In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Kierkegaard and the Absolute Paradox BENJAMIN DAISE ThE QUESTIONOfwhether Kierkegaard's position is irrational or not has been raised because of the centrality of the notion of the Absolute Paradox in his two most ostensibly philosophical works, Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Johannes Climacus, the pseudonymous author of both works, admits at the end of Fragments that the picture he has tried to sketch is that of Christianity. He reveals at the beginning of Postscript that his interest is in finding the way into Christianity, and the notion of the Absolute Paradox is central to the view of Christianity presented. The question then can be seen in this way: Does Kierkegaard, who sees himself as a religious writer and specifically as a writer for Christianity, hold the view that Christianity is essentially unintelligible and irrational? Is the Paradox simply opposed to the Reason or does it transcend the Reason? Traditionally put, is the Paradox contra rationem or supra rationem ? Proponents of the view that the Paradox is contra rationem interpret it as the Athanasian two-nature doctrine of Christ's person as uniting mutually exclusive attributes. The statement of that unity is thus seen as a strict contradiction and the central claim of Christianity is viewed as unintelligible and irrational. On the other hand, it has been argued that for Kierkegaard Christianity is not a doetrine and hence does not set itself up to be understood in the manner of a philosophical doctrine. Nonetheless, it is argued, "the thought content of Christianity is not nonsense but is clear and understandable within the sphere of faith. ''1 The believer not only believes ; he understands what he believes, albeit in a manner different from the way he would understand a philosophical position. Per LCnning suggests that one of the options sketched in response to the question is adequate to Kierkegaard's position. The difficulty, he argues, stems from putting the issue in terms of whether the Paradox is against or above the Reason. When the issue is so put, most "interpretations may be grouped around a decisive either~or." And the alternatives seem to be" with the notion of the paradox does Kierkegaard intend to characterize Christianity as the presentation of an objective teaching of Christ as the God-man in the sense of historically uniting two essentially contradictory qualities or does he intend to characterize faith as life association with God, independent of and inaccessible for logical and conceptual determinations. What must be said to that either/or is that it deals with a problem that lies far from Kierkegaard's own.~ x N. H. S~e,"Kierkegaard's Doctrine of the Paradox," in A KierkegaardCritique,ed. H. Johnson and N. Thulstrup (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1962), p. 221. 2 Per L~nning, SamtidighedensSituation (Oslo, 1954), p. 149. [63] 64 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY The issue for Kierkegaard, Lr writes, was not intellectualism versus anti-intellectualism , doctrine versus life, but "the relationship o[ Christianity to the individual in his totality .... ,,3 There is where the decisive weight of the question should be placed, he argues, not between the religious and the intellectual. Once this is said, what are we to make of the Paradox? Even if LCnning is correct, we are no better equipped to deal with the notion of the Paradox in the Kierkegaardian corpus, and it is a crucial notion. Even if the principal issue is that of the relationship of Christianity to the individual in his totality, the question of the role of the Paradox remains unanswered. Even if the question of the meaning of the Paradox is not the crucial problem for Kierkegaard, that does not mean that it is not a problem at all. What is needed is an understanding of how the notion functions in the works. What is needed is an explanation of the Paradox. Henry Allison argues that Kierkegaard's intent in Postscript is not "to show us in a theoretical way that the absolute paradox makes a kind of sense supra rationem... [but] that the only valid concept which we can form about Christianity is that it defies conceptualization .TM The argument is parodic of that in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, he...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 63-68
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.