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Kant vs. Kierkegaard Essay

I also believe that the issue that I am discussing is deep, and therefore interesting. Its weaknesses would be its lack of quotes. The difficulty with this paper was trying to find the idea in the first place. It took me a lot of time to find deep similarities and differences between the two. It also took me some time to figure out how I would lay the essay out and how I would flesh the essay out. As this paper is not superficial, I found myself finding new ideas and problem as time passed.

This gave me another problem as I always had to rethink and re-edit. The goals for my next paper are to include more quotes, as my papers lack evidence. My other goals are to carry on writing interesting and thought provoking papers. I aim to try to make my essays as clear as possible, as tackling deep issues can sometimes make the writing quite convoluted. Love of Duty vs. Love of Choice In their essays ‘Lectures on Ethics – Friendship’ and ‘Works of Love – Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor’, respectively, Kant and Kierkegaard both appear as idealists: They each portray a utopia in which friendship is universal.

Kant believes that perfection can be achieved if people put love of mankind before love of oneself, and Kierkegaard believes that perfection can be achieved if you love everyone as if they were your neighbor. Ironically, both also contradict themselves: Kant contradicts his other idea that one will never be able to achieve the ideal of friendship, where partners share everything with each other. While Kierkegaard contradicts himself by saying a true Christian is completely selfless.

This is a contradiction, as someone who is selfless cannot have a choice (free will), but as rational humans we do have a choice. Given these parallels, are these two thinkers ultimately offering us the same sense of utopia? No – in fact, Kant is a realist who uses a scientific approach to figure out what it means to be a friend, whereas Kierkegaard is a religious thinker who applies his religious morality on people. Their utopias look very similar on the surface, but their underlying methods to reach them are vastly different.

Both Kant and Kierkegaard come from two very different backgrounds. Kant was born in Prussia, and was interested in physics and mathematics. He didn’t have a positive view of religion was also asked to stop teaching Theology at the University of Konigsberg by the government as he allegedly ‘misrepresented’ the principles of Christianity. This shows that Kant was a thinker independent of religion. Kant believed that “mankind’s final coming of age,” was “the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error.

” This is the opposite of Kierkegaard, as he was a devout Christian. Kierkegaard tried to incorporate religion (Christian morality) with reason. This is where he comes up with his idea of ‘loving thy neighbor’. Whereas Kierkegaard comes from a position that his way is the ‘right’ way, as it was mandated from God, Kant comes from a position which is influenced by Rousseau and Aristotle, in fact Kant’s idea of man having self-love and love for humanity comes straight from Rousseau’s book ‘The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality’.

There is also a deeper difference: Kierkegaard’s religious morality implies duty, whereas Kant’s view on friendship implies choice. Choice lies at the heart of Kant’s philosophy. He says that man has two basic instincts: self-love and love for humanity (pity). These two instincts conflict with each other and only one can win. Kant believes that in an ideal world, all people would put love for humanity before self-love. This would create a world where love is reciprocated, and therefore man does not have to worry about losing his happiness.

In essence, Kant’s version of a utopia is where man chooses to love humanity. This is vastly different to Kierkegaard’s version, where man has no choice, as it is his moral duty to love everyone as if they were his neighbor. Kierkegaard does acknowledge Kant in a way, by distinguishing between earthly love and spiritual love. He says earthly love (Kant’s type of love) is the exact opposite of spiritual love. He argues that a ‘poet’ (Kant) is absolutely right in saying that earthly love cannot be commanded. Kierkegaard believes that Christian love is better as it is ‘completely selfless’.

For Kierkegaard, “Christian love teaches love to all men, unconditionally all. Just as unconditionally and strongly as earthly love tends towards the idea of there being but one single object of love, equally unconditionally and strongly Christian love tends in the opposite direction. If a man with respect to Christian love wishes to make an exception in the case of one man whom he does not wish to love, then such love is not ‘also Christian love,’ but it is unconditionally not Christian love. ” (41) Kierkegaard also believes that it is quite liberating to be forced to love.

As if the absence of choice creates peace. He believes that “it is encouraging in your relation to a distinguished man, that in him you must love your neighbor; it is humbling in relation to the inferior, that you do not have to love the inferior on him, but must love your neighbor; it is a saving grace if you do it, for you must do it” (50). Thus the difference between earthly and spiritual love is that earthly love is a choice and spiritual love is a command from God. Both Kierkegaard and Kant come to different conclusions because in their writing, their focus is on separate ideas.

Kant, being a man of reason primarily, approaches his philosophy in a scientific manner. To explain, he breaks one thing into smaller things. Kant makes observations based on what he sees, hears, tastes, smells, and feels (like his three types of friendships). However, he does also make some conceptual assumptions (discussed earlier) such as his idea of putting love of humanity before self-love will cause reciprocation of friendship. Unlike Kierkegaard, Kant does not focus on religion as it is unnecessary for someone who is only interested in empirical observations.

Kierkegaard however is not concerned with empirical observation, as he believes that there is something higher and more important i. e. Christianity. Kierkegaard concentrates more on morality and what he believes is right, instead of focusing on what is actually there. Kierkegaard doesn’t even talk about friendship in his writing. This shows that he places much more importance on what his religion says is right instead of trying to observe and deconstruct what friendship is. Although both philosophers have radically different ideas on how to achieve a utopian world, their ideas as an end result are very similar.

They both want a world in which everyone loves everyone. The difference is that Kant’s love comes from reason, whereas Kierkegaard’s is spiritual. For this reason Kant’s idea seems more logical to the rational human being. Kant doesn’t believe in forced love, he believes in a choice to put either love of humanity or love of oneself at the fore. Kierkegaard’s idea of loving as a moral duty is contradictory at its heart, because how can you love if you don’t have a choice who to love? If you ‘love’ everyone it stops being love because love is defined by its opposite. How can there be love without hate?

If it can’t exist, then how feasible is Kierkegaard’s idea? This is the main problem with Kierkegaard, because his observations come from his faith. In the real world, love should come from understanding, not dogma. If there is no understanding, it’s like a slavery of the mind. Works Cited Immanuel Kant, “Lectures on Ethics”, Ethics. Trans. Louis Infield, Harper Torchbooks, The Cloister Library, Harper & Row Publishers, New York and Evanston. Soren Kierkegaard, “Works of Love”, Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor. Trans. David F. Swenson & Lillian Marvin Swenson, Princeton – New Jersey, Princeton University Press.


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