Work in Progress. Kierkegaard on Inwardness and Subjectivity

Kierkegaard devotes a large part of Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the topic of the subjectivity, and the becoming subjective of the human individual, and this is a central theme of Kierkegaard’s writing.  Though again it is something that can be found more in the pseudonymous works than in the signed works.  Works of Love gains context, and depth, from comparison with the discussion of subjectivity in Concluding Unscientific Postscript.  The other side of that is that Concluding Unscientific Postscript engages with secular reason, and as in Philosophical Crumbs, the model is just as much Socrates as Christ.  Lessing and Hamann enter Concluding Unscientific Postscript as literary models, linking Kierkegaard with the more aesthetic and subjectivist side of Enlightenment, and with the critical consideration of Kant. These authors do not completely  take him away from theology, but they do place Kierkegaard in a tradition of secular philosophy.  The significant point in Kierkegaard’s writing is that he has an account of the nature of subjectivity which does not give any objective reality to theological claims.  Our nature is something we can only encounter as subjectivity, as inwardness.  There is a conflict between subjectivity and the absolute nature of God, but a conflict which is necessary to subjectivity because the understanding it has, must be concerned with the limits it draws for itself and what might be beyond the limit.  The whole theme of drawing a limit gets into paradoxes around whether it is possible to have a limit, since with no limit understanding contains what is beyond understanding, and with a limit understanding has to limit itself without knowing what determines that limit.  This brings us back to the paralogisms in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.  Wittgenstein’s Tractatus can give us another way of thinking about this, a way probably influenced by Kierkegaard.  Valuable as those comparisons are, what Kierkegaard brings is a particular concern with subjectivity, and with a distinctive kind of subjectivity.  Not subjectivity as Lockean ideas and not subjectivity  as a Fichtean I = I, but subjectivity as a processual kind of self-awareness, the self as what is concerned with its limits and its possibilities.   That is subjectivity which is aware of its own inwardness and of the necessity for something outside the experience of inwardness, in inwardness.  The inwardness will not make sense without some idea of what goes beyond the immediate contents of inwardness.  That comes into the discussion of tragedy and melancholy elsewhere.  What enters in Concluding Unscientific Postscript is the nature of truth as what makes inwardness more than solipsistic self-awareness of solipsistic empiricisms.  It is truth which is at the centre of inwardness and which provides the passion that guides it.  Truth is what is not objective, and what cannot be explained outside the inner individual grasp of it.  What that truth is is can be understood as a Socratic concern with the relation between thought now and the absolute nature of knowledge.  That absolute nature can only be understood subjectively as a paradoxical limit. 


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