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Fear and Trembling begins with a Preface by Johannes de silentio. His Upbuilding Discourses begin with a dedication to the single individual, who has become Abraham in this work. It begins like this, "Once upon a time there was a man who as a child had heard that beautiful story of how God tempted Abraham and of how Abraham withstood the temptation, kept the faith, and, contrary to expectation, got a son a second time.
He did not know Hebrew ; if he had known Hebrew, he perhaps would have easily understood the story of Abraham. How did Abraham become the father of faith?
Kierkegaard says, "No one who was great in the world will be forgotten, but everyone was great in his own way, and everyone in proportion to the greatness of that which he loved. He who loved himself became great by virtue of himself, and he who loved other men became great by his devotedness, but he who loved God became greatest of all. Everyone shall be remembered, but everyone became great in proportion to his expectancy.
Everyone shall be remembered, but everyone was great wholly in proportion to the magnitude of that with which he struggled. For he who struggled with the world became great by conquering the world, and he who struggled with himself became great by conquering himself, but he who struggled with God became greatest of all.
Is there a Teleological Suspension of the Ethical? Is there an Absolute Duty to God? Freedom consists in using that choice. We each have the right to speak or not to speak and the right to act or not to act. He says, Temporality, finitude-this is what it is all about. I can resign everything by my own strength and find peace and rest in the pain; I can put up with everything-even if that dreadful demon, more horrifying than the skeletal one who terrifies me, even if madness held its fools costume before my eyes and I understood from its face that it was I who should put it on-I can still save my soul as long as my concern that my love of God conquer within me is greater than my concern that I achieve earthly happiness.
Fear and Trembling p. Right of insight into the good is different from right of insight with regard to action as such. The right of objectivity means that the act must be a change in the actual world, be recognized there, and in general be adequate to what has validity there.
Whoso will act in this actual world has thereby submitted to its laws, and recognized the right of objectivity. Similarly in the state, which is the objectivity of the conception of reason, legal responsibility does not adapt itself to what any one person holds to be reasonable or unreasonable. It does not adhere to subjective insight into right or wrong, good or evil, or to the claims which an individual makes for the satisfaction of his conviction.
In this objective field the right of insight is reckoned as insight into what is legal or illegal, or the actual law. It limits itself to its simplest meaning, namely, knowledge of or acquaintance with what is lawful and binding. Through the publicity of the laws and through general customs the state removes from the right of insight that which is for the subject its formal side.
It removes also the element of chance, which at our present standpoint still clings to it. He wrote, "If a person is sometimes in the right, sometimes in the wrong, to some degree in the right, to some degree in the wrong, who, then, is the one who makes that decision except the person himself, but in the decision may he not again be to some degree in the right and to some degree in the wrong?
Or is he a different person when he judges his act then when he acts? Is doubt to rule, then, continually to discover new difficulties, and is care to accompany the anguished soul and drum past experiences into it? Or would we prefer continually to be in the right in the way irrational creatures are? Then we have only the choice between being nothing in relation to God or having to begin all over again every moment in eternal torment, yet without being able to begin, for if we are able to decide definitely with regard to the previous moment, and so further and further back.
Doubt is again set in motion, care again aroused; let us try to calm it by deliberating on: We then recognized the state as the moral whole and the reality of freedom, and consequently as the objective unity of these two elements. The demand is then made that this definite context shall be deduced from the conception of free will. Hence, if it is right to absorb right and duty into subjectivity, it is on the other hand wrong if this abstract basis of action is not again evolved.
Only in times when reality is a hollow, unspiritual, and shadowy existence, can a retreat be permitted out of the actual into an inner life. Agamemnon, for example, can say: To me the proof that I am not violating my fatherly duty is that my duty is my one and only wish. Consequently we have wish and duty face to face with each other. Happy is the life in which they coincide, in which my wish is my duty and the reverse, and for most men the task in life is simply to adhere to their duty and to transform it by their enthusiasm into their wish.
The tragic hero gives up his wish in order to fulfill his duty. For the knight of faith, wish and duty are also identical, but he is required to give up both. If he wants to relinquish by giving up his wish, he finds no rest, for it is indeed his duty. If he wants to adhere to the duty and to his wish, he does not become the knight of faith, for the absolute duty specifically demanded that he should give it up. The tragic hero found a higher expression of duty but not an absolute duty.
Fear and Trembling Note p. This [book] is not the system; it has not the least thing to do with the system. I invoke everything good for the system and for the Danish shareholders in this omnibus, for it will hardly become a tower. I wish them all, each and every one, success and good fortune. He says, "The present author is by no means a philosopher. He is in a poetic and refined way a supplementary clerk who neither writes the system nor gives promises of the system, who neither exhausts himself on the system nor binds himself to the system.
He writes because to him it is a luxury that is all the more pleasant and apparent the fewer there are who buy and read what he writes. Journals I A 329 1837 Kierkegaard introduces the idea of the paradox and the leap in Fear and Trembling. He says, "The act of resignation does not require faith, for what I gain is my eternal consciousness. This is a purely philosophical movement that I venture to make when it is demanded and can discipline myself to make, because every time some finitude will take power over me, I starve myself into submission until I make the movement, for my eternal consciousness is my love for God, and for me that is the highest of all.
The act of resignation does not require faith, but to get the least little bit more than my eternal consciousness requires faith, for this is the paradox. A son murders his father, but not until later does he learn that it was his father. A sister is going to sacrifice her brother but realizes it at the crucial moment. He kept everything from Sarah, Eliezer, and Isaac. He keeps absolute silence about the whole affair.
Grief and joy can both keep an individual quiet in inward reflection, perhaps its a mixture of both that Abraham felt. What prevents reflective grief from being artistically portrayed is that it lacks repose, that it never comes into harmony with itself, or rests in any single definitive expression. As a sick man throws himself about in his pain, now on one side and then on the other, so is reflective grief tossed about in the effort to find its object and its expression.
Whenever grief finds repose, then will its inner essence gradually work its way out, becoming visible externally, and thus also subject to artistic representation. As soon as it finds rest and peace within itself, this movement from within outward invariably sets in; the reflective grief moves in the opposite direction, like blood retreating from the surface of the body, leaving only a hint of its presence in the sudden paleness.
Reflective grief is not accompanied by any characteristic outward change; even at its very inception it hastens inward, and only a watchful observer suspects its vanishing; afterwards it keeps careful guard over its outward appearance, so as to make it as unobtrusive as possible. Retiring thus within, it finds at last an enclosure, an innermost recess, where it hopes it can remain; and now begins its monotonous movement. Back and forth it swings like a pendulum, and cannot come to rest.
Ever it begins afresh from the beginning and considers everything, it rehearses the witnesses, it collates and verifies their testimony, as it has done a hundred times before, but the task is never finished. Monotony exercises in the course of time a benumbing influence upon the mind. Like the monotonous sound of water dripping from the roof, like the monotonous whir of a spinning wheel, like the monotonous sound of a man walking with measured tread back and forth on the floor above, so this movement of reflective grief finally gives to it a certain sense of numb relief, becoming a necessity as affording it an illusion of progress.
It can be assumed that in the present generation every tenth person is an assistant professor; consequently it is a paradox for only nine out of ten. And when the fullness of time finally comes, that matchless future, when a generation of assistant professors, male and female, will live on the earth-then Christianity will have ceased to be a paradox.
On the other hand, the person who takes it upon himself to explain the paradox, on the assumption that he knows what he wants, will focus directly upon showing that it must be a paradox. To explain the unutterable joy  -what does that mean? Does it mean to explain that it is this and that? The explaining jack-of-all-trades has everything in readiness before the beginning of the performance, and now it begins.
He dupes the listener; he calls the joy unutterable, and then a new surprise, a truly surprising surprise-he utters it. Suppose that the unutterable joy is based upon the contradiction that an existing human being is composed of the infinite and the finite, is situated in time, so that the joy of the eternal in him becomes unutterable because he is existing; it becomes a supreme drawing of breath that cannot take shape, because the existing person is existing.
In that case the explanation would be that it is unutterable; it cannot be anything else-no nonsense. But given the task as assigned to Abraham, he himself has to act; consequently, he has to know in the crucial moment what he himself will do, and consequently, he has to know that Isaac is going to be sacrificed.
Ethics forbade it as well as aesthetics. Kierkegaard says, "wishing to be in the wrong is an expression of an infinite relationship, and wanting to be in the right, or finding it painful to be in the wrong, is an expression of a finite relationship! Hence, it is upbuilding always to be in the wrong-because only the infinite builds up; the finite does not!
Remain faithful to his commitment to God. He accomplished that by actually lifting the knife with the intention of carrying out his mission. In short, he acted. Here the intention was more important than the result. He had faith and had to go no further to please God. There perhaps are many in every generation who do not come to faith, but no one goes further. Whether there are also many in our day who do not find it, I do not decide.
I dare to refer only to myself, without concealing that he has a long way to go, without therefore wishing to deceive himself of what is great by making a trifle of it, a childhood disease one may wish to get over as soon as possible. But life has tasks enough also for the person who does not come to faith, and if he loves these honestly, his life will not be wasted, even if it is never comparable to the lives of those who perceived and grasped the highest.
But the person who has come to faith whether he is extraordinarily gifted or plain and simple does not matter does not come to a standstill in faith. Indeed, he would be indignant if anyone said to him, just as the lover resents it if someone said that he came to a standstill in love; for, he would answer, I am by no means standing still.
I have my whole life in it. Yet he does not go further, does not go on to something else, for when he finds this, then he has another explanation. If there were anyone who did not know it, I would be thrown off balance by the thought that I could possibly teach him the requisite preparatory knowledge. What occupies me so much is precisely what the educated and cultured say in our time-that everyone knows what the highest is.