Essay I wrote for Humanities about Søren Kierkegaard. Enjoy!
If history is indeed a raging river, then what can one man do to alter the course? Søren Kierkegaard was a dissenting individualist in a period dominated by idealism and historicism. Kierkegaard believed that Hegel’s historicism caused contemporary Europeans to lose sight on what is important, the here and now. This diminution of the importance of the individual infuriated Kierkegaard; thus, he embarked on a mission to dam this river.
Kierkegaard believed people were asking the wrong questions like how the universe functions, why things happen the way they do, and whether God exists are concepts that no man can comprehend. Rather than pursuing logical answers to illogical questions, Kierkegaard asserted that the important matters in life are the issues that affect individuals on a personal level. “Rather than searching for the Truth with a capital T, it is more important to find the kind of truths that are meaningful to the individual’s life. It is important to find ‘the truth for me'” (375). Not only are these Universal Truths unattainable, they bear no significance in our day to day lives. I find that searching for answers to rhetorical questions is a hollow pursuit that bears no results. A far more applicable set of questions to ask would be the Six Questions of Socrates. Although I have never practically utilized the Law of Causality to help me achieve a goal, by applying my personal answers to the Six Questions, I have come to better understand my own code of ethics and morals. The other weekend, one of my chickens died; the ensuing situation put me in an ethical dilemma that pushed the boundaries of my morality. Having applied the Law of Causality, I came to the conclusion that the chicken died because the sun was shining too brightly. While this may have been true, I had no way of using this to my advantage. Here was a dead chicken, a pet even; she was named Miley Cyrus. Was I supposed to bury her? If a friend had died, I concluded that the good and virtuous thing to do would be to give her a proper burial. On the other hand, Miley and I had never particularly bonded and after all, she was a chicken that was perfectly edible so in this case, wouldn’t the righteous action be to eat her? Why bury a perfectly delicious, grain-fed, free- range chicken? After some contemplation, I decided that Miley Cyrus was dead and thus could not care about what we did with her body and thus, the virtuous action would be to make use of this succulent cut of poultry. While eating chicken soup for dinner that night, I made sure to eat in moderation so that every one in the family could have an equal share. I made the decision to cook my pet, not because of a mysterious cosmic force, or because I believed she was a part of me and a part of nature as a whole, I did so because I asked the right questions and my answers led me to my decision.
Another question that Kierkegaard wanted people to ask themselves was whether or not they were truly Christians: “Christianity was both so overwhelming and so irrational that it had to be an either/or. It was not being ‘rather’ or ‘to some extent’ religious. Because either Jesus rose on Easter Day––or he did not” (374). Although this may be a stark way of seeing things, I must agree with him; nothing bothers me more than a “Sunday Christian.” A couple of months ago, a friend told me that he wanted to run for a public office like a senator or congressman when he grows up. I flatly told him that there was no way for this to happen because he was not religious. He responded with a tone of insensitivity that he was Christian. When I asked him how often he went to church, he replied, “Only for Christmas and Easter.” I felt almost insulted by this answer. Claiming to be a part of a faith because you attend services twice a year? Muslims pray five times a day, Mormons’ lives are dictated by their faith, there are people that are willing to die and that have died in the name of religion and you claim to be faithful because you attend church twice a year? Up until I was 16, I attended church regularly, every Sunday morning. However, I stopped calling myself a Christian by age 10. I had no reason to. I simply did not believe in God anymore. Going to church was a chore that I did because I was supposed to. Instead, I placed my faith in my education. I felt no need for spiritual guidance from the church. Kierkegaard however, was a staunch Christian which I can completely respect. One must be dedicated to something, whether you are religious, or atheist makes no difference. In fact, one of the groups of people whom I admire the most are the Mormons. The Mormons do not take religion for granted. They take faith to heart and live lives dedicated to the Church. This unwavering fidelity commands my full respect. They take the only acceptable approach to Christianity and that is complete faith and this is not referring to a few select members, I have interviewed and talked with many members of the LDS and they were all dedicated to their religion but at the same time, they do not reject science like some other churches. What matters is not whether you have faith that there definitely is a God or there definitely isn’t, what matters is that you believe in something and stay true to your beliefs.
While I accept both religion and sciences as forms of faith, what irks me to no end is when people attempt to explain religion through scientific processes. Kierkegaard shared the same opinion: “Many had previously tried to prove the existence of God––or at any rate to bring him within the bounds of rationality. But if you content yourself with some such proof or logical argument, you suffer a loss of faith, and with it, a loss of religious passion” (377). Any and all methods of proving God’s existence are not only flawed, but fundamentally flawed; it is a fruitless search for an answer to an unanswerable question. One cannot prove or disprove the existence of God and that is why we have faith. As we read through Sophie’s World, every philosopher who tried to explain God was moved down a notch in my eyes. My personal belief is that God does not exist and if he does, then I do not want to be able to comprehend him. If a mere mortal can comprehend an omniscient god, then where would the distinction be?
I find that out of all the philosophers we have studied, Kierkegaard’s philosophy is most similar to mine because he is a realist, he sees things for what they are, not what they might be. This is what sets him apart from many of the other philosophers. He did not set out to conquer life or God but rather to pull people back down to Earth from the lofty clouds of idealism. His emphasis on the individual not only re-empowered the people, but also held them responsible for their own actions. This is the only life we have and if we screw up, we are the only ones to blame; we must make the most of our time on Earth and do our best to keep a clear conscience.