Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Hegel’s God and Kierkegaard’s God

While he was a student in Berlin, Søren Kierkegaard studied with Friedrich Schelling who has denounced Hegel as a negative thinker. Kierkegaard, in all likelihood, picked up his dislike for Hegel from Schelling; he has, however, stated that he dislikes Hegel’s philosophy because in it he has discovered the paradigm of collective and rationalist thinking, and the idea of a god who is wholly incompatible with his own Christian god. Kierkegaard developed a philosophy that is quite non-Hegelian, its focus being on the individual and not the collective.

In Hegel’s philosophy, we find a grand historical dialectic which leaves little room for the individual, as it seeks to prove that history and humanity have an ultimate purpose. His dialectic defends the idea of a collective world-spirit (or Geist), which is identical with human consciousness and the world—the Geist is inseparable from his creation and human beings; human beings can comprehend the Geist, but they cannot confront it as they are themselves a part of the Geist. Kierkegaard, a devout man, was appalled by Hegel’s view of god; he viewed Hegel as an atheist. He rejected not only the collectivism that is there in the Hegelian Geist but also the idea that god can be rationally comprehended; he asserts that god's existence cannot be proved or disproved, and he introduces a god that has the power to induce “fear and trembling,” who exists separate from his creation and human beings, thus making a personal confrontation between god and man possible.

In Hegelian dialectic, history proceeds through confrontation, but in Kierkegaard’s dialectic there is no scope for confrontation as it is focussed on the individual. Kierkegaard is primarily interested in two issues: the choices that man faces and the modes of his existence (or lifestyle). He identifies three modes: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious--but he also accepts that there is no rational standard for preferring one mode over the other two.

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