Teleological Suspension Of The Ethical Essay Research

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Teleological Suspension Of The Ethical Essay, Research Paper A clear understanding of what Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) meant by the `suspension of the ethical’ can be achieved upon careful study of his wider philosophies on stages or aspects of an individual’s life. In this short text I will examine these philosophies, exploring what Kierkegaard meant by each one. I’ll then put into context these stages of life by looking at them in relation to that which Kierkegaard’s text `Fear and Trembling’ (in which he introduces the concept of a teleological suspension of the ethical) is based on: that being the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. Finally, I’ll examine the problems of his theory and explore some of the presumptions and pre-requisites it necessitates.

Firstly I find it necessary to understand the context in which Kierkegaard wrote and believed the philosophies we now explore. Kierkegaard’s writings were not without a purpose or agenda. His own life was the source by which he details his wider more abstract theories on life in general. He is intrinsically linked to the Christian faith, and he writes with that in the forefront of his mind. Indeed, `Fear and Trembling’ itself is based upon a passage of scripture which Kierkegaard examines and bases his points upon. The point Kierkegaard is making ultimately is that he believes that the `religious’ stage of life (one of three he feels he has discovered) is the one that means the most and should be desired. Kierkegaard identifies an existential progression between these

stages which is, on initial study, contradicted by the passage of scripture he tackles. It is by examining these stages that the answer to the question set can be revealed. The first of these stages is the aesthetic. For Kierkegaard, this is the lowest form of being. For a particular human being to lead an aesthetic existence would require him to indulge purely in sensuous pleasures. The implication in the aesthetic is that only the external provides value. However, Kierkegaard’s suggestion is that this level of being lacks anything outside of itself. Its value, he submits, is void of meaning and direction and those who inhabit this existence simply pass from one meaningless gratification of the senses to the next with no real purpose. There is, according to Kierkegaard, a

progression of sorts to a higher stage of life. A transition to a level being in which the particular is subsumed, that is transported and incorporated by, the next in the level of existence, the ethical. At this stage, an individual is living in accordance with what he describes as the `universal good’ and in this the ethical is senseless. What I mean by that is that the ethical requires the abdication of the individual in accordance with the universal good. Yet the ethical cannot exist without the individual to give it form. The individual turns inward and considers the aim of life in respect to himself. In one sense it empowers the aesthetic with value and meaning, thus the gratification of the senses can become the appreciation of beauty. However, Kierkegaard regards the

religious stage of life not only to be the highest, but also imperative in giving the ethical meaning and direction. By `religious life’ Kierkegaard is referring to the encountering and acceptance of his, the Christian, God. It isn’t clear if the `religious’ is confined only to his God, or whether differing personal beliefs have a place within Kierkegaard’s definition of this level of being. The `religious’ makes sense of the ethical, according to Kierkegaard. Apparently inferring that doing good for the sake of good is meaningless and closer to an egoistic sense of aesthetic gratification then meaningful existence, Kierkegaard looks to the religious to give life direction and telos, that is purpose. For the benefit of `Fear and Trembling’, Abraham is this