Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 10

UNIVERSITY OF SAN CARLOS CEBU CITY, PHILIPPINES

Soren Kierkegaard: Stages on Lifes Way

_________________________________

A Term Paper Presented to Ms. Maria Majorie R. Purino, Ph. D.

_________________________________

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the course PHILOSOPHY 25: PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

________________________________

By

Peter Macabinguil

October 2011

Introduction Soren Kierkegaard writings basically speak about how human live and how human choose to live. Kierkegaard philosophize what its mean to be alive. His subject was the individual and his or her existence, the existing being. In Kierkegaards view, this purely subjective entity is lay beyond the reach of reason, logic, philosophical systems, theology or even psychology.1 Nonetheless, it was the source of all subjects. The branch of philosophy in which Kierkegaard gives birth what has come to be known as existentialism. Existentialism can best be described as a mood within philosophy that emphasizes the concrete and particular existence of man in the world. Later Existentialists described man as having no essence but only existence.2 Existentialisms core philosophy is the problem of existence. Kierkegaard reexamine the most first philosophical questions ever to be asked, What is existence? Kierkegaard insisted that every individual should not only ask this question but should make his very life his own subjected answer to it. This stress on subjectivity is Kierkegaard main contribution. The answer did not rely on constructing a perfect system which explains everything. That was more fundamental problem which prompted question such as, what is existence, what does it means to exist? It was Kierkegaard who set himself a task in answering these questions. Human Existence Kierkegaards whole career might well be considered a self-conscious revolt against abstract thought and attempt on his part to live up to Feuerbachs admonition: Do not wish to be a philosopher in contrast to being a man do not think as a thinkerthink as a living, real
Zorka Hereford, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) http://www.essentiallifeskills.net/sorenkierkegaard.html (accessed October 6, 2011). 2 Dan Johnson, Kierkegaard's Stages Toward Authentic Religious Experience And The Bodhisattva Path To Enlightenment, Quodlibet Journal 4 no. 1, (Winter 2002), http://www.quodlibet.net/articles/johnsonexperience.shtml (accessed October 7, 2011).
1

being think in Existence.3 Human individual face personal choices which Kierkegaard meant to think in terms of existence. In describing the human situation, Kierkegaard distinguished between what we now are and what we ought to be.4 On Kierkegaards stages of life says that there is a movement from our essence to our existence. The very essential of our human nature involves a relation to God since we are created in the likeness and image of God. To find meaning to our existences is to finding the path going toward God. But because of sins we become separated from God and there is a gap which is called alienation. To fill up this gap the solution for Kierkegaard is to relate ourselves to God. Shifting our orientation toward God, though is often a tricky process, which Kierkegaard describes in terms of stages on lifes way.5 Kierkegaard's Stages6 Fundamentally, Kierkegaard suggested that there are two ways we can live our life the aesthetic and the ethical. The third stage, the religious stage, is the synthesis of the two. Each individual has the opportunity to make a conscious choice between these two. The first two stages are characterized by a distinct set of beliefs and behavior that is easily identifiable, whereas the last stage, the religious, is characterized by a highly personal, subjective, and nonrational "leap of faith".7 In making this choice the individual must accept full responsibility for his action which will characterize his entire existence in the most fundamental manner.

Samuel Enoch Stumpf and James Fieser, Socrates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy, 8th edition, (Philippines: McGraw-Hill, 2008), p. 341. 4 Ibid., p. 342. 5 Ibid., p. 343. 6 Kierkegaard wrote the book Either/Or soon after receiving his doctorate and breaking his engagement with Regina Olsen. Either/Or is his first major work and remains one of his most widely read. Kierkegaard wrote the book under a series of false names, or pseudonyms. The two stages on lifes way is written in this book. 7 Johnson, Kierkegaard's Stages Toward Authentic Religious Experience And The Bodhisattva Path To Enlightenment.

The Aesthetic Stage8 Individual who choice the aesthetic viewpoint basically lives for themselves and in their own pleasure. This stage is characterized by an indulgence in the pleasurable and beautiful that life has to offer.9 This need not be a shallow attitude to life. At this level human individual would behave according to his impulses and emotions.10 In working for our own pleasure we almost invariably work for the pleasure of others too if we are thinking in the longer term. Indeed it could be argued that the scientist who selflessly dedicated his entire life to cure a painful disease, sacrificing personal, domestic and social pleasure in the process is also living the aesthetic life if he does simply because he enjoys scientific research. Kierkegaard has described his own existence in the aesthetic realm as a vain search for anchorage on a "boundless sea of pleasure."11 The individual who lives in the aesthetic life is not in control of his existence, he lives for the moment prompted by pleasure. He claims he had "tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge...but the pleasure did not outlast the moment."12 His life maybe self contradictory lacking of instability or certainty. The aesthetic life remains experimental. We follow a certain pleasure only if as long it appeals to us. My life has no principle of limitation except my own taste.13 The inadequacy of the aesthetic life viewpoint is fundamental. This is because it relies upon the external world it expects everything from without. In this way it is passive and lacking in

The book Either/Or has two parts: this first part of the book deals with the aesthetic, a word that Kierkegaard uses to denote personal, sensory experiences. It is written under the simple pseudonym A, although he wrote the last section of part I, The Diary of the Seducer, under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus. 9 Johnson, Kierkegaard's Stages Toward Authentic Religious Experience And The Bodhisattva Path To Enlightenment. 10 Stumpf and Fieser, Socarates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy, p. 343. 11 Johnson, Kierkegaard's Stages Toward Authentic Religious Experience And The Bodhisattva Path To Enlightenment. 12 Ibid. 13 Stumpf and Fieser, Socarates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy, p. 343.

freedom, it relies upon things that remain ultimately beyond the control of its will such as power, possession, or even friendship. It is contingent, dependent upon the accidental that is nothing necessary about it. If we understand such things we see the ultimate inadequacy of the aesthetic existence. When an individual who lives the aesthetic life reflects on his existence he soon realizes that he is lacking any certainty or meaning. This leads one to seek for meaning in a higher realm.14 The human individual is now face to face with an either-or decision: Either he remain at the aesthetic level with its fatal attractions and inherent limitations, or he move to the next stage.15 The Ethical Stage16 The alternative of aesthetic life is the ethical. The individual who lives in the ethical life creates himself by his choice and self creation becomes the goal of his existence. Where the aesthetic individual merely accepts himself as he is, the ethical individual seeks to know himself and to change himself by his own choice. He will be guided in this by his self knowledge and his willingness not to accept what he discovers but try to improve upon it. Here we see the categorical difference between aesthetic and the ethical. The aesthetic is concern in the outer world and the ethical is in the inner. The ethical individual seeks to know himself and tries to turn himself into something better. He aims in becoming an ideal self. The ethical individual is no longer contingent, inconsistent or accidental. This is the moral life, living by standards and codes of conduct that have been set up by society, the State, Christendom, and even oneself.17 In

Johnson, Kierkegaard's Stages Toward Authentic Religious Experience And The Bodhisattva Path To Enlightenment. 15 Stumpf and Fieser, Socarates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy, p. 344. 16 This is the second part of the book Either/Or. It deals with ethics. In this part Kierkegaard discusses the merits of a social and morally proper life. It is written under the interchangeable pseudonyms B and the Judge. 17 Johnson, Kierkegaard's Stages Toward Authentic Religious Experience And The Bodhisattva Path To Enlightenment.

14

doing so he enters into a realm of fundamental categories such as good and evil, beauty and ugly. Kierkegaards argument by which ethical individual moves from the absolutes of subjectivity to this universal way of life is scarcely convincing. It assumes that we automatically recognize the ethical as superior and thus we are naturally attracted to it. This stage is mostly a transitory stage, in that one does not really stay within this realm in any consistent manner. It is an elusive category, one Kierkegaard himself does not elaborate on in depth.18 The basic distention between the aesthetic and ethical is that aesthetic is outer, contingent, inconsistent, and self dissipating and the ethical is inner, necessary, consistent, and self creating. But we can never live an exclusively an ethical life, there are always necessary be an elements of the outer and accidental about our lives even we have chosen to live the ethical life the element of the aesthetic is bound to remain. The ethical stage is a mode of existence one lives in that allows for the religious to come about. The ethical stands in direct opposition to the religious. The ethical is safe, secure, understandable.19 But the time comes, Kierkegaard says, when the dialectical process begins to work in the consciousness of the ethical person he then begin to realize that he is involved in something more profound than an inadequate knowledge of moral law or insufficient strength of will. He is doing something more serious than merely making mistakes. He ultimately come to realize that he is in fact incapable of fulfilling the moral law, and he even deliberately violate that law. He thus becomes conscious of his guilt and sin. Guilt, Kierkegaard says, becomes a dialectical antithesis that places before him a new either-or.20 This is not the last stage of existence. There remains the religious awakening that transcends all previous stages. The ethical is never completely left behind. It does not disappear when one "leaps" into the religious stage, but it is only "suspended." This leads to the point that all of the three stages cannot be thought of
18 19

Ibid. Ibid. 20 Stumpf and Fieser, Socarates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy, p. 344.

as hard and fast categories with no overlap. They are always there and one moves in and out and through all three. There remains to be discussed the final stage--the religious.21 The Religious Stage A third stage of life which is the synthesis of the two opposites aesthetic and the ethical. This Kierkegaard calls the religious stage. To pass into the religious stage one must "leap of faith."22 In this stage, Kierkegaard examines the notion of faith. This he characterizes as the ultimate subjective act. It is irrational, a leap beyond all possible justifications. It has nothing to do with ethics or good behavior. The ethical life with its notion of self creation and responsible choice is unable fully accommodate the leap of faith. Such as higher irrationality lies beyond the ethical which require rational behavior. Faith relates the individual to something higher which is itself the essence of everything ethical. According to Kierkegaard the ethical life is basically concern with religion in a social sense but to achieve the religious stage requires a teleological suspension of the ethical. In other words it is necessary to suspend our ethical standards so that we can transcend them and fulfill a deeper purpose. According to Kierkegaard, the religious can be viewed as dialectical synthesis of the aesthetic and the ethical. It combines both the inner and the outer life, certainty and uncertainty. The leap of faith extending beyond all certainty. The leap of faith does not bring someone into the presence of God whom he can rationally and objectively describe as the Absolute and Knowable Truth instead; he is in the presence of a Subject.23

Johnson, Kierkegaard's Stages Toward Authentic Religious Experience And The Bodhisattva Path To Enlightenment. 22 Ibid. 23 Stumpf and Fieser, Socarates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy, p. 344.

21

Kierkegaard illustrates the religious stage through the story of Abraham and Isaac from the Bible.24 To test his faith, God directs Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Such an act can only be seen as ethically wrong but true faith, the requirement of the religious stage, involves divine purpose which surpasses all mere ethical demands. Abraham sets out to follow Gods command regardless any doubts he may had of such an act. In this he is leading a life at a religious level which is higher than the ethical because it has faith in the divinity from which the ethical originates. Many may regard such an attitude as dangerous madness or religious fanatic. Kierkegaard defends that he is dealing with the dialogue of the soul rather than a public act. Look upon Abraham and Isaac as different elements of the same person and it all becomes not only clearer but even credible. Sacrifice is necessary if we wish to achieve something. This sacrifice is usually irrational and may conflict with what we learned between right or wrong. Subjectively we often discover our purpose in life through irrational leap of faith which has little or nothing to do with the ethical. Kierkegaard relates this to the religious but it is also how anyone gives his life on a consuming purpose by believing in himself. Conclusion Kierkegaards philosophy can be summed up in his statement Every human being must be assumed in the essential possession of what essentially belongs to being human.25 When we come to examine our own existence we discover it more than just there, it has to be live out. Human individual can exist at any of the tree stages. But he must become related to what is essential for his existence and for Kierkegaard it is God. Human life seems to have boulders which keep on dragging us and eventually trap us which somehow lead to a point of discernment
24

Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling and Repetition, trans. H.V. Hong and E.H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), pp. 9-14 25 Stumpf and Fieser, Socarates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy, p. 345

on how we live our lives. To find true existence human individual must give up something to patch up the gap, the alienation of our true existence. But arriving at authentic existence is not an intellectual matter instead, it is a matter of faith and commitment and continuous process of choice in the presence of varieties of either-or.26 Faith is not a universal but it is an individual experience. We can look at the same thing but we can see it differently.

26

.Ibid.

BIBLIOGRAPHY BOOKS Kiekegaard, Soren, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, ed. and trans. Alastair Hannay (Oxford; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009). ___________, Either/Or, trans. H. V. Hong and E.H. Hong (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987), 2 vols. ___________, Fear and Trembling and Repetion, trans. H. V. Hong and E.H. Hong (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983). ___________, Philosophical Fragments, trans. H. V. Hong (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962). Hannay, Alaistair, The Cambridge Companion to Kierkegaard, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). Krimse, Bruce, Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1990). Lowrie, Walter, A Short Life of Kierkegaard (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Press, 1942). Stumpf, Samuel Enoch, and Fieser, James, Socrates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy, 8th ed., (Philippines: McGraw-Hill, 2008)

ONLINE SOURCES Johnson, Dan, Kierkegaard's Stages Toward Authentic Religious Experience And The Bodhisattva Path To Enlightenment, Quodlibet Journal 4 no. 1, (Winter 2002), http://www.quodlibet.net/articles/johnson-experience.shtml (accessed October 6, 2011). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Sren Kierkegaard http://www.iep.utm.edu/kierkega/ (accessed October 6, 2011). (1813-1855),

McDonald, William, "Sren Kierkegaard", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2009/entries/kierkegaard/ (accessed October 6, 2011). SparkNotes Editors. SparkNote on Sren Kierkegaard (18131855). SparkNotes LLC. 2005. http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/kierkegaard/ , (accessed October 6, 2011). Hereford, Zorka, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), http://www.essentiallifeskills.net/sorenkierkegaard.html , (accessed October 6, 2011).