The Sufferings Of A Rational Being Essay

in the mind of Soren Kierkegaard
I. Prologue.

In what would be characteristically seen as intrinsically manifested throughout the areas of existentialism, this idea of suffering, its components, as well as its distinctiveness on the part of the feebleness of human life becomes a common and usual conception for Kierkegaard, so as not to be considered. The philosopher who has sparked the notion of existentialism, as he had subjugated into the depths of human emotion and pain while attuning to the experience of the obstinate human existence, Kierkegaard would be a philosopher that has indeed rightly come to the connection of what underlies beneath the core of human frailty and suffering. By this so, I have come to regard the notion with what a suffering being in the facticity of existing could portray, and that amidst all the concepts of understanding which would cause this, man would still participate of the misery and despair that are quite partly inept of what his being is. This is quite a vague notion to underlie but understanding Kierkegaard and his description of angst as a conception that man is indeed trapped into the misery of life; the understanding of the cause of his being would illuminate the ideas presented. In which case, Kierkegaard meaningly construes the agony of despair with the being that man is, which he himself views as being locked into the pressures of his vindictive existence.

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II. despair, as the sickness unto death.

The notion of despair becomes unseemingly the principal lot to which Kierkegaard expresses his outlook on the desolate existence of man. This concept, which manifestly recognizes Kierkegaard as an existentialist, proceeds from a basic understanding that despair is an attribute that is inherent in man, a concept which introduces him to be a predestined being.

Literally, the phrase ? Despair is the sickness unto death ? connotes an illness of which outcome would be death, as death is doubtless the last phase in a sickness and yet for Kierkegaard it would not appear to be the last thing’ . As, he connotes in the strictest sense, the last things being death itself, but death only the last thing, which makes despair precisely the final thing for man. Hence, despair becomes the sickness unto death.

Kierkegaard notes this in bodily sickness, but far from being true, death only succumbs to the end of the body, meaning to say to die from a bodily death. On the contrary, despair is a sickness wherein there is no bodily death but eternal death, since the torment of despair is not being able to die.

As such, the sickness unto death becomes an expression of not dying. It is like a terminal sickness where the only hope to get rid of it is to die, and while in despair, gets rid of the only cure, of not being able to die, hence suffering eternal bodily torment. There is no hope of cure, the hopelessness of not being to derived the pleasure of dying is like death being dead itself. The danger of which says Kierkegaard, despair clings to you even more terrible than that of bodily death.

For Kierkegaard, dying means that it is all over, but dying the death means to live to experience death; and if for a single instant this experience is possible, it is tantamount to experiencing it forever. Despair becomes an eternal sickness that the self loses its capability of dying in the same sense that the body dies of sickness. An impossibility, wherein what happens is that the dying of despair transforms itself constantly into living thing. It is precisely self-consuming, that you cannot do anything else but to despair itself go deeper and deeper into impotent self-consumation. The fact that despairing cannot consume the body is the reason why the self-gnawing pain is eternal since the comfort of ridding oneself of despair cannot be attained.

In contrast, a despairing man can only despair about himself. He hopes to achieve the end of his despair but is powerless to do so since his own anxiety over the despair that consumes him. And the fact that he cannot get rid of the self which causes this despair makes him a hapless being. For Kierkegaard, to get rid of the self which causes this despair is quite impossible enough and to get rid of it would be in despair also since the self is connected to the body. The body cannot live without a self thereby making the self-indestructible hence the eternity of despair is a torment to be experienced by the self.

Thus it is that despair, this eternal sickness in the self that is the sickness unto death. The eternal sickness cannot be relieved even by death itself, and even if it were possible the situation would still be in despair for it is connected to the self. And by the self, the despairer would have no place to go except to despair itself, since to have a self, to be a self, is the greatest concession made to man, but at the same time eternity’s to be relinquished upon him.

III. The anatomy of suffering.

The despair as we have known is made manifest by Kierkegaard’s foundation as his basis for the eternal torment faced by man, that he himself cannot deny his despair over himself. And what more he is powerless over this. Now, Kierkegaard’s concept of human suffering is in the fact a basic connection over the said basis for his ground as an existentialist, meaning to say that he overwhelmingly attaches the self over to despair, he gives in to this notion and throws away the key for self-deliverance. This context however in the anatomy of human suffering, may also contain some light in it since Kierkegaard wishes to expound the paradigm of suffering with connection to man’s place in the world. Unlike the contention for despair, this however may have a religious prescience to the matter that equally is as compelling as his forethought of despair.

Kierkegaard sets forth in the anatomy of suffering with the urgency of hope, though I will give this loose connection a more brief analysis in the next part of the paper, I wish to start of with a positive introspection with Kierkegaard having been known to have an outlook which is in direly connected with misery and anxiety.

Kierkegaard sets forth in this perspective with a dialectic of suffering, in this case it is assessed as an aesthetic category. A person, living in this so called aesthetic stage should perceive suffering to be a rotatory condition, which is tandem of both an infliction of pain and also by a surfeit of pleasure. In this instance, Kiekegaard upholds an ethical and religious scheme in determining the forms of suffering that attend to all human life. Earthly suffering which he connotes as the active human suffering we know, cannot be neglected and so thus be a weighted arrangement for the conception of ethico-religious advancement. It is closely associated to freedom, as Kierkegaard saying; ? a person who holds to a difficult position out of ethical conviction can escape the opposition and hatred of others simply by giving in to their demands for conformity. Such position may be heartily received back into the group, but nonetheless chooses to hold to his or her position and consequently chooses this avoidable suffering that is taken to the service of the good? . Such notion, Kierkegaard argues is believably noble in deed as long as there is conviction in the stand that a person takes.

The willing to do good, is also given concordance as an aspect in the midst of avoidable and unavoidable suffering. This is expressed in the book Purity of the Heart, saying the readiness of the person to ?will the good in truth and the disposition and to let go of double mindedness and the consolations of temporality’ . In this case, one shifts from the mundane and earthly resources and moves into a more enduring manifestation of the goodness of human suffering.

At this point rather, Kierkegaard’s position is that suffering can be reunited with freedom and so it could be chosen. The suffering or (passio) he says cannot be sheer passivity alone but it should come into contact with courage and resistance (both Mod and Modstand quite respectively) so as to confront the disease of acting in avoidable suffering . His understanding however, was that how can a person survive the debilitating and numbing effects of suffering itself when the situation comes that it only belingers a harsh judgmental mood for a person and renders him to mental frustration. The difficulty in this sense is that person has to deal with the situation that may even ultimately lead in hopelessness. In which case, Kierkegaard response to this only suggests that even in the midst of powerlessness, one cannot be charged as the victim for in choosing to endure the suffering, one should be still committed to the good . By this, it could only propose that in so doing, the person is always in charge of his moral obligations and what he chooses should be based on what should be morally correct.

In the book of Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard in a way expresses Abraham’s earthly hope for Isaac as being given up, but nonetheless shows a sense of eternal hope beyond the calculations of his understanding . Abraham befalls in this sense to be overridden by madness caused by the great love to his son that it becomes clearer his suffering becomes a hatred for oneself.

In the end, Kierkegaard stands up in the tradition that sees it as an ?educative’ formulation, which he connotes as a part of God’s upbringing. What makes it so distinctive however, is that the understanding for this educational upbringing sees earthly suffering as a tool for character development. He describes how one, when gets involved with God, the greater the difficulties that lie ahead. This would come into connection that life itself becomes a school God made for suffering, He grants a test to those whom he see worthy to be adjudged as a faithful follower and furnishes them with suffering and anxiety as his guide.

In anyway, Kierkegaard views them both as a recognizance that God love puts a test to human suffering. He attaches a brand that God’s love may be more than just being pampered and cuddled, he views this as a way a master treats his donkey, beating it up when it goes in the wrong direction.

In a way, Kierkegaard wishes to justify against a religious narcissism, which projects of a comforting-Father figure that delivers one from earthly difficulties. He seeks to eliminate the dangers conceiving a wrong notion of God and that, suffering places an illegitimate notion placed upon man. With this in resolution, Kierkegaard only addresses Christian hope in the midst of human suffering.

IV. Despair as Hopelessness.

Christian hope and expectation, which Kierkegaard profusely emanates from a Christian standpoint, becomes his philosophy in having to deal with the concept of suffering. And while he gives a brief introspection into what action this situation should employ, Kierkegaard only manifest his impulse of which hope should facilitate in the areas of Christian suffering and anxiety.

In the sickness unto death, Kierkegaard sees despair as a disequilibrium, and in this case, hopelessness takes over . For when we think of despair, we think of it as a loss of possibility; a lack of prospects and a closed future, which is precisely the context of what Kierkegaard sees as absolute angst. In this case, it is the angst that envelopes a person such as that he becomes closed to hope.

But going further, Kierkegaard aforementions a much greater angst and in this case, it totally conceives the person of complete hopelessness, he now calls it the despair of the infinite or of possibility. In this type of despair, one conceives of an exaggeration of the infinite and the possible into a form of complete and unutterable despair that the imagination becomes so unrelated to concrete life. In the emotional sphere, one may be too involved with his sentiments, lost in his abstractions and giving up in useless knowledge. Thus, the despairer in this case, considers an abrupt form of life that he has and in which case suicide maybe an attempt to end the sufferings of the person. The self-deception that maybe involved here is that one flees from the possibility of hope simply because one has no use for it, and the undertaking becomes easier to decipate upon the anxiety itself.

But what Kierkegaard, acknowledges here is that fixing one person’s anxiety can only lead to a much deeper form of anxiety, that a person sinks into. He regards that we need not continue with this form of despair since it would sink one’s will into a greater form of despair and that is, not to will one’s self to be open to possibility. The passive collapse and self-hatred or the conscious self-defiance, is only a rejection of what a person is called before God. Kierkegaard calls for faith in this case, as he said, faith in the self is willing to be oneself and in which it rests transparently with God, for the opposite of sin [of despair] is not virtue but faith . In this case what Kierkegaard sees as despair consuming man can only be made contrary through belief in God the infinite and possibility of change.

V. The Dialectic of Christian Hope.

Soren Kierkegaard has always thought of despair and anxiety as parcel of the Christian context of suffering. He understood this in a way in which suffering that is undergone by man, is a cleansing process and much more, an itinerary that is consented by God.

Kierkegaard approves of God’s consent in human suffering, he gives it prior significance in the introspection of human life as well as value in terms of understanding, to a degree to which it contains a moral and religious esteem. In this case, his descriptions of suffering can be compared and connected to the Christian’s view, by which the conception of hope is also clearly manifested. For this reason, Kierkegaard’s description of hope and suffering is sketched out in a way wherein dialectical distinctions are only proven Christian suffering and hope are precisely distinctively Christian.

So far, as we have looked into the ideas of hope and despair, that in turn are quite traverse conceptions, they are like parallel sides on the area of human suffering and yet while they seem distinct, they are also entirely connected to one another. This in regard, which is depicted in human suffering is both indicatively present. Given only reason, that they are however either actively or passive in attendance, belingers the notion that one of them should dominate the other. But yet, in conditions of active presence they both constitute the occurrence in human suffering.

Kierkegaard in the dialectics of Christian suffering and hope views a manner that astonishingly brings about a fresh incentive into Christian life. He, Kierkegaard elucidates hope as the foster-mother of Christian life . In this way, he wishes to imply that despair and anxiety has the history of Christian hope behind it.

In which case, the dialectic of hope is variably seen in four parts, these in which Kierkegaard mentions into four stages; the first one being the origins of hope in youthfulness, as directed towards earthly temporal expectations, which following disappointment, and also at the same time despair in possible forms. The second stage, which is not an outright, conscious, despair, arises when one becomes sensible, then would be the supportive calculation of understanding.

We stumble on Kierkegaard’s analysis of hope here as an examination of calculation. He reviews this as ?sagacity and shrewdness’ in forms of despairing hopelessness . And as we have seen him inquisitive into the Sickness unto Death, which says the despair of finitude and of necessity may include an unconscious resignation, and in which case one should give up youthful hopes, reins in expectations, and calculates probabilities . Kierkegaard would want to show that hopelessness is also indeed a part of the act of hoping, this may appear vague, but the fact that hopelessness is connected into the act itself imbibes the idea that it is parcel of what usually does when somebody hopes for something.

But this in fact strains hope, Kierkegaard says, yet not utterly diminishes it. Hope itself cannot be defeated but only run down , it is like a quiet form of despair wherein the despairer continues to absorb all the anxieties but not equally to fall down himself. What is important, Kierkegaard recognizes is that hope should be kept alive, and this is what the Christian interpretation of hope is all about. Kierkegaard does not advocate irrational hope against what is probable, he does not believe in going against all the odds, whatever the circumstances are, but he realistically grants that hope as long as it is the earthly hope can be subjected to the calculations of probability. And furthermore, earthly hopes can be tenacious in a spiritually destructive way.

The third stage of the dialectic of hope meanwhile is closely associated with the second stage, which bases upon the supportive calculation of understanding. The problem however is posed in the third stage, in this case it is because any earthly hopes are subject to defeat and hidden despair. This in fact touches on what I have discussed a moment ago, earthly hopes are in fact constantly being barraged by anxieties and other desolations, it could be affected so much to the point that hopelessness takes over it. In the journal entries on the dialectic of hope, Kierkegaard poses a question; how can hope be saved? This question actually came in unanswered but the possibility of gaining hope continually is being aware that hope is constant.

This brings us about to the last and final stage of dialectic hope, which is ?eternal hope’. Eternal hope may sound to be specifically sharp and contrasting to the conception of earthly hope, but it is quite similar in the sense that it is in the sphere of Christian hope. For Kierkegaard, salvation is, humanly speaking utterly impossible, but for God everything becomes possible. In this case, Kierkegaard mentions; ?whereas experience is calculative, shrewd, and aware of the odds, leading to diminished hopes or else, hopes pinned on the earthly alone, there opens up an ?eternal hope’, a hope which is not based on experience or calculations of sagacity.

Here, Kierkegaard takes two opposite frames in order to understand life, on one frame, it discusses about hope, it is a hoping against hope by virtue of the absurd; and not in the sense of an irrational earthly hope, but a hope in spite of a realistic appraisal of the odds against earthly hope . The other, which deals about the frame of experience, are both internally opposed.

In contrast, Kierkegaard uses the idea of the concept of the eternal hope to open up a possibility, relieving the pressures of finitude and necessity that threatens to suffocate a person; second hope is future-oriented, as we have seen, without having to giving up one’s past or recollection. Thirdly, hope is object-oriented, grounded not on earthly calculation, which can be supremely realistic, but puts forward God as He alone is the source of possibility. And lastly, eternal hope, brings about a person beyond the ?resignation of sagacity or despair’, in this case while restraining one’s hopes or giving up hope altogether, hope is opened into broader prospects.

VI. Epilogue.

Kierkegaard’s conception about the problematic stature of man’s situation in the world, as well as the emotional thrust of being able to grasp the melancholy of human existence opted him to find refuge in the sagacity of Christian hope and the possibility of God. Kierkegaard, in his philosophy of finding the essence of man’s despair, as well as its connection to human activity made his works purposive as well as significant in the areas of human distress and suffering. In this case, which his works are basically existential in nature is what I also myself find being into, that is, a being-existent in the world, is groping into a similar situation.

For we are indeed placed in a cradle where anxiety and despair are but a common notion to all who experience the misery of life. The angst that Kierkegaard depicts in this experience is what exists as a part of being able to cope up with life’s agony, a part of muddling through with the necessities that it expects of us to accomplish while we are still confused and dreary of our situation. And while this is something more to undertake like a gargantuan task of uncovering the truth, the whole process only shakes up our faith and belief in hope as well as the infinite possibilities that is God.

Bibliography and related texts.

o Existentialism and Theism; Kierkegaard’s Contribution to Existentialism.

o David J. Gouwens; Kierkegaard as a Religious Thinker.

o The Purity of Heart; Upbuilding Discourses at Various Spirits.

o Soren Kierkegaard; Fear and Trembling.

o Soren Kierkegaard; Despair is the Sickness Unto Death.

o The Sickness Unto Death; Existentialism and Theism; Kierkegaard’s Contribution of Existentialism.

o The Anatomy of Suffering; Becoming Christian II; Kierkegaard as a Religious Thinker.

o Despair as Hopelessness; Kierkegaard as a Religious Thinker.

o The Dialectic of Hope; Kierkegaard as a Religious Thinker.


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