Daniel J. Pool Philosophy of Religion Dr.

Zach Simpson The Teleological Necessity of God in Order to Suspend the Ethical Using Fear and Trembling October 9th, 2010

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When one speaks upon the philosophy of religion, one is most commonly presented with one of two forms of ideology to explain matters of the universe; more specifically the Western (European Christendom) and Eastern (Middle Eastern Islam and Indian Hinduism) views of religion (Huxley, 44). Considering these forms of religion and the philosophies thereof1 one could ask a single question and be inexplicitly removed from the discussion altogether: is a god necessary? Verily this single question usually moves one to the Atheistic camp of reasoning and thus a separate matter for debate. Without a god or gods in Western and Eastern one cannot surpass common ethics, and thusly cannot ³answer a higher calling´ or ³suspend the ethical´ and become ³holy´ or a ³knight of faith´²for there is no calling and no subsequent faith to be a knight of. It is known however that some ideologies do achieve higher states of being and suspend the ethical without a god, such as Buddhist monks of the Far East (Huxley, 44). This would mean that suspending the ethical without a god is possible, however in turn questions the need of that god. If one does not need god to surpass the rule of man and that god does not even exist, then was there even an ethical to begin with? This single question of transcendence and necessity embodies much of human difficulty with religion. Either one needs god and that god is necessary, or one does not need that god but by rule cannot overcome the universal freely. In order to do both one must be prepared to accept their choice, for in the end it will be choice that guides and breaks the any tie within us. To suspend the ethical without a god one must understand; what is the ethical, what is the


And the vast differences each entails.

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teleological end of the ethical, how does one suspend the ethical, and finally is a god(s) necessary for this process?

What is the Ethical?

Throughout Kierkegaard¶s work Fear and Trembling he discusses the ethical, or universal, which pertains to the standard to which man holds himself to within society (Santurri, 244). It is a standard that is commonly held and to which man must abide or face a consequence (or rather man hopes that he who breaks with the ethical will be held to a consequence via karma or a god¶s judgment). This is best described as:

"The ethical as such is the universal, and as the universal it applies to everyone, which from another angle means that it applies at all times. It rests immanent in itself, has nothing outside itself that is its telos but is itself the telos for everything outside itself." (Kierkegaard, 62)

and later:

³As soon as the single individual wants to assert himself in his particularity, in direct opposition to the universal, he sins, and only by recognizing this can he again reconcile himself with the universal.´

or that the universal is a set of rules held by the collective of human ethics. This means that the universal is Earthly, is not a direct creation of any god, and is a created nominal social construct.

Kierkegaard does not completely seem to agree with his own definition however. He explains how he can disagree (but also logically support) the argument that the universal is more by way of the story of Abraham and Isaac. Using Abraham as the tragic hero, Kierkegaard

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develops the premise that a knight of faith (he who has transcended the universal) is a paradox: either Abraham is sinful or holy but both cannot exist together (72). Unless Kierkegaard is correct and there is more to the universe than the universal. How Does One Suspend the Ethical? If indeed a god exists then a ³super-universal´ or supreme will would override the ³lowuniversal´ or laws of man. This would mean that man with authority of god could suspend the ethical in favor of these super-universals of god. This is a theme that resonated in Kierkegaard¶s time as idea of the soul2 being of a greater substance than that of the body (Schleiermacher, 4). Aquinas also played with the world as being broken into two tiers of reality; one in god and the other in nature (Zagzebski, 134). The dualism of soul and body makes it possible to overcome the will of man and thusly the universal. This is however looked upon with fear as Jesus3 teaches against disobeying common law. When men came to trick the all-star-carpenter with the question ³Teacher, we know that you speak
and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" He responds by asking another question and then instructing to, ³«give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's," (Luke 20:20-

26). All this is to say that in regards to Abraham, as he journeyed to Moriah to slay his only son, he was being tempted to break the laws of man and transcend to into the laws of god (Kierkegaard, 9). He was being offered the chance by god to surpass other men and become a man of pure faith, of the ³knight of faith´ on the strength of the absurd (45). Schleiermacher
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Resembling the Greco-Roman idea of the soul greatly. Of Team West

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shares this thought with, ³Man in closet fellowship with the highest must be for you all an object of esteem, nay, of reverence,´ (210). Because the low-universal laws would not apply to a knight, he can live free and thus solidly within the absurd. What is the Teleological End of the Ethical? If the ethical is the inner struggle for what is right in a man, and the universal is the conglomerate of those individual ethics, and the collection of universals creates these superuniversals, then the ethical is alike to a direct connection or personal piece of god. To deny a personal ethic is to inevitably deny god. In a way the ethical can be likened to a piece of yarn: on one end the withered hands of Grandma Fate (Huxley, 140) feverishly work loose yarn from the ball onto the needles and into a row of her project (for this example a purple scarf). As fate, or the consequences we cannot control (such as the actions of others or of god) interact with the yarn (our stream of thought or consciousness) using the knitting needles (reality, circumstance) our beliefs and ideas are woven into the overall scarf in a linear fashion. Over time our ethical is woven into the universal, in this case a section of the scarf that share a similar region. When enough sections of universal are put together a continuous product is made that builds on each section. Once enough sections are complete the loss of one end of the yarn is regrettable, but can be overcome by tiring a new strand onto the end of the loss strain. When complete the yarn scarf acts as a whole. If one were to tug on both ends then the whole of the scarf would stretch to overcome that tension. If, however, one strand were to break in the middle and was to be pulled on till its end then the whole of the scarf could be undone. It is the same for Kierkegaard²the universal is resilient with all of its members working together,

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but if one strand surpassed the universal, denied it¶s ethical, and broke then the whole section would be in danger of coming undone. As it is with frustrating hobbies, so too is it with man. If one man dares to overcome the rational universal mind, then the fabric of humanity could be unraveled to a degree. This is why it is with a great fear and trembling that men suspend the universal. Is a God Necessary to Suspend the Ethical? If one is to be given the authority of god to suspend the ethical then they are both blessed and free of sin to carry out whatever task they might have. This is paradox that Abraham found himself in. If he slays his son then he would transcend the rules of mankind but followed the rules of god and is thus holy instead of evil. If however there is no god to give this command to slay his son and more importantly no super-universal in the first place to transcend to then Abraham is just a murder (Kierkegaard, 78). Removing god from the equation also inadvertently removes the top tier of law. This would mean that those who try to transcend to a state of super-universal are actually madmen and would instead occupy the absurd²living out of the law of man and denying his own ethics with no greater authority than self to guide him (Huxley, 38). God is not by the concept in-and-of-its-self logical as we discuss it (Hick, 113). Stating that ³God exists´ is a redundant phrase restating what should already be true is by logical means a god did exist. The proofs for the existence of god from Judeo-Christian theories express the concept of god as they experienced it (115). It stands to reason than that to the Biblical writers then that god did exist, it was not a matter of logic but a matter of knowing. Likewise if a selfexistent being does exist it is not a matter of logic, but a matter of knowing if existence (117).

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Religion itself is, ³Born of organic unrest, of self-interested desire, of juvenile interpretation, it nonetheless undergoes extensive transformation,´ or that it is made by man, no matter what it was based on it is filtered through the universal (Allport, 64). Religious ideology can eventually change meaning and become ³independent´ of its original meaning. This ability to change and adept to man is illogical as a true faith should ideally never have to change (Schleiermacher, 135)« right? It is obvious then that somewhere within this discussion there is a snag of sorts. If god is real and commands someone to suppress the ethical then he is allowing for a kind of evil and if god is not real then anyone who does transcend the ethical has committed a grave crime. As it is, if Abraham was to suspend the ethical to carry out the commands of what he believed to be god then he would be an absurd madman. With no universal to transcend then it is impossible for him to reach that level of faith. Likewise if there is a universal truth to which Abraham could transcend to through faith but there was no god to give him the command to kill his son then he would still be breaking with the laws of man and there would be no law of heaven to forgive him. See table below: There is a God Suspends the Ethical Suspends the Universal Is a Hero Is a Sinner There is No God Is a Murderer Is an Absurd Murderer

Now god, religion, and faith are all illogical, but can they still be necessary? If one practices in Kierkegaard¶s principles of the ethical and universal then god is necessary. Without a god then any failure to follow the rules of man result in being evil or wrong. For this model to

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be ethical in his model, one must condemn themselves to forever being a ³sitters-out´ if they do not join in the dance, and to sit out of life would be to watch that which is good in existing. In Conclusion It is the belief of this writer that god is theologically necessary in order to suppress the ethical in Kierkegaard¶s model of universal law. Without a god any divergent path from the universal is merely a crime. Though some groups are able to transcend the universal through meditation and special rituals, they are actually more likely to not suppress the ethical in regards to what Kierkegaard would define as being the ethical. A Buddhist monk meditating would have to suppress the ethical as he would only be breaking social normality and not social law as breaking with the universal would cause. Thus it can be said that Abraham must truly be of tragic hero. In his defiance of the universal, in his teleological suppression of the ethical, and by his faith in god he is truly a knight of faith. His devotion is however a costly gamble. If his god does not exist then he will be in grave danger as heavenly favor is necessary to transcend universal law. If god is not real though then the pleasures of being great and striving for something better will be lost, and with it any hope for forgiveness for the dancers we strive to become.

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Allport, G. W. (1953). The individual and his religion. Macmillan Company, New York. Hick, J., Peterson, M., Hasker, W., Reichenbach, B. & Basinger, D. (2001). God¶s necessary existence. Philosophy of Religion; Selected Readings. Oxford University Press, New York. Huxley, J. (1967). Religion without revelation. Alden Press, London. Kierkegaard, S. (2006). Fear and trembling. Penguin Books (USA), New York. Santurri, E. (1977). Kierkegaard¶s 'Fear and Trembling' in logical perspective. Journal of Religious Ethics, 5225-247. Schleiermacher, F., & Oman, J. (trans.). (1958). Friedrich Schleiermacher on religion; Speeches to its cultured despiser. Harper & Row Publishers, Inc, New York. Zagzebski, L. T. (2007). Philosophy of religion; An historical introduction. Blackwell Publishing, Massachusetts.

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