Essay: Philosophy What Did Kierkegaard

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Philosophy

What did Kierkegaard mean when he said religion requires a "leap of faith?"

Kierkegaard believed that faith is the definitive subjective act -- that is, it is irrational, a "leap" beyond all probable rationalization. He believes it to be irrational because faith has nothing to do with ethics or good behavior. The ethical life cannot allow for a leap of faith because of its concept of self-creation and responsible choice.

This kind of higher rationality is way beyond the ethical, which needs rational behavior. Faith is something that puts the individual in relation to something that is higher, which is itself the essence of everything that is ethical. For Kierkegaard, the ethical life is essentially concerned with religion in the social sense, but to achieve the religious state requires a "teleological suspension of the ethical."

Stated differently, it is necessary to suspend our ethical standards so that we can rise above them and create a more fulfilling existence.

Kierkegaard held the belief that the religious should be seen as a "dialectical synthesis of the aesthetic and the ethical."

The religious brings together the inner and the outer life, certainty and uncertainty (the "leap of faith" going way beyond all certainty).

Kierkegaard explains the religious state by using the story of Abraham and his son, Isaac. God tells Abraham that he must sacrifice Isaac, but this is merely a test of faith. To kill someone is morally wrong, but the real kind of faith, the kind that one has when they are in a religious state, necessitates some kind of heavenly intention, which goes above and beyond and all ethical requests. Abraham does go forward with God's order though he may have some obvious objections to killing his son, but this shows us that he is living life at a divine (or religious) point and this is much higher than the ethical because its faith lies in the divinity -- where ethical comes from.

The reason that faith necessitates a leap is because it does not stem from the rational. Abraham was ordered to sacrifice his son and, though it does not makes sense to many people, Kierkegaard might say that one has to look at Abraham and Isaac as if they were disparate parts of the same being.

If a person wants something, he or she usually has to sacrifice something in order to get it. Taking a "leap of faith" is often needed in life when a person is trying to discover what his or her life is all about. In a way, a "leap of faith" is about a person believing in her or himself more than anything and trusting in something higher, though he or she may not have any rational explanation to back up why they must do what they are going to do. Kierkegaard uses the story of Abraham "in order to see how monstrous a paradox faith is, a paradox capable of making a murder into a holy act well pleasing to God, a paradox which gives Isaac back to Abraham, which no thought can grasp because faith begins precisely where thinking leaves off."

2. What is transcendental idealism? How does it attempt to reconcile empiricism with rationalism?

Transcendental idealism is Kant's metaphysical theory that "affirms the unknowability of the 'real' (things in themselves) and relegates knowledge to the purely subjective realm of representations (appearances)."

It combines a phenomenalistic account of what the mind actually experiences (i.e., knowable) with the supposition of an additional set of entities which are unknowable.

Despite all the problems that it creates, this supposition is seen as necessary to explain how the mind gets its representations, or the materials for them ("their form being imposed by the mind itself").

What this means is that the mind can only get the materials as a result of being "affected" by things themselves. Therefore, such things have to be assumed to exist, despite the fact that the theory denies that we have any right to say anything about them (including the claim that they do exist).

Another way to understand Kant's point is that it is impossible for us to have any experience of objects that are not in time and space.

Moreover, space and time is not directly apparent, so they must be the form by which experience of objects is had. A consciousness that apprehends objects directly, as they are in themselves and not by means of space and time, is possible -- God, Kant argues, has a purely intuitive consciousness -- but our apprehension of objects is always interfered with by the conditions of sensibility. Any rationale or concept using consciousness like ours must apprehend objects as filling a region of space and carrying on for some length of time.

Essentially, transcendental idealism is all about how humans intuit objects. He focused on the element that what the mind actually does is structure the information that is coming in and it processes it in a manner that makes it different than just simplistic mapping of incoming data.

The most important aspect is to understand that space and time are not just real things in themselves or "empirically mediated appearances," but they are the absolute manifestations of intuition by which humans perceive objects. They should not be thought of as properties that we can ascribe to objects in perceiving them, nor considerable objects of themselves. They are, rather, subjective, but required, preconditions of any given object insofar as this object is an appearance and not a thing in itself.

The rationalists and the empiricists believed that the mind is completely passive "either because it finds itself possessing innate, well-formed ideas ready for analysis, or because it receives ideas of objects into a kind of empty theater, or blank slate."

Kant's argument is that the experience of a world as we have it can only occur if the mind provides a "systematic structuring of its representations."

This kind of structuring is below the level of the mental representations that the empirical and rationalist thinkers analyzed. "Their epistemological and metaphysical theories could not adequately explain the sort of judgments or experience we have because they only considered the results of the mind's interaction with the world, not the nature of the mind's contribution."

3. How does Descartes' method of doubt differ from skepticism? What was the final purpose of methodological doubt? How was it employed in the Meditations?

Descartes wanted to create an entire philosophy that was not constrained by any type of doubt. To achieve this, he essentially had to do away with all of the doctrines of previous philosophers. The way he started was to doubt everything in order for him to come up with a very strong foundation for his own philosophy. The philosophy that he created was called methodological doubt. It was this methodological doubt that became associated with and was a requirement of honest thought. Methodological doubt, for Descartes, would liberate people from bias. It would also help us to go along a path of pure reason. Doubt, he believed, was the only real way for people to come to the truth or the certainty of something.

First of all, Descartes' method of doubt is different from skepticism because it is more of a methodical process. His Meditations illustrate his effort to conquer skepticism by showing that if one goes forth methodically to think about the matter, there are truths that cannot be doubted. The way he goes about this is by using a method of doubt and a method of analysis at the same time. Descartes essentially groups beliefs together, which then allow him to save time by calling into question entire classes of beliefs by questioning their common nature.

To group these beliefs, Descartes focuses on the senses, the imagination and, of course, reason, from which our beliefs originate. He then uses a "series of more and more powerful skeptical hypotheses which call into question his claims to knowledge derived from these faculties."

The method of doubt is then a methodical procedure where skeptical hypotheses are used to see what can and what cannot be doubted on that hypothesis, and then if there is something that raises doubt, another skeptical hypothesis will have to be used to see if that which couldn't be doubted earlier can now be doubted with a more powerful skeptical hypothesis.

Simply stated, skepticism is just ordinary doubt while the method of doubt cannot doubt reason.

The final purpose of the method of doubt is to find a truth that cannot be doubted when making a judgment. Doubt would be used in order to do away with any thoughts that are wrong. By using doubt to prove everything wrong, a truth can be reached on a final idea.

Descartes' Meditations is defined by skepticism. His first Meditation is especially skeptical in that Descartes is essentially saying that it is difficult to trust anything that we are led to believe via our senses. This is because Descartes has such as strong… [END OF PREVIEW]

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