Faith and Becoming a Self

Whereas Climacus articulates the formula for faith in relation to the absolute paradox, in which the passion of faith is infinitely interested in an actuality that is not one's own (CUP i. 323-4), Anti-Climacus defines faith in relation to the task of becoming a self. Although The Sickness unto Death

19 See e.g. Sextus Empiricus (2000); Descartes (1951: 17-22); Hegel (1955: i. 406). In an unpublished MS titled 'Johannes Climacus or De Omnibus Dubitandum Est', Kierkegaard explores the Cartesian thesis that everything must be doubted in a narrative about Johannes Climacus as a young student of philosophy. After dutifully examining the historical and philosophical basis of this claim, Johannes decides to bid the philosophers farewell and go his own way because, in his view, they avoid the existential difficulties of doubting everything, which ultimately leads to despair JC 113-72, 234-5).

progressively tracks the movement away from faith in the consciousness of despair or sin, which is the opposite of faith, it also suggests that these negative factors can function dialectically in an indirectly positive manner so as to become the first element in faith inasmuch as one acquires the possibility of being cured from despair and sin by becoming conscious of oneself as existing before God and Christ (SUD 49, 82).20 Faith is thus defined ideally by Anti-Climacus as that condition of the self in which there is no despair at all: 'in relating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it' (49, 82, 131). But 'the battle offaith' is fought in the existential realm, where faith becomes a struggle for possibility, which in Anti-Climacus's view is 'the only salvation' for despair (38). The critical decision of faith, however, does not occur until one has been brought to the utmost extremity where, humanly speaking, there is no possibility. Then the question is whether one will believe that for God everything is possible, which for Anti-Climacus is 'the very formula for losing the understanding' (38). More closely defined, then, 'to believe lose the understanding in order to gain God' (38).

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