Friday, April 30, 2010
Carlisle, Clare. "Kierkegaard's World: Part 4: 'The Essentially Human is Passion.'" GUARDIAN April 5, 2010
At the end of his 1843 book Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard writes that passion is "the genuinely human quality", and he adds that "the highest passion in a human being is faith". Today we are used to hearing people talk of their passions, whether they are "passionate about football", "passionate about music", or "passionate about retail". Such talk expresses enthusiasm, dedication, and often a thirst for success. It also indicates ways in which we find meaning and value in our lives. But what might it mean to regard passion is the most essential feature of the human being? What does Kierkegaard mean by passion? In order to answer these questions, we need to look back at the philosophical tradition that Kierkegaard inherited. The dominant view within this tradition, from Plato and Aristotle through to Descartes, Spinoza and Kant, is that reason is the most important aspect of the human being. Philosophers have frequently opposed our capacity for rational thought to "the passions", or the emotions, and many have argued that living a good human life involves controlling, subduing, or even eliminating one's emotions and appetites. According to this view, reason ought to rule over the passions. We can also trace through the history of philosophy a counter-movement which reverses this relationship between passion and reason. Kierkegaard might be located within this movement, alongside David Hume and the Romantic poets. When he emphasises passion, Kierkegaard challenges the idea that rational thought could or should encompass and direct human existence. However, for Kierkegaard "passion" does not just signify emotion. More importantly, passion is a kind of desire. Again, this is an idea that Kierkegaard takes from the philosophical tradition. In his dialogue The Symposium, Plato dramatises a dinner-party at which the intellectual and cultural elite of Athens take turns to speak about the nature of Eros, which means desire or love. Socrates, the guest of honour, suggests that Eros is characterised by the absence of the desired object: one desires what one does not possess. Even when a lover seems to possess her beloved, she desires to continue to possess it in the future, which is not yet secure. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/apr/05/kierkegaard-philosophy-passion.