Kierkegaard and Consciousness

Kierkegaard and Consciousness

Translated by Naomi Handelman
Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 220
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    Kierkegaard and Consciousness
    Book Description:

    Kierkegaard's philosophy is the description of the structure and behavior of human consciousness. Adi Shmüeli reconstructs that philosophy by showing that it always reflects the structure in question, and thus provides a useful key to Kierkegaard's work.

    Mr. Shmüeli approaches his task by analyzing first the aesthetic, ethical, and religious stages of life as successive steps in the gradual awakening of consciousness. He then describes the alienation of consciousness, of which Kierkegaard speaks in all his works, and discusses Kierkegaard's theory of indirect communication, philosophical action whose aim is to awaken consciousness in order to rescue it from alienation. Studying Kierkegaard's observations on Christianity as indirect communication, Professor Shmüeli deals also with his reflections on the philosophical problem of truth. His concluding chapter discusses the temporality and historicity of human consciousness. Quotations, taken primarily from accessible English translations, are generously provided to put the reader in direct contact with Kierkegaard's own words.

    Originally published in 1971.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7110-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Adi Shmuëli
    (pp. xi-2)
    Paul L. Holmer

    It is not often in the life of a professional scholar that a manuscript both baffles and attracts. These pages originally came my way couched in the form of a doctoral dissertation from a French university. They were a little unlike most pages of most dissertations; for clearly their author, Mr. Adi Shmueli, a citizen of Israel, was both convinced in a very strong way that forced consideration of his opinions and was not in the least intimidated (though he seemed amply informed) by the authorities he knew and cited. Though his text was difficult to assimilate as it stood,...

    (pp. 3-8)

    The difficulties encountered in studying the philosophy of Kierkegaard—especially in treating it as a coherent whole—are worthy of note, for even those difficulties illumine its nature. In his works, Kierkegaard seems to deploy contradictory ideas which threaten to make his philosophy incomprehensible. For example, Kierkegaard speaks of what he terms “stages” in life—the esthetical (or esthetic), ethical, and religious. The second part of hisEither/Ordeals with the ethical stage in the course of which man makes his choice and comes into his own by choosing freedom. Kierkegaard discusses the ethicist’s will, the pathos of the ethical...

  6. 1. About Consciousness in General
    (pp. 9-13)

    By the term consciousness we mean what Kierkegaard called “immanence.” This is a general term applying to all conscious human activity, including thoughts, feelings, desires, passions, etc. In Kierkegaard’s philosophy, these distinctions lose the independent character they have in ordinary discourse and other philosophies, such as Descartes’, for instance. This chapter proposes an independent analysis of the nature of consciousness. It will be seen as we proceed that the confirmation of its correctness can be found in Kierkegaard’s works.

    In order to describe the features of consciousness, let us consider perception as an analogue of man’s conscious thought. Let us...

  7. 2. The Esthetic Consciousness
    (pp. 14-30)

    During the romantic or the esthetic stage of life, man is attracted by esthetic ideas. In moments of passion, in heavy moods of melancholy, or the sorrow of nostalgia, the estheticist is caught in a state of mind that resembles a dream. He looks forward to the realization of his poetic ideas, while deep down the sadness of disappointment hovers. He experiences alternately the dizziness of ephemeral enthusiasm, and an undefined lassitude and nonchalance. The estheticist substitutes fantasy for reality. Referring to the pseudonymous author ofDiary of a Seducer,Kierkegaard writes:

    . . . His poetic temperament . ....

  8. 3. The Ethical Consciousness
    (pp. 31-48)

    InEither/Or,Judge William frequently indicates that the transition from the esthetical to the ethical stage is an absolute choice through which one chooses oneself. To be conscious now requires that one have a transitive relation to oneself. He emphasizes that this choice embodies as well a characteristic dialectic:

    In this case choice performs at one and the same time two dialectical movements: that which is chosen does not exist and comes into existence with the choice; that which is chosen exists, otherwise there would not be a choice. For in case what I chose did not exist but absolutely...

  9. 4. The Religious Consciousness
    (pp. 49-61)

    While the esthetic and ethical stages express only the immanent and indwelling components of man, the religious stage explores the relationships between those immanent factors and those which are independent of and transcendent to a man. It is in this stage that man becomes “spirit,” which is, as Kierkegaard says, “a relationship which relates itself to its own self, and in relating itself to its own self, relates itself to Another.” This “other” is transcendent existence, i.e., the third dimension of human consciousness, and in fact its actual origin. In thePostscript,Kierkegaard makes a distinction between two sorts of...

  10. 5. Consciousness and Religions A and B
    (pp. 62-82)

    We have seen that reflective consciousness characterizes the ethical stage of life. Religiousness A is actually the intensification of this reflective stage of consciousness. The believer in this religiousness is aware of each finite that emerges in his consciousness, and realizes that the finite is proof of nonrealization of the synthesis of his consciousness. The believer of religiousness A can never realize this totality as he is constantly engaged in the process of becoming, and thus always remains ahead of himself. Despite the impossibility of realizing this synthesis, however, he continues to seek it, and this synthesis, in the religious...

  11. 6. The Alienation of Consciousness
    (pp. 83-103)

    Human consciousness does not encompass beingquabeing. Unless man makes the religious “leap,” he remains forever far from God and enclosed in an immanence which never finds its ontological basis. The third dimension of consciousness, the transcendent dimension, is hidden from him, and in consequence the two immanent factors in consciousness (the finite and the infinite) often lose their distinctiveness. In such cases, consciousness as a whole becomes disfigured and deformed. It is then alienated by the loss of its negative trait, and it becomes wholly positive. This false stance, being positive without being negative, makes for the alienation...

  12. 7. Consciousness and the Uses of Irony and Humor
    (pp. 104-127)

    To clarify Kierkegaard’s theory of communication, we should like to address two questions. At first glance, these questions might cast doubt on Kierkegaard’s philosophical ideas, and consequently, also on our thesis. After dealing with them, however, we shall see that Kierkegaard is well aware of the problems that these questions raise, and that his philosophy provides a solution to them.

    The first question is the following: how can one speak of a particular and transcendent being if one knows only the perceived phenomena which hide it? How can one state that such a being exists? It is clear that a...

  13. 8. Consciousness and Indirect Communication
    (pp. 128-144)

    A year after Kierkegaard’s death, a novel was published in France which is a perfect example, to my mind, of the law of artistic production that Kierkegaard talks about. The novel is Flaubert’sMadame Bovary.The character “Madame Bovary” is not an historical fact nor did Flaubert intend to provide us with an historical account. In fact, we cannot be sure if the character is meant to be a woman or a man—Flaubert himself. Emma Bovary is a concept which contains its own opposite, without at the same time losing touch with everyday, concrete reality. The reader sees Emma...

  14. 9. The Christian Consciousness and the Problem of Truth
    (pp. 145-175)

    In theJournals,Kierkegaard declares:

    They can do whatever they want with me now, insult me, envy me, disparage my books, attack me, kill me; they will never in all eternity be able to dispute—which was my idea, the basis of my life—that one of the most original ideas in many centuries, and the most original ever expressed in Danish, is that Christianity needed an expert in maieutics, and that I was the one, while nobody appreciated this. This category for deploying Christianity does not suit Christendom. Here it is maieutics which is suitable, for it takes as...

  15. 10. The Historicity and Temporality of Consciousness
    (pp. 176-189)

    In speaking of the immanence of man, Kierkegaard hovers over three areas at once. According to him, man is the synthesis first of the finite and the infinite, then of the temporal and the eternal, and finally, of freedom and necessity.¹ It is the latter two contentions that are of interest here, and in considering them we shall see that the structure of consciousness of which we have spoken is a temporal one. Its character becomes more and more evident as man intensifies his inwardness while following the path which leads from the esthetic stage of life to the religious...

  16. 11. Conclusion
    (pp. 190-194)

    The structure and behavior of consciousness was described in the beginning of this work, and demonstrated by our analysis of the philosophical production of Kierkegaard. The conclusions deriving from this study remain to be stated.

    Human consciousness, if it is not alienated and misled, is an infinite movement of becoming. This movement is expressed in man’s fundamental aspiration to attain a transcendental world in which he hopes to find his own Self, the One, the Absolute. The search for the Absolute has always been the interest of metaphysics, and Kierkegaard, like many other philosophers before and after him, takes part...

    (pp. 195-196)
  18. NOTES
    (pp. 197-200)
    (pp. 201-202)