Observations on a Passage From Kierkegaard’s Journal
In this passage, Kierkegaard discusses the difference in value between what information one has accumulated and holds to be true, and what one is to do in life, reflecting on the latter as an inward feeling removed from a commonly held objectivity. Kierkegaard deconstructs the importance of outward objectivity by observing the deeper meaning behind subjective truths. This is reflected by subjective truths being referred to as “the idea for which I am willing to live and die”. Kierkegaard is seemingly suggesting that ideas or information held as objective do not hold the same weight to the personal self and thus aren’t of as much inward importance. Reasoning is provided for this notion in the passage in two forms. Firstly, through questioning what use it would be to identify “objective” inconsistencies in theories and to pose this information to the public whilst not being provided with any deeper meaning from said discoveries; secondly, through questioning the value of using Christianity as a method to provide objective truths for society as everyone adopting these truths would not have their live’s influenced in an inward sense by those truths. Kierkegaard is suggesting that this inward enlightenment would be achieved by individuals approaching Christianity by way of personal passion in interpretation.
In both forms of Kierkegaard’s reasoning for the lesser importance of objectivity to the self, he is evaluating the failure of empirical methods to provide deeper meaning in their production of knowledge. However, he does not abandon the potential benefits of knowledge, stating that he “still accepts an imperative of knowledge”. Kierkegaard states that what is important regarding knowledge is that it does not entirely come from the basis of the outside world, that the mind’s development should not be based on objective fact but instead subjective interpretation when it changes your life through holding deeper meaning. Thus comes the cumulative point of this passage, that the subjective action of the individual is what is important, not the accumulation of information that is held to be objectively true.
Kierkegaard’s idea of subjective action of the individual being more important than the accumulation of objective facts affects me personally as it has allowed me to evaluate what I hold to be important. Formerly (prior to this year), I had refuted the value of subjectivity in the production of truths, for not only my personal truths but additionally for truths that others hold. I believe the reasoning for this to be a result of the academic system being heavily reliant on empirical methods to provide truths. This is a process that I believe to have been occuring long before my birth and this is reflected by how deeply ingrained the notion is in standard academics that almost the entire population is subjected to.
Seemingly, what people base many of their opinions on are truths that have been established by others often through scientific study (empirical methods). This concerns me when it comes to aspects such as research studies that form the basis of academic teaching, as these studies emplore almost entirely empirical methods, utilizing quantitative methods (to achieve an objective truth) rather than qualitative methods (to identify subjective truths). I think this can be a dangerous habit as like Kierkegaard states it provides us with objective knowledge that people then form their minds around, no longer trusting their personal passion to form the basis of their knowledge. However there are troubling aspects of refuting objectivity in the modern age and I think this has particularly come to light in recent years with movements such as the “fake news” phenomenon and the emergence of “flat-earthers”. In both of these cases, members of the public are refuting objectivity achieved through scientific methods (excluding “fake news” articles that genuinely include inaccurate information). I view these movements as counter-productive for society and as being reflective of regression in a so-called collective intelligence of society. Kierkegaard’s passage sheds a different light on this notion that I have, as he would suggest that the accumulation of objective knowledge being held as true amongst large amounts of the population is not reflective of society having a greater intelligence than they did when he was alive. Furthermore I think the phenomenon of “fake news” and “flat-earthers” could find application in Kierkegaard’s writings as seemingly these individuals have discovered their own subjective truths and although they contrast with what is commonly held as objective, they are following what reflects passion and has affected their lives in an inward sense.
Kierkegaard’s concept of “existential truth” to me means that I should be aware of the amount of precedence that is given to truths that have been identified through empirical methods and are thus held to be true in society and in academic circles. Although I do not believe Kierkegaard’s writings refute scientific or academic developments, I more so think they reflect the idea that it is more important that I pursue subjective truths that I am passionate about. I think this additionally reflects an attribute of existentialism, that there must be a balance between what you give importance to. If I were to take Kierkegaard’s passage in a varied way I could be convinced to abandon all truths that I have not established in a subjective, passionate manner which I believe would leave me much worse off than before reading this passage. Instead I choose to take it as a call to be much more aware of the described phenomenon of objectiveness ruling society.