Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 4.1 Kierkegaard's existential philosophy

4.1 Kierkegaard’s existential philosophy

Kierkegaard (1847/1992) rejected the claim that ethical questions can be answered within an objective understanding of the universe. Ethical questions essentially concern our selves and ask how we are to lead our lives. We are living in a delusion if we pretend that simply adopting an objective, distant understanding of our situation can provide an answer to the riddle of existence (Pettersen 2001, 2002). Kierkegaard (1847/1992) argues that we should not take our existence as subjects for granted; instead he thinks that it is an aspect of our lives that needs to be developed if we are to achieve our full potential as individuals. Becoming ourselves involves experience (erfaring), reflection and action, and this is what Thompson (1992) argues is at the core of existentialism. In existential thinking, each individual is free to choose ones attitude towards actions, even in extreme situations; human existence is free. Frankl (1967) argues that:

Needless to say, the freedom of a finite being such as man is a freedom within limits. Man is not free from conditions, be they biological, psychological or sociological in nature, but he is and always remains free to take a stand towards these conditions, he always retains the freedom to choose his attitude towards them (Frankl 1967: 14-15).

Kierkegaard is concerned in my opinion with what the human being already is and what it means to exist.  Sickness unto Death (Kierkegaard 1849/1980) begins with a question about the nature of the self. Kierkegaard uses a negativistic dialectical method (Theunissen 1981, 1991) by exploring what the self is by speaking of what the self is not; despair (fortvilelse) is elicited when one is not one’s self. In this context, the self is not only determined in my opinion as a relation but also as a process. The self involves a relation to itself, but this relation also relates to itself. When this relation that relates itself to itself is broken, the person is not oneself (Kierkegaard 1849/1980: 13). It should be noted that this is my interpretation and that Kierkegaard as a religious thinker was concerned with ones relation to God in order to be oneself, and it is when this relation to God is broken, that one is no longer oneself. 
Kaare T. Pettersen

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