The Speculative Point Of View

The speculative point of view of Hegelian philosophy and theology also regards Christianity as a historical phenomenon but seeks to determine its truth through reason rather than by historical methods. As Climacus sees it, however, the question of the thinker's own eternal happiness does not even arise in this perspective, inasmuch as the speculative task requires one to move away from oneself in abstract thought, abandoning or losing oneself in objectivity, as in the natural sciences (CUP i. 50, 52, 56). The speculative thinker may or may not be a believer, but in Climacus's view it is a mistake to think that speculative thought has any significance for faith, as in its concern to comprehend the truth of Christianity objectively it is 'totally indifferent' to the individual's eternal happiness (55). Moreover, the speculative point of view assumes that everyone already is a Christian, with the result that anyone who has self-doubts on that score is frowned upon and regarded as eccentric (50). Climacus satirizes this situation in Danish society by putting into the mouth of the wife of such a person the following amusing reprimand:

Hubby, darling, where did you ever pick up such a notion? How can you not be a Christian? You are Danish, aren't you? Doesn't the geography book say that the predominant religion in Denmark is Lutheran-Christian? You aren't a Jew, are you, or a Mohammedan? What else would you be, then? It is a thousand years since paganism was superseded; so I know you aren't a pagan. Don't you tend to your work in the office as a good civil servant; aren't you a good subject in a Christian nation, in a Lutheran-Christian state? So of course you are a Christian.

This humorous satire on the presumed isomorphism between being a Christian and being a Dane suggests to Climacus that objectivity is so omnipresent in Danish society that 'even the wife of a civil servant argues from the whole, from the state, from the idea of society, from geographic scholarship to the single individual' (51, translation modified). In other words, there is an ideological isomorphism between speculative thought and Danish society as well as between being a Christian and being a Dane, making Climacus's critique of the speculative point of view applicable to

Danish society as a whole.10 But speculative thought is not alone in identifying religion and nationalism in this manner. According to Climacus, the Bible (orthodox/rationalist) and Church (Grundtvigian) objective theories also presuppose that everyone is a Christian, resulting in the contradictory situation that those who already are Christians require rational certainty in order to become what they already are (608)!

At a later point in the text Climacus further charges that modern speculative thought has virtually identified itself with Christianity inasmuch as it claims to have 'completely understood Christianity and declares itself to be the highest development within Christianity' (CUP i. 361). In making this claim, modern speculative theology, in Climacus's estimation, has gone beyond Christianity and back to paganism in its view that human reason is capable of discerning eternal truth. In Philosophical Fragments he had advanced precisely the opposite claim, namely that Christianity went beyond paganism in positing revelation as the condition for coming to know eternal truth.11 In claiming to comprehend the truth of Christianity through human reason, therefore, speculative theology has actually regressed to paganism. Moreover, as a result of the confiscation of Christian terminology and concepts that are explained speculatively, Climacus claims that Christianity itself has been 'set back one whole stage in life' by being confused with paganism in speculative thought (CUP i. 363). Consequently a preliminary task of theology in the modern age, as Climacus sees it, is to clarify what Christianity is in distinction from paganism and speculative thought, with which it has been erroneously identified.

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