Dr Hanson Presents on Kierkegaard at SKC Annual Conference 2016 in Copenhagen

August 21, 2016

Dr Hanson presents "Fear and Trembling’s Actual Ideal: Existentially Integrating the Aesthetic, the Ethical, and the Religious" at the SKC Annual Conference 2016, which is devoted to Kierkegaard’s existential thinking. 

Dr Hanson's paper is on how Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling can be successfully read as an integration of the three stages into a single existential ideal that is commended to the text’s readers as the unique therapeutic means of achieving consolation and joy within the lived particulars of the individual’s life, even when life presents challenges and losses. Fear and Trembling is primarily concerned with the development of a religious ideal that at once displaces the aesthetic and ethical ideals by which human beings ordinarily live their lives and preserves something of their original aspirations within a new style of living, one that uniquely reconciles human beings to their lived circumstances. Faith as it is presented in this work then is a distinctive way of relating the ideal expectations a human being brings to personal existence and the reality of that existence. The aesthetic and ethical ways of life are describable on the basis of the ideal goals at which they aim: beautiful order and righteous integrity. The actuality of human life though makes these ideals in unreconstructed form unattainable—human life is marred by suffering and sinfulness. The religious ideal however is the one ideal that is reconcilable with real existence, rendering the beauty and goodness of life attainable. In this sense the ideal that Kierkegaard develops in Fear and Trembling can also be called actual, for the religious life unites the aesthetically desirable and the ethically required. The religious ideal is lovelier than the most refined aesthetic ambitions and not as impossible to realize as the most stringent ethical principles—it is the marriage of the beautiful and the just. This lived ideal of actuality is integrative of the three stages inasmuch as (so long as we do not conveniently omit Problema III from our interpretation) the text presents the religious as not just chastening but also ultimately vindicating the aesthetic and the ethical in reconstructed forms. It can be called existential as well inasmuch as this ideal is presented as the answer to how to live an individual life, the ideal quality of which is conceived of as irreducibly personal and in no way justified by appeal to abstract principle or arid logic (this is not a theodicy or generalized defense of the good). The existential consolation consists in the capacity of faith to make me joyful that I live my life, one that can and should be only my own.