Kierkegaard was an interesting fellow

I needed a quick break from thesis readings, so tonight I decided to (briefly) explore the philosophy of Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “father of existentialism.”

Either it’s not actually procrastination, or I’m just adept at fooling myself into believing it isn’t.

Give yourself a pat on the back if you caught the terrible Kierkegaard joke.

Focusing my limited time on his philosophy of religion—the area which I found to be most interesting—I decided to note my thoughts on what seems to be his main existential argument, or at least how I understood it.

Be warned: I knew very little about Kierkegaard before tonight, and still feel that I know relatively little about his overarching views. Therefore, you might disagree with my interpretation.

Kierkegaard on Religion

Kierkegaard believes that you, as an individual, are enslaved unless you are free to do what you please. By this logic, he believes you should try to do exactly that which you wish to do most above all, which is the key to true happiness.

What each individual wants to do most above all, psychologically speaking, is to believe in universal moral truth, and so you should seek to further this interest.

(But what if I want to commit immoral acts? Plato and others have argued that you would never truly want to do this if you were in a fully rational position, and that all immoral desires are merely a result of insufficient knowledge.)

Believing in universal moral truth requires some form of religion or anti-naturalism, although, admittedly, there still exists a broad variety of distinct ideologies within this grouping.

So, what you should do to be truly free is to become religious, even though there is no possible rational justification for religious truth being correct.

This, Kierkegaard explains, is called the “leap of faith,” and without it, not only can you not be free in the most meaningful sense, but you can never truly vanquish psychological existential anxiety from your daily life.

TL;DR

Kierkegaard: Deep down, you truly want to be a religious and moral individual. You’ve also been given the gift of free will. So go be religious—but avoid as much unjustifiable dogma as possible.

Is he right?

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Author: Zachary Reger

A graduate of the University of Missouri with degrees in journalism, philosophy and film studies, Zach's primary interests lie in political reporting, media production and social philosophy.

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