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Ethics and faith in “Fear and Trembling”

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  1. Introduction
  2. The story behind fear and trembling
  3. The story behind ethics
  4. What is truth
  5. Conclusion
  6. Bibliography

Soren Kierkegaard once wrote about himself, saying ?Once I am dead, Fear and Trembling alone will be enough for an imperishable name as an author? (Kierkegaard's Papirer). Undoubtedly one of his most popular works, it is no surprise he could foresee the endless amount of philosophical discussion that could spawn from his analysis of the binding of Isaac. Fear and Trembling acts as an adequate summation of Kierkegaard's overall impact as a writer and a thinker because it has so many qualities that are unique to the Danish philosopher, such as the origins of existentialist thought, the cunning use of pseudonyms, and the open disdain for Hegelian philosophy. Yet despite all of these immortal characteristics of this ?dialectical lyric,' perhaps the most important aspect of this work is the fact that it directly attempts to explicate the difference between faith-based ethics and the ethics of reason.

[...] Jean Paul Sartre sums this up fittingly in his discourse on existential atheism: If an angel appears to me, what is the proof that it is an angel; or, if I hear voices, who can prove that they proceed from heaven and not from hell? (Sartre, 213) Some scholars, such as Emmanuel Levinas, have argued that Kierkegaard is promoting religious violence. Levinas says that the Kierkegaard has created a loophole for Abraham that allows for murder to be morally justified: Kierkegaardian violence begins when existence is forced to abandon the ethical stage in order to embark on the religious stage, the domain of belief. [...]


[...] Faith is not black and white, true or false. Beneath the argument about ethics versus faith, there is a deeper conversation about what knowledge, truth, and reality actually are. Because we cannot fully answer these questions, there is no way that we can somehow expect an expansion of this incomplete logic to apply on a universal, absolute level, such as what Hegel was working to accomplish. ?What is truth?? asks Pilate, before washing his hands of the pursuit of it. [...]


[...] From David's decision to fight Goliath, to Paul's faith and spread of the gospel, to Islam's unwavering devotion to their religious lives, all three major Abrahamic religions grounded in the notion that faith in God is the most important thing in life. This of course becomes the amazing, mystical thing about existence: it is nothing as it seems. The tree of knowledge may have been what God was preventing Adam and Eve from, but perhaps it was because knowledge is different than truth. [...]

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