Unscientific Postscript 1846

Soren Kierkegaard published Philosophical Fragments June 13, 1844 under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus. It took him “four and one-quarter years” to complete his 1846 book Concluding Unscientific Postscript. (628)

I am indeed the one who continually says that between the simple person’s and the wise person’s knowledge of the simple there is only the ludicrous little difference-that the simple person knows it, and the wise person knows that he knows it or knows that he does not know it.  (183)  It is the existing spirit who asks about truth, presumably because he wants to exist in it.  (191)

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel died of cholera in 1831 after having written what Kierkegaard described as a “system that lacks an ethics and knows nothing when an existing individual asks about becoming, in order to act.” (307) Hegel said truth is a continuous world-historical process. He seemed to be contemplating the world from God’s point of view. He accused Hegel of confusing the single individual with the human race where “opposites combine in a higher unity and then again in a higher unity” (307) Now “the task of speculative thought is to rubricate, classify, and methodically order the various categories of thought. One does not love, does not have faith, does not act; but one knows what erotic love is, what faith is, and the question is only about their place in the system” (344) Thinking has become the highest in Hegel’s world, according to Kierkegaard, but acting is the principle thing in Kierkegaard’s world. He will “fall down and worship before the system if he could only catch a glimpse of it. (107-108) He recognized God as the only systematic thinker because he is “outside existence and yet in existence.” (119) He likes Socrates because his “infinite merit is precisely that of being an existing thinker, not a speculative thinker who forgets what it means to exist.” (205)  “Science and scholarship want to teach that becoming objective is the way, whereas Christianity teaches that the way is to become subjective, that is, truly to become a subject.” (130-131)

A thinker erects a huge building, a system, one that encompasses the whole of life and world-history, – and if one then turns attention to his personal life one discovers to one’s astonishment the appalling and ludicrous fact that he himself does not live in this huge, high-vaulted palace, but in a store-house next door, or a kennel, or at most in the janitor’s quarters. If one took it upon oneself to draw attention with but a single word to this contradiction, he would be insulted.  The Sickness unto death, by Anti-Climacus, Edited by Soren Kierkegaard 1849 Hannay 1989 p. 74

This postscript deals with the speculative thinker who “just wants to look at Christianity”. (52)  No phantoms in Christianity, no indifference to an eternal happiness, no assumption that all are Christians, no differences in Christianity for Kierkegaard, no Christians as a matter of course. He doesn’t want to make Christianity into “a triviality” where “knowledge is meaningless or virtually meaningless”. (275) “The highest His Imperial Highness is able to do is to make the decision before God. The lowliest human being can also make his decision before God.” (497) Both can become a “knight of hidden inwardness”. (499) Christianity asks for a decision in time. (95) He says, Christianity is not a doctrine but an existence-communication. (570)

This is how Kierkegaard put it in his 1849 book, The Sickness unto Death: “All Christian knowledge, whatever rigour it betrays, should be concerned. But what edifies is just this concern. The concern is the relation to life, to what a person actually is, and thus, in a Christian sense, the superior elevation of disinterested knowing, far from being greater seriousness, is frivolity and pretense. But again, what edifies is seriousness.” (p. 35 Haney 1989)

Therefore, venture, says the ethical, dare to renounce everything, including also that highly ranked yet delusive association with world-historical observation; dare to become nothing at all, dare to become a single individual from whom God ethically requires everything, but without daring for all that to cease being enthusiastic. (149) The subjective thinker is continually striving because he is always in the “process of becoming” and is always in danger of “abstracting from himself” and becoming objective. (91-92) Kierkegaard, or Johannes, says “The task is to practice one’s relation to one’s absolute end or goal so that one continually has it within while continuing in the relative objective of existence.” (408) The subjective thinker must “stop the infinity of reflection” (113) by a leap. (115) Because “all eternal decision is rooted specifically subjectivity.” (194) “The subjective “how” is transformed into a striving that is motivated repeatedly refreshed by the decisive passion of the infinite”. (264)

“Christianity has itself proclaimed itself to be the eternal essential truth that has come into existence in time; it has proclaimed itself as the paradox and has required the inwardness of faith with regard to what is an offense to the Jews, foolishness to the Greeks-and an absurdity to the understanding. It cannot be expressed more strongly that subjectivity is truth and that objectivity only thrusts away, precisely by virtue of the absurd, and it seems strange that Christianity should have come into the world in order to be explained, as if it were itself puzzled about itself and therefore came into the world to seek out the wise man, the speculative thinker, who can aid with the explanation.”  (213) It has to be believed “against the understanding. Where understanding despairs, faith is already present in order to make the despair properly decisive, lest the movement of faith become a transaction with the haggling territory of the understanding.”  (233)

Revelation is marked by mystery, eternal happiness by suffering, the certitude of faith by uncertainty, easiness by difficulty, truth by absurdity; if this is not maintained, then the esthetic and the religious merge in common confusion. … The religious lies in the dialectic of inwardness deepening and therefore, with regard to the conception of God, this means that he himself is moved, is changed. An action in the eternal transforms the individual’s existence. (Notes p. 432)

Let others admire and praise the person who pretends to comprehend Christianity. I regard it as a plain ethical task – perhaps requiring not a little self-denial in these speculative times, when all ‘the others’ are busy with comprehending-to admit that one is neither able nor supposed to comprehend it. Just this is no doubt what our age, what Christendom, needs: a little Socratic ignorance with respect to Christianity – but take note, a little Socratic ignorance. Let us never forget that Socrates’s ignorance was kind of fear of God and a worship of the divine, that his ignorance was as Greek rendering of the Jewish: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. … Christianity teaches that everything Christian exists only for faith. therefore it wants to be precisely a Socratic, God-fearing ignorance, protecting faith from speculation through ignorance, taking care that the depth of the qualitative difference between God – and man – is fastened, is it is, in the paradox of faith, and that God and man, more dreadfully even then ever in paganism, do not thus philosophiice, poetice etc. merge into one – in the System. The Sickness unto death, by Anti-Climacus, Edited by Soren Kierkegaard 1849 Hannay 1989 p. 131-132

The believing Christian both has and uses his understanding, respects the universally human, does not explain someone’s not becoming a Christian as a lack of understanding, but believes Christianity against the understanding and here uses the understanding –to see to it that he believes against the understanding. Therefore he cannot believe nonsense against the understanding, which one might fear, because the understanding will penetratingly perceive that it is nonsense and hinder him in believing it, but he uses the understanding so much that through it he becomes aware of the incomprehensible, and not, believing, he relates himself to it against the understanding.  (568)   Kierkegaard will “let shabby souls who are able to love God and people only when everything goes their way, let them hate and defy in ill temper-a faithful son loves, unchanged.”  (589) 

No one begins with being Christian; each one becomes that in the fullness of time-if one becomes that.  (591)

Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, A Mimical-Pathetic-Dialectical Compilation an Existential Contribution Volume I, by Johannes Climacus, edited by Soren Kierkegaard, Copyright Feb 28, 1846 – Edited and Translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong 1992 Princeton University Press

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