Existentialism and Postmodernism, these are two of the fields where Soren Aabye Kierkegaard influenced the most. Kierkegaard was born in the Danish capital Copenhagen from a rich and well-known family of merchant which already included six children. His father, Michael Pedersen, was so dedicated to a stern approach on faith and life to keep his family together. His father appears to be gifted intelligence and spirituality, which Soren inherited luckily. His life is a combination of many ups and downs, and it was rumored that his philosophy was based on his own experiences.
He was coined as the “Father of Existentialism” for the contributions he gave to theology. He was for the most part, a philosopher who investigates and dedicates his learning as to how best a human life is supposed to be lived. For Kierkegaard, life has three stages namely Aesthetic, Ethical and Religious. When we talk about aesthetic stage, the judgment and perception is more on subjective. Aesthetic is defined as life with intellectual enjoyment, deep desires, and what others might call as being “the center of attention”. Aesthetic stage is what he compares to be like the stage of being a child.
Children are always good whenever they are enjoying the environment. Hence, boredom is considered evil to them. During this stage, a person’s judgment relies mainly at sensory level. It’s like the opposite of saying, “Look at the bigger picture”. People on this stage tend to be very narrow minded with what they see. They just believe on what their eyes would show them and would not seek deeper meaning to it. Aesthetic judgment also tends to be different with respect to the person. Most of the time, a person’s cultural background and sense of perspective are the main basis in judging.
Nobody can describe a thing without learning about it first, therefore, education is involved. However, Aesthetical living is considered to be ineffective. Whether a person knows it or not, the life their living is considered an absolute misery. The next level of existence is ethical. People in this stage of life are considered to be heading on a true and better direction since they became more aware of their self and others as well. Individuals tend to be more organized and consistent during this phase of existence, a characteristic they lack from the previous stage of life.
Unlike the previous one, this stage portrays responsibility of people in their action and examining their own lives. They’re beginning to have a more sense of self. The definition of one’s life is determined by the capability of the person to take responsibility of his/her action and how he/she face its consequences. A person dominated by ethical views examines his/her life, look for errors and devote time and sincerity to live in a more meaningful manner. The last sphere of existence is religious. Ethical and religious are somewhat connected. Someone can be ethically solemn but not necessarily religious, but religious stage embrace ethical.
Ethical revolves around the commitment of one person to devote time in discovering oneself, while religious stage involves commitment to God. This, as mostly mentioned from Kierkegaard’s works, is considered as the highest stage in human existence. Being religious can either be, (1) believing on your own, meaning not considering the society in it and; (2) realizing that you’re sinful and is asking for repentance. Religious aspect has its social and individual awareness. But in the individual aspect, one must begin in his/her awareness about sins. After this is accomplished, it is now the person’s duty to help other people realize this too.
Religious stage is a lot more serious than ethical for it involves God and the tendency for eternal damnation, whereas in ethical, society is what would condemn you. The three levels of existence support in a person’s capability on making choices. A person govern by pleasure is somewhat obscure in making decisions. He sometimes bases it on the society’s choice since he’s to busy enjoying himself on stimulating activities. This kind of person does not set aside time on living a life of worth and repentance rather, they make choices and cause damage to themselves before they actually realize that they’re making a mistake.
On ethical views however, choices are made by the person, and the person only. If he will comment on something like, “That is beautiful”, it means it’s beautiful for him only and does not need other people’s approval on it. The same as when he’s making choices in life. When he chooses to be a politician, he chose it because he knows that’s best for him. People who are also ethically aware are more mature when it comes to handling situations for when other people get affected by it; they take full credit and try to amend it. As for a religious person, Kierkegaard emphasized on sins as the ultimate evil.
Therefore, the choices the person must construct should be based on how much it can avoid sinful actions (that can do further damage) as much as possible. By this mentally, a person tends to be self sacrificing and more disciplined. For instance, Kierkegaard gave up his engagement on Regine since he believed that his responsibility on God, in philosophy and to himself will get neglected if he’ll go through the marriage. People in the society face hundreds of choices each day. From simple to complicated ones, each choice they make is based on their own perception of things.
A man who cheated on his wife saying that he didn’t have a choice actually has a choice but chose to ignore it. A teen struggling with abortion chose to abort her child for she thinks it’s best for the child to not experience the harsh world. In reality, it’s her welfare that she’s thinking about not her child’s. In voting for President, what are the criteria that we consider in choosing a candidate? It depends entirely on the person’s viewpoint right? In choosing a candidate, a person considers his/her cultural beliefs and sees if this is present in the candidate.
These are the big ones, the ones that can affect out lives forever. How about simpler things? In lunch, when you choose between buying steak and letting lunch pass, you chose to buy steak and later on realized that the money you spent could have been saved and put to better use since you can eat lunch at home. When you decided not to go to class because you feel too lazy to get up, and later on, founding out that you missed a long quiz. These little decisions, little choices we make, may not be so little after all when the consequences start t emerge.
If the person deciding is in the ethical-govern stage, he/she would have considered looking to the results first before making a decision. But instead he/she followed his/her senses in deciding. In school, if you fail a class, you can’t blame your professors since you chose to fail. We make decisions all the time that we don’t even notice it. This is exactly what Kierkegaard’s philosophy tells us, to take control of our lives and to do things in our own terms. Nevertheless, we should not forget to consider ethics and religion in our decisions for according to Kierkegaard, it matters.
It is alright that we make decisions for our own welfare as long as it is not harmful to others. If we do harm other people, then it’s their life that we are messing, and it’s not advisable to do that. Existentialism has been supported and cited by many other philosophers too. Mainly, its universal view is to understand what a human being is it is not enough to know all the truths that natural science —including the science of psychology— could tell us (Crowell, 2010). Philosophers like Jean Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, Gabriel Marcel, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jaspers and many more.
Among all of these, Nietzsche was the one who’s notably related to Kierkegaard with regards to their history as for having mental problems due to excessive stressing events that happen to their lives. As did Kierkegaard, then, Nietzsche uncovers an aspect of my being that can be understood neither in terms of force and partiality nor in terms of a universal law of behavior, an aspect that is measured not in terms of an objective inventory of what I am but in terms of my way of being it (Crowell 2010). They both gave emphasis on the better way of existing.
When it comes to contrasting idea, Robert Nozick’s philosophy (though not directly stated) gives a say about the matter. For him, the meaning of life is defined by its value. This value is a combination of other things that are valuable as well and a combination of all would give life more meaning. Unlike Kierkegaard’s philosophy, Nozick’s view depicts that e person needs other people to determine its value. “No man is an island”, as the 90’s song would say. No one can live alone. You’ll need people; you’ll need the society to determine your worth, for without them, you’re as good as worthless.
Sometimes, by the help of others, you can see your worth, you can compare and contrast, and most importantly, it can open you up to other variety of choices and keep your mind open for other possibilities. Each and every one of us have certain abilities no other people posses, therefore it is our duty to share our skills to others and vice versa. Without responsibility to others, without connection, we’re as good as nobody, we’re as good as someone who do not have a sense of self, for if we do, we would know that having other people, caring for them, feeling your responsibility to them materializes it.
For having without sense of self is hardly living at all. This, for Nozick is the real meaning of life. As I was writing this paper, many realizations came to me. I become conscious that life is not really a problem, but a mystery and will always be. Though we study and find meaning to the things around us, there’s really no point because each and every one of us is born unique and thinks differently. I thoroughly understand now the saying that “Everybody is born unique. ” You’ll just get tired comparing yourself to other people.
Some people like Therapists, try and study the human mind and tend to predict their behavior, but the truth is they can never really understand the way they think, the way they feel unless they’ve switch places. Even their counseling is not useful since it’s up to the person on what decisions he/she will come up. No matter how hard you convince a person to your bidding, it’s really up to them on how they will come up with their decisions. I also became aware of my feelings, I’ve realized that I’m still in the aesthetic stage and I have to move on and correct my mistakes.
I realized that the choices I make are based on other people and their welfare. I should start making decisions for myself and be stronger in facing its consequences. There’s no doubt that Kierkegaard’s philosophy is influenced by some biological and environmental factors. Biological since like his father, Kierkegaard has as strong sense of faith and life. He even inherited his father’s intelligence and spirituality, which is no doubt, another factor to be considered on why and how he was able to make this philosophy. As for environmental factors, at the age of 25 he lost his father.
This event led him to pursue his studies more. As psychologists would analyze it, he may have displaced his feelings to his studies. In extension, can be very dangerous for it means that he have hidden emotions he’s afraid to release. With regards to his relationship with Regine, it is said in some sources that what Kierkegaard feels for Regine is really unique and genuine. However he decided to back out of the engagement which tells that he’s either brave for going through that kind of pain, or a coward for running out of the woman she loves.
If we would look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, Kierkegaard did not care for biological needs and having to come from a prestigious family and inheriting a fortune when his father died. He may have concluded that an aesthetic life is miserable for he may have been there and experienced all the luxury life could bring, but still wasn’t happy. I believe that Kierkegaard’s philosophy focuses more on the idea that life is a complete mystery. Its takes time, sincerity and guts to really fulfill the duties of ethics and religion.
It takes a great deal of pain and misfortune before a person to fully understand the game of life and how to live it well. All of us are in quest of main purpose in life, and not many of us succeed even by the time death calls us. In the words of Kierkegaard, a life is not a life without sins, the best way to deal with this is to discover our sins, repent on it, and turn ourselves to God, and let his wisdom guide us from then on. Then maybe, we’ll find a way to live a better, more meaningful life. Reference Crowell, Steven. (2010). Existentialism. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://plato. stanford. edu/
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