Bad News About the Good News
Rather, one must Do; or better, Be. In his view, there were few actual Christians, just a lot of people pretending to be. Which, in a way, is worse than being "anti-Christian."
"My task is to disabuse people of the illusion that they are Christians -- yet I am serving Christianity."
So, he's a kind of inverse apostle: instead of convincing people to convert to Christianity, he's trying to convince them they never did. He spent his life spreading Bad News about the Good News.
Frankly, he's a bit of a pill. An irritant. A provocateur. He likes to stir things up. He would say that any intellectual approach to Christianity is doomed to failure, and that we have to completely bypass the intellect in the act of faith. He has a point there: one can rationalize forever without taking that final leap, which does indeed require commitment.
This is why he is called an existentialist, and even the "founder" of existentialism: "To become a genuine self, an individual in the truest sense, was a central concern to Kierkegaard." He "stands against every form of thinking that bypasses the individual or enables the individual to escape his responsibility before God."
Either. Or. Which is the title of one of his most famous books. The point is, it's on you, and no amount of rationalizing can free you from making the choice rooted in faith. "Each person must choose between God and the world." And "if someone wants to have faith and reason too, well, let the comedy begin."
Who is this meddlesome noodge! I wonder what Schuon would say?
Kierkegaard’s “existence” nullifies itself through lack of sufficient reason; how is it possible to conceive of an “existential” morality, that is to say, a morality which is “lived and not thought” and therefore immune to “abstraction,” at the level of terrestrial man who is a thinking being by definition? This alternative between “existence” and “thought-abstraction” is the fundamental misunderstanding in existentialism; indeed the latter is simply one of the most aberrant manifestations of what may be described as Western alternatives.
Thank you. I knew there was something deviant in his approach, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Here's a guy who writes 35 abstruse books and 20 volumes of journals, but he's not an intellectual!
Yeah, "What is one to say of a philosopher who 'thinks' cheerfully about the insincerity or the mediocrity of 'thought' as such? Inept though that may be, an audience is never lacking for such literary artifices of a mentally compressed city dweller" (Schuon).
A mentally compressed city dweller. I'm going to steal that one. Does it not describe our blue state and bluer city mouth-breathren?
Schuon continues as only Schuon can:
The Western spirit has always lived to a large extent on alternatives.... One of the most typical examples in fact is Kierkegaard’s criticism of the “abstract thinker” who, so it would appear, is guilty of “the contradiction of wishing to demonstrate his existence by means of his thought.” “To the extent that he thinks abstractly he makes an abstraction of the fact that he exists” is the conclusion reached by this philosopher.
Now in the first place, really to think, to think intelligently, and not merely to juxtapose figurative or question-begging propositions implies by definition “thinking abstractly,” since otherwise thought would be reduced to imagination; and in the second place, there is no fundamental opposition between the two poles of existing and “thinking,” since our existence is always a mode of consciousness for us and our thought is a manner of existing.
What's with the hatred of the intellect? Yes, it is obviously misused, but so is everything. Faith is certainly misused. Why not spend one's life ranting about that?
Kierkegaard is not completely wrong. It's just that he inappropriately generalizes from the widespread misuse of intelligence:
An element of truth is contained nonetheless in the existentialist criticisms, in the sense that discursive knowledge is separative by reason of the subject-object polarization; however, the conclusion to be drawn from this is not that such knowledge is devoid of value on its own plane or that it is limited as to its content, but that it does not embrace all possible knowledge, and that in purely intellective and direct knowledge the polarization in question is transcended.
In other words, there is analytical knowledge that separates (and is rooted in separation), and unitive knowledge that synthesizes (and is grounded in unity). It's almost like left-brain/right-brain, or particle/wave, or part/whole. The world is bi-logical. Complementarity, baby. Not Either/Or, but Both/And.
Does man have a right to know? Or is his intellect totally superfluous? If so, why do we have it? What is it for? Can our highest ability really be worth less than nothing?
Meh. I can see his point, but he takes everything too far. Intelligence doesn't save. But nor does it condemn. To put it conversely, can't the whole man be saved, intellect included? Or is everything rotten in Denmark?