Work in Progress. Kierkegaard on God and Potentiality

In Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Kierkegaard identifies the aesthetic with possibility and ethics with actuality.  The relative value of these terms shifts within Kierkegaard’s exposition, or so it seems, as Kierkegaard builds up his view of possibility and actuality.  Comments on Either/Or suggest that we see a higher value in the point of view of Assessor (or Judge) William than in the point of view of the A author, the Young Man, or of Johannes the Seducer, whose story appears in the ‘Diary of a Seducer’, the last part of the A texts assembled by the Young Man.  William is leading an ethical life, the life of a married man, which has a stability and an achievement lacking in the restless imagination of the Young Man who appears to be a friend of William.  However, subsequent remarks by Kierkegaard might lead us to wonder whether we should take this as an untroubled ranking of the B author over the A author.  Kierkegaard goes on to put possibility above actuality from the religious point of view.  That is possibility if we take all possibilities as being realised.  That brings us to the absolute point of view, the point of view of religion.  That actuality of the ethical excludes the value in the reality of other possibilities.  William does seem like a parodic figure of self-assurance in his life as husband and civil servant.  The place of the state and its servants is often mocked by Kierkegaard, not because he rejects the state, but because he sees its role as limited and functional, and not to be allowed to dominate human life.  Various moments of William’s two absurdly lengthy letters to his young friend might lead us to wonder how happy his wife is.  Even if we take his reports on the happiness of his marriage as given, we might wonder at his adherence to the message of Christianity, without feeling challenged by it.  He passes on the ‘Ultimatum’ to the Young Man with its distinctly Kierkegaardian ide aof religion, but does  not seem to have been at all affected by its call to recognise our insignificance and  wrongness before God.  

What Kierkegaard suggests in Concluding Unscientific Postscript is the value of taking all possibilities seriously as real, or concentrating on the Aristotelian move from possibility to reality, the movement of potentiality.  Some have seen this movement as akin to Deleuze, but this seems to concentrate on a meaning of kinesis which is more physicalist than Kierkegaard’s own discussion of it as the movement from potentiality to actuality.  Anyway, what Kierkegaard definitely does not take from Aristotle is an argument for the necessity of God.  Kierkegaard firmly rejects all arguments to prove the existence of God, and particularly targets Descartes.  The emphasis on the actuality of all possibilities in Kierkegaard maybe moves us towards a Godly absolute perspective, but Kierkegaard does not use this as part of an argument for God’s existence, and never tries find a God’s point of view, any ‘view from nowhere’ is foreign to Kierkegaard’s philosophy.  

With regard to Descartes, Kierkegaard opposes the idea that we can argue from the hypothesis of God existence on the grounds that his existence is necessary.  The necessity is still part of the hypothesis, is internal to it.  We cannot move from the hypothesis to the necessity of God’s existence.  The assumption that the idea of God can only come from God, is rejected by Kierkegaard.  This is in the spirit of Kant, and maybe Hume, though unlike Kant, Hume had no interest in putting religion on a rational moral basis.  So Kierkegaard’s view of God and Christianity is Enlightenment, in the narrow sense.  Not in the sense that includes Spinoza, since Spinoza does argue for the necessary existence of God, even if he may have meant nature when he talks about God (an approach followed by Hegel).  Kierkegaard is not accepting Luccretius style arguments for non-belief in a God who is at the foundation of the universe either.  His argument is for God as the belief that we are willing to test in life, and which enables life the most, and the becoming subjective which is the task of life.  We can see the ethical and religious significance of Fear and Trembling  from this.  It looks at how to deal with the possibility that God commands sacrifice combined with the possibility that he will avery the requirement for sacrifice.  The actuality of ethics has to be sacrificed, even if only in a temporary way.  

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