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Kierkegaard's Understanding Of Faith As A Paradox, Whereby The Particular Is Higher Than The Universal, And Therefore Demands A Teleological Suspension Of The Ethical.

1940 words - 8 pages

In his book Fear and Trembling, Søren Kierkegaard deals with the concept of faith and the idea of sacrifice, focusing particularly on the story of Abraham and Isaac, as presented in the Bible. Abraham here is depicted obeying God and abandoning social norms - the process through which he earns honor and glory as the father of faith. This is what Kierkegaard calls "the teleological suspension of the ethical", and concludes that faith is essentially paradoxical. The problem he wants to address is whether one is justified by suspending the ethical in favour of a higher authority, God for example. In this essay I will present Kierkegaard's understanding of faith as a paradox, whereby the particular is higher than the universal, and therefore demands a teleological suspension of the ethical. In order to present the paradox of faith more accurately, I will outline and analyze Abraham's story as presented in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Finally, I will weigh this story against ethics, morality and social laws, and logically argue that Abraham does not deserve honour as the father of faith, as the Bible asserts, but that he ought to be prosecuted and convicted of attempted murder.Kierkegaard's concept of faith as a paradoxKierkegaard posits out three possible modes of human existence superseding each other as follows: aesthetic, ethical and religious. The aesthetic mode is based on sensory pleasures; the ethical mode is based on social norms; and the religious mode is based on one's belief in God. Kierkegaard praises aesthetic and ethical responses to life but maintains that they do not free human beings from dread and despair. Consequently, human beings leap to the religious mode of existence and establish a relationship with God that has no conclusive evidence to be recommended. The relationship of an individual to God is what Kierkegaard calls faith.In his analysis of faith, Kierkegaard uses the term 'ethical' to designate a universal aspect of life which is retained in all modes of human existence, including the religious mode. He considers the ethical to be the highest court of appeal for judging human affairs. Hence, 'the ethical as such … applies to everyone' (Kierkegaard 1843: 64). Kierkegaard posits that the ethical demands the suppression of one's own individuality for the higher good of family, community, state and humanity.He reasons that an individual outside the ethical commits a sin, because she/he is determined by her/his inwardness, and does not consider the values of society (cf. 1843: 79). This is to say that an individual, as the particular, is elevated higher than the universal. It is evident that this is illogical: the individual is the particular in the universal, and she/he is made so only through the universal. Therefore, it becomes logically unintelligible for the individual, as the particular, to be superior to the universal through which she/he is subordinated. According to Kierkegaard, a person seeking...

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