Kierkegaard's Individual, Religious Life vs His Ethical Life and Universality; Are they really mutually exclusive as Kierkegaard claims? Suggested Subject: Humanities:Philosophy:Ethics

Essay by x562cambria562xUniversity, Bachelor'sA, January 2003

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Religion. Ethics. Faith. Morality. Things that you would expect to go together, right? That depends on who you ask. In his book, Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard asserts that life is made up of distinct stages and that the ethical life and the religious life are two quite different stages. He says that the ethical life is one of self-sufficiency and infinite resignation while dealing with the universal aspects of ethics. He depicts the religious life, on the other hand, as one of an individual who has a personal, private relationship with God that is based on unshakable faith, but who exists, otherwise, in isolation and finitude, in absolute relation to the absolute. However, Kierkegaard failed to address several factors that, when brought up against his line of reasoning, show that the theory, while interesting, is not defensible.

Kierkegaard viewed life as having three separate stages. The first was the aesthetic life, which is based on individual experiences, especially those of sensual nature, ranging from base, animal lust to a sophisticated, ardent appreciation for music.

The second stage of life, which Kierkegaard calls the ethical life, is a 180 degree turn from that sort of aesthetic lifestyle.

The ethical life is, first and foremost, and expression of the universal. The acts carried out in this life are public and are always done so as to work toward the common good. Where the aesthetic life betters the individual self, the ethical life is lived to better others. To enter into this stage, one must renounce their individuality and strive to make connections with the larger community and attempt to operate on the universal level as much as possible. The true embodiment of this stage comes when one chooses to abandon their individual desires and to relinquish that which sustained their individual...