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Re: Does Kierkegaard take subjectivity too far?

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  • jimstuart46
    Jim R, You questioned the last sentence of my post – picking up on my word ridiculous . However I meant the sentence to be an expansion of the previous
    Message 1 of 23 , Oct 16, 2011
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      Jim R,

      You questioned the last sentence of my post – picking up on my word "ridiculous". However I meant the sentence to be an expansion of the previous sentence. Here is my last paragraph with both sentences:

      << The Christian, according to K, should be pleased the more unreasonable (from an objective point of view) his statement appears. The more ridiculous, from an objective perspective, the statement, the better: "the more objective reliability, the less inwardness (since inwardness is subjectivity); the less objective reliability, the deeper is the possible inwardness." (CUP, Hong, p. 209) >>

      It could also be argued that Climacus' use of the term "objective reliability" was meant to be a synonymous alternative to his term "objective uncertainty" in his previous sentence. Thus, here again is the full quote from CUP:

      "When the eternal truth relates itself to an existing person, it becomes the paradox. Through the objective uncertainty and ignorance, the paradox thrusts away in the inwardness of the existing person. But since the paradox is not in itself the paradox, it does not trust away intensely enough, for without risk, no faith; the more risk, the more faith; the more objective reliability, the less inwardness (since inwardness is subjectivity); the less objective reliability, the deeper is the possible inwardness. When the paradox is itself the paradox, it thrusts away by virtue of the absurd, and the corresponding passion of inwardness is faith." (Hong, p. 209)

      I could have made my point by contrasting the professional historian with the religious believer. The historian seeks to believe historical statements on the balance of the evidence – the more "reasonable" they are, the better. (I.e. the more they fit in with the first-hand historical evidence, and other well-established historical theories.) The religious believer does not believe purported historical facts ("Eve was created out of one of Adam's ribs") because, from an objective point-of-view, there is strong empirical support for them, i.e. strong support in terms of historical documents, geological evidence, archaeological evidence, etc.

      What you write about science and scientific truth is, in fact, not correct. For example, you write:

      << In fact, a scientific truth is only valid if it is demonstrable to others; a subjectively held scientific truth that cannot be objectively verified is useless as a scientific truth. >>

      Purported scientific laws cannot be "verified", at best they can be supported by experimental results. We cannot demonstrate that pv=Rt is true, nor that Darwin's Theory of Evolution is true. At best we can devise experiments which corroborate a theory (see the Philosophy of Science from Karl Popper onwards.)

      So the scientist, like the historian, is in the business of strong or weak evidence, "objective uncertainty". This is partly Climacus' point in the early chapters of CUP, and highlighted by our new member, David M.

      The Christian who is waiting for stronger historical evidence that Jesus performed miracles, died on a cross, rose from the dead, is approaching Christian belief in the wrong way, according to K. At best, using this approach, he can attain "balance of probability" evidence, and form a "most reasonable hypothesis" belief.

      But for Climacus this is completely wrong-headed, because the more "reasonable" one's belief is, the less room for subjectivity, and subjective appropriation.

      You must remember that rational thought was the modus operandi of the spiritless individual, according to K.

      When an individual is thinking rationally, he is thinking objectively. By contrast, the more the individual goes "against reason", the more he has room to move subjectively. Thus the less probable, from an objective, rational, point of view, a purported historical fact, the more that fact is suitable for a religious person to belief, in the right (i.e. subjective) way.

      jim_the_asthete
    • James Rovira
      Jim S: Regarding the broad points of your reading of K, you seem to be disagreeing with me by repeating one of my main points back to me in your own words. My
      Message 2 of 23 , Oct 16, 2011
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        Jim S:

        Regarding the broad points of your reading of K, you seem to be disagreeing with me by repeating one of my main points back to me in your own words.  My discussion of the ridiculous was the second half of my post.  All that is left is to do, then, is to quibble over details about the use of language.  What is not being directly addressed is the fact that Kierkegaard believed that the central truths of Christianity were in fact universal truths in the same way that gravity is a universal truth for objects on earth.  The universal truths of Christianity are only accessible inwardly, however, not objectively. That claim of Kierkegaard's is offensive to contemporary thought and in fact part of the offense that Kierkegaard sought to create.  He offended his contemporaries by insisting on the paradoxical nature of this truth; he offends us today simply by insisting that it is a truth when the claim is so clearly ridiculous to us.  

        So, back to quibbling:

        I was perhaps careless in my use of the word "verification," but I used the word "valid" earlier in the sentence, so I hope you see that I meant it as a synonym for "validity" (which means that I should have just used the word "validity."  Many apologies).  However, I think that you're overstating the inability of science to "verify" -any- scientific truths.  There is such a thing as verified scientific fact (the earth is round), even though what you say about the impossibility of verification is true of scientific theories in general.  A theory isn't a fact, just a way of explaining facts, or a narrative about facts, but facts still exist.   

        You said,

        >>It could also be argued that Climacus' use of the term "objective reliability" was meant to be a synonymous alternative to his term "objective uncertainty" in his previous sentence.    

        How can the phrase "objective reliability" ever be synonymous with "objective uncertainty"?  In your quotation from CUP, those in a position of "objective uncertainty" seem to me to be "thrusting away" "objective reliability."  To clean up Climacus's tangled syntax: "The paradox" "thrusts away"  "through the objective uncertainty" "in inwardness."  What does it "thrust away"?  I'm not completely sure because the syntax is very tangled. 

        Perhaps itself: in that case, the paradox thrusts away in the way that ship launches from shore.  The act of thrusting away seems to be parallel to risk later in the quotation, though, so that the more risk, the more uncertainty, and therefore the less "reliability."  In that case "objective reliability" is the opposite of, not synonymous with, "objective uncertainty."        

        I generally agree with the main point that you make with your analogy with the historian, but religious truth claims are also claims about history.  Claims about the existence of Adam and Eve exist in the realm of myth -- even if we were to discover their skeletons we would not know they were theirs -- and Kierkegaard seemed to use these characters primarily as archetypes in Concept of Anxiety. The existence of Christ is more akin to the existence of any other historical figure from antiquity (say, like Socrates).  The existence of Paul is akin to the existence of Julius Caesar.  Kierkegaard had these parallels in mind so chose the historian as a specific point of comparison: not because his subject is so completely different, but because his subject is so similar.  

        The issue with Kierkegaard seems to me to be how both the historian and the believer relate to their claims.  A believer could conceivably resort to science to try to support his or her claims (Creationism?  Intelligent Design?  Apologetics?).  But that would be to miss the point: Kierkegaard believed that Christian faith is defined by inwardness or it's not faith, and it's ultimately based upon a paradox or contradiction that is entirely offensive to and unassimilable with rational thought.  

        However, Kierkegaard's assertions do not mean that he believes that the claims of faith are not historical facts, only that their validity cannot be established by historical or scientific method.  I would qualify this statement by focusing it on only one faith claim:  Kierkegaard believed that Christ really lived and was really both God and man simultaneously.  He does not seem to think that the real existence of Adam and Eve and a number of other religious beliefs are nearly so essential as this one, and in fact Christians disagree about many of these.  Not every Christian believes or has believed in the real existence of Adam and Eve.  You should read what Origen said about the contradictions of the creation account in On First Principles (3rdC).  It's very important that we don't talk about every conceivable faith claim on equal terms if we want to understand K. Kierkegaard was focused primarily on the incarnation of Christ as central to the paradoxes of Religiousness B.

        And he also believed that Christian belief in the incarnation of Christ was completely ridiculous, which to him should be obvious to any rational agent who took the time to think about it.  People of his time accepted belief in the incarnation as common sense, or clearly evident, so Kierkegaard believed it was his task to defamiliarize this commonly held Christian truth for his audience so that they could believe it again.   

        That is why he has Climacus consider alternative beliefs in incarnated deities within CUP.  He considers pagan incarnations of deities, but these are not the same as Christian belief, as deities in Greek mythology wear human bodies like clothing rather than really become fully human.  He considers pantheist versions, but rejects these because they make the incarnation a general principle of existence (hence removing the contradiction).  These other beliefs in "incarnated" deities are aesthetic or Religiousness A variations, but not Religiousness B.  Religiousness B asserts faith in a God who is simultaneously fully human and fully divine, so embodies a unique contradiction.  The only way to fully attain subjectivity is to embrace the paradoxes of Religiousness B, or in other words to become a Christian.   That was, after all, the subject that Climacus introduced in his opening pages: becoming a Christian.

        This description of Kierkegaard's thought means that Kierkegaard was a partisan Christian by today's standards, but not a broadly-accepting subjectivist (whatever you believe is fine so long as you believe it in inwardness).     

        Jim R     

        On Sun, Oct 16, 2011 at 11:25 AM, jimstuart46 <jjimstuart@...> wrote:
         

        Jim R,

        You questioned the last sentence of my post – picking up on my word "ridiculous". However I meant the sentence to be an expansion of the previous sentence. Here is my last paragraph with both sentences:

        << The Christian, according to K, should be pleased the more unreasonable (from an objective point of view) his statement appears. The more ridiculous, from an objective perspective, the statement, the better: "the more objective reliability, the less inwardness (since inwardness is subjectivity); the less objective reliability, the deeper is the possible inwardness." (CUP, Hong, p. 209) >>

        It could also be argued that Climacus' use of the term "objective reliability" was meant to be a synonymous alternative to his term "objective uncertainty" in his previous sentence. Thus, here again is the full quote from CUP:

        "When the eternal truth relates itself to an existing person, it becomes the paradox. Through the objective uncertainty and ignorance, the paradox thrusts away in the inwardness of the existing person. But since the paradox is not in itself the paradox, it does not trust away intensely enough, for without risk, no faith; the more risk, the more faith; the more objective reliability, the less inwardness (since inwardness is subjectivity); the less objective reliability, the deeper is the possible inwardness. When the paradox is itself the paradox, it thrusts away by virtue of the absurd, and the corresponding passion of inwardness is faith." (Hong, p. 209)

        I could have made my point by contrasting the professional historian with the religious believer. The historian seeks to believe historical statements on the balance of the evidence – the more "reasonable" they are, the better. (I.e. the more they fit in with the first-hand historical evidence, and other well-established historical theories.) The religious believer does not believe purported historical facts ("Eve was created out of one of Adam's ribs") because, from an objective point-of-view, there is strong empirical support for them, i.e. strong support in terms of historical documents, geological evidence, archaeological evidence, etc.



        What you write about science and scientific truth is, in fact, not correct. For example, you write:

        << In fact, a scientific truth is only valid if it is demonstrable to others; a subjectively held scientific truth that cannot be objectively verified is useless as a scientific truth. >>

        Purported scientific laws cannot be "verified", at best they can be supported by experimental results. We cannot demonstrate that pv=Rt is true, nor that Darwin's Theory of Evolution is true. At best we can devise experiments which corroborate a theory (see the Philosophy of Science from Karl Popper onwards.)

        So the scientist, like the historian, is in the business of strong or weak evidence, "objective uncertainty". This is partly Climacus' point in the early chapters of CUP, and highlighted by our new member, David M.

        The Christian who is waiting for stronger historical evidence that Jesus performed miracles, died on a cross, rose from the dead, is approaching Christian belief in the wrong way, according to K. At best, using this approach, he can attain "balance of probability" evidence, and form a "most reasonable hypothesis" belief.

        But for Climacus this is completely wrong-headed, because the more "reasonable" one's belief is, the less room for subjectivity, and subjective appropriation.

        You must remember that rational thought was the modus operandi of the spiritless individual, according to K.

        When an individual is thinking rationally, he is thinking objectively. By contrast, the more the individual goes "against reason", the more he has room to move subjectively. Thus the less probable, from an objective, rational, point of view, a purported historical fact, the more that fact is suitable for a religious person to belief, in the right (i.e. subjective) way.

        jim_the_asthete
      • jimstuart46
        Kenneth, Thank you for reminding me that certain essential Kierkegaardian themes are not emphasized in FT. Consciousness of guilt, consciousness of sin, and a
        Message 3 of 23 , Oct 16, 2011
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          Kenneth,

          Thank you for reminding me that certain essential Kierkegaardian themes are not emphasized in FT.

          Consciousness of guilt, consciousness of sin, and a clear conception of eternal happiness are central to Kierkegaard. Arguably, by focusing on the Abraham of FT without reference to these aspects of subjectivity, I am considering Abraham out of context.

          jim_the-aesthete
        • jimstuart46
          Jim R, You write: Yes, I got myself in a muddle, I
          Message 4 of 23 , Oct 16, 2011
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            Jim R,

            You write:

            << In that case "objective reliability" is the opposite of, not synonymous with, "objective uncertainty." >>

            Yes, I got myself in a muddle, I really meant "the more objective certainty, the more objective reliability; the more objective uncertainty, the less objective reliability".

            For the rest, I think we are pretty much in agreement. In fact in my previous post, I hadn't really meant to disagree with you; rather I just wanted to put the thoughts in my own way.

            Thank you for the discussion.

            jim_the_aesthete
          • James Rovira
            Makes sense... thank you too, Jim S. Jim R
            Message 5 of 23 , Oct 17, 2011
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              Makes sense... thank you too, Jim S.

              Jim R

              On Sun, Oct 16, 2011 at 5:40 PM, jimstuart46 <jjimstuart@...> wrote:
               

              Jim R,



              You write:

              << In that case "objective reliability" is the opposite of, not synonymous with, "objective uncertainty." >>

              Yes, I got myself in a muddle, I really meant "the more objective certainty, the more objective reliability; the more objective uncertainty, the less objective reliability".

              For the rest, I think we are pretty much in agreement. In fact in my previous post, I hadn't really meant to disagree with you; rather I just wanted to put the thoughts in my own way.

              Thank you for the discussion.

              jim_the_aesthete


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