Thursday, December 14, 2006

Kierkegaard quotes (II)

The Kierkegaardian pseudonym Johannes Climacus, in Philosophical Fragments, recommends the following as a kind of (you might call it) statement of faith:
"...despite all objections, which I myself have fully considered in a form far more terrifying than the formulations anyone else is capable of posing to me, I nevertheless chose the improbable."
A point of clarification: The context in which this quote appears suggests that the term "improbable" here means not of low probability, but rather, beyond all categories of probability. The distinction between low and high probability is a quantitative one, as opposed to the qualitative distinction (parallel to that between finitude and infinitude) that is meant here. So Climacus' use of "improbable" is nothing like when e.g. Dawkins says that it is "improbable" that God exists. As Dawkins means it, the claim (that the probability that God exists is very low) is a category mistake: the realm of probability is the realm of the empirical, while religious categories are qualitatively higher.

The quoted statement sounds excessively strong, to the point of being prideful. But I kinda feel that the learning curve with respect to arguments contra (and also pro) faith reaches its plateau relatively quickly - I think you can pretty much exhaust all the important moves in the arguments without too much trouble. And if you've done that (a worthwhile endeavor for every believer), and weathered whatever crises of faith as might have popped up, the "objections" get demoted to the status of non-"terrifying" intellectual exercises. (It's impossible to inoculate oneself against crises of faith entirely. But dealing with the intellectual routes into them seems to be a tractable task.)

A piece of trivia: A prof informs me that the original Danish title is better translated as "Philosophical Crumbs". That is an awesome title. Why the hell someone would choose to go with "Fragments" instead is beyond me. Bloody fuddy duddy philosophical translators.... (The Danish, Smuler, even sounds like a crumby word.)


Walter said...

My prof told me it's because the translators thought it'd bhe too unpalatable for a great book.

Toby said...

The rationale would have to be something like that, but that's a crazy silly rationale.