2013年8月15日 星期四

《哲學片段 》 Kierkegaard, Soren. Philosophical Fragments./Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments





Climacus writes, "[A]s soon as I discover that I have known the Truth from eternity without being aware of it, the same instant this moment of occasion is hidden in the eternal, and so incorporated with it that I cannot even find it, so to speak, even if I sought it; because in my eternal consciousness there is neither here nor there, but only an ubique et nusquam" (hc 按:[everywhere and nowhere] 翁譯為「天地悠」 )
Kierkegaard, Soren. Philosophical Fragments. A Kierkegaard Anthology. Ed. Robert Bretall. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1946. 153-171. 《哲學片段 翁紹軍譯 香港:道風山基督教叢林1994 /北京:商務2012 14  譯者有一注說:齊克果的永恆觀念,與西方哲學史一脈相傳。……黑格爾:「 時間的真正終止是無始無終的現在, 即永恆。」






Greek and Christian Models of the Truth


In his Philosophical Fragments, Søren Kierkegaard, writing under the pseudonym of Johannes Climacus, poses the question, "How far does the Truth admit of being learned?" (154). A more direct and succinct formulation of Climacus' question is "How is the Truth learned?" since his question does not concern the extent of human knowledge, which "How far" implies, but the possible modes through which one comes, or may come, to know the Truth. For Climacus, there are two possible modes of knowing, or two theories of how one comes to know the Truth: the Greek and the Christian. Both of these modes lead one not to truths, but to "the Truth"; Climacus' concern is not with those modes of knowing that yield particular truths about the world and humans, as in science, but with those modes that yield ultimate Truth, that highest and purest dream of philosophy. The central purpose of this deliberation on the two modes of knowing the Truth, according to Niels Thulstrup, is to point out "the deep essential difference between Platonism and Christianity because of the fact of the incarnation" (lxxxvii). Climacus wants to demonstrate that the Greek, Platonic, or Socratic mode of knowing the Truth contradicts the Christian mode of knowing the truth. Many theologians and philosophers hold that Climacus succeeds in his demonstration and therefore extol the genius of Kierkegaard. My reading of Climacus' "Project of Thought" is also that he succeeds, but that his success is a fundamental failure. For even though Climacus indicates an essential difference between the Greek mode of knowing the Truth and the Christian, he does not fully recognize that his whole thought-project is itself Greek, and that it puts a question to Christianity that Christianity neither poses nor answers. Climacus' effort, therefore, to clarify the nature of Christianity by contrasting the Greek mode of knowing with the Christian only obfuscates Christianity and Christian revelation.

Climacus precisely and persuasively elucidates the Greek mode of knowing. The initial dilemma in Socratic thought is the "pugnacious proposition" that Socrates intimates in the Meno: "[O]ne cannot seek for what he knows, and it seems equally impossible for him to seek for what he does not know. For what a man knows he cannot seek, since he knows it; and what he does not know he cannot seek, since he does not even know for what to seek" (155). The basic metaphor of the Socratic mode of knowing is that the Truth is sought, but this metaphor deconstructs itself because the nature of seeking implies some sense of prior possession. If one is to find the truth, one must find it already in one's possession. As Climacus points out, Socrates works out this difficulty in "the doctrine of Recollection" (155). Socrates concludes that "all learning and inquiry is... a kind of remembering" and that "one who is ignorant needs only a reminder to help him come to himself in the consciousness of what he knows" (155). Thus, Climacus concludes, "[T]he Truth is not introduced into the individual from without, but was within him all the time" (155). Paul Tillich correctly sums up Climacus' understanding of the Greek mode of knowing: "[T]he religion of Socrates presupposes that truth is present within every human being. The fundamental truths are in man himself" (467).

Climacus sets forth a remarkable implication of the Greek mode of knowing: It thoroughly minimizes the significance of the moment in which one learns the Truth. Climacus writes, "From the standpoint of the Socratic thought every point of departure in time is eo ipso accidental, an occasion, a vanishing moment" (156). The phrase "point of departure in time," or "temporal departure," refers simply to the moment in which one learns the truth, when one departs--in time--from the flow and flux of time and sees the eternal; in a literal sense, a point of departure in time is "a moment of Truth." Climacus argues that according to the Greek mode of knowing, every point of departure is occasional, accidental, and vanishing because only contact with the Truth matters, not the context from which one departs for the Truth. Context refers primarily to the teacher; Climacus writes that, on the Greek mode of knowing the Truth, "[T]he teacher himself is no more than... accidental" and vanishing (156). H.A. Nielsen clarifies the meaning of a vanishing point of departure: "[W]ith regard to getting hold of the Truth, no man owes thanks to any other man... . The teacher plays a midwife's forgettable role, which anyone with similar training might have played" (4).

According to Climacus, the teacher plays the lowly role of the midwife, or the moment of departure vanishes, on the Greek mode of knowing because one's eternal consciousness never comes into being. One never connects with the eternal, for one is not disconnected from the eternal. Climacus writes, "[A]s soon as I discover that I have known the Truth from eternity without being aware of it, the same instant this moment of occasion is hidden in the eternal, and so incorporated with it that I cannot even find it, so to speak, even if I sought it; because in my eternal consciousness there is neither here nor there, but only an ubique et nusquam" (157). The moment of temporal departure is insignificant because it is only the moment in which one realizes one's eternal consciousness. One's eternal consciousness does not come into being in the moment; one simply realizes that it has always been. Since one's eternal consciousness does not come into being at "temporal departure," the moment of departure lacks significance.

The Christian mode of knowing the Truth contradicts the Greek mode and thereby gives the moment in time "decisive significance," writes Climacus (157). The temporal moment of departure has decisive significance in the Christian mode "because the eternal, which hitherto did not exist," comes "into being in this moment" (157). Thus, the moment of departure in time is more than just a realization of what one already has. It is a creation of what one wholly lacks. One wholly lacks the Truth, an eternal consciousness, just up to the moment of departure: "[T]he seeker" is "destitute of the Truth up to the very moment of his learning it" (158). The seeker, writes Climacus, does not even possess the truth in ignorance or unwittingly, and is not even really a seeker: "He [the would-be seeker] must therefore be characterized as beyond the pale of the Truth, not approaching it like a proselyte, but departing from it; or as being in Error. He is then in a state of Error" (158). Hence, it will not profit him to be reminded "of what he has not known, and consequently cannot recall" (158). Prior to her moment of departure, the "learner" is in a state of ignorant ignorance, according to the Christian mode of knowing. Not only does she not know or possess the truth, she does not even know that she does not know the truth.

On the Christian mode of knowing, with the learner in such a depraved state, only one way exists for the learner to know the Truth: "[I]f the learner is to acquire the Truth, the Teacher must bring it to him; and not only so, but he must also give him the condition necessary for understanding it" (158). The Teacher must also give the learner the condition for understanding the Truth because "if the learner were in his own person the condition for understanding the Truth, he need only recall it" (158). If the learner has the condition for understanding the Truth, she already has the Truth, for all she must do is call upon this condition and the Truth is hers. At this point in the argument, "recalling the Truth" becomes, for Climacus, a metaphor for any mode of knowing that presupposes the truth to be within the human being, or any form of Idealism. As Nielsen points out, any mode of knowing that makes it possible for the learner "to acquire the Truth by human effort" contradicts the Christian mode of knowing. The elemental distinction, then, between the Greek and the Christian modes of knowing is that the Greek mode presupposes that humans can attain the Truth from themselves, and the Christian mode presupposes that the Truth must come from outside all human selves.

This Teacher, therefore, must be more than human:

[O]ne who gives the learner not only the Truth, but also the condition for understanding it, is more than teacher... if [the requisite condition] is lacking, no teacher can do anything. For otherwise he would find it necessary not only to transform the learner, but to re-create him before beginning to teach him. But this is something that no human being can do; if it is to be done, it must be done by God himself. (158-159).

On this Christian mode learning the Truth the moment has decisive significance, argues Climacus, because one does more in the moment than simply realize the eternal. One encounters the eternal. Both condition and Truth come at once, and what one before lacked completely, one now possesses completely.

Climacus thus skillfully distinguishes between the Greek and Christian modes of knowing the Truth. In making this distinction, however, Climacus does not fully grasp that his own approach, his entire thought-project, contradicts the nature of Christianity and its message, for his thought-project itself is fundamentally Greek. Climacus does indicate that he is partly aware of the Greek nature of his thought-project. After asking his initial question regarding how far the Truth admits of being learned, Climacus writes, "With this question let us begin. It was a Socratic question, or became such in consequence of the parallel Socratic question with respect to virtue, since virtue was again determined as insight" (154-155). Though Climacus perceives the Socratic nature of his question, however, he proceeds with his inquiry, and demonstrates thereby that he has not understood the profound problem of putting a Greek question, such as how one learns the Truth, to Christianity. By putting this Greek question to Christianity, or by interpreting Christianity from a Greek perspective, Climacus skews the very nature of Christianity and Christian revelation.

Critics have not missed Climacus' error. A.B. Drachmann astutely notes, "[T]he decisive Christian category is developed [in Philosophical Fragments] not out of Christianity itself... , but only out of Christianity in relationship to the Socratic; and it is Christianity which must there conform to the Socratic and not the reverse" (qtd. in Thulstrup lxxxix). Drachmann's criticism is that Climacus' Greek perspective does not allow Christianity to stand fully forth. Climacus reads Christianity dialectically in terms of Greek thought instead of on its own terms. Torsten Bohlin argues that Climacus, whom he positively identifies with Kierkegaard, merely repeats the mistake that "orthodox theology" has made:

According to this view the formation of dogma in the early church was not a development out of the given of the New Testament but "a work of the Greek spirit on the basis of the Gospel." If Kierkegaard holds to the orthodox theology... , his understanding of Christianity is determined by "the Greek spirit," that is, by Platonism and not by the New Testament, and that it thereby can be rejected as false. (qtd. in Thulstrup lxxxix).

Bohlin's contention is that the mistake Climacus makes in the Philosophical Fragments is the basic mistake of historical orthodoxy: interpreting the New Testament from Greek categories.

In The Subversion of Christianity, Jacques Ellul persuasively argues a similar thesis: that the elementary error of orthodoxy has been to interpret the New Testament by the terms of Greek philosophy. Ellul provides a cogent historical account of the origin of this error of orthodoxy, which Climacus repeats in his thought-project:

Hebrew thought was sown in a field nourished by Greek thought and Roman law. There was a need to translate the history into terms that the Greco-Roman world could understand, that is, into philosophical and legal terms. The Torah became the divine equivalent of the law of the Twelve Tables. God's revelation became the climax of the teaching of Socrates. What resulted was of decisive importance. The Bible was interpreted by the intellectual tools of Greek philosophy. (25)

According to Ellul, the problem with interpreting the Bible "by the intellectual tools of Greek philosophy" is that Christian revelation, specifically the New Testament, "does not reveal by means of a philosophical system or a moral code or a metaphysical construction" (23). Christian revelation is historical, not philosophical. In God's work of revelation, God does not send "a book of metaphysics or a sacred book of Gnostic revelations or a complete epistemological system or a perfected wisdom. He sends a man. In relation to him stories are told... that constitute a history" (24). The text of the New Testament is not a book of philosophical answers. It is a record of historical events. Thus, the grand error of orthodoxy "goes back to a phenomenal change in the understanding of revelation, namely, the transition from history to philosophy" (23). Orthodoxy construes Christian revelation as a philosophical text, and thus brings to Christian revelation "intellectual, metaphysical, and epistemological questions" (23).

Climacus only repeats the error of orthodoxy when he puts the epistemological question of how one learns the Truth to Christianity. Since, as Ellul indicates, Christian revelation is essentially historical, posing a philosophical question to it is unreasonable. It is like asking Paul Johnson's History of Christianity to answer the question of what is persuasive proof for God's existence. Johnson did not design his text to answer such a question, nor did the writers of the New Testament, and God for Ellul, design the New Testament to answer epistemological questions such as how one learns the Truth. Climacus' method does more, however, than simply put a question to Christianity which it does not and cannot answer: By generating an answer from a misreading of Christian revelation, Climacus distorts the nature of Christianity and Christian revelation.


Works Cited

Ellul, Jacques. The Subversion of Christianity. Trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.

Kierkegaard, Soren. Philosophical Fragments. A Kierkegaard Anthology. Ed. Robert Bretall. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1946. 153-171. 哲學片段 翁紹軍譯 香港:道風山基督教叢林1994 /北京:商務2012

Nielsen, H.A. Where the Passion Is: A Reading of Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragements. Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1983.

Thulstrup, Niels. "Commentator's Introduction." Philosophical Fragments. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962. xlv-xcii.

Tillich, Paul. A History of Christian Thought. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Greek and Christian Models of the Truth." 123HelpMe.com. 14 Aug 2013
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*****《結論性非科學附筆 》

The one prays in truth to God though he worships an idol; the other prays falsely to the true God, and hence worships an idol… The objective accent falls on what is said, the subjective accent on how it is said.



Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments (Danish: Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift til de philosophiske Smuler) is a major work by Søren Kierkegaard. The work is a poignant attack against Hegelianism, the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel. The work is also famous for its dictum, Subjectivity is Truth. It was an attack on what Kierkegaard saw as Hegel's deterministic philosophy. Against Hegel's system, Kierkegaard is often interpreted as taking the side of metaphysical libertarianism or freewill, though it has been argued that an incompatibilist conception of free will is not essential to Kierkegaard's formulation of existentialism.
As the title suggests, the Postscript is sequel to the earlier Philosophical Fragments. The title of the work is ironic because the Postscript is almost five times larger than the Fragments. The Postscript credits "Johannes Climacus" as the author and Kierkegaard as its editor. Like his other pseudonymous works, the Postscript is not a reflection of Kierkegaard's own beliefs. However, unlike his other pseudonymous works, Kierkegaard attaches his name as editor to this work, showing the importance of the Postscript to Kierkegaard's overall authorship.

Contrasts in Concluding Unscientific Postscript

Objectivity Subjectivity
Objective truth is that which relates to propositions, that which has no relation to the existence of the knower. History, science, and speculative philosophy all deal with objective knowledge. According to Climacus, all objective knowledge is subject to doubt. Focuses on what is asserted. Subjective truth is essential or ethico-religious truth. It is not composed of propositions or perceptions of the external world, but of introspection, experiences, and especially one's relationship with God.
Direct Communication consists of statements that can be communicated and understood without appropriation, that is, without experiencing personally what is being communicated. Objective knowledge can be communicated directly.

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