Probably one of Kierkegaard's less appreciated books, nonetheless it's a great work if one keeps in mind Kierkegaard's sometimes ironic relationship w...moreProbably one of Kierkegaard's less appreciated books, nonetheless it's a great work if one keeps in mind Kierkegaard's sometimes ironic relationship with philosophy and philosophic study. Many people who discount this work (and his other works) should probably read the introduction (the biography of Johannes Climacus) as a Kierkegaard's own tongue-in-cheek way of discounting the philosophy of his pseudonyms (or maybe not...I shouldn't impose my own thoughts about Kierkegaard's intentions onto the work). Despite the academese in Philosophical Fragments, I think there are some incredible insights that the book offers to any reader who wants to challenge him/herself.
To start in reverse, my personal favorite topic in the book is the issue of time and history (or "contemporaneity" as translated by Hong & Hong). In this book, the issue of contemporaneity is put in context of "the god", and in a broader perspective, in the context of faith. For any Christian, this is a question of paramount importance -- how is it that God existed on a temporal plane at one point (Jesus Christ)? And now that Jesus' physical form is nowhere to be found on Earth, how does a believer relate to the historical Jesus, as well as the spiritual Jesus? The question of religious faith is inextricably linked to Kierkegaard's authorship, but I think some general questions proto-existentialist can be drawn out from his discussion. The big question, to me, is: how does existence relate to time (or more technically, temporality)? To make this more focused: how do I relate to temporality? This question can be asked a myriad of different ways. My general point I'm trying to convey is that this consciousness of time is of prime importance to being unto-itself (aka Being) and, in the grand scope of things, a good question that helps keeps all our subjective experiences in perspective.
The second major topic that I was provoked by was the question of truth. What is truth? How do we know truth from untruth? Obviously, this a perennial question and I don't presume to believe that Kierkegaard even came close to answering this question (in fact, after reading much of his authorship, I feel that he has put us farther away from answering it). However, I think Kierkegaard/Climacus circumvents the issue and presents an interesting perspective of the concept of truth (not truth itself). One question I think that Climacus masterfully deals with is "What is the form of truth?", which is a question on the path towards answering, "What is truth?". In particular, I think that Kierkegaard introduces a subjective element to truth that a lot of philosophers prior to Kierkegaard do not. A weak version of this argument would go: There is always a subjective slant to how truth is presented before each person. In other words, there's always an interpretive nature to how each person understands his/her relation to the world. However, this probably has been known since the beginning of time. A stronger version of this argument (which I believe to be a better interpretation of Philosophical Fragments) goes: Truth is Subjectivity. In other words, one person's truth is incommensurable with another person's, even if the two of them use the same words, evoke the same feelings, etc. An even stronger version would essentially be solipsism: there are no other truths, only mine. Although I don't subscribe personally to solipsism, I do think that this interpretation of Philosophical Fragments wouldn't be a huge stretch. Either way, Philosophical Fragments opens a new horizon in the study of truth -- the subject's relation to truth. I think Climacus' incredible insight is the philosophical idea that truth is somehow apart from us as subjects and in some higher plane (i.e. the Platonic Forms) is a vision of truth that has no substance and no meaning, in other words, it is not truth at all. Instead, truth (if it can still be called truth) has a very real, unique, deep-set meaning to each and every us as subjects.
Kierkegaard/Climacus may not have been the first one to discover these insights, but, in my opinion, he is one of the first to describe it in such a way. I believe that this book (as with the majority of Kierkegaard's works), is gibberish on the surface, but poses some incredible questions upon further contemplation.(less)