Kierkegaard on Life

A major thrust of Kierkegaards Concluding Unscientific Postscript is the rejection and criticism of Hegelian system. Hegel had claimed to have established a comprehensive system, and even attempted to incorporate philosophy into the realm of science. Furthermore, Hegel argued against the self and subjectivity, something that was strongly rejected by Kierkegaard. The main theme in this paper is a criticism of Hegel as advanced by Kierkegaard. It goes a step further to establish the flaws in the objections raised by Kierkegaard. The term bracketing in this paper is intended to mean the intentional act of setting aside ones preconceived ideas in order to engage in a certain undertaking.
Kierkegaard was actually reacting against Hegelian determinism and Speculative thought. For him, the possibility of real happiness can only be attained subjectively. Hegel thought it was possible to attain absolute reality, a claim that was strongly opposed by Kierkegaard. He observed that it was impossible to establish a system of living, mainly due to the subjectivity of truth that he so deeply attempts to explain.

For Hegel, reason was the only vehicle capable of taking humanity to absolutism. In this he introduces the idea of progression from levels of truth to absolute truth. Kierkegaard strongly refutes this, arguing that religious faith has a central role not only in the attainment of deeper inwardness necessary for the attainment of truth subjectively, but also as the highest form of existence possible.

However, while it seems clear that both Hegels and Kierkegaards positions have strong foundations neither is complete on its own. Each stands in need of the other for completion.

The whole of Kierkegaards criticism of Hegel is based on the premises that Hegel seems to write from outside his system. Kierkegaard raises several issues with the Hegelian system, questioning its very foundation. One of the most notable of his attacks on Hegel was regarding his emphasis on rationalism. His disagreement with Hegel was not just that it was a disagreement with any systematic approach to knowledge.  For this reason, it would be fitting to say that Concluding Unscientific Postscripts marked what can be called a turning point in philosophy. Hegel had created, or claimed to have, a comprehensive thought system purely on the basis of reason and abstraction. In this he claimed that truth is progressive, with the end as the absolute truth. God in this case, becomes this absolute truth.  Accordingly, the Hegelian view on the human persons was that each is viewed in relation to the other. Furthermore, whatever is considered mans greatest good is not his, but belongs to society. Thus, properly put, Hegels main emphasis was the whole, rather than the part. Kierkegaard strongly differed with these Hegelian views. He observed that this system was incomplete. He saw that Hegels claim that truth was in the whole was not true because it was not complete itself.  Abstraction as such requires the one involved in the process to bracket ordinary connotations of two important existential as well as metaphysical terms being and nothing. Kierkegaard asserts that suspending all assumptions, which is considered the beginning of speculative thinking, would also mean forgetting that pure being as such results from abstraction. As indicated,

Kierkegaards Critique of Hegel
The Hegelian claim of a comprehensive system prompted Kierkegaards sharp criticism.  He found great fault in the very beginning of the system. The question he poses to Hegel is that after having abstracted everything, with what can one begin Worth noting is the fact that Kierkegaard claims that the Hegelian system begins with nothing. Kierkegaard points this as a major flaw in Hegels argument. Kierkegaard notes that the reflective process is per se and in se an infinite one. This is because in order to bring a reflective process to finitude, it must involve a conscious reflection that one seeks an end, so that this process would need to stop itself. This according to Kierkegaard is impossible. On the same vein, abstraction as a process can only bring itself to finitude by abstracting itself from itself. This would have to continue ad infinitum. This argument challenges the thought of purely immediate being, on which the whole of Hegelian philosophy is hinged. Kierkegaard says that it is possible to subjectively decide to interrupt ones own thought process, in order to reflect upon a certain thing. An objection to Kierkegaard is that he largely fails to note that his so conceived subjective decision to interrupt the reflective process in view of pure being does not in any way interrupt that process. Kierkegaard did not seem to realize that even the decision itself is a reflective process. Although there is a presupposition of decision in logic, this does not prevent such an undertaking from being logical.

Another criticism of Hegelian philosophy by Kierkegaard was that in his system, the person involved in thinking is actually outside of the System. The main question here is who then is this individual who is a systematic thinker It seems that this individual is both outside of existence and in existence. It is he who is eternity and the totality of existence. This according to Hegel is God. Kierkegaard sharply criticizes him on account of assuming the role of God in that system. It is also not possible, according to Kierkegaard, to have the thinker outside the system.

Kierkegaard further points out that abstraction as understood in Hegel brings about a lot of problems, because this process is carried out sub specie eterni, meaning that it is conducted from an eternity point of view. This results in a disregard of the temporal and the concrete. As such, it simply eliminates the becoming of existence. The obvious issue here is rejecting the self and its concreteness also means rejecting truth as subjectivity.

Hegel had argued that truth was possible through science. For this reason, he had sought to reconcile philosophy with science. Kierkegaards objection was that existence itself was a system, but a system only for God. This is because conclusiveness corresponded with existence, and before a system concludes itself, it must necessarily be annulled in the eternal. Kierkegaard strongly emphasizes on man and his individual existence, a fact that leads him to subjectivity as the basis for truth. His understanding of existentialism is particularly interesting. He says that there is a relationship between knowledge and the knower. Furthermore, this knower has an essential individual existence, which means that there is a significant relationship between existence and all essential knowledge. Kierkegaard was reacting to the Hegelian claim that the whole was the most important.

As earlier mentioned, truth according to Hegel, is found not in the parts, but in the whole. Kierkegaard objects to this for the reason that any search for knowledge objectively, leads only to approximation. Here he rejects the call by Hegel to make philosophy a science and instead equates it to history. He says that just as no one can write a final history, no one can write a final philosophical system. For him, whatever is considered as knowledge is nothing but approximation.

Hegels system had asserted that everything is knowable.  However, Kierkegaard says that human existence as such, is marked by total uncertainty. As a matter of fact, his definition of truth attests to this uncertainty. He considers truth as an objective uncertainty, one that is attained only through a process of appropriation of passionate inwardness. He further argues that knowledge of the truth of personal existence is knowledge of uncertainty. He argues that whenever a question of truth is brought up in a manner that is considered objective, the direction of reflection is always towards the truth as the object related to the knower. This understanding of truth as implying a relational state of existence, rather than a set of propositions that should be believed in, is what makes it impossible for the development of a particular system of life. It is precisely this understanding that places faith higher than Hegelian reason.

 In conclusion, the claim by Hegel to have created a system has been strongly criticized. It is in the person of Kierkegaard that the most ardent criticism is found. Thinking out of a system cannot be conceived abstractly without invoking the idea of conclusiveness. Conclusiveness can only be attributable to the absolute being, and therefore, reasoning about the absolute would require that the thinker be the Absolute. This was a major flaw in Hegelian philosophy. A very noble observation by Kierkegaard is that in thinking of the pure being the thinker cannot be set apart as such from existence, meaning that the thinker is fully involved in existence, as he carries out the reflective process. However, it has been demonstrated that Kierkegaards conception of Hegelian thought is not entirely without error. The failure by Kierkegaard to recognize the fact that the decision to call to mind the idea of pure being is itself a reflective act is a remarkable thing. It seems however, that a synthesis of the philosophies of both Hegel and Kierkegaard would produce a more mature philosophy. In arguing against the Hegelian system, Kierkegaard recognizes two important aspects of truth the objective and the subjective. His explanation of these two terms brings into light the reasons for his objection to a particular philosophical system of life.


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