Foundations of Kierkegaard's Vision of Community: Religion, Ethics, and Politics in Kierkegaard

Foundations of Kierkegaard's Vision of Community: Religion, Ethics, and Politics in Kierkegaard

Foundations of Kierkegaard's Vision of Community: Religion, Ethics, and Politics in Kierkegaard

Foundations of Kierkegaard's Vision of Community: Religion, Ethics, and Politics in Kierkegaard

Excerpt

With all his thought and soul, to the last drop of blood, [Hamann]
is concentrated in a single word, the passionate protest of a highly
gifted genius against an existential system.But the System is
hospitable; poor Hamann, you have been reduced to a paragraph by
Michelet.... Poor Jacobi! Whether anyone visits your grave I do
not know, but I know that the paragraph machine plows all your
eloquence, all your inwardness under, while a scant few words are
registered in the System as your significance.

Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript
translated byDavid F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie

Kierkegaard undoubtedly anticipated that, in time, he, like those unfortunates, Hamann and Jacobi, would also be plowed under by the "paragraph machine." That is, he both feared and expected that his challenges to the speculative, systematic philosophical stance of Hegelianism and the corollary social and religious phenomenon of Christendom would shortly be acknowledged as "relatively valid" and so duly entered as paragraphs in a new and improved version of the system.

History has borne him out. Since his emergence in this century as a major philosophical and theological voice, Kierkegaard has routinely been categorized as the quintessential proponent of irrationality and individualism. For decades one could consistently find such a picture of Kierkegaard in everything from undergraduate compendia to specialized monographs. In recent years, however, both of these labels have come under challenge as misleadingly partial and undialectical.As regards the charge of irrationality, recent scholarship has allowed more nuanced appreciations of his view of faith and reason by calling into question the assumption that by "paradox" Kierkegaard means a logical contradiction. But however his notion of it is finally construed, Kierkegaard's use of paradox as a central category in his account of Christian faith makes no sense apart from a deep and abiding commitment to rationality; only in tension with such a commitment can the Paradox generate in the believer the passion Kierkegaard describes as essential to true faith.

While charges of Kierkegaard's irrationalism have come uniformly from the unsympathetic, many of those deeply drawn to his thought have been troubled by what is widely taken to be his asocial individualism. Martin Buber 's essay, "The Question of the Single One, . . ."

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