Socrates And The Christian Believer

According to Climacus, to become a subjective thinker who seeks self-understanding in existence was the Greek principle, exemplified in the Socratic exhortation to 'know yourself' (CUP i. 352). Socrates serves as the paradigm of the subjective thinker for Climacus because he expresses the thesis that subjectivity is truth in his philosophizing by paying attention to 'the essential meaning of existing' and to the fact that the thinker is an existing person whose task as a thinker is first and foremost to understand oneself as an existing person (204).18 For Climacus the infinite merit of Socrates consists in the fact that he was 'an existing thinker, not a speculative thinker who forgets what it means to exist' (205; cf. 207). As a subjective thinker, Socrates sought to relate himself to eternal truth as an objective uncertainty negatively through ignorance. For example, he did not know whether there is an immortality of the soul but he was willing to stake his life on it, ordering his life 'with the passion of the infinite' so that upon death it might be acceptable if there is (201-2).

As Climacus sees it, to understand oneself in existence is also the Christian principle, except that in Christianity the self 'has received much richer

18 On the role of Socrates in the Climacan writings, see also Howland (2006).

and much more profound qualifications that are even more difficult to understand together with existing' (CUP i. 353). These qualifications consist in the development of a sharpened pathos or deeper expression of subjectivity by undergoing an inward development and transformation in relation to eternal happiness and by confronting certain dialectical factors that contradict one's essential understanding of oneself and the eternal, thereby requiring subjective passion and reflection to the utmost. Existential pathos first comes to expression in the development of ethical-religious subjectivity in immanent religiosity or what Climacus calls Religiousness A, in which, according to the inverse dialectic that informs this type of religious inwardness, a positive relation to the eternal is expressed in and through negative forms of existential pathos. That is, one sustains a positive relation to the eternal indirectly or inversely by progressively becoming aware of one's inability to bring one's existence into conformity with the eternal through the expression of existential pathos in the negative forms of resignation, suffering, and guilt.19 Resignation constitutes the initial expression of ethical-religious pathos wherein an absolute relation to the eternal is established through the adoption of eternal happiness as one's absolute telos or goal and the process of inward transformation is begun by dying away from immediacy or one's egocentric attachment to finite, worldly, relative ends in order to attain that goal (387-431). Suffering becomes the essential expression of ethical-religious pathos in this attempt due to the continual failure to bring one's life into conformity with one's absolute telos or to find any satisfactory external expression for one's relation to the eternal (431-525). The consciousness of guilt constitutes the decisive expression of religious pathos in the anguished consciousness of being totally guilty, be it in just one respect or ever so slight, in failing to conform to one's absolute telos (525-55). When existential pathos has reached this degree of intensity, the possibility of the still deeper pathos of Christian subjectivity can then arise through the introduction of two dialectical factors or problems requiring subjective reflection.

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