The Silence of Abraham

Much of the inner distress and anxiety associated with the passion and paradox of faith as exemplified by Abraham derives from the fact that he is utterly unable to make himself intelligible to anyone, including his own family, inasmuch as he stands outside the universal in an absolute relation to God that commands him in a particular instance to do what ethics would forbid. Unlike aesthetics, in which concealment plays an essential role in

13 Cf. Hegel (1991b: 108-24; 1984-7: i. 385-96, 407-16); Martensen (2004: 597); Schleiermacher (1956: 5-18).

14 On 'mediated immediacy' see Perkins (2006b) contra Stewart (2003: 97-100, 386-7).

both ancient and modern drama, ethics demands disclosure of oneself in the universal and recognizes no justified concealment or incommensurability. But if that is so, Johannes reiterates his charge that Hegelian philosophy is wrong or 'befuddled' in speaking about faith and regarding Abraham as the father of faith inasmuch as faith is once again confused with the first immediacy of the aesthetic, whereas it is properly viewed paradoxically as a second immediacy that cannot be mediated in the universal (71). Unlike the tragic hero and a host of other poetic personages conjured up by Johannes as possible analogies to the knight of faith, Abraham cannot speak because he cannot make himself intelligible to others, whereas the aesthetic hero who remains silent is able to speak but will not. Just as Abraham stands outside the ethical, then, he also does not fall within the scope of the aesthetic. The only possible justification for his silence, therefore, is that he stands in an absolute relation to the absolute that cannot be mediated by the universal or reduced to the aesthetic, leading Johannes to conclude: 'Either there is then a paradox, that the single individual as the particular stands in an absolute relation to the absolute, or Abraham is lost' (106).

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