The argument of Soren Kierkegaard’s Teleological Suspension of Ethics involves the moral principles involve in ethics itself and on how the conscious human mind perceives it as necessary thereby abiding to its conditions. The backgrounds of ethics are the sense of universally accepted rationale beliefs that renders appropriate application and justification.
However, in Kierkegaard’s discussion in scholarly literature entitled Fear and Trembling provides significant philosophical and theological conflicts that occurred in the biblical context, specifically in the story of Abraham and Isaac, wherein the need to defy the ethical standards are present (Gordon, 1997 p. 90). Kierkegaard has utilized an argumentative analysis between ethics and the time to suspend its influence and jurisdiction over human actions. From the very point of ethics, the moral standards of how to behave as humans are being emphasized.
Hence, in some perspective, sins are being produced when one deviates from these established universal precautions, which is known as ethics. Although, there are times wherein moral code is not applicable and would even render an introduction of sin; hence, Kierkegaard has established the concept of Teleological suspension of ethics, and from there conceptualized the idea of three stages of morality to inculcate the right time to negate the applicability of ethics. Within the study, the main point of discussion centers in Kierkegaard’s Teleological Suspension of Ethics and the three stages of Morality that he has formulated.
Furthermore, the study differentiates these and analyzes their context to determine the applicability of his propositions. Discussion Kierkegaard’s Teleological Suspension of Ethics The concept of Kierkegaard’s teleological suspension of the ethical comprises of the contradiction between domains of ethics and religion. This concept of Kierkegaard involves the definition of ethics as a universal moral necessity, which entails its characteristics as objective, universally or generally considered valid, rational, and stands a basis of moral grounds in the society (Schrag, 1994 p. 8).
The concept of Teleological Suspension has been based in the patriarchal identity of Abraham confronted to fulfill a command from God. In the biblical context, God has ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his very own and single son granted to him by God, as described in Genesis 22. According to Carlisle (2006), Kierkegaard’s point is that Abraham should be considered worthy of praise only if there could be a teleological suspension of ethics (p. 125).
The argument between moral ethics and Abraham’s action are very much questionable yet cannot be considered entirely as a sin since the orders are from the Divine Himself. As mentioned by Gordon (1997), the idea of Abraham’s action and God’s command remains to human mind as incomprehensible without the theoretical proposition of Kierkegaard as the teleological suspension of ethics (p. 90). In an etymological perspective, the word “teleological” has been derived from the Greek work telos, which provides the meaning “purpose or goal”.
Hence, the concept of teleological states the need to consider a specific and purposive action that is outside the existing ethical spheres. The theory of Kierkegaard presents an idea embedded to teleofunctional concepts that are very much common to any given culture that follows the legal moral codes. In a humanistic perspective of ethics, an individual needs to abide to the universal perception; however, in Kierkegaard’s theory, if there is the presence of an idea higher than the universally accepted code, it is up to the individual to assess the significance of reason between universal and the higher form.
In Carlisle (2006) argument on Kierkegaard’s theory, he mentioned that Kierkegaard clarifies the notion of a teleological suspension of the ethical by showing Abraham is different from other mythological or historical figures that make decision to kill their children (p. 125). Carlisle has written examples of biblical and mythological characters that exemplify the same scenario of offering son or family member for the sake of different obligations that are morally acceptable.
In the end, the difference of Abraham’s context is that these tragic heroes (Agamemnon and Iphigenia from Euripides’ Trojan Wars, Jephthah and his only daughter from the Book of Judges, Brutus and his son) lost their son due to higher form of personal obligation, which is the community obligation. While on Abraham’s scenario, the stand of personal obligation has exceeded the value of community obligation embedded in his son who is about to be sacrificed (Carlisle, 2006 p. 126). The only circumstance where teleological suspension is applicable is when the telos is outside the ethical spheres.
However, this argument does not necessarily implicate that the action is ethical in nature since telos is not a higher ethical telos for it is outside the ethical center. Although, the main sense and philosophical statements under the idea of teleological suspension of ethics remains in the person who is involved in this scenario wherein by accepting a telos outside the ethical sphere also considers the individual outside the ethical coverage. Hence, the justification of ethics remains in the concept of faith (Perkins, 1993 p. 119). Three Stages of Morality
Kierkegaard has established the idea of three stages of morality or existence, which comprises of aesthetic, ethical and religious levels. In these stages, Kierkegaard has emphasized the idea of passion and non-rational concepts should be more regarded as superior over the rationale mind of universally accepted orthodox. Under the concept of Teleological suspension of ethics, Kierkegaard’s argument has evidently deviated from the objective point of view and has mainly focused in the idea of being ethics and the subject rationale justified by the individual’s personal evaluation.
According to the book of Best and Kellner (1997), the modern subject is a solipsistic monad, yearning for salvation and indefinite happiness, plagued by anxiety and guilt, obsessed with God and religious transcendence (p. 50). In the Aesthetic stage, he has emphasized the sensual pleasures of culinary taste, art and eroticism that give the value to the daily needs of human life (Best and Kellner, 1997 p. 49-50).
Kierkegaard has considered the importance of aesthetic experience in human’s life since it is from this category that man obtains his identity, ethics, and religious considerations. As for Kierkegaard, he pointed out that aesthetic is evidently inseparable in the concept of ethics and morality. In application, this level of morality can be interpreted in the sense of common law implicated in the society. This comprises the standard rules and regulations in the society.
In the ethical stage, he has discussed the concept of ethical passion as an important component in resolving, formulating choices, and engaging into commitment of universal principles and proponents of ethical judgments (Best and Kellner, 1997 p. 49-50). This stage is considered as the universal foundation of every ethical codes and standards. In the application of ethical level, it is very much evident in the novel entitled, The End of the Affair. In this novel, the protagonist has given up her right to stay in the relationship for the very purpose of her service to God.
Her personal sacrifice to prevent herself from loving has not incurred much damage towards her personality, but on the contrary, she perceives it as need to complete her personal identity. In the religious stage, Kierkegaard has interpreted this as the highest form of existence wherein infinite passion over a certain belief is present, incomprehensible faith and illogical statements are viewed existing, and last, even subjective ideologies are considered ultimate under the concept of religion and faith (Best and Kellner, 1997 p. 9-50).
In the context of example provided by Kierkegaard, Abraham carried out God’s command out of his consideration of the universally accepted correctness but because of the nature of command, which is God’s command. Conclusion In the conclusion of the study, Kierkegaard’s Teleological Suspension of ethics revolves in the analogy of ethical prohibition in given scenarios that are outside the consideration of ethical spheres.
From the context of ethics as the socially accepted and universally regarded norms, Kierkegaard provides a substantial argument through the biblical patriarch Abraham and Isaac, in an effort to justify his actions of willingness for the sake of his faith. The theory of Kierkegaard comprises of the three moral stages, aesthetic, ethical, and religious stage wherein he contains and justify the need of passion and faith in order to justify the purpose of Teleological Suspension of ethics.