As we’ve already stated in the full quote, let’s now discuss the necessary context of the quote so that one may understand what Kierkegaard is driving at.
When and Where Did Kierkegaard Say It?
The Kierkegaard quote comes from his work Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments. The book, originally published in Danish, was first published on February 28, 1846. Despite his influence and status among Philosophers, the book was only first translated into English in 1941. The book is preceded by his works Stages on Life’s Way and subsequently followed by his work Two Ages: A Literary Review.
Breaking Down The Quote
To categorize the quote, note that Soren Kierkegaard‘s quote is one of his arguments for the existence of God. Prior to this line, Kierkegaard argues that an objective truth regarding the existence of God cannot be arrived at through logic and rational deliberation. While one might assume that all philosophy approaches the discussion from a standpoint of logic and rational inquiry, one would be mistaken. It is Kierkegaard’s point that acknowledges the areas of truth that cannot be derived at through either logic or reason (or both) is actually crucial to the enterprise of knowledge acquisition. More to the point at hand, Soren argued that instead of an objective approach to the question of the existence of God (a focus on facts, logic, finding certainty..etc.) we should employ what Kierkegaard describes as a subjective search.
What Did Kierkegaard Mean By Subjective Search?
By subjective search, Kierkegaard means that we look inward towards ourselves for our own personal truth (subjective truth) which is an “objective uncertainty that is held fast in an appropriation process that is of the most passionate inwardness.” In this subjective truth, we find a different kind of truth, one that dictates our beliefs and our actions despite the fact that it is at odds with our objective view of the world.
It was Kierkegaard’s explanation of the story of God telling Abraham to kill his son Isaac. One of the most seemingly barbaric stories of the bible to me, but Kierkegaard used this as an example of just how crazy faith is. It’s an example of the leap that one takes despite the fact that it may contradict clear objective truth. This is what people mean when they use the phrase “A Kierkegaardian leap of faith”, in order to describe an action that one must accept regardless of an evidentiary basis for the decision and even in the face of all known evidence to the contrary (Abraham had every reason to believe that he was about to kill his son Isaac as he did not know God would intervene last second).
Kirkegaard in More Context
According to theologian and Christian Apologist Edward Connell, Kirkegaard is arguing that “the only concern for a Christian is this: whether the Christian himself is truth as a living subject.” Fundamentally, Kirkegaard believes that once you accept the reality of the subjective experience, you are disassociating yourself from the objective tools of logic and evidence.
Faith is precisely the contradiction between the infinite passion of the individual's inwardness and the objective uncertainty. If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon hold- ing fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy thousand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith.