Synthesis and Selfhood
Synthesis and Selfhood: A Comparative Study of Kierkegaard and Kant By Leslie Roy Ballard Advisor: Vanessa Rumble Many commentators on Kierkegaard's philosophy acknowledge that his writings draw from Kant's philosophy; but few essays trace the origin of specific categories in Kierkegaard's thought to their Kantian roots. While young scholars are especially prone to see in the philosophy of the previous century numerous links to Kierkegaard's writings, few question their ultimate source. The question of Kierkegaard's indebtedness to Kant recommends itself, then, to serious explorers of the sources of Kierkegaard's notion of selfhood, the role of Kant's ontology and moral philosophy in the latter, and the differences in their understandings of the relation between religious faith and moral obligation. Ronald M. Green and Ulrich Knappe examine Kierkegaard's familiarity with Immanuel Kant's philosophy. Green consults lecture notes, journal entries, and university documents to determine the nature and extent of Kierkegaard's engagement with Kant; he reviews public auction records to discover the books by Kant that Kierkegaard owned at the time of his death. Knappe bypasses such investigations to analyze the Kantian ideas apparent in Kierkegaard's texts — often a more substantive reflection than Green's, albeit sometimes speculative. This dissertation identifies and addresses interpretive problems like the ultimate unity of Kant's critical and ethical philosophies, and the autonomy of Kierkegaard's pseudonyms. Conclusions concerning Kierkegaard's use of Kant are drawn within these parameters. The early Climacus alludes to Kant's pure intuitions of space and time and the origin of consciousness in reflection. In spite of similarities in their depictions of the synthesis implied in human consciousness and knowledge, Climacus later criticizes Kant's presumed neglect of ethics for theory. Climacus' criticism, I argue, is based on a conflation of non-religious and religious ethics. The dissertation takes as its point of departure Kant's and Kierkegaard's non-religious formulations of identity in order to learn how each thinker understands human being and to allow each to present a conception of Christian selfhood. Three different, sometimes overlapping, stages emerge in the pseudonymous writings: the esthetic, the ethical, and the religious. In Either/Or, the first two are analogous to Kant's hypothetical and categorical motivation in terms of the universality and necessity of the law. A cogent analogy between their ethics requires the pseudonyms, however, to describe the law as a priori. William twice refers to a priority and mentions his familiarity with Kantian ethics. It is argued that William's ethical stage is a Kantian a priori ethics that other pseudonyms--namely, Silentio--overcome in the religious. The corpora understand sin differently, but agree that it hinders moral progress and causes the breakdown of the non-religious person. Anti-Climacus writes that revelation imparts knowledge of sin, and Haufniensis asserts that the convert needs dogmatics to guide the new self-understanding. Religious passion rather than reason primarily motivates the theological self. Kant thinks theology and its self-conception are good only insofar as they help pure practical reason to attain perfection; passion remains mostly suspect, and pure practical reason maintains its authority in moral deliberation. Silentio and Kant disagree whether the faith of religious life can be justified in violating universal ethical principles. Silentio claims that Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac presupposes the teleological suspension of universal ethics. Kant asserts that the laws of pure practical reason admit no exception. Abraham must comprehend the apparition's command as a temptation to commit murder, and not heed it. Silentio envisions extraordinary acts of faith apart from moral justification, but Kant argues the ethical is inviolate. Silentio welcomes the passionate and the miraculous; Kant leaves open the question whether his ethical rigorism is compatible with true biblical faith.