Kierkegaard's approach to Fideism

Dissertation, University of Newcastle (2010)
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Abstract
Soren Kierkegaard was a profound and prolific writer in the Danish “golden age” of intellectual and artistic activity. His work crosses the boundaries of philosophy, theology, psychology, literary criticism, devotional literature and fiction. Kierkegaard brought this potent mixture of discourses to bear as social critique and for the purpose of renewing Christian faith within Christendom. At the same time he made many original conceptual contributions to each of the disciplines he employed. He is known as the “father of existentialism”, but at least as important are his critiques of his peer Hegel and of the German romantics, his contributions to the development of modernism, his literary experimentation, his vivid re-presentation of biblical figures to bring out their modern relevance, his invention of key concepts which have been explored and redeployed by thinkers ever since, his interventions in contemporary Danish church politics, and his fervent attempts to analyse and revitalise Christian faith. Kierkegaard is regarded by modern contemporaries as somewhat of an intellectual ‘time bomb’, although writing in the early 19th century, Kierkegaards ideas did not explode upon the western intellectual world until the 20th century. Both the contemporary philosophical and theological scenes have been profoundly influenced by this explosion, and chances are that in coming generations writers will still draw insight on some of Kierkegaards unique ideas. His philosophy on religious belief took centuries of philosophical discourse concerning the existence of God and took the discussion in a completely new direction. Up until the writing of Kierkegaard religious philosophy was centered around attempts to ‘prove’ Gods existence via means of a logically consistent, well reasoned argument ala Aquinas’ Five Ways, Anselm etc. To vindicate religious belief, one would traditionally offer some form of structured argument in favour of deity that appealed to reason e.g First Cause, Ontological argument etc, a field which is now known as apologetics-the intellectual defense of religious belief. For Kierkegaard however, reason and faith are a false dichotomy- rational argument and human reason are somewhat irrelevant to religious belief,and this plays a central role in his philosophical doctrine which is an attempt to vindicate Christian faith through his thesis that ‘truth is subjectivity’(Schaeffer, 1982). Firstly, what will be discussed here is a critical evaluation of Kierkegaards philosophy of religious belief as expounded in his works Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Secondly, a look at some responses and criticisms of Kierkegaards religious views- as he was a notoriously ambiguous and vague writer, he wrote the majority of his famous works pseudonymously, his work has been frequently scrutinised. Finally, concluding with an analysis of his philosophy and if we can consider his work a complete vindication of religious belief.
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