Saturday, May 25, 2013
One almost finds oneself feeling a little sorry for the New Atheists as the dominoes continue to fall. Even so theologically marginal a thinker as Tertullian, and so rhetorical a writer as Martin Luther, are shown by people who know their thought more fully to not really promote fideism much at all.
But surely Soren Kierkegaard is an impregnable fortress of fideism! Surely Kierkegaard, if anyone, recommended that we believe without reasons!
Or maybe not.
I asked this question on Ed Feser's blog a day or two ago:
Edward assumes that Kierkegaard is properly read as a fideist, which was also my assumption. But recently I have seen this challenged . . . Anyone here know Kierkegaard well enough to adjudicate? (I have read a little, but not enough to know.)
G Rodrigues replied:
There are undoubtedly fideistic tendencies in Kierkegaard, but he is not a fideist, or at least not in the traditional sense of the word. See for example: Kierkegaard, Fideism and Subjective Reasoning.
Not an expert (or even knowledgeable), but for what is worth, I am in agreement with everything in the article and will just add a couple of incidental points by way of context.
(1) Kierkegaard is not a systematic philosopher; he had a life-long, this one systematic and relentless, feud with systematic philosophers, Hegel in particular. Not only that, his primary mode of communication ("indirect communication") is steeped in irony; he also uses several pseudonyms that engage in dialectical discourse but do not disclose any final answers for his reader. His phd thesis was on the concept of irony "with constant reference to Socrates" -- Kierkegaard as a modern-day Socrates is not that much off the mark.
(2) Bear in mind also the intended audience of Kierkegaard; he hardly addresses atheists, for example -- although he viewed many of his contemporaries as functional atheists. I am pretty confident that for the bovine contented Gnu sort, he would have only scorn and contempt (as would Nietzche by the way).
The link Rodrigues provides is "just" a blog post, not an academic article, impressionistic, and does not offer profuse textual proof. But the author seems to know (and rightly appreciate) his great Dane, so I wouldn't bet against him. This also fits my own fitful impressions from dipping my toe in that sea. Here's the money quote:
SK was far from advocating "blind faith" or the "enslavement" of reason to revealed truth. What he passionately wished to communicate was a recovery of subjective reasoning; and the truth that faith, if it is to be fairly considered or even understood for what it is, must be considered in a mode of subjective rather than objective thought. SK's corpus may be thought of as therapy for those suffering the modern rupture between the objective and the subjective, so that they may recover the authentic mode of subjective thinking (which is really human thought in its true form), and so truly face the question of faith. The question of faith, presented in its objective form, is never really presented at all.
Still not satisfied, I wrote Marilyn Foley, a Kierkegaard scholar at Drexter University. She kindly responded:
Kierkegaard certainly did not advocate blind faith. In fact, I don't even think he believed there was such a thing. One always has a reason for his beliefs, according to Kierkegaard, no matter what those beliefs are. I address this issue in my book Ways of Knowing: Kierkegaard's Pluralist Epistemology. I also treat it in the attached article "Kierkegaard on Rationality" from the journal Faith and Philosophy.
If so (I haven't had the chance to read the article yet), it may be that the last, forlorn buttress of the Temple to the Blind Faith Meme, is also crumbling.
Oh, well. Our Gnu friends can still believe it on sheer will-power.