Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Summary: Fear and Trembling / Kierkegaard - Problem III - part 4

After his "foregoing discussion" (See previous parts of the summary of Problem III) Kierkegaard returns to the story of Abraham not in order to make the story more intelligible but rather in order to make the extent of its unintelligibility more intelligible. Kierkegaard restates that "Abraham I cannot understand, I can only admire him" (Fear and Trembling, p.153).

Abraham kept silent and did not let anyone in on his dire task. The aesthetic allows for silence if it can save someone, but this is not the case for Abraham who cannot save Isaac through silence. Kierkegaard also says that Abraham is not aesthetic since the aesthetic can accept personal sacrifice for others, not the sacrifice of other for the sake of the personal. Ethics, on the other hand, condemns concealment and demands disclosure that bring the inner into the light of the universal. But Abraham does not do anything for the sake of the ethical universal and he remains concealed. This leads us once again to Kierkegaard's paradox: "Either the individual as the individual is able to stand in an absolute relation to the absolute (and then the ethical is not the highest)/or Abraham is lost–he is neither a [ethical] tragic hero, nor an aesthetic hero" (Fear and Trembling, p. 154). Abraham does not speak, he cannot speak, and this is not simply a withdrawal from society but an anguishing fate of carrying your burden all by yourself. Unlike the tragic hero, Abraham would not be understood by others, and this condemns him to silence and solitude. Abraham appears as insane but inside he knows "here I am" in face of the absolute.

Towards the end of the last chapter of Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard looks to Abraham's reply to Isaac: "God will provide Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son". Kierkegaard argues that this is the only possible thing Abraham could have said to prevent everything from slipping into chaos. Speaking in every other way would have taken Abraham out of the paradox. Abraham's response is ironical, " for it always is irony when I say something and do not say anything" (Fear and Trembling, p. 157). Abraham's response demonstrates the double movement of the paradox, he does not lie since the answer captures the absurd embedded in his faith which at the same time resigns to God's and trusts him to keep his word. It is not an answer of ignorance, since Abraham is fully aware of their condition.

Kierkegaard concludes "Fear and Trembling" by once again asserting that "either there is a paradox, that the individual as the individual stands in an absolute relation to the absolute/or Abraham is lost".