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Philosophiske Smuler (1844)

af Søren Kierkegaard

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This volume contains a new translation, with a historical introduction by the translators, of two works written under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus. Through Climacus, Kierkegaard contrasts the paradoxes of Christianity with Greek and modern philosophical thinking. In Philosophical Fragments he begins with Greek Platonic philosophy, exploring the implications of venturing beyond the Socratic understanding of truth acquired through recollection to the Christian experience of acquiring truth through grace. Published in 1844 and not originally planned to appear under the pseudonym Climacus, the book varies in tone and substance from the other works so attributed, but it is dialectically related to them, as well as to the other pseudonymous writings. The central issue of Johannes Climacus is doubt. Probably written between November 1842 and April 1843 but unfinished and published only posthumously, this book was described by Kierkegaard as an attack on modern speculative philosophy by "means of the melancholy irony, which did not consist in any single utterance on the part of Johannes Climacus but in his whole life. . . . Johannes does what we are told to do--he actually doubts everything--he suffers through all the pain of doing that, becomes cunning, almost acquires a bad conscience. When he has gone as far in that direction as he can go and wants to come back, he cannot do so. . . . Now he despairs, his life is wasted, his youth is spent in these deliberations. Life does not acquire any meaning for him, and all this is the fault of philosophy." A note by Kierkegaard suggests how he might have finished the work: "Doubt is conquered not by the system but by faith, just as it is faith that has brought doubt into the world!."… (mere)
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Two interesting works, though both require a fairly hefty amount of background knowledge, and a willingness to wade through K's more-Hegel-than-Hegel style, which is... well, it's as bad as Hegel.

Johannes Climacus, the second work here, was written first, and not finished. The point is fairly clear, nonetheless: it's meant to be a practical refutation of the idea that philosophy should 'begin with doubt.' In vulgar historical terms, Descartes decided that that was how philosophy should be done; K is here attacking that vulgar understanding. And fair enough.

As a work of fiction--which is purports to be--JC is a funny portrait of the earnest, alienated young philosopher, who tries to understand what the older philosophers around him are saying. If philosophy begins with doubt, he wonders, what could that mean? Does it mean 'modern philosophy begins from doubt'? But then, if this philosophy is modern, doesn't that suggest that there is something prior to it, and that therefore modern philosophy begins by doubting something in particular (i.e., pre-modern philosophy), and doesn't that mean that philosophy doesn't begin with doubt, but with something else? Perhaps they just mean "some modern philosophers begin with doubt," which is fine, but that's not what they say--they say modern philosophy, not philosophers. And in doing so they seem to suggest that modern philosophy is both a historical event (inasmuch as it's 'modern') and eternal, since modern philosophy is modern inasmuch as it's correct and systematic--but if it's correct and systematic, then it must also be correct for all time and all places. But that can't be, since there just is philosophy that begins with wonder or faith.

Perhaps they really do mean that *all* philosophy begins with doubt? But that would be self-contradictory, since then he, young philosopher, would have to doubt those who say that all should start from doubt, and start from something else instead. Unless just one philosopher could be said to be the origin in some way, so that "a particular philosopher had doubted for all just as Christ suffered for all," so we didn't have to doubt for ourselves anymore? That doesn't seem right. The young philosopher finds only two options here: either he will let someone else have done the doubting for him, in which case he isn't really a philosopher; or he will do the doubting himself, but then has to doubt the doubting--so he is a philosopher, but there is no philosophy, because he can't accept anything as such.

The outcomes are: first, this is a fine parody of Hegelian thought, but also a legitimate example of Hegelian dialectics. Second, philosophers obviously don't begin with doubt, really, but only say they do, and as such are hypocrites. Finally, it's left unclear whether Johannes' thought here is doubting, or not, or philosophy, or not. It seems fairly obvious to me that JC is, in fact, doing philosophy while he wonders about how he can start doing philosophy. But perhaps not.

*

The longer work in this volume is 'Philosophical Fragments,' which, in true Kierkegaardian fashion, aren't read very often, while his 'Conclusion Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments' is one of his best known works (in philosophy departments). PF asks, more or less, what the relationship is between Socratic education (as depicted in Meno and so on) and Christianity, in what Kierkegaard takes to be the good sense. It's an odd book, but essentially K suggests that the story of Christ's incarnation can be told just as coherently as the story of Socratic coming-to-wisdom, with the caveat that the incarnation, Christ, conversion, and Christianity itself are all paradoxical. But that's okay, because at heart the acquisition of knowledge, too, is a paradox: "to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think." If it can already be thought, we are not acquiring knowledge; if we are content to leave anything outside thought, then we are not acquiring that knowledge. Most of the interest here is really theological: what is Christ, what is God, how do people relate to them? It turns out to be harder than you might expect.

I have no idea who, other than me, would find this interesting, but obviously some people do. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
In Johannes Climacus of De omnibus dubitandum est (1842-1843) tracht Kierkegaard op een zo consequent mogelijke wijze te voldoen aan de filosofische eis van zijn tijd: 'Er moet aan alles getwijfeld worden.' Juist omdat hij een existentiële twijfelaar is, die doet wat hij zegt, wordt zijn levensverhaal een satire op de abstract-speculatieve twijfel van zijn Hegeliaans geïnspireerde tijdgenoten. Twee jaar later (1844) publiceert Kierkegaard onder het pseudoniem Climacus Filosofische kruimels of een kruimel filosofie. Climacus is er uitgegroeid tot een bijzonder scherpzinnig filosoof, die graaft naar de diepste wortels van de menselijke existentie. Als niet-gelovige voert hij een scherp kritisch-filosofisch onderscheid door tussen het domein van het denken en dat van het geloof, van de eerste en de tweede filosofie, de immanentie en de transcendentie, de herinnering en de herhaling. ( )
  fredvanheezik | Jun 15, 2013 |
How Do We Know the Truth?

In Plato's Meno an argument is raised that there is no such thing as a "truth seeker", because if a man knows the truth already, there is no need to seek, and if he doesn't, he can't seek, since he wouldn't recognize it even if he stumbles upon it. Socrates' solution to Meno's paradox is Recollection, i.e., the soul, which is immortal, already possesses knowledge of all things in herself from eternity, and only needs to remember or recollect them in the moment in time. "All learning is but Recollection"

A teacher or an authority cannot benefit an individual in any significant manner, because the teacher can't give, or "teach", the individual anything that he doesn't already possess in his own soul. For this reason, Socrates likens himself to a "midwife" (Theaetetus), who though barren himself yet helps others give birth to knowledge. "It is quite clear that they never learned anything from me; the many fine discoveries to which they cling are of their own making. But to me and the god they owe their delivery", but nothing more.

The Moment of Truth

To advance further than Socrates, Kierkegaard (under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus) posits that if the Teacher or the Moment is to have "decisive significance", the individual has to be devoid of Truth prior to the Moment. This state of being devoid or deprived of Truth is Sin or Error.

Firstly, the individual cannot be in possession of the Truth while being unaware of it, since if he can become aware at any moment, the Moment would not have "decisive significance" -- one moment is just as indistinguishable as another and there is no significant difference in the state of the individual before and after the moment.

Secondly, the individual cannot free himself from the state of Sin of his own will, since if he could will it at any moment, the Moment would lose its significance. IOW, for the Moment to have decisive significance, it must be irreversible, so to speak. "Just as one who throws a stone has power over it until he has thrown it, but not afterwards."

Thirdly, there must be a break in the state or the being of the individual. If his being remains the same before and after the Moment, the Moment would not have "decisive significance". This break is the Conversion, passing from non-being to being, the new birth. "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. ... Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:3,5-6)

Being is the Requisite of Knowing

ZhuangZi, a Taoist philosopher in ancient China (who was born when, half way around the world, Plato was entering his 60s), posed another interesting challenge in "Happiness of the Fish" (魚之樂 | 鱼之乐). One day when he and HuiZi were out on a stroll, ZhuangZi observed, "The minnows roam where they please. It's the happiness of the fish." HuiZi asked, "You're not a fish, how do you know their happiness?" ZhuangZi replied, "You're not me, so how do you know I don't know their happiness?"

I suppose ZhuangZi "knew" the happiness of the fish because he reasoned thus: The fish were in a state (of freedom) that a man would enjoy if he were in a similar state, therefore the fish must be happy. This would be true only if man and fish share a likeness in their constitution, which is of course not necessarily the case.

Reason (Man) cannot know the Unknown (God), because they are absolutely unlike each other. Reason only knows itself and another based on itself, but nothing more. IOW, man as a self-centered being measures all things by himself. He is the ground and the reference point to which all other things are compared and evaluated. To comprehend means literally to grasp, but how can a finite being grasp the infinite? Like in the parable of blind men and the elephant, reason can only deduce based on its limited vision and experience. The blind men fail to acknowledge let alone prove the existence of the elephant, instead they think that it is some other things because they "grasp" its likeness to those things.

If a man is in a state of Sin, it is impossible for him to know the Truth, because Sin and Truth are absolutely unlike each other. There is no communion between the two, as there is no common ground. To know the Truth, one must partake of the Truth; To know God, one must partake of the nature of God. "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." (1 Corinthians 2:11-12)

The Love of Equals

Kierkegaard asserts that the most genuine and noble Love must be between equals. It can not be the relationship between master and slave, or pet owner and his pet, or that between pagan Greek gods and their love conquests, e.g., when Zeus transformed himself into a golden shower to impregnate Danae. In those relationships, there is no mutual understanding between the Lover and the Beloved, no reciprocity.

How can there be mutual understanding between God and Man, if they are absolutely unlike each other? This is the mystery of the Incarnation. “The Word of God Himself. He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God.” (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word)

Christ has become the ladder between Heaven and Earth, in Whom and through Whom Man has Communion with God, not merely a sharing of thoughts and emotions, but a sharing of essence. When a man is joined to his wife, they shall become one flesh, "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." (1 Corinthians 6:17)

Faith and the Paradox

There is a "great gulf fixed" between Man and God, between Reason and the Unknown, between time and eternity, human existence and God's eternal essence, mortality and immortality, and yet Christ has become the Conveyor across that gulf. This is the Paradox, and it is offensive to the individual, because it entails a break, a discontinuity of the individual. Similar instances of the paradox exist in love, in birth and in learning. Since in all three cases, the beloved, the begotten and the learner undergo transformations so profound that they receive a new nature in the process. In Love, self-love is annihilated and yet exalted when the person sacrifices his own being for his beloved; In Birth, the transformation is from non-being to being; In learning, old conceptions are destroyed and new ones come into being in their stead.

Just as an individual cannot will himself to be born, so he cannot will himself unto the Truth. This can only be accomplished by God through Faith, a new organ, without which man cannot accept the Paradox, which is beyond the grasp of Reason and immediate sensation and cognition.

"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25)
( )
  booksontrial | Jan 4, 2013 |
A preliminary work before Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard is trying to find his voice among his contemporary philosophers, most he disrespects. Kierkegaard succeeds by leaving the contemporaries ahead and discusses Christianity with the rules of pre-Christian philosophers. It works for the most part. For the failing parts you either need a leap of faith, or a better head than mine. My version has the translated Thulstrup commentary as endnotes. I recommend reading every endnote whenever one is signaled in the main text. ( )
  DromJohn | Jul 19, 2012 |
  cnb | Aug 15, 2008 |
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This volume contains a new translation, with a historical introduction by the translators, of two works written under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus. Through Climacus, Kierkegaard contrasts the paradoxes of Christianity with Greek and modern philosophical thinking. In Philosophical Fragments he begins with Greek Platonic philosophy, exploring the implications of venturing beyond the Socratic understanding of truth acquired through recollection to the Christian experience of acquiring truth through grace. Published in 1844 and not originally planned to appear under the pseudonym Climacus, the book varies in tone and substance from the other works so attributed, but it is dialectically related to them, as well as to the other pseudonymous writings. The central issue of Johannes Climacus is doubt. Probably written between November 1842 and April 1843 but unfinished and published only posthumously, this book was described by Kierkegaard as an attack on modern speculative philosophy by "means of the melancholy irony, which did not consist in any single utterance on the part of Johannes Climacus but in his whole life. . . . Johannes does what we are told to do--he actually doubts everything--he suffers through all the pain of doing that, becomes cunning, almost acquires a bad conscience. When he has gone as far in that direction as he can go and wants to come back, he cannot do so. . . . Now he despairs, his life is wasted, his youth is spent in these deliberations. Life does not acquire any meaning for him, and all this is the fault of philosophy." A note by Kierkegaard suggests how he might have finished the work: "Doubt is conquered not by the system but by faith, just as it is faith that has brought doubt into the world!."

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