would be blasphemous.


The TSE amounts to what is called, the "command theory of ethics", namely that what is right or wrong depends wholly on what God commands. And this immediately gets us back to the Euthyphro question: Is an action right because it is commanded by God, or does God command the action because it is right? The former alternative is the TSE, because since God decides what is right or wrong, whatever God does is right, whether he does X or he does not X. Actually, it is a subjective theory of ethics, whatever I think is right is right; but the I there is God. I don't think that a serious Christian need believe that what is moral or immoral is up to God. He need believe only that God knows what is moral or immoral, and that God would never do what is immoral, but always do what is moral.
 
ACB
 
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2009 06:09 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;96405 wrote:
The TSE amounts to what is called, the "command theory of ethics", namely that what is right or wrong depends wholly on what God commands. And this immediately gets us back to the Euthyphro question: Is an action right because it is commanded by God, or does God command the action because it is right? The former alternative is the TSE, because since God decides what is right or wrong, whatever God does is right, whether he does X or he does not X. Actually, it is a subjective theory of ethics, whatever I think is right is right; but the I there is God. I don't think that a serious Christian need believe that what is moral or immoral is up to God. He need believe only that God knows what is moral or immoral, and that God would never do what is immoral, but always do what is moral.


The TSE tends to appeal to Christian fundamentalists. I remember some lively discussions with one such on this forum a little while back, involving copious Biblical quotations. Actually, some passages in the Old Testament (e.g. the story of the Midianites) strongly imply the TSE.
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2009 06:35 pm
@kennethamy,
"There was one who was great by virtue of his power, one who was great by virtue of his wisdom, one who was great by virtue of his hope, and one who was great by virtue of his love.

"But Abraham was greater than these: great by virtue of power which is impotence, great by virtue of wisdom whose secret is foolishness, great by virtue of hope that takes the form of madness, and great by virtue of a love which is hatred of oneself." -- Of Fear and Trembling (my favorite quote by my favorite translator)

Abraham is described as a man who could do no other than the will of God. He takes Isaac up on Mt. Moriah, builds an alter as Isaac watches and then ties Isaac down and draws his knife. As he is descending with the knife, Abraham is in union with God. Abraham at this point represents divine will itself. Then an angel appears and says: "Stop that!"

Kierkegaard implies at the outset that if you saw someone behaving this way, you'd probably want to call the police.

You can make whatever sense you want of it: Keirkegaard referred to himself as a poet. I understand him to be pointing to something (that was very important to me at the time I read it): not using Abraham as an example of how people should behave in general.

Since Abraham is in union with God, the story shows God in conflict with himself. Some would see connections to the Hindu triple idea of: God the destroyer (the God of Noah), God the creator (the God of Adam), and God the preserver (the God of Isaac).

I personally believe the actual Bible story has its roots in Semitic sacrificial traditions that may have at one time involved the sacrifice of children. This story is saying: don't sacrifice children, sacrifice sheep instead. Historically, the Israelites were horrified at the possibility that other Semitic people might be sacrificing children. I understand that it is now in question whether the Phoenicians ever did that, or just had a reputation of doing it. The Carthaginians apparently did. But the associations go on: Jesus is called the Lamb of God... this is a reference to the idea that Jesus was the final sacrifice, and no more sacrifices were necessary... so an evolution out of literal sacrifice into abstraction.

Anyway.. Keirkegaard isn't speaking as a religion scholar or as an ethics expert when he uses the story to point to a profound conflict at the core of human understanding of the divine. He also refers to fear (to the point of awe) at entering further into conceptions of God through contemplation.

I think the bottom line is, read Fear and Trembling. If it means something to you, then you are one of Keirkegaard's "readers." He knew he wasn't talking to everybody... only to his spiritual kin.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2009 07:34 pm
@Table,
Kierkegaard was indeed not talking to everybody; he was after all, talking to his fellow Danes who, following in the steps of Hegel, attempts to make Christianity rational as a part of the rational development of world history, when it most certainly is not, not when Christianity is built on stories that are inherently non-rational. Kierkegaard expends time and effort showing why this is the case in Genesis 22: Abraham's not a tragic hero, as his action cannot be made to conform with the moral law, Abraham's behaviour is indistinguishable from madness, and Abraham cannot ethically communicate his actions.

For Kierkegaard, his fellow Danes, and Christians in general, follow pomp and circumstance, hailing Abraham's deeds as worthy of the father of faith, but failing to understand what this means. If faith exists and Abraham was faithful, then boy oh boy, was he was a great man as he held his faith in spite of what everyone else thinks. But Abraham is not someone people would want to follow, and are thus hypocritical: praising Abraham while not taking Abraham seriously. In this respect, Kierkegaard is agreeing with Kant when Kant says in the Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone:

Quote:

Man busies himself with every conceivable formality, designed to indicate how greatly he respects the divine commands, in order that it may not be necessary for him to obey them; and, that his idle wishes may serve also to make good the disobedience of these commands, he cries: "Lord, Lord," so as not to have to "do the will of his heavenly Father." Thus he comes to conceive of the ceremonies, wherein certain means are used to quicken truly practical dispositions, as in themselves means of grace; he even proclaims the belief, that they are such, to be itself an essential part of religion (the common man actually regards it as the whole of religion); and he leaves it to all-gracious Providence to make a better man of him, while he busies himself with piety (a passive respect for the law of God) rather than with virtue (the application of one's own powers in discharging the duty which one respects)--and, after all, it is only the latter, combined with the former, that can give us the idea which one intends by the word godliness (true religious disposition).


Faith is a passion, perhaps the highest passion, it is so great, and yet it is so dangerous, that Kierkegaard can't blame us if we do away with faith.

Quote:
Faith is the highest passion in a man. There are perhaps many in every generation who do not even reach it, but no one gets further. Whether there be many in our age who do not discover it, I will not decide, I dare only appeal to myself as a witness who makes no secret that the prospects for him are not the best, without for all that wanting to delude himself and to betray the great thing which is faith by reducing it to an insignificance, to an ailment of childhood which one must wish to get over as soon as possible. But for the man also who does not so much as reach faith life has tasks enough, and if one loves them sincerely, life will by no means be wasted
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2009 08:29 pm
@ACB,
ACB;96411 wrote:
The TSE tends to appeal to Christian fundamentalists. I remember some lively discussions with one such on this forum a little while back, involving copious Biblical quotations. Actually, some passages in the Old Testament (e.g. the story of the Midianites) strongly imply the TSE.


Yes, one can believe that the metaphysical "source" of morality is God, and God decides what is right or wrong. But this view ought not to be mixed up with a very different view that God has perfect knowledge of what is right or wrong, so that so God is the epistemological source of right or wrong, and, therefore, that to know what is right or wrong we have to find out what God wants us to do. But this latter view (which is more reasonable) is very different from the former view that God decides what is right or wrong. The first view is that morality depends metaphysically on God; the second is that morality depends epistemically on God. It might be that some Fundamentalists do not make that distinction. I take it that Kierkegaard held the more extreme view of metaphysical dependence.
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Sat 10 Oct, 2009 07:17 am
@kennethamy,
Determining morality can be fearsome either way. Christianity in the West became divided about 500 years ago between Catholics and Protestants. An aspect of the division is that broadly speaking: Catholics adhere to external authority in interpreting Christianity, fearing the delusions and madness that can come from private relativism. Protestants, on the other hand, teach that every person is his own priest. This attitude arose in part from grief resulting from too much trust in religious authority.

The split gave Europeans a perspective on Christianity itself... which allowed a secular view to become established. When people look at their religion objectively, that may be a sign that the religion is headed for the museum. It has ceased to be the world view, and become a world view. When you analyze a religion like you're doing an autopsy on a corpse, you can learn some things about it, but that won't convey understanding of the functioning of a living religion. Holding the static heart of a religion in your hand may make you forget, that the religion was a foundation of symbolism that shaped all aspects of life.. it was the language of life.

Philosophy, like science, can appear to be a religion killer, by looking at religion mechanistically. But an idea that rolls around through different threads on this forum is: while you're killing one religion, you still have a living religion of your own. It's just hard to objectively see it, because it's shaping the way you see everything. Only when your "religion" starts to die, can you see it (in retrospect.) Isn't existentialism partly about awareness of this situation... wasn't Keirkegaard criticising the happy objectivism in the philosophy of his day for presuming to describe human thought... when it was actually just describing dead pieces spread out on a table.... Those dead pieces are something, but they're not everything. Part of "everything" tends to be hidden from view, because it's in the view.
 
Judges-Vs-Poets
 
Reply Tue 27 Oct, 2009 01:19 am
@Arjuna,
Hey guys ... or gals ... who can tell.

You're all wrong. Ha just thought I'd throw that out there. I am not right, God can attest to that! I will just type that:

A. The quote that started all this is absurd.
B. Last time I checked there was a clear difference, to Kierkegaard, between Christianity and Christendom.
C. You know whats really absurd - if you think about said category ... Kierkegaard, Socrates, Jesus, and Lao Tzu are all the same, they just differ externally and how they react to the world.
 
 

 
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