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Kierkegaard: Ethics And Religion Essay

1022 words - 4 pages

Kierkegaard: Ethics and Religion Where is the line drawn? That seems to be the question raised by Kierkegaard's take on the Abraham story. To what extent is one justified in carrying out what he or she perceives to be God's commands? To the extent of killing one's own son? According to Kierkegaard, the distinction between what we deem ethical and what we deem as service to God has blurred, to the degree that "when we see someone doing something that doesn't conform with the universal, we say, 'He can hardly be doing that for the sake of God.' Meaning by this that he did it for his own sake. The paradox of faith has lost the intermediate term, i.e, the universal." The conflict between the ethical and the religious is shown in the "teleological suspension of the ethical" of Abraham's decision to sacrifice his son in obedience to God's command. Abraham and Isaac sojourn to Mount Moriah, where God has asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as an offering to Him.Abraham eventually does not need to sacrifice Isaac after proving his faith. He was about to sacrifice Isaac when an angel stayed his hand. Abraham's experience shows that one can be forced to disregard ethics if God so commands, which Kierkegaard views as the paradoxical nature of religion. To quote: "In the story of Abraham we find just such a paradox. Ethically speaking his relation to Isaac is this: that the father is to love the son. This ethical relationship is reduced to the relative as against the absolute relation to God." Kierkegaard sees that there are three spheres, aesthetic, ethical and religious, and although he doesn't state it explicitly; he views the third, the "religious," as being higher than the ethical. How then, can the ethical and religious spheres of existence be in conflict? Can God/religion be unethical/evil in our terms? This is the paradox, that a man completely willing and about to commit an unspeakable human atrocity can be viewed as being a great man, a "father of faith".My thesis is that the idea that the spheres of ethics and religion are separate is wrong. Instead, the sphere of ethics is within the sphere of religion as I will illustrate, and Abraham's actions will no longer be paradoxical. The paradox is based on an issue of human ethics and their futility, a matter of emotion and practicality as I will show. Our ideas of "right and wrong" scream at the notion of a father murdering his own son being called great, and even more bizarre, greatly pleasing to God. It goes against the grain of all that we hold as good for such a man to be justified by any reason whatsoever, especially a non-concrete, non-physical factor like the voice of God.What is left unsaid by Kierkegaard, however, is where we might find the standard of "ethics" he so often refers to. Is he referring to the still, small voice of our conscience? Or perhaps to some unspoken code...

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