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Peter J. Leithart » Blog Archive » Kierkegaard’s pilgrimage

[Kierkegaard] recognized in [Hegel] the eritis scientes of the Biblical serpent: an appeal to exchange a fearless belief in a free and living Creator for a submission to inflexible truths that rule over everything without exception, but are indifferent to all…

Socrates knew that for God, as for man, not everything is possible; that the possible and the impossible are determined, not by God, but by eternal laws to which God and man are equally subject. For this, reason God has no power over history, i.e., over reality…

Kierkeegard discerned that Hegel, like Kant and Spinoza and the whole of modern philosophy before him, preferred to trust in necessity than in the Creator…

To give names to things made by God is not enough:… “‘Experience,’ [Kant] said, ‘shows us what exists, but it does not tell us that whatever exists must necessarily exist thus (as it exists, and not otherwise)…..

Reason eagerly strives to hand man over to the power of necessity, and not only is not satisfied with the free act of creation described in Scripture, but is irritated, disturbed, and frightened by it. It prefers to hand itself over to the power of necessity, with its eternal, universal, inflexible principles, rather than trust in its Creator…  Aristotle twenty centuries ago, Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel in modern times, had an irresistible desire to hand themselves and mankind over to the power of necessity. And they did not even suspect that this is the greatest of Falls; in gnosis they saw not the ruin but the salvation of the soul…

Hegel’s embrace of necessity is thus a fall from truly human life: “Speculative philosophy cannot exist without the idea of necessity…  For Kierkegaard coercive knowledge is an abomination of desolation, the source of original sin; it was by saying eritis scientes that the tempter brought about the Fall of the first man. Accordingly, Kierkegaard says that ‘the opposite of sin is not virtue but freedom’ and also ‘the opposite of sin is faith.’”

via Peter J. Leithart » Blog Archive » Kierkegaard’s pilgrimage.

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  1. mike
    February 24, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    It seems for the Modern paradigm the intangible mind was seen as the universal and the tangibility of the body marked individuation; through our reasoning abilities we can tap into an otherwise unorganized chaos which exists outside of the human mind, and we can make it have rhyme and reason. Though up until the Moderns it was the other way around, where two millennia of philosophy saw the bodies of matter as universal and the mind as a realm of individuation. Plato’s Forms were, well, just that: formations which aimed for a perfection of physicality (though, I must say, his crucial misstep was banning the poets in Book X of his Republic!?).

    I am not sure if Aristotle was working within this paradigm that Leithart suggests. Yes, he understood the “power of necessity” but only as it was contingent upon the context one finds themselves in — persuade, he said, “by any means necessary.” This is not a stance which is intractably beholden to law, but rather one which is deeply in tune with the pliability inherent in any systems of policy or belief.

    Also, this in mind, I would contend that Kierkegaard has maybe muddled something very important with his distinctions; or at least, with a biblical point of departure I wonder if he misses the mark. Sin has been defined as “the misuse of human power,” which seems apt given the veracity of the cultural mandate in Gen.1:26-28. In this way, the opposite of sin isn’t so much faith as it is power and functionality. Adam and Eve were given a jurisdiction to have and to hold, but they forfeited a good thing by overstepping boundaries and thus complicated their role as functional ambassador of the Elohim. Ergo, via the full-orbed imago Dei we were meant to “be” something, mind and body, and our being implied our doing. That is not worlds apart from Platonic and Aristotelian thinking.

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