Objectivity In Subjectivity

The fact that faith is related to an objective uncertainty does not mean, however, that it lacks intellectual content or an objective referent outside the inwardness of the individual. On the contrary, we have seen that

13 On the implications of Climacus's view of subjective truth for multiculturalism and religious pluralism, see Perkins (2004a).

14 See also Gouwens (1996: 19-21, 105-8, 150-1), and Evans (1983: 126-31).

Climacus clearly recognizes that Christianity possesses intellectual content in the form of doctrines and conceptual ideals that are to be actualized in existence rather than merely conceptually comprehended. More importantly, however, he maintains that Christianity is a historical phenomenon or fact that has transhistorical significance inasmuch as it proclaims that the eternal has come into existence at a particular moment in time in the form of an individual human being (Jesus Christ), thereby providing a historical point of departure for the eternal happiness of the single individual in every age (PF 87-8; CUP i. 369). Indeed, in Philosophical Fragments Climacus goes so far as to claim that 'Christianity is the only historical phenomenon that despite the historical—indeed, precisely by means of the historical—has wanted to be the single individual's point of departure for his eternal consciousness, has wanted to interest him otherwise than merely historically, has wanted to base his happiness on his relation to something historical' (PF 109).

Climacus further contends that no philosophy, no mythology, and no historical knowledge 'has ever had this idea', that 'it did not arise in any human heart' (PF 109).15 Objectively viewed, in claiming that the eternal, which by definition is not temporal or finite, has entered into time, Christianity professes an absolute paradox that is not only objectively uncertain but also objectively absurd inasmuch as 'it contains the contradiction that something that can become historical only in direct opposition to all human understanding has become historical' (CUP i. 211; cf. PF 37-48). Far from being probable or reasonable and thus capable of being speculatively understood and comprehended, then, Christianity is the most improbable of historical facts. Therefore its truth—supposing it has any, which is a question Climacus leaves undecided—cannot be known through human reason but can only be believed through a leap of faith requiring the highest pitch of passion or subjectivity on the part of the believer.

That Kierkegaard agrees with Climacus on the subjective and objective status of Christianity is corroborated in a journal entry referring explicitly to the Postscript in which he states:

In all the usual talk that Johannes Climacus is mere subjectivity etc., it has been completely overlooked that, in addition to all his other concretion, he points out in one of the last sections that the remarkable thing is that a How is given which has the characteristic that when it is scrupulously rendered the What is also given, that this is the How of'faith'. Right here, at its very maximum, inwardness is shown again to be objectivity. And this is then a turning of the subjectivity-principle, which, as far as I know, has never before been carried through or accomplished in this way.

JP iv 4550, translation modified)

15 See further Rae (1997: 26-108).

The statement to which Kierkegaard refers is probably one in which Cli-macus makes the following claim: 'Being a Christian is defined not by the "what" of Christianity but by the "how" of the Christian', which 'can fit only one thing, the absolute paradox' (CUP i. 611). In being defined specifically by its relation to the objective, transhistorical event of the absolute paradox or eternal in time, the inwardness of the Christian believer thus incorporates objectivity as well as subjectivity in itself, which to Kierkegaard is what distinguishes his view of subjectivity from that of other thinkers, such as Kant and Schleiermacher, who were severely criticized by Martensen in his doctoral dissertation for presumably espousing an autonomous, pantheistic subjectivism.16

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