Here we have an interesting lecture from the course by The Teaching Company, called “Philosophy as a Guide to Living” which is taught by Professor Stephen A. Erickson. The course has 24 lectures, each lasting 30 minutes. However today I will be briefly going through lecture 12 called “Kierkegaard’s Crises”.
Professor Stephen A. Erickson
As you might know, lecture 16 is perhaps half way through the course and Prof Stephen reflects on what he has looked at understanding the meaning of life. Prof Stephen feels that life seems complicated and complex, but now we have reached a dead end.
Stephen discusses the previous lectures and what philosophers have thought about life. Stephen mentions lectures 8 and 9 which centers on Schopenhauer’s Pessimism and realism. These lectures conclude that Life cannot be such a burden, although we must fight our animalistic passions in order to gain a higher sense of worth. We struggle in this cruel world and struggle with our inner demons or animalistic intentions, but we can resign ourselves to peace and art to withdraw from the world, if only for a moment.
Prof Stephen then briefly talks about lecture 10 and 11, which is on Alienation in Marx and his utopian Hope. Prof Stephen feels that We do not all need to contemplate revolution, even if life is quite hard.
Now its time to look at Kierkegaard’s ideas. Søren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, poet and thelogen born 5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855. He is actually called an existentialist. What this philosophy or movement is defined as is that we all need to look at ourselves individually to understand the power we hold, we are all free to make our own decisions and must avoid being pressed into organisations, definitions and institutions. Soren’s ideas present that we MUST become individuals, we are not born individuals.
Philosophy at that time was you were born into something. You was born as a Christian or born into another religion, you can read many books and that was the only sure way to represent that religion. Soren felt this was easy, all too easy, all too secure.
Prof Stephen talks a bit about how humans have a lower and a higher nature. what can connect us with our reason? where can we discover meaning? Stephen mentions that the Greeks felt we perhaps could detach from our emotions and find something that would give a lasting value to us. The Greeks almost seem obsessed about finding truth and beauty.
Maybe if truth is eternal and we perhaps could know it, then maybe there is something eternal about us. Perhaps and only just perhaps there is some objective immortally we can grasp, before we leave this planet, maybe then we can find something that matters to us, something that MEANS something to us and subdue our lower nature and enhance our higher nature.
Soren Kierkegaard read a lot about the thinkers in his day. Most of these were danish hegelians. They talked about a lot of history as Friedrich Hegel did in his day. Soren felt that the ideas like this to explain life was being abused. Soren Felt such academics who read hegal were into trivialities and being pompus about it. He noticed that everyone is making life easier, this cannot be so. Soren now wants to be famous, but instead of making things easier, how about he makes things more difficult. Why not look into the small things that seem unimportant, but they SHOULD matter. so that we pay attention to the details of life.
Kierkegaard’s Meaning in life is found through living through situations that do not seem to make sense. We are stuck by either/or situations.
Prof Stephen quotes Kierkegaard on a few things. Stephen states that Kierkegaard feels Life is not where history of dialectic ideas or about the history of this or that.
Kierkegaard wrote many books. One of them was “fear and trembling” This famous book about the dilemma of Abraham a biblical character, he was asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Such a dilemma to Kierkegaard was The teleological suspension of the ethic,
What does this mean?
Prof Stephen explains that this means that “There is morally no justification for you to sacrifice your son”, but god has command him to make this sacrifice, but why? God has commanded, and thus Abraham must do it, but it cannot not be morally right, but it is however justified by a higher reason. Thankfully god saves Abraham from the painful and moral dilemma by sending him an angel to stop the sacrifice. Still for those of us who are not fortunate, we struggle with moral, ethical and religious values every day. To Kierkegaard, this is actually a GOOD thing. We should struggle and question our individuality in accordance to religion, we should NOT be so sure of ourselves, but we should struggle within and not show our pain as if we bear a cross.
Soren tells us that the true meaning of our lives is within us and hidden, but it seems no one else can know it, touch it or understand it, but perhaps only through a relationship with god. As you probably can guess Soren Kierkegaard is deemed to be a Christian philosopher and a lot of his knowledge is set on Christian terms.
Soren sets to explain his ideas through through two concepts. They are two knights, think perhaps of those who fight for their belief and are on a quest.
The first concept is the Knight of resignation. Soren has troubles with such people who are knights of resignation. Those who display their religion, display their humility and poverty, they resign but call attention to themselves.
The other concept is the Knight of faith. Now soren prefers these people, they are inward, unseen, but you do not know that they are a knight of faith, you cannot tell from their external appearance on who they really are. They sometimes act on their faith, but they will not tell you they acted on this because their religion told them to.
Could you tell she is a knight?
Kiekegaard felt you should not display your relation to god, but understand it, in accordance to finding your meaning of life.
The lecture mentions that Soren also stressed the importance of separateness and isolation from others as quite a good thing. We must not be too overly connected with others. There was a Danish journal called “The Corsair” which often satirised people, eventually the journal satirised Soren Kiekegaard and eventually made serious fun out of him.
Children began to throw stones at Soren when they saw him in the streets. The lecture states this was a sad and cruel situation, but Soren felt this seemed quite a good thing. Soren actually practised what he preached. Security with others is a kind of death, we put on faces to meet the faces that we see, but this is almost inner agony. Have a think about this one one for a moment.
The lecture concludes that we Set of reflections regarding oneself, to realise one isn’t but MUST become an individual. Essential existentialism, our true nature to be reached, we need to be specific with god. This lecture is part one in this course next lecture looks through stages on the meaning of life according to Kierkegaard lecture 13 – Kierkegaard’s Passion.