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44904On how little is understood about the thinker Kierkegaard

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  • louise
    Aug 5, 2008
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      Here is an extract from the 'Historical Introduction' by Reidar
      Thomte, to the Princeton edition of "The Concept of Anxiety" by Soren

      ~ The psychological concern that fostered *The Concept of Anxiety*
      figures in many of Kierkegaard's other works. *Repetition* is "A
      Venture in Experimenting Psychology"; the sub-title
      of "'Guilty?'/'Not Guilty?'" in *Stages on Life's Way* is "An
      Imaginary Psychological Construction"; the subtitle of *The Sickness
      Unto Death* is "A Christian Psychological Exposition for Upbuilding
      and Awakening"; and *The Concept of Anxiety* has as its subtitle, "A
      Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue
      of Hereditary Sin." These subtitles reflect the history of
      Kierkegaard's personal experience and the extent to which these works
      represent an analysis of his own self.

      His contribution to psychological thought did not go unnoticed. In
      1881 Georg Brandes, a celebrated writer and literary critic, wrote in
      a letter to Nietzsche, "In my opinion he [Kierkegaard] is one of the
      most profound psychologists who ever lived."

      Historically, the psychology with which Kierkegaard worked is quite
      different from present-day psychological research. His is a
      phenomenology that is based on an ontological view of man, the
      fundamental presupposition of which is the transcendent reality of
      the individual, whose intuitively discernible character reveals the
      existence of an eternal component. Such a psychology does not blend
      well with any purely empirical science and is best understood by
      regarding soma, psyche and spirit as the principal determinants of
      the human structure, with the first two belonging to the temporal
      realm and the third to the eternal.

      From the positivistic point of view, the psychology of *The Concept
      of Anxiety* was attacked by the philosopher Harald Hoffding, whose
      criticism was directed especially against the idea of
      the "qualitative leap". He maintained that the sciences, including
      the science of psychology, are based on the assumption that there is
      an unbroken continuity in the passage from possibility to actuality
      and that every new state is thereby the simple consequence of a
      previous state. For Hoffding, a presuppositionless leap would
      abrogate the strict continuity required in every science. Yet this
      is precisely Kierkegaard's point, namely, that the "qualitative leap"
      is a category outside the scope of scientific procedures and that its
      confirmation is therefore not reducible to the principles of
      verification assumed by the sciences. Kierkegaard expressed this
      difference by positing not only psychosomatic dimensions in human
      existence, but also a dimension of spirit, distinguishing
      the "outwardness" of scientific observation from the "inwardness" of
      spiritual experience. A psychology that does not account for the
      determining and transforming activity of spirit in the self-conscious
      subject will not accurately reflect what grounds and generates the
      quality of man's becoming. *The Concept of Anxiety* then suggests
      that the psychologist could analyze this notion and its relation to
      the "qualitative leap" produced in the dialectic of freedom in order
      to work toward a more adequate grasp of man's nature and the
      ontological determinants that shape the human condition. ~

      I hope this goes some way toward explaining that, at least to the
      best of my own understanding, the "leap", for Kierkegaard is an
      ontological concept, concerned with the nature of being, not of
      beings, indeed concerned with the very structure of being itself, as
      explored, for instance, in the work of Nikolai Hartmann. Faith is
      not explicable to those who do not live by faith, yet the ontological
      presuppositions for faith may be stated and argued. European
      thinkers have been engaged in such activity for centuries.

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