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The wit of Kierkegaard

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  • shadowed_statue
    Kierkegaard s thought, I feel, is like a touchstone, a measure of genuine thought, that one can put alongside other thought, to see if it holds up. Far from
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 5 8:53 PM
      Kierkegaard's thought, I feel, is like a touchstone, a measure of genuine thought, that one can put alongside other thought, to see if it holds up. Far from being a matter of proof or disproof, rather an affair of authenticity. For a long time I have been losing touch with Kierkegaard's work, because of the complications involved for me with Christian belief, and this has truly left me poorer. Tonight, as I am feeling entirely liberated from any requirement of respect - or disrespect - toward religious belief, I turn again to "Concluding Unscientific Postscript", and find there a pellucid depiction of life from the point of view of concrete thought, that is, thought that belongs to a thinker who also exists, and knows it, without vanity.

      ~~ If thought could give reality in the sense of actuality, and not merely validity in the sense of possibility, it would also have the power to take away existence, and so to take away from the existing individual the only reality to which he sustains a real relationship, namely, his own. (To the reality of another he stands related only by way of thought, as was shown above). That is to say, the individual would have to be able to think himself out of existence, so that he would really cease to be. I venture to think that no one will wish to accept this supposition, which would betray as superstitious a faith in the power of pure thought as is conversely illustrated by the remark of a lunatic in a comedy, that he proposed to go down in the depths of Dovrefjeld and blow up the entire world with a syllogism. A man may be absent-minded by nature, or may become absent-minded through continuous absorption in pure thought. But the success is never complete; and one becomes, by way of the "sometimes pitiful professorial figure", what the Jews feared so much to become, namely, a proverb. I can abstract from myself; but the fact that I abstract from myself means precisely that I exist. ~~

      "C.U.P." - 'The Subjective Thinker 2', pp295-6, Princeton.

      There is nothing abstract, understood in this way, in Kierkegaard's work, and I find that he richly repays rereading. Whether I shall finally start reading Hegel, after much experience of SK's making fun of his method and system, I do not know, but I shall not blame Kierkegaard for putting me off. If anything, he has in the end whetted my appetite to try reading someone with such a contrasting view of what Mary has called the history of truth, or the meaning of man. Here is another passage from 'The Subjective Thinker 2', within "C.U.P" [p297], about Hegel's work.

      ~~~ The reduplication of the content in the form is essential to all artistry, and it is particularly important to refrain from referring to the same content in an inadequate form. But as it now is, the *Logic* with its collection of notes makes as droll an impression on the mind as if a man were to show a letter purporting to come from heaven, but having a blotter enclosed which only too clearly reveals its mundane origin. In such a work to indulge in polemics against this or that person designated by name, to communicate hints for the guidance of the reader, and so forth, is to betray the fact that there is a thinker whose speech mingles with its immanent movements, and who even speaks with another thinker, thus establishing relations with him. But if there is a thinker who thinks the pure thought, the entire apparatus of Greek dialectic as well as the safety police of the existential dialectic instantly lays hold of his person, seizing him by the coat-tails not as a disciple but in order to find out about his relationship to pure thought. In that same instant the whole enchantment vanishes. Imagine Socrates in conversation with Hegel. With the help of the notes he will soon have Hegel on the hip; and as he was not accustomed to being put off by the assurance that everything will be made clear at the end, not even permitting a continuous speech lasting for five minutes, to say nothing of a continuous development lasting through seventeen volumes of print, he would put on the brakes with all his might - merely to tease Hegel. ~~~

      There is a similarity, here, I think, with the quotation Mary made recently [52681] about the inadequacy of analytical reason. The 'desituated experimenter' seems similar to the 'abstract thinker' subjected to detailed critique by Climacus, the pseudonymous author of the Postscript.

      And so I find myself remembering what Kierkegaard first brought into my life - a new form of awareness. After all, however many folk, learned or not, see philosophy as vanity, the fact is that for some of us it represents a part of our human nature which it would be highly unnatural to suppress.

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