Philosophical Thoughts about Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard and the Aesthetic Man - By Dr. C. Matthew McMahonApologetics - A Reasoned Defense of the Christian Faith
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Kant, Hegel and Kierkegaard have ruined Christianity in deed. Here are some thoughts…Just some basic thoughts…
Kant’s theory of knowledge embodied several aspects of both rationalism and empiricism. Empirically, Kant saw precepts as the raw material from which knowledge arises. They are “floating around” waiting to be processed by our internal mechanism. These precepts (which he called forms of sensibility) enter into two transpositions which our rational mind places upon them as grids; time and space. All precepts must move through time and space – which are the products of the rational mind.
These raw materials then enter into the forms, or 12 categories (why 12? Kant doesn’t know) which lie within our rational capabilities. These are then processed and sent out through the “synthesizing mechanism” called the “Transcendental Unity of Apperception.” The finished product, according to Kant, is knowledge we use and live by.
Since Kant synthesized those things which are empirical (like jelly in jars) with those things that are rational (like the parts of a machine which produce knowledge); he ended up being torn between two worlds; the noumenal and the phenoumenal. All places, things, people, everything which exists in the phenoumenal world must have some type of “form” which “causes” then to exist here. Kant referred to this as the “ding an sich,” or, “the thing in itself.” In the noumenal world we can have a coke can; the thing in itself in the phenoumenal world is a coke can which is aluminum, hard, colorful, etc. But Kant said that there was a “wall of antinomy” which separated the rational world from the phenoumenal. So, a coke can in the noumenal world is impossible to really know even though the noumenal coke can “causes” the phenoumenal coke can to exist; and so we cannot know what it is like, really and truly. Here we find the noumenal can impossible to understand, or know.
There are problems with Kant’s ding an sich. First, how can Kant tell us that all things in the noumenal world are unknowable, then tell us all sorts of things about them? How does Kant know there is a coke can in the noumenal world – or for that matter how does he know if a nourmenal world exists? How could he possibly know there is one? And Kant also cheats with his theory about the ding an sich. The wall of antinomy, according to Kant, separates the two worlds completely; how does a ding an sich “cause” a coke can to be what it is in the phenoumenal world if the two world cannot connect or interact? Kant uses causality as a scapegoat.
In view of modernity, Kant is definitely an advocate of its suppositions and views. Reason, nature and progress are all seen as elements in Kant’s work. Nature (empiricism) and reason (rationality) have already been stated briefly. Progress can be seen in Kant’s view of history as well. He is more concerned with the progression of the whole or the nation-state idea rather than on the individual. The crowd progressively moved towards a realization of a climactic end. In this way, Kant is not only self-defeating, but appears as an epiphany of modernity in general. So with that we consider Hegel.
Hegel’s system of philosophy runs from what he terms the geist or spirit. Hegel’s goal was to explain the movement of the geist through history in order to reach the climactic end of what he called the dialectic. This is the height of knowledge, or, as Hegel termed, dialectical idealism. The prominent interpretation of dialectical idealism is the thesis, antithesis and synthesis coming together. Though this view is prominent, it is not the correct interpretation of Hegel – it was popularized by an unknown professor. The system, instead, states that a thesis is given; after which, opposing the thesis the antithesis is “counter given.” ANTITHESIS >>>><<<
The Giest then uses this dialectical idealism in different ways. There is important information in Hegel’s theories about history in how the Giest works. The history of the world is the self-realization of God’s self-consciousness. The Giest uses history in three ways; in the persons of men, the cunning of reason and the hero. The passion of men is the collective whole of mankind which the spirit uses as these men “passionately” act according to their own desires. This creates history. The cunning of reason is a fancy way to show the plan of Giest working through history, and the hero is the special individual in which the Giest uses in order to progress history and exemplify key moments (like Alexander the Great, etc.)
With these considerations are many problems. How is it that the view which so prominently propagates dialectical idealism in the three step process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, cannot be found in Hegel’s writings itself? Only eisogetical work will find it there. Hegel had explained his dialectic in two stages, and sometimes even in four stages. And do we find the Giest working “a plan” out through history which it is nothing more than a collective of human minds? It has no intentions, motivations, direction, etc. And most importantly, Hegel’s philosophy does not lend itself toward individuals, but rather to a collective whole; a crowd. Dialectical idealism does not work. Hegel probably did not know what he meant in much of his writing. Obscurities galore include no definitions and blurred theory. He did not “or could not” even define what “God” meant to him. Kierkegaard tried to fix both Kant and Hegel.
Kierkegaard attached three areas of Hegelanized philosophical structures at his time. First, rational Christianity, second, the self sufficiency of the individual, and last, social Christendom. These three areas were prominent in the German Lutheran Church and were highly disputed by Kierkegaard in order to restore balance in the unbalanced Lutheran Denomination as a result of partaking in Kant and Hegel’s unbiblical ideas.
The attack on Rationalism sprouted from the church’s acceptance of Hegel’s philosophy, mixed with religious doctrine. They felt that going to church and understanding why they were there, allowed them to be saved. It was an intellectualism by which these Lutherans were saved, or thought they were saved. Kierkegaard wanted to bring them back to reality and show them that truth, doctrine, and intellectual religiosity must be accompanied by existentialism. Truth is subjective. One must have an experience in the “now” in order to be saved. A simple example of this is the following: a man walks a tight rope back and forth high above between two buildings. The crowd cheers. Then the man takes a wheelbarrow full of dirt across and back. The crowd cheers again. But when the man asks for a volunteer to get in the wheel barrow, the crowd scatters. Kierkegaard was trying to get the spectators into the barrow. Truth was not just some flattering doctrine but needed to be subjective existentialism (according to him). Kierkegaard was interested in the individual experience rather than the progress of history through the crowd.
Kierkegaard attacked the sufficiency of the individual. Hegel had entered a kind of relativistic neutrality in human effort and production. Man and women are used by the Giest, but, by their own passions, their own relativistic ideologies. Kierkegaard tried to retrain the church in his day to see that we are not progressively becoming self-sufficient, but that everyone needed the embodiment of Christ in their hearts as a result of the fall and sin. Sin must be dealt with. Christ’s work, the subjective experience of salvation, was, according to Kierkegaard, the only way in which this could be accomplished.
Finally, Kierkegaard had to discern between Christendom, “The crowd” and Christianity, the individualism which was lost. Christendom was the ritualistic Lutheran Church, attending for the sake of duty. Kierkegaard reintroduced Christianity as individual. He repudiated Kant and Hegel’s ideologies. It must be “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.” Progressive collectivism allowed only for the intellectual confession. Kierkegaard was drawing people back into personal individualism, i.e. the subjective truth Hegel had thrown away and corrupted the church with.
The Aesthetic man was another problem. Simply, the nature of the aesthetic man and the leaps made between the various stages stand prominent in Kierkegaard , especially in his work “Either / Or”. The whole scope of the Aesthetic man cares for himself, pleases himself, separates himself for himself; i.e. he lives in his own little world of self-love. Unfortunately, Kierkegaard shows this world has an end. The whole scope of dread and despair is so emphatically true. Boredom assuredly produces dread at one point or another. People often place fear into nothing. They are dreading life but have no object in particular to dread. It does turn into despair. Hemingway is a great case in point for Kierkegaard on this point. His despair left him to commit suicide rather than leaping from the base man to the ethical man, as Kierkegaard shows men often do. The leaps work this way, according to Kierkegaard – man is first base and in sin. He realizes this and then “leaps” to be an ethical man because he does not want to live out his days as a base man. This in turn causes him to leap into the “religious” man which is the plateau where he may be saved, or is saved. And is it true that one leaps into Kierkegaard’s ethical stage in order to clean up their life; though this does not happen to every aesthetic man. Think of the drug addict who leaps from the bottom, to get help in an addiction center because they cannot stand being at the bottom. For those who do leap they find a new and deeper dimension to life. Yet their conformity towards ethics then produces guilt over their inability to be as good as their ethics allow. Everyone knows people like this. The aesthetic and ethical stages of leaping seem helpful in certain ways, but his “Either / Or” proposition for the stages is unsatisfying. Obviously we know the third stage is to the religious man; this is the pinnacle for Kierkegaard. Can’t there be, though, a man in a religious stage of his life with the aesthetic man hanging on? Can a religious man have both the ethical man and a aesthetic man in areas of his life? Kierkegaard is incorrect in his either or proposition that man is either an aesthetic man, or an ethical man or a religious man. Combinations are possible in his ideologies. These stages are not mutually exclusive from one another, but that it is a progression which slowly dissolves the aesthetic man away and the ethical in time come to light. From there the ethical man will slowly dissolve and the religious man comes to light. I do not think they can ever be completely “leaped” out of from his point of view.
Kierkegaard is “Corinthianizing” his ideas too much. He cannot have all his “resurrection gifts and power” now. The Religious man will only be completely religious when we are glorified. Kierkegaard did not have enough of a grasp of biblical principles to completely eradicate Kant, Hegel or some of his own misconceptions; especially the idea of the old man and the new man in Scripture. It is more of a leap in the place of our citizenship rather than in our being religious having hope – which is externally communicated by Christ internally to his elect – rather than a completely internal leap on our own (which is a form of Popery or Arminianism). The ethical man does not simply leap on his own to becoming religious, if we speak about true conversion. Not can the aesthetic man ever leap out of his misery. It is only by the work of the Spirit of God that such a conversion happen.