The Description of Faith in "Fear and Trembling" by Soren Kierkegaard

What is Faith and how does it Relate to Infinite Resignation? In Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard, under the pseudonym of Johannes de Silentio, provides a perplexing description of faith. Essentially, Kierkegaard proposes that individuals make a “leap of faith” into a religious life, which is inherently paradoxical because it rests solely on the strength of the absurd. But we cannot achieve this state of absolute faith Without going through various prerequisite movements, and it is the movement of faith that is the greatest movement one can make.

Kierkegaard uses the story of Abraham and Isaac to illustrate hoW an indivrdual can either be a Knight of Resignation or a Knight of Faith. It is the Knight of Faith that is the hardest to grasp for it is the most difficult to achieve. It is the most difficult because it requires ateleological suspension of the ethical sphere something higher than ethics, ”because faith begins precisely where thinking leaves off”. In this essay, I will examine what Kierkegaard constitutes as a Knight of Infinite Resignation.

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a Knight of Faith, and why the former is necessary for the latter. In so doing, this paper Will distinguish the relationship the individual has With the universal/ethical and hoW it shadows in comparison to the individual relationship with the divine/God. Next, I Will point out a weakness and strength in Kierkegaard’s argument. Lastly, this essay Will conclude With my theory on the necessity of linking the universal explainable to the spiritual unexplainable. First, Kierkegaard examines ‘the greatest movement one can make‘ by consrdenng the story of Abraham and Isaac.

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He is perplexed at how Abraham could ‘raise the knife’ on his own son; that he was willing to sacrifice Isaac [because of his faith in God], and at the same time had faith that God would not require him see this act to fruition. “All along he had faith, he believed that God would not demand Isaac of him. while still he was Willing to offer him if that was indeed what was demanded, He believed on the strength of the absurd, forthere could be no question of human calculation. and it was indeed absurd that God who demanded this of him should in the next instant Withdraw the demand”. Given the complexities that faith presents in the stony of Abraham, Kierkegaard investigates hoW one comes to have the faith that Abraham exhibits. One does not begin With faith but in fact comes to faith through infinite resignation. This is where the Knight of Infinite Resignation enters, To clearly portray the movements of this Knight a new analogy is introduced involvrng a young lad who is in love with a princess. “The content of his whole life lies in this love, and yet the relationship is one that cannot possibly be brought to fruition. be translated from ideality into reality”. The young lad does not renounce his love for the princess: he renounces it as a finite possibility. This love is the ‘content of his whole life’s reality’ and cannot be realized in a finite sense, His love is only possible in a spiritual sense. “Everything is possible spiritually speaking, but in the finite world there is much that is not possible. This impossibility the Knight nevertheless makes possible by his expressing it spiritually, but he expresses it spiritually by renouncrng it”. By renouncing his love, the lad steps out of finitude and enters into the eternal consciousness (infiniteness). To be clear, “he has grasped the deep secret that even in loving another one should be sufficient unto oneself. He pays no further finite attention to what the princess does, and just this proves that he has made the movement infinitely”.

Once he makes the movement, in his pain he is reconciled with existence. It is precisely because he steps out of the boundaries of his existence that he realizes his existence is a part of finitude. Kierkegaard states that the stage of infinite resignation is the last stage before faith, so that anyone who has not made this movement does not have faith; for only in infinite resignation can there be talk of grasping ‘existence on the strength of faith. This is where the Knight of Faith enters. The Knight of Faith is so much greater than the Knight of Infinite Resignation because he makes one more movement, “more wonderful than anything else, for he says: ‘I nevertheless believe that I shall get her, namely on the strength of the absurd, on the strength of the fact that for God all things are possible. On this the Knight of faith is Just as clear: all that can save him IS the absurd; and this he grasps by faith, Accordingly he admits the impossibility and at the same time believes the absurd”. Now let‘s apply the analogy of the young lad and the princess to the following passage. The young lad resigns his love for the princess. Let us remember, this love is the content of his life. the young lad let’s this love. “…twine Itself in countless coils around every ligament of his conscrousness…”. His love is his strength and courage, and he is now convtnced of the impossibility of his love for the princess being realized (in a finite sense). However, considered in an infinite sense. it is possible for his love to be realized by renouncing his love. and the followrng explains why this is. To accept the possibility that his love is possible (in an infinite sense) is at the same time to give up his love (in a finite sense). For the finite. to accept the possibility of an impossibility is absurd. yet for God (who is infinite) there is no absurdity in possessing this love. It is only in the finite world that the young lads love remains an impossibility. and due to his resignation (making the first movement). the lad is now in the domain of the infinite. It is on the strength of this absurdity [(to possess his love is at the same time to have given it up) and (absurd to us but not to God)] that the lad is now in an absolute relationship with the absolute. Essentially. the lad has faith that for God. nothing is absurd; for God. there is no absurdity in possessing something that at the same time has been given up.

All that can save the young lad is the absurd. and he grasps this by faith. Thus. it is only because of his faith in the ‘strength of the absurd’ that the lad can enter back into finitude completely (get the princess back in a finite sense). Without faith the lad could not fully leave the infinite behind. Without God becoming part of himself (absolute relationship with the absolute) the lad would not be able to resume his role in finitude. Now that the Knight of Infinite Resignation and the Knight of Faith have been defined. for the purposes of my argument I would like to establish why the former is necessary for the latter. To explain this necessity let us look at what Kierkegaard calls the‘ “teleological suspension of the ethical”. The ‘teleological suspension of the ethical‘ is the indivtdual’s suspension of the universal/ethical as its telos [end] in favor of something higher (a divrne relationship With God), In Kierkegaard’s adaptation of Hegel‘s ‘System,‘ in most cases. the indivrdual is a particular instance of the universal/ethical (finite) and all the individual‘s actions have their telos in the universal/ethical. In the case of the Knight of Infinite Resignation. the knight suspends the universal/ethical as its telos in favor of something higher, namely. a divine relationship With God, Most important in this divine relationship is that it belongs solely between this individual and God, Thus. the ‘teleological suspension of the ethical‘ is to accept the possibility of the impossibility [of renouncing something as a finite possibility]. As explained earlier. to accept the possibility of something while at the same time to have given that something up is absurd: but not to God. It takes a Knight of Faith to believe that. for God. nothing is absurd. Due to the Knight of Infinite Resignation‘s original suspension of the ethical/universal. the Knight of Faith can take back his particularity on ‘the strength of the absurd‘. And herein lies the paradox. “that the single mdrvrdual is higher than the universal. that the single indIVidual determines his relation to the universal through his relation to the absolute The paradox can also be put by saying that there is an absolute duty to God; for in this tie of obligation the individual relates himself absolutely. as the single individual, to the absolute”. Having demonstrated Kierkegaard‘s distinction between infinite resignation and how it relates to faith (because you cannot achieve faith until you’ve made the movement to infinite resignation). I agree that the movement to faith “is the greatest movement” one can make. and for all the reasons Kierkegaard has already explained. i also agree that it is an indivrdual experience. and by virtue of this indivtdual experience. it could not be fully explained to another‘s understanding. That said however. I disagree wtth Kierkegaard‘s inference that this higher dwine level (faith) categorically rests on the “strength “of the absurd.”

I disagree because in my mind. it presupposes that existence as humans have known it. has been purely universal and “ethical” and history has Shown us many times over the vast paradoxes. which do exist in our temporal sphere. For example if preserving life is a universal ethic then why do murders occur daily, and I speak of thousands of murders, our justice system is supposed to seek truths in iListice. yet there have been countless cases which revealed more covert ulterior motives. namely iniustice due to someone’s skin, isn’t this absurd? How about the absurdity of a country claiming to be the greatest and most powerful, and yet it can’t feed all its people, or provide adequate healthcare or education It wasn’t too long ago that this same country chained and enslaved some of its own citizens, and this absurdity was a universal law. Although this is strictly my own opinion, I think Kierkegaard belitties faith by picking out paradoxical instances in Christianity to support his own inadequate spiritualism (if he had it at all), Sometimes it is said, that some things are not meant to be understood, otherWIse, wouldn’t scientists have arrived at one theow to explain everything, by now? Lastly, perhaps Christianity has survived centuries because it relied not on the strength of absurdity, but on the inner-strength of millions of individuals, collectively. These believers affirmed their faith by communicating their experiences with those who shared similar experiences. Kierkegaard‘s existentialism suggests that the indiVidual experience cannot be disclosed, not shared. This issue of concealment, the inability to communicate is a problem. Funhermore. the term, “absurdity’ belongs in the universal context, not the spiritual. Kierkegaard’s arguments would have been more easily accepted had he argued instead that, “faith relies on the inner-strength of the indiwdual, against the absurdities of the universal.” Havmg faith, establishes the link between that which can be explained to that which cannot in other words, faith prowdes the individual with a peace of mind that there is order in the chaos of our existence. There is meaning to faith.

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The Description of Faith in "Fear and Trembling" by Soren Kierkegaard. (2022, Jul 20). Retrieved from

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