Faith versus Doubt and Offence

Climacus also distinguishes between two senses of faith (Tro): faith in the ordinary sense, or belief concerning the coming into existence of anything historical, and faith in an eminent sense, which is based solely on the contradiction that the god has come into existence (PF 87). The first form of faith pertains to the immediate apprehension of anything that has come into existence or become historical, such as a star or an event, inasmuch as its coming into existence is uncertain or elusive to the senses, thus requiring a basic belief that it has occurred:

belief believes what it does not see; it does not believe that the star exists, for that it sees, but it believes that the star has come into existence. The same is true of an event. The occurrence can be known immediately but not that it has occurred, not even that it is in the process of occurring, even though it is taking place, as they say, right in front of one's nose. (PF 81-2)

Climacus elucidates this ordinary sense of belief in order to show that there is an element of belief involved in all our knowledge of the historical, even in immediate sensation and cognition. But he is also motivated by a desire to clarify the relation ofbelief to doubt, particularly as exemplified in Greek scepticism and its modern counterpart in the Cartesian/Hegelian claim

18 On volitional versus non-volitional interpretations of the role of the will in faith for Kierkegaard, see Jackson (1998); Come (1997: 320-36); Gouwens (1996: 137-8); Evans (1992: 115-16, 138-42); Ferreira (1991).

that everything must be doubted.19 According to Climacus, the Greek sceptics 'doubted not by virtue of knowledge but by virtue of the will', that is, by withholding assent, which 'implies that doubt can be terminated only in freedom, by an act of the will' (82). The Greek sceptics tried to avoid error and find tranquillity of mind by suspending judgement or not drawing a conclusion (Slutning) about immediate sensation and cognition, thereby keeping doubt in play, whereas belief comes to a resolution (Beslutning) or termination of doubt in the decision to believe (84). As Climacus sees it, then, belief and doubt are opposite passions, neither of which is a cognitive act: 'Belief is a sense for coming into existence, and doubt is a protest against any conclusion that wants to go beyond immediate sensation and immediate knowledge' (84).

Faith or belief in the ordinary sense is likewise required with respect to the coming into existence of the absolute paradox. But this particular historical fact has the 'unique quality' of being based upon the self-contradiction that the eternal has come into existence, thus requiring faith in an eminent or higher sense that applies only to this historical fact (PF 87). This is what properly constitutes faith for both Climacus and Anti-Climacus (cf. PC 141). Here the opposite of faith is not doubt but offence, as 'the relation of personality to Christianity, is not to doubt or to believe, but to be offended or to believe' (PC 81 n.). Faith in an eminent sense is also 'specifically qualified differently from all other appropriation and inwardness' by the fact that it is an 'objective uncertainty with the repulsion of the absurd, held fast in the passion of inwardness, which is the relation of inwardness intensified to its highest' (CUP i. 611). 'This formula', Climacus declares, 'fits only the one who has faith, no one else, not even a lover, or an enthusiast, or a thinker, but solely and only the one who has faith, who relates himself to the absolute paradox' (611).

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