Kierkegaard asks what can be said of the existence of a man such as Abraham who has suspended the ethical for the sake of a higher purpose? Can we say that Abraham is a sinner for opposing himself to the universal? Kierkegaard holds that the only justification for Abraham is again the Paradox of faith: the ethical is universal, but the justification can only be particular.
Those who judge actions by their results can never attain their root. Those who perceive greatness as something far and detached can never take part in it. Greatness, such as Abraham's, is for Kierkegaard the willingness and ability to bear the horror (angst) and the hardship, the fear and trembling, that greatness demands. From a far acts the like the one Abraham or Jesus did seem complete and exemplary, but this fails to capture the innate paradox and absurd that lies within them, the paradox that cannot be mediated. This is Abraham's paradox which suspended the ethical for the sake of the higher purpose of faith. The rationalization of ethics (such as Hegel's) cannot account for this paradox since exactly what makes it a paradox is that it goes beyond rational ethics. This also puts the "knight of faith" in a solitary position, in which no one can accompany him nor understand him since while the ethical is universal the act of faith is private. but Faith, says Kierkegaard at the end of the chapter "is a miracle, and yet no man is excluded from it; for that in which all human life is unified is passion, and faith is a passion" (Fear and Trembling, p.116).
Back to the main summary of Fear and Trembling
or by chapter: