Kierkegaard and the Life of Faith: The Aesthetic, the Ethical, and the Religious in Fear and Trembling

Kierkegaard and the Life of Faith: The Aesthetic, the Ethical, and the Religious in Fear and Trembling

Kierkegaard and the Life of Faith: The Aesthetic, the Ethical, and the Religious in Fear and Trembling

Kierkegaard and the Life of Faith: The Aesthetic, the Ethical, and the Religious in Fear and Trembling

Synopsis

Soren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling is one of the most widely read works of Continental philosophy and the philosophy of religion. While several commentaries and critical editions exist, Jeffrey Hanson offers a distinctive approach to this crucial text. Hanson gives equal weight and attention to all three of Kierkegaard's "problems," dealing with Fear and Trembling as part of the entire corpus of Kierkegaard's production and putting all parts into relation with each other. Additionally, he offers a distinctive analysis of the Abraham story and other biblical texts, giving particular attention to questions of poetics, language, and philosophy, especially as each relates to the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. Presented in a thoughtful, well-informed, and fresh manner, Hanson's claims are original and edifying. This new reading of Kierkegaard will stimulate fruitful dialogue on well-traveled philosophical ground.

Excerpt

Fear and Trembling was famously recognized by its author as being sufficient among his writings to secure his everlasting fame as an author, but the text has arguably proven to have a captivating power beyond even what Kierkegaard himself imagined. It has been read and reread and puzzled over and argued about in countless languages and in numberless papers and books. So why presume to write yet another book on Fear and Trembling? Because while many books have recently appeared in English that seek to clarify this text (and indeed many of them have done a marvelous job), none has sought to interpret it anew. and such an interpretation is required today because many of the interpretations that have been lately offered are incomplete in scope or woefully off the point. Some are both.

The current interpretation takes in the whole of Fear and Trembling; in fact, it is the argument of this book that Problema iii, which has in some interpretations been wholly ignored and in none has received pride of place, is in fact a key portion of the text, containing the final elaboration of all of its most important points. a convincing reading of Fear and Trembling can no more afford to truncate the text in this way than Plato’s Republic can be properly understood by stopping at the end of Book vii. By downplaying or even discounting Problema iii many interpreters fail to see that the life of faith not only suspends and reinvents the ethical but also suspends and reinvents the aesthetic, providing a complete picture of how the knight of faith realizes in a new way the demands of both goodness and beauty. the current interpretation likewise seeks to place Fear and Trembling in direct relationship with the most important references that Kierkegaard himself made to his own work, chief among these a long footnote in the introduction to The Concept of Anxiety that provides an indispensable Ariadne’s thread for the course of this book.

Furthermore, the current interpretation dispenses with a proliferation of misunderstandings of this text that are united by their central conviction that Fear and Trembling involves at its core a conflict between religion and ethics, between the good and the holy, or between an absolute and a generalized responsibility. the argument of this book is that this conflict, which has been the presupposition of pages and pages of commentary on Fear and Trembling, is—at best—a subordinate concern of the text. Insofar as there is a central conflict thematized in this book, that conflict is between the rigorous demand of faith . . .

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