What is Kierkegaard's view of the self in Fear and Trembling?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In this rather complex philosophical rumination on the story of Abraham and his son Isaac in the Book of Genesis, Kierkegaard presents humans as being creatures that intrinsically possess some form of understanding of the eternal within them. This is Kierkegaard's view of the self as expressed in this text through the example of Abraham and how he follows God so dedicatedly without question. The human self is therefore characterised by this sense of divine, and the consequences of thinking that this is not the case would be terrible:

If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?

Self, then is something that is defined by the understanding of a divine presence of "eternal consciousness." It is this that defines the human self for Kierkegaard, and it is this that he sees in the example of the hero of the faith, Abraham. Characters like Abraham, for Kierkegaard, are a living example of a refutation of nihilistic arguments that present the self as the absence of this sense of "eternal consciousness." This is something that Kierkegaard seems completely unwilling even to entertain as he finds the "despair" inherent in such a view terrifying.


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