Just read this for the second time. The first time was in college for a Kierkegaard class. I liked it then a lot, but one of the problems with collegeJust read this for the second time. The first time was in college for a Kierkegaard class. I liked it then a lot, but one of the problems with college for me was that I often felt overloaded. There was so much to read that it was often difficult to get it all read, and so even the stuff I read was almost never at full attention.
I read "Fear and Trembling" before college (or at least my second and successful attempt at college). I really loved it. But on the other hand, I have a difficult relationship with Christianity. It's too close to me to abandon, but too uncomfortable to be satisfying.
Probably the most satisfying communal religious experiences I have had have been with the Quakers. Of course, as with any denomination, there are many kinds of Quakers. I mean the quiet ones. The ones who literally meet on Sunday (sometimes other times too) to sit for an hour in silence. Where there is no priest, and anyone can speak if they feel moved by God. Of course, just as there are different denominations there are different congregations and let's just say some of them are more quiet than others.
Sometimes I feel very strongly that any Christianity I could really accept would be found more in Christian writers like Kierkegaard than in many of the passages of the Bible. But then again, as K points out, Christ himself said something like blessed are those who are not offended by me. K takes this sense of offense very seriously.
Make no mistake, Kierkegaard is disgusted by the idea of "defending" Christianity, or of trying to convince someone of it's truth. Not because he takes it as too obvious for proof, but rather due to the very nature of Christianity itself and faith. If you are the happy pagan, likely you will simply reject the book out of hand as not corresponding to your understanding of reality.
I think there are two things in particular that are appealing about K. First, he has an incredibly noble view of human possibility. Secondly, he is a very clear thinker.
This read was interesting in many ways, but in one way in particular, because he puts the question directly to a waffler like me. I always want to have it both ways, along the lines of "oh both Christianity and not-Christianity are true." He argues that "no, either you really believe that those happy pagans are healthy, or you believe that they are in despair."
Of course you have to be clear about what he tells you he means by this word. He accepts that those happy pagans can be very much happy and healthy. His meaning of despair is not the idea that "oh they look happy but underneath they are really eating their hearts out". The idea is much closer to the idea that they are simply in error. Of course he does mean that despair is a kind of spiritual illness. Just not one that necessarily makes you feel bad. (though of course it can). It means that if you have those feelings of contentment and happiness in this life without agreeing about God and our relationship to him, then you have essentially traded this life for eternity. You are simply oblivious to the most profound dimension of human existence. Here's the idea, there's no argument about it. If you are the pagan you won't find anything here to convince you, except perhaps the attraction of the image he provides. But it is based in a very noble notion of the eternal and the vast depths of the possibility of the human spirit. Here is the idea that we are defined by what measures us, and what measures us is God.
Of course it can be confusing, because at times he does speak of despair as a feeling like we commonly understand it to be. Certainly he agrees that they can be related. This is of course another of the very cool things about K, that he can talk about pretty abstract things in terms of personal psycho-spiritual experience. Also, the reverse as well.
Certainly for me this read was more personal, more about my own place. And I think this is appropriate, for as Kierkegaard says at the beginning, he does mean this work to be edifying. I take him to mean there personally relevant, not simply meant as some abstract analysis. Certainly I found his views very compelling....more
I was happy to find this as an e-book at google books, particularly at the price compared to the usual for this sort of academic book.
I wanted to readI was happy to find this as an e-book at google books, particularly at the price compared to the usual for this sort of academic book.
I wanted to read this after reading Coleridge's "Biographia Literaria". I found some parts of the book very rewarding. I focused primarily on the beginning and the end. The earlier parts discuss the first stages of the deduction of the universe from the original principle. I thought this stuff was pretty interesting. Past a certain point though the derivation seemed to be pretty empty speculation. Even fairly early on I had the feeling that some of the arguments weren't truly enlightening but were sort of sophistical tricks to prove theses that he believed in. It seems to me that a truly compelling philosophical argument isn't just to achieve the result of proving some thesis. That sort of argument really is usually pretty useless except in certain domains like logic. Rather the best argument should really reveal something deep and interesting about the subject that thus compels agreement. Still, I found the general picture that was being presented interesting. I have a strange fascination with idealism. In some ways I have a very strong feeling of "How could anyone really believe that?!" but at the same time, that very outlandishness has somehow attracted me for a long time to continue to study it.
The other part that I focused on was the ending which details a theory of art. Again, I think there are many would argue that such theorizing of art from such high level general principles is useless. I have some real sympathy for that argument but at the same time am irresistibly drawn to it nonetheless. This part was too short for me. I would have really enjoyed reading more in this vein. Unfortunately, Schelling's "Philosophy of Art" goes off in a totally different direction that I found pretty useless. The basic idea here is that the work of art is the highest approach to the general unity of the entire universe as it is the conscious fusion of the universal and the particular in a way that maintains the poles at the same time as showing the unity. Philosophy is inferior as it subsumes the particular under the universal and treats the unity in abstract terms. I think there's really something pretty interesting in this way of looking at art, the general metaphysical picture and all. I realize this view makes me a leper in pretty much every circle intellectual or otherwise :)...more
I mark this as read in the sense that I read the first few chapters and then skimmed most of the rest and have no intention of going back to it. ThereI mark this as read in the sense that I read the first few chapters and then skimmed most of the rest and have no intention of going back to it. There was some thought provoking material, but on the whole it just made me realize that I don't care enough about "continental philosophy" to try to make sense of his arguments. Plotinus kicks Zizek's ass....more
Up front, I just read the first part which is where he tries to explain Hegel in general. I found this reasonably useful. As I mentioned in the reviewUp front, I just read the first part which is where he tries to explain Hegel in general. I found this reasonably useful. As I mentioned in the review for the appropriate Copleston volume, I thought the comparison was very interesting. On the other hand this volume is a little bit in between for me. It does some of the same work, but the Marxist touch is a bit distracting though if I was reading the book more for the overall point it would probably be more interesting.
This is the second of these "Very Short Introduction" books that I have been quite happy with. The first being Critchley's on Continental Philosophy iThis is the second of these "Very Short Introduction" books that I have been quite happy with. The first being Critchley's on Continental Philosophy in general. I did have one about Buddhism that was a less exciting but not bad.
This of course can only be what it is, but it is that, short and sweet. It's remarkably clear and interesting. Of course it suffers a little because of that. There are lots of interesting discussions of Hegel, and then the reality of Hegel is always even more daunting. But Singer manages to get a lot of material into the few pages.
So, I think this would be a good place to start even for a philosophy student wanting to get acquainted with Hegel. However, it's important to realize that actually making the step to reading Hegel is going to be a much bigger one than usual with this sort of thing....more
In my class on Kierkegaard we used read this little book at the very beginning as an example of the "standard view" on Kierkegaard, which we then invaIn my class on Kierkegaard we used read this little book at the very beginning as an example of the "standard view" on Kierkegaard, which we then invalidated through the whole semester. So it has to be said that this is basically good enough for that purpose, but it's hard to look past that in reviewing it....more