Søren Kierkegaard Fear and Trembling: Problem 1

20 Jul

Problem 1: Is there such a thing as a teleological suspension of the ethical?

In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard presents 3 problems for discussion and explanation. I like Kierkegaard because of the way he explains things. The first problem is explained referring to Abraham and his decision to, or not to  sacrifice Isaac for God. Not only are his explanations easy to understand, but they often relate to biblical issues.

Before even explaining what he means by asking this first problem, he explains what the ethical and the teleological are. Telos is the endpoint and destination that every soul on earth is to eventually get to. Every being has telos and cannot exist without it. When one thinks the ethical, would you not think that the ethical spreads universally? Kierkegaard explains the ethical as the universal. The ethical applies to every being in the world,  therefore making it universal, and able to be used interchangeably with the word ‘universal’ by Kierkegaard. Ethical things are more than just to be explained as universal, but because of how all of the ethical things spread everywhere in the world in some way or the other, it is explained as universal.

What telos is ethical in its nature? If there is to be understood a teleological suspension of the ethical, ethical/universal telos needs to be established. The ethical is what occurs everywhere and for everyone, and because of how it spreads throughout most population, there is an ethical telos. Most people in the world do not have a faith of some sort, therefore ethical is to Kierkegaard’s problem not coherent with a person having faith. A more significant and imperative thing than all ethical having a faith that governs their life is a paradox to the ethical, and suspends the ethical because of how that things more significant than the ethical has something that most of the ethical does not. This higher more imperative and significant being having this faith is a suspension of the ethical because of how this thing is more significant and because it being so important does not adhere to the ethical. Paradox happens in the world when something particular and uniquely different becomes higher in hierarchy than all of the many things in the ethical/universal.

The faith Kierkegaard explains is uniquely different than the ethical, and changes the telos of the beings that adhere to this paradox. This being with faith is particular, and it becomes higher because of the fact that its telos is changed from the telos of the rest of the population. The telos changes to something different than the universal/ethical telos. This faith causes a different telos than the ethical and therefore the telos of the ethical is suspended. The question of Problem 1 is answered by saying that there is a teleological suspension of the ethical.

I agree with Kierkegaard’s explanation (especially when he uses Abraham to state that faith must be the ethical paradox) of Problem 1 and why there is a teleological suspension of the ethical. The ethical is all of the people who deny the existence and power of a God, and has an established telos. A faith becomes higher than this ethical because of the fact that this paradox changes the telos of a person. I totally agree with the answer to the problem and the explanation for it.

Kierkegaard being a Christian, one might think that in each statement and explanation for a problem, he would shine some light on his Christian beliefs. In the explanation of Problem 1 he uses Abraham to state that a faith must exist. However, little is done to establish why this faith changes the ethical telos. What this paradoxical faith is might be beside the problem for Kierkegaard, but I think that its extremely important to state why this faith changes the telos. The Christian including Kierkegaard, and myself, claims that the only faith that changes the telos is the Christian faith that gives their life to God, and worships Him constantly. I try to say this in a third person form, because I do not want to appear intolerant and stubborn in my religious beliefs. However stubborn and intolerant I might be, the Christian God and the worship in Him is the ONLY faith that changes the telos from the ethical. There exists many faiths in the world, almost all of which are false and do not change the telos from the rest of the ethical. The one faith that is the ethical paradox by changing the telos of the people who adhere to this faith is the faith in Christ and His Father. Kierkegaard would have done well to clearly explain this distinction. By saying that faith is the paradox and faith changes telos in a person is pretty much false, because all but one faith does nothing for the telos of a person. If an agnostic read this problem, and had no idea as to what god saves a person, they would be lead to believe that any faith would change their teleological doom.

Now, in the text Fear and Trembling: Problem 1, Kierkegaard talks a lot about God, Abraham, and the Virgin Mary, but all is used as an explanation for why there is a teleological suspension of the ethical. The fact that the only one true faith is the paradox of the ethical, and changes the telos of a person, and that that faith is the faith in Christ, should be included in the immediate logical deduction to solve the problem, and less so in just the explanation for so. Most of what I am saying is found in the text of Problem 1, I am just saying that a person looking for the answer to this problem finds it in the beginning pages of Problem 1. Kierkegaard logically answers the question to this problem in the beginning pages of the text. If someone reading Problem 1 finds what they are looking for in the beginning pages, one finds little reason to read further, especially since it is so well explained and solved in the first few pages. Pages 64-77 in my text of Fear and Trembling is of Problem 1. One seeking the answer to this problem would most likely not read to 77 because of how the answer is found in 65-66. I go as far as to say this because, the included information about Abraham, God, and the Virgin Mary take a back seat to the immediate solving of the problem, and the establishment of what that paradoxical faith really is, is not really a part of the answer, as it was answered by Soren Kierkegaard. Because of this, I want to state that this paradoxical faith that changes the telos to be different from the ethical  is in fact the faith in Jesus Christ in the purest biblical non denominational Christian way. Only Christ can give someone salvation and therefore change the telos of a person. Only faith in Christ is the faith that makes the possibility of a teleological suspension of the ethical.

Secondly, and finally, Kierkegaard does not establish what the telos of people in the ethical, and people in the paradoxical faith are. Establishment of what the telos of certain people specifically is, is not altogether necessary for Kierkegaard to prove his point that faith is the paradox that teleologically suspends itself from the ethical. It would be, however, helpful because of how the telos of the paradoxical faith (in Christ specifically) is the infinitely great telos, and that the universally ethical person’s telos is infinitely hot and painful (those believing in a false faith is only a person adhering to the universally ethical teleology). The people who believe in the paradoxical faith (in Christ), suspend themselves from the ethical teleology, and their telos becomes infinitely better. The telos of the people believing in the paradoxical faith ultimately is Heaven. Heaven is the place above the earth where God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ live. Those entering heaven gained salvation in God, and suspended themselves from the ethical teleology. Because they gained the paradoxical faith, they get into Heaven. Heaven is so amazingly and lovingly great because those entering Heaven get to be close and near to God for all of eternity. Closeness to God is the ultimate goal, because when we are on this earth, and we pray to Him, and he answers, life gets better because he is closer to us because of how we needed Him. The closer we get to God, the better our lives get. Heaven is the ultimate desired destination because we are closest to God there. Those believing in the paradoxical faith change their telos: to leaving the earth and going up to Heaven to be close to God, and to bask in His glory for eternity.

It may or may not be known by those of the universal, but their telos is a bit different than those of the paradoxical faith. Faith in Christ is paradoxical to the ethical/universal because of how it becomes higher than the ethical because of how it changes the person’s telos from that of the rest of the people in the ethical. Every person not believing in the paradoxical faith, is a part of the universal/ethical, and their telos is the telos of everyone else. And this telos is the destination that no one wants. The ethical/universal telos (Kierkegaardian) is the destination to Hell. In life, one sees the option to follow Christ’s faith. But, because of its implications and paradoxical characteristics, people decide not to follow it. Those deciding not to follow this faith make up the universal/ethical. The large group of the ethical have a large impending doom. This doom is the telos that ultimately destines them for eternal Hellfire. Hell is so terrible because those living there are close to Satan. Hell is so horrible because those living there are so infinitely and incredibly far from God that they thirst so bad for water, and they burn so badly that they only look up to Heaven for help. Either telos beings one ultimate destiny, those with the same telos tend to group together.

I feel that Kierkegaard should have stated more about what each group’s telos is. If the paradoxical faith people’s telos was stated, it would look so much more appealing, and its paradox would not look so conflicting. If the telos of the ethical/universal was stated, it would be more understood why the ethical is doomed for such a destination.

For the most part, Kierkegaard does well to explain why there is a teleological suspension of the ethical, these things i have said to be helpful to his argument, are not needed. However, I think they would further support his argument. Every time I begin to think that these 2 things would further support Kierkegaard’s argument, I think again how unnecessary it is because of the fact that he only wanted to answer whether or not there was a teleological suspension of the ethical. The paradoxical faith teleologically suspends the ethical.

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4 Responses to “Søren Kierkegaard Fear and Trembling: Problem 1”

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