D. Anthony Storm's Commentary on Kierkegaard

Second Period: Indirect Communication (1843-46)

Concluding Unscientific Postscript

  • Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments: A Mimical-Pathetical-Dialectical Compilation, An Existential Contribution
  • Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift til de philosophiske Smuler. Mimisk-pathetisk-dialektisk Sammenskrift, Existentielt Indlæg
  • Johannes Climacus, ed. S. Kierkegaard
  • 1846
  • KW12 (2 vols.), SKS7, SV7

Johannes Climacus is the author of the Philosophical Fragments and this companion piece, the Postscript, as well as the posthumous Johannes Climacus, or De Omnibus Dubitandum Est. He might thus be deemed the author of Kierkegaard's greatest philosophical works. The style of Climacus varies from each of the three productions, but they are singular as to their dialectical mission. Kierkegaard took this name from a Greek monk (c. 570-649) who was the abbot of Saint Catherine's of Alexandria on Mt. Sinai. He was the author of the work Klimax tou Paradeisou (translated into Latin as Scala Paradisi), or Ladder of Paradise (Klimax being the Greek for ladder). This book, incidentally, was the first book to be printed in the New World, translated into Spanish (Mexico, 1532). Climacus' work was written for a monastic audience. He says that no one should attempt the contemplative life without first warring against and subduing the passions. The ladder is thus a series of thirty steps which ultimately lead to impassability and imperturbability, not entirely unlike the ataraxia of the Epicureans, except that Epicureans seek to escape the troubles of the world for quiet contemplative pleasure while Climacus strove for the heavenly vision. As The Imitation of Christ is one of the most popular devotional works outside of the Bible in the West, the Ladder has long achieved the same importance in the East. It is read every Lent in Orthodox monasteries, and is appointed to be read aloud in church or in the refectory.

For Kierkegaard, the pseudonym Johannes Climacus represents the subjective approach to knowledge, though this Climacus is not a believer. The ladder is not then the ascent to God but is meant to call to mind an ascending series of logical plateaus, where the logician, represented particularly by Descartes and Hegel, proceeds from one premise to the next. Johannes rejects this method in spiritual matters, thinking it ridiculous to approach the Absolute in any way except through faith. He is concerned with subjective knowledge and with the leap (for more on the leap see a Primer on Kierkegaardian Motifs). Objective knowledge, which is the avowed goal of rational philosophers, is impossible to appropriate by subjective creatures. Moreover, Kierkegaard was concerned with knowledge that would encourage the soul to turn to God. But Johannes claims not to be a Christian, since he has not yet reached that knowledge of God. The rigorous ascent to God toward impassibility has been replaced by the very passionate and subjective approach to truth whereby the believer, by virtue of the absurd, finds himself before Christ.

The Concluding Unscientific Postscript is a huge and unwieldy book. In the recent Princeton edition it runs to 623 pages. It is quite wordy throughout and unorthodox in its overall presentation. This is nothing new to readers of Kierkegaard, who have come to expect his prolix and remarkable style, which began with his dissertation, The Concept of Irony. Either/Or is currently in print in two volumes, coming to roughly 800 pages in the Princeton Edition.

The word "Concluding" has a two-fold meaning, since it refers both to the conclusion of the material first presented in Philosophical Fragments, and it was to be the conclusion of Kierkegaard's writing career, though in later years he would describe it as a turning point. As H. Hong points out, there is irony in calling this work a postscript to another work, when this is five times the size of the former. The term "unscientific" requires an explanation. Science refers to learning in general. Concerning existence itself, there can be no teacher except God. As a consequence, the work is not systematic. Kierkegaard's titles and chapter divisions in many of his works typify his idiosyncratic dialectic.

I refer to H. Hong for an explanation of the subtitle "A Mimical-Pathetical-Dialectical Compilation".

Mimical: Mime is the dramatic art of expressively imitating emotions and thoughts by actions and gestures, usually without words. Here "mimical" presumably can be interpreted as "poetically artistically elucidated" in such a way that the tone and form are appropriate to the content. It may also refer to a gathering of all the earlier "mimed" (pseudonymous) works as background material for this "concluding" work. Pathetical: ...the English "pathetic" is usually taken to mean "pitiful".... [but Kierkegaard means] "pathos-filled". Pathos marks the poet and his work, and in Postscript Kierkegaard is the poet's (Climacus's) poet. Dialectical: The dialectical marks the thinker. Climacus is a poetic philosopher.

In the Postscript Kierkegaard underscores the necessity of approaching truth subjectively. He does not deny objective truth, but asserts that objective truth can only be known and appropriated subjectively. Like the Philosophical Fragments, he lists himself as editor, again, showing the importance of the work. Philosophers like Kant, Hume and Hegel struggled with epistemological issues concerning the acquisition of knowledge based on reason versus empirical data. Sometimes philosophical methodology was applied to Christian theology (dogmatics). Kierkegaard maintained that knowledge through traditional means cannot begin to span the chasm of doubt between the individual person and God. One cannot amass proofs so that the object of faith becomes probable, as if the gap were nearly closed. No, the chasm is broad. The individual who approaches God must swim in water "70,000 fathoms" deep. Objective knowledge applies to the sciences. Subjective knowledge applies to the individual who approaches God. It is the truth he must live for, that he has made his own. But the subjective is not therefore arbitrary. Rather, the truth cannot come by standard means, but must be appropriated by the individual's entire being. From the beginning of the work, the subjective issue is stated.

The system presupposes faith as given (a system that has no presuppositions!). Next, it presupposes that faith should be interested in understanding itself in a way different from remaining in the passion of faith, which is a presupposition (a presupposition for a system that has no presupposition!) and a presupposition insulting to faith, a presupposition that shows precisely that faith has never been the given.... In order, however, to avoid confusion, it should immediately be borne in mind that the issue is not about the truth of Christianity but about the individual's relation to Christianity, consequently not about the indifferent individual's systematic eagerness to arrange the truths of Christianity in paragraphs but rather about the concern of the infinitely interested individual with regard to his own relation to such a doctrine.... The objective issue, then, would be about the truth of Christianity. The subjective issue is about the individual's relation to Christianity. Simply stated: How can I, Johannes Climacus, share in the happiness that Christianity promises?... Now, if Christianity requires this infinite interest in the individual subject..., it is easy to see that in speculative thought he cannot possibly find what he is seeking. —This can also be expressed as follows: speculative thought does not permit the issue to arise at all, and thus all of its response is only a mystification (p. 14f., 17, 57).

The subjective side is posited to exclude all uncommitted interest—whether of the physical scientist or of the anthropologist.

Anyone who as a believer posits inspiration must consistently regard every critical deliberation—whether as for or against—as something dubious, a kind of temptation. And anyone who, without having faith, ventures out into critical deliberations cannot possibly want to have inspiration result from them. To whom, then, is it all really of interest?... Faith does not result from straightforward scholarly deliberation, nor does it come directly; on the contrary, in this objectivity one loses that infinite, personal, impassioned interestedness, which is the condition of faith, the ubique et nusquam [everywhere and nowhere] in which faith can come into existence (p. 26, 29).

The Postscript consists of a bewildering complex of chapters and sections, divided quite unequally into two parts. Part One, comprising about 36 pages is entitled "The Objective Issue of the Truth of Christianity". Part Two is about 560 pages long. Chapter One of Part One is entitled "The Historical Point of View". Chapter Two is entitled "The Speculative Point of View". Thus, Kierkegaard first seeks to establish the nature of traditional inquiry, before offering his own view.

Thus, objectively understood, truth can signify: (1) historical truth, (2) philosophical truth. Viewed as historical truth, the truth must be established by a critical consideration of the various reports etc., in short, in the same way as historical truth is ordinarily established. In the case of philosophical truth, the inquiry turns on the relation of the doctrine, historically given and verified, to the eternal truth (p. 21).

Kierkegaard goes on to address the three main historical bases for Christian knowledge: the Bible, the church and church history. He wonders how a knowledge of truth can be founded on any combination of these.

The objective view, however, continues from generation to generation precisely because the individuals (the observers) become more and more objective, less and less infinitely, passionately interested.... The more objective the observer becomes, the less he builds an eternal happiness, that is, his eternal happiness, on his relation to the observation, because an eternal happiness is a question only for the impassioned, infinitely interested subjectivity.... If Christianity is essentially something objective, it behooves the observer to be objective. But if Christianity is essentially subjectivity, it is a mistake if the observer is objective (p. 32).

Kierkegaard's main concerns included dismantling the philosophical "system", by which he meant that of Hegel. To Kierkegaard, it was arrogant to develop a philosophy from a detached standpoint, as if a philosopher stood outside of the system that he created. Kierkegaard was not concerned with a system, but with man in the world, especially as an individual before God. He emphasized subjective truth over objective truth, or "the truth that is true for me". By this, he did not deny objective, propositional truth, but rather, he asserted that truth, especially the claims of religion, must be appropriated subjectively to have any effect on, or value for, the thinker. That is to say, the ability to verify the claims of religion are only good to the philosopher if he can personally appropriate those claims for himself.

Who is supposed to write or finish such a system? Surely a human being, unless we are to resume the peculiar talk about a human being's becoming speculative thought, a subject-object (p. 120).

Part Two is entitled "The Subjective Issue, The Subjective Individual's Relation to the Truth of Christianity, or Becoming a Christian". Section One is devoted to Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-81), who in ways was groping toward some of Kierkegaard's conclusions. He was a noted German esthetician, dramatist and critic. His drama abandoned neo-classical forms and assumed more personal and ideal themes. He also alluded to the concept of the leap, which held great interest for Kierkegaard.

1. The subjective existing thinker is aware of the dialectic of communication. Whereas objective thinking is indifferent to the thinking subject and his existence, the subjective thinker as existing is essentially interested in his own thinking, is existing in it. Therefore, his thinking has another kind of reflection, specifically, that of inwardness, of possession, whereby it belongs to the subject and to no one else.... 2. In his existence-relation to the truth, the existing subjective thinker is just as negative as positive, has just as much of the comic as he essentially has of pathos, and is continually in a process of becoming, that is, striving.... In the domain of thinking, the positive can be classed in the following categories: sensate certainty, historical knowledge, speculative result. But this positive is precisely the untrue. Sensate certainty is a delusion (see Greek skepticism...); historical knowledge is an illusion (since it is approximation-knowledge); and the speculative result is a phantom. That is, all of this positive fails to express the state of the knowing subject in existence.... 3.... Lessing has said that contingent historical truths can never become a demonstration of eternal truths of reason, also that the transition whereby one will build an eternal truth on historical reports is a leap.... 4. Lessing has said If God held all truth enclosed in his right hand, and in his left hand the one and only ever-striving drive for truth, even with the corollary of erring forever and ever, and if he were to say to me: Choose!—I would humbly fall down to him at his left hand and say: Father, give! Pure truth is indeed only for you alone! (p. 72f., 80f., 93, 106).

If something can only be speculated about, we cannot approach it objectively with assurance of understanding. If something is historical, we again cannot approach it objectively with assurance of understanding, since we were not there. Lastly, if we were there, our perceptions of the sensate could be misled. This is why Kierkegaard could rationalize in his Philosophical Fragments that a contemporary follower of Christ had no advantage over a later believer ("a follower at second hand"). Even if God handed someone the truth, he would not thereby come into relation with it. It would exist for him as an object. The striving after something engages the individual to come into relation with it—even though he should fail to acquire a full understanding.

Section 2 is entitled "The Subjective Issue, Or How Subjectivity Must Be Constituted In Order That The Issue Can Be Manifest To It". In Chapter One, entitled "Becoming Subjective", Kierkegaard addresses the paradoxical, among other things. His view is that paradox is at the heart of the Christian religion. The paradox gives offense and cannot be silenced by the mere amassing of proofs.

The matter becomes much more difficult when one asks about the religious in the strictest sense, in which the explanation cannot consist in immanently procuring the infinitizing but in becoming aware of the paradox and holding on to the paradox at every moment, and most of all fearing in particular an explanation that would remove the paradox, because the paradox is not a transient form of the relation between the religious in the strictest sense and the existing person but is essentially conditioned by his being an existing person, so that the explanation that removes the paradox also fantastically transmogrifies the existing person into a fantastical something that belongs neither to time nor to eternity, but such a something is not a human being (p. 182).

Kierkegaard was not the first person to consider the paradoxical. The Latin phrase attributed to Tertullian (160?-230?) is Credo quia absurdum est, "I believe because it is absurd". Anselm (1033-1109) said Credo ut intelligam, "I believe so that I might understand".

What on the whole does it mean to explain something? Does explaining mean to show that the obscure something in question is not this but something else? That would be a strange explanation. I should think that by the explanation it would become clear that the something in question is this definite something, so that the explanation would remove not the thing in question but the obscurity. Otherwise the explanation is something other than an explanation; it is a correction. An explanation of the paradox makes clear what the paradox is and removes the obscurity; a correction removes the paradox and makes clear that there is no paradox. But the latter is certainly no explanation of the paradox but rather an explanation that there is no paradox. But if the paradox emerges from the placing together of the eternal and an existing individual human being, does the explanation, in removing the paradox, then also remove existing from the existing person?... Consequently, the explanation of the absolute paradox that declares there is no paradox except to a certain degree, in other words, that there are only relative paradoxes, is an explanation not for existing individuals but for the absentminded (p. 218f.).

Since essential truth is far beyond our comprehension to the extent that we cannot approach it objectively, it appears to us in the form of a paradox. A paradox is a tension of sorts between at least two focal points. In terms of religious paradox, we may refer to the Christian doctrine of Jesus as fully divine and fully human. No one can comprehend how such a thing could be. However, it is not a flat contradiction. A logical contradiction posits two mutually exclusive premises, such as "James is a man and is not a man", where the word "man" means the same thing on both sides of the statement. This point is frequently misunderstood. Kierkegaard would not have us believe, or come into relation with, the impossible or the contradictory, but rather the paradoxical, the absurd, the incomprehensible. Furthermore, any attempt to remove the paradoxical is either an attempt to objectify what we cannot know objectively, because we are in the process of becoming, or, to dismiss the role of faith as silliness. This would imply that we can understand things to such a degree so as to be able to dismiss something absolutely. This assumes that we dwell outside of the system (or the universe), as if from an objective standpoint. To us, who are in the process of becoming, some truths are perceived as impenetrable paradoxes. Thinking and being are too remote from each other for us to see them as anything else. Kierkegaard addresses offense as the result of facing the paradox of Christianity in Practice in Christianity.

Chapter Two is entitled "Subjective Truth, Inwardness; Truth Is Subjectivity", The quote starts from the beginning of the chapter.

Whether truth is defined more empirically as the agreement of thinking with being or more idealistically as the agreement of being with thinking, the point in each case is to pay scrupulous attention to what is understood by being and also to pay attention to whether the knowing human spirit might not be lured out into the indefinite and fantastically become something such as no existing human being has ever been or can be, a phantom with which the individual busies himself on occasion, yet without ever making it explicit to himself by means of dialectical middle terms how he gets out into this fantastical realm....

If, in the two definitions given, being is understood as empirical being, then truth itself is transformed into a desideratum [something desired] and everything is placed in the process of becoming, because the empirical object is not finished, and the existing knowing spirit is itself in the process of becoming. This truth is an approximating whose beginning cannot be established absolutely, because there is no conclusion that has retroactive power. On the other hand, every beginning, when it is made (if it is not arbitrariness by not being conscious of this), does not occur by virtue of immanental thinking but is made by virtue of a resolution, essentially by virtue of faith (p. 189).

If we could approach a thing and know it as it is in itself, then thinking would be identified with being, that is, our conception would conform to the actual thing that we have conceived. Kierkegaard says that when we say that our thought conforms to the thing that we are conceiving, yet remain unaware of the mediation that would be required to know the object, or more ideally, when we identify thinking with being, we then deceive ourselves. The "dialectical middle terms", if any, are simply ignored in such a cognitive construction. Moreover, since an object of knowledge is not complete in itself, that is, it has not yet passed through the phase of ceasing-to-be and thus is still in the process of becoming, and, since we too are in the process of becoming, how can we approximate accurate knowledge of the thing? What would be the mediating factors to accomplish this task? Kierkegaard concludes that when we claim to have knowledge of a thing, we do so solely through an act of faith.

The term "being" in those definitions must, then, be understood much more abstractly as the abstract rendition or the abstract prototype of what being in concreto is as empirical being. If it is understood in this way, nothing stands in the way of abstractly defining truth as something finished, because, viewed abstractly, the agreement between thinking and being is always finished, inasmuch as the beginning of the process of becoming lies precisely in the concretion that abstraction abstractly disregards.... But if being is understood in this way, the formula is a tautology; that is, thinking and being signify one and the same.... For the existing spirit qua existing spirit, the question about truth persists, because the abstract answer is only for that abstractum which an existing spirit becomes by abstracting from himself qua existing, which he can do only momentarily.... To objective reflection, truth becomes something objective, an object, and the point is to disregard the subject. To subjective reflection, truth becomes appropriation, inwardness, subjectivity, and the point is to immerse oneself, existing, in subjectivity.... Of what help is it to explain how the eternal truth is to be understood eternally when the one to use the explanation is prevented from understanding it in this way because he is existing and is merely a fantast if he fancies himself to be sub specie aeterni [with an outward appearance of the eternal]... (p. 190ff.).

Since the existing person who approaches a thing does so as someone who is in the process of becoming, and since an object that he approaches is also in a state of becoming—since it has not yet ceased to be—there can be no complete knowing of a thing. If there could be, one would have to either identify himself with the object, which Kierkegaard would reject as pantheism, or thinking and being would be identified. Therefore, all explanations of cognition that admit objective knowledge of a thing actually, so says Kierkegaard, engage in a tautology: They identify the act of thinking with being, since there is no mediation.

The way of objective reflection turns the subjective individual into something accidental and thereby turns existence into an indifferent, vanishing something. The way to the objective truth goes away from the subject, and while the subject and subjectivity become indifferent, the truth also becomes indifferent, and that is precisely its objective validity, because the interest, just like the decision, is subjectivity. The way of objective reflection now leads to abstract thinking, to mathematics, to historical knowledge of various kinds, and always leads away from the subjective individual, whose existence or nonexistence becomes, from an objective point of view, altogether properly, infinitely indifferent... (p. 193).

Subjectivity, as we have seen, is viewed as the only truth that we as humans can procure with regard to the paradoxical, the religious. Subjectivity is not only the goal, but the method.

In order to clarify the divergence of objective and subjective reflection, I shall now describe subjective reflection in its search back and inward into inwardness. At its highest, inwardness in an existing subject is passion; truth as a paradox corresponds to passion, and that truth becomes a paradox is grounded precisely in its relation to an existing subject. In this way the one corresponds to the other. In forgetting that one is an existing subject, one loses passion...[and] the knowing subject shifts from being human to being a fantastical something.... When the question about truth is asked objectively, truth is reflected upon objectively as an object to which the knower relates himself. What is reflected upon is not the relation but that what he relates himself to is the truth, the true. If only that to which he relates himself is the truth, the true, then the subject is in the truth. When the question about truth is asked subjectively, the individual's relation is reflected upon subjectively. If only the how of this relation is in truth, the individual is in truth, even if he in this way were to relate himself to untruth (p. 198f.).

In a footnote to this Kierkegaard says,

The reader will note that what is being discussed here is essential truth, or the truth that is related essentially to existence, and that it is specifically in order to clarify it as inwardness or as subjectivity that the contrast is pointed out.

At first the quote above may seem wantonly illogical. Kierkegaard seems to be saying that believing in a lie is fine as long as we employ the subjective method. Granted that objective truth is difficult or impossible to attain—do we not then care for truth at all? The answer lies in the impossibility of possessing, much less relating to, objective truth concerning the religious. Since it cannot be attained or applied, and since the subjective method is the only method to relate to the truth, then if the subjective person happens to adhere to a lie, that is still better than the objective method which must fail, since it is inherently an ineffectual method. In fact, God himself is not an object, but is subjective within himself.

The existing person who chooses the objective way now enters upon all approximating deliberation intended to bring forth God objectively, which is not achieved in all eternity, because God is a subject and hence only for subjectivity in inwardness (p. 199f.).

To illustrate that the intent and the method are paramount, Kierkegaard makes a hypothetical comparison. If a man living in a pagan land were to pray earnestly and devoutly to an idol, he would be closer to truth than one who lives in a "Christian" land but prays in untruth.

The one prays in truth to God although he is worshipping an idol; the other prays in untruth to the true God and is therefore in truth worshipping an idol (p. 201).

This is the importance of passionate intent. Objectively the emphasis is on what is said; subjectively the emphasis is on how it is said (p. 202).

Here is such a definition of truth: An objective uncertainty, held fast through appropriation with the most passionate inwardness, is the truth, the highest truth there is for an existing person (p. 203).

Chapter three is entitled "Actual Subjectivity, Ethical Subjectivity; the Subjective Thinker". Kierkegaard again returns to identification of thinking and being, as proffered by Kant and Hegel.

But to be an individual human being is not a pure idea-existence either. Only humanity in general exists in this way, that is, does not exist. Existence is always the particular; the abstract does not exist. To conclude from this that the abstract does not have reality is a misunderstanding.... Philosophy explains: Thinking and being are one...but thinking and being are one in relation to that whose existence is essentially a matter of indifference because it is so abstract that it has only thought-existence. God does not think, he creates; God does not exist, he is eternal. A human being thinks and exists, and existence separates thinking and being, holds them apart from each other in succession. What is thinking? It is thinking where there is no thinker. It ignores everything but thought, and in its own medium only thought is. Existence is not thoughtless, but in existence thought is in an alien medium. What does it mean, then, in the language of abstract thinking to ask about actuality in the sense of existence when abstraction expressly ignores it?—What is concrete thinking? It is thinking where there are a thinker and a specific something (in the sense of particularity) that is being thought, where existence gives the existing thinker thought, time, and space.... Instead of having the task of understanding the concrete abstractly, as abstract thinking has, the subjective thinker has the opposite task of understanding the abstract concretely. Abstract thinking turns from concrete human beings to humankind in general; the subjective thinker understands the abstract concept to be the concrete human being, to be this individual existing human being.... Indeed, what is an existing human being? Our age knows all too well how little it is, but therein lies the specific immorality of our age. Every age has its own; the immorality of our age is perhaps not lust and pleasure and sensuality, but rather a pantheistic, debauched contempt for individual human beings.... Just as in the desert individuals must travel in large caravans out of fear of robbers and wild animals, so individuals today have a horror of existence because it is godforsaken; they dare to live only in great herds and cling together en masse in order to be at least something. ...and every human being who has passion is always somewhat solitary; it is only drivelers who are swallowed up in social life... (p. 330, 332, 352, 355f., 428).

Kierkegaard compares the skepticism of the Greeks with the skepticism of modern philosophy. The Greeks, typified by Socrates, practiced a type of inward existential thinking, especially since Socrates wanted to know what the true, good and beautiful were, so that he might live in relation to things that were true, good and beautiful. Modern skepticism, beginning with Descartes, but typified especially by Hegel, applies doubt to all cognitive endeavors since it seeks to relate to God, the cosmos and humankind objectively. But God cannot be related to objectively. Objectifying God, according to Kierkegaard, is to equate thinking and being, since it assumes that the cognitive process can penetrate pure being. This is why Kierkegaard emphasized subjective faith, with its emphasis on the individual.

Kierkegaard returns to the theme propounded in Philosophical Fragments in chapter 4, entitled "The Issue in Fragments: How Can an Eternal Happiness Be Built on Historical Knowledge?" How, Kierkegaard asks, can we, as finite beings in time, relate to the eternal God? How can we orientate ourselves to historical events, such as the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ? Kierkegaard's answer in part is that Christianity is not a doctrine, and we do not thus relate to it as a set of precepts.

The introducing that I take upon myself consists, by repelling, in making it difficult to become a Christian and understands Christianity not as a doctrine but as an existence-contradiction and existence-communication (p. 383).

D. F. Swenson, as quoted by W. Lowrie, defines Religiousness A and B.

Religion A is characterized by a passive relation to the divine, with the accompanying suffering and sense of guilt. But it is distinguished from religion B, or transcendent religion, in that the tie which binds the individual to the divine is still, in spite of all tension, essentially intact.... The distinctive feature of transcendent religion can be briefly stated. It consists in a transformation or modification of the sense of guilt into the sense of sin, in which all continuity is broken off between the actual self and the ideal self, the temporal self and the eternal. The personality is invalidated, and thus made free from the law of God, because unable to comply with its demands. There is no fundamental point of contact left between the individual and the divine; man has become absolutely different from God (A Short Life of Kierkegaard, p. 173f.).

Kierkegaard then refocusses on how the religious relates to the other stages.

If in himself the individual is undialectical and has his dialectic outside himself, then we have the esthetic interpretations. If the individual is dialectically turned inward in self-assertion in such a way that the ultimate foundation does not in itself become dialectical, since the underlying self is used to surmount and assert itself, then we have the ethical interpretation. If the individual is defined as dialectically turned inward in self-annihilation before God, then we have Religiousness A. If the individual is paradoxical-dialectical, every remnant of original immanence annihilated, and all connection cut away, and the individual situated at the edge of existence, then we have the paradoxical-religious (p. 572).

Kierkegaard maintains that true religiousness is based upon inwardness and incomprehensibility. Approaching Christianity as a doctrine, thus making it comprehensible, forces it back into the ethical. But since the work of Christ is an eternal work that was performed in history, and we, who are in time, must approach the eternal in time, we are faced with the incomprehensibility of our salvation. This is the paradoxical, the absurd. By absurd, Kierkegaard does not mean foolish, but incomprehensible, because it cannot be resolved by mere thought.

Consequently the believing Christian both has and uses his understanding, respects the universally human, does not explain someone's not becoming a Christian as a lack of understanding, but believes Christianity against the understanding and here uses the understanding—in order to see to it that he believes against the understanding. Therefore he cannot believe nonsense against the understanding, which one might fear, because the understanding will penetratingly perceive that it is nonsense and hinder him in believing it, but he uses the understanding so much that through it he becomes aware of the incomprehensibility, and now, believing, he relates himself to it against the understanding (p. 568).

The leap is necessary for two main reasons: First, all speculation is only an "approximation", and second, an objective fact does nothing for us until we subjectively appropriate it. An atheist, for example, utterly denies the existence of God. According to him, God has no real existence, and therefore cannot have any real existence for anyone if he does not exist. If someone limits himself to speculation, who relates to God only objectively, he has no relation to God. For him as an individual God may as well not exist, though he actually does exist. Therefore, without subjectivity, the theist and the atheist possess the same relationship to God.

In the conclusion Kierkegaard begins by telling us again that he aims to make it difficult to become a Christian. Then he apparently includes an autobiographical note on the rearing of children into Christianity.

However, if a child is not allowed, as it ought to be, to play innocently with the most holy, if in its existence it is rigorously coerced into decisively Christian qualifications, such a child will suffer a great deal (p. 601).

Kierkegaard's pietistic father had strongly impressed upon him, when he was young, the sufferings of Christ. The father's morbidity was inherited by the son. It took years for Kierkegaard to begin to come out of his fearful melancholy.

Then Kierkegaard again provides us with a definition of faith.

Faith is the objective uncertainty with the repulsion of the absurd, held fast in the passion of inwardness, which is the relation of inwardness intensified to its highest.... Faith must not be satisfied with incomprehensibility, because the very relation to or repulsion from the incomprehensible, the absurd, is the expression for the passion of faith (p. 611).

The reader must not be unmindful that this entire work is under a pseudonym. Johannes Climacus tells us in the appendix to the conclusion, "An Understanding with the Reader," that he is not religious, but a humorist (p. 617). He is between the ethical and religious stages. Years later, when Kierkegaard began to write direct Christian works, he twice used the pseudonym Anti-Climacus to represent the ideal Christian, lest he seem to pass himself off as an ideal Christian. Yet he used his own name as editor to take responsibility for the works, as he does here. He tells us to ignore this work, just as the Philosophical Fragments was ignored by the general public and the reviewers. This leads up to the final section, where Kierkegaard relates his entire pseudonymous plan of authorship, identifying his pseudonyms. For more on this see Kierkegaard's Authorial Method.