The Subjective Thinker

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According to Climacus, the way to cultivate subjectivity in oneself is to become a subjective thinker, whose task is to achieve self-understanding in existence (CUP i. 73-80, 349-60). Whereas objective thinking is indifferent to the thinker's own existence, requiring the abandonment of oneself in

16 Martensen (1997: 100-44).

objectivity, subjective thinking does not forget the fact that the thinker is an existing person and includes that thought in reflection in the interest of existing in what is thought. Due to the 'copiousness of knowledge' in the modern age, however, Climacus contends that 'people have entirely forgotten what it means to exist and what inwardness is' (249, 242). Consequently, the mode of reflection needed in the modern age is not objective reflection but subjective reflection on such fundamental existential issues as what it means to die, what it means to be immortal, what it means to marry, what it means to thank God for the good one has been given, etc. (165-81). While it is possible to reflect on these and other existential matters in an objective manner, treating them as detached, abstract questions concerning human existence in general, Climacus maintains that these are not intellectual issues but belong instead to the realm of inwardness as the sort of private and personal questions each one of us must ask with reference to our own lives (165-81). In thinking about death and immortality, for example, as a subjective thinker I do not reflect on death and immortality in general but on what it means for me to die and become immortal. Moreover, the question of my own death and immortality is not something that can be answered or comprehended once and for all but involves continual personal reflection and inward preparation for these eventualities.

Just as, according to an old proverb, 'prayer, trial, meditation make a theologian', Climacus maintains that 'imagination, feeling, and dialectics in impassioned existence-inwardness' are required for becoming a subjective thinker, and among these capacities, 'first and last, passion, because for an existing person it is impossible to think about existence without becoming passionate' (CUP i. 350). Unlike an objective thinker, who excludes passion in the process of thinking, the subjective thinker is a dialectician who combines passion and reflection in an 'intellectual passion' that holds the contradiction or 'qualitative disjunction' between thought and existence together by remaining conscious of oneself as an existing person in the process of thinking rather than abstracting from existence as in objective thought (350). Whereas an objective thinker seeks to understand the concrete abstractly, the subjective thinker moves in the opposite direction by striving to understand the abstract concretely. For example, an objective thinker abstracts from concrete human beings in order to form a general concept of humanity, whereas the subjective thinker seeks to understand the abstract concept of humanity in terms of a concrete human being, namely 'this individual existing human being' (352).

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