Chapter 17. "Truth is Faith" by Søren Kierkegaard

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from Fear and Trembling
The Reading Selection from Fear and Trembling
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

Søren Kierkegaard, Theommes

About the author…

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), a Danish existential writer, dedicated his life to explaining what it means to exist through authentic choice. For Kierkegaard, the typical individual moves through three stages: (1) the æsthetic stage characterized by immediate pleasure, whether sensual or intellectual, (e.g., egoism or hedonism), (2) the ethical stage marked by the individual's commitment to duty (e.g., Stoicism, religious law), and (3) the religious stage characterized by faith (e.g., the "leap" characterized by subjectivity and paradox). For Kierkegaard, this third context of existence is truth defined as "an objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation-process of the most passionate inwardness is the truth, the highest truth attainable for an existing individual."[1]

About the work…

In his Fear and Trembling,[2] Kierkegaard examines the faith of Abraham and finds it incomprehensible. The tragic hero in the ethical sphere of existence through infinite resignation can find truth through a leap of faith embracing the absurd. This leap cannot be understood in ordinary terms, for a higher spiritual end overturns ethics—the teleological suspension of the ethical. God, alone, is the basis of a truth beyond ethics.

Ideas of Interest from Fear and Trembling

  1. How does Kierkegaard characterize faith?

  2. Explain Kierkegaard's distinction between the sacrifice of money and the sacrifice of ethical responsibility. How can this distinction be made in terms of the "most precious possession"?

  3. What could possibly be the test of faith for an Abraham of today? Why does Kierkegaard suggest that the minister of today does not fathom the story: "If a certain preacher learned of this he would, perhaps, go to him, he would gather up all his spiritual dignity and exclaim: 'Thou abominable creature, thou scum of humanity, what devil possessed thee to wish to murder son?'" When is "truth," the unethical?

  4. What is the difference between "faith for this life" and "faith for the afterlife"? Can't one have both?

  5. Explain the implicit distinction Kierkegaard makes between the ethical or ethics and the religious or faith.

  6. How does Kierkegaard answer his own question, "Now how shall we explain the contradiction contained in that sermon?"

  7. In the story of the knight and the princess, what it meant by "infinite resignation"?



Søren Kierkegaard. Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Translated by David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968, 182.


Søren Kierkegaard. Translated by L. M. HollanderFear and Trembling. 1843. Published in the University of Texas Bulletin N. 2326 (July 8, 1923).