When Kierkegaard died at the age of forty-two, the papers found in his desk included Johannes Climacus, probably written in the winter of The book is. Johannes Climacus is the author of the Philosophical Fragments and its companion piece, the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, as well as this posthumous. Understanding Kierkegaard’s Johannes. Climacus in the Postscript. Mirror of the Reader’s Faults or Socratic Exemplar? By Paul Muench. Abstract. In this paper I.

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Johannes Climacus is the author of the Philosophical Fragments and its companion piece, the Concluding Unscientific Postscriptas well as this posthumous work Johannes Climacus, or De omnibus dubitandum est. He might thus be deemed the author of Kierkegaard’s greatest philosophical works. The style of Climacus varies from each of the three productions, but they are singular as to their dialectical mission.

Kierkegaard took this name from a Greek monk c. This book, incidentally, was the first book to be printed in the New World, translated into Spanish Mexico, Climacus’ work was climwcus for a monastic audience. He says that no one should attempt the contemplative life without first warring against and subduing the passions.

The ladder is thus a series of thirty steps which ultimately lead to impassibility and imperturbability, not entirely unlike the ataraxia of the Epicureans, except that Epicureans seek to escape climacuz troubles of the world for quiet contemplative pleasure while Climacus strove for the heavenly vision. As The Imitation of Christ is one of the most popular devotional works outside of the Bible in the West, the Ladder has long johhannes the same importance in the East.

It is read every Lent in Orthodox monasteries, and is appointed to be read aloud in church or in the refectory. For Kierkegaard, the pseudonym Johannes Climacus represents the subjective approach to knowledge, though this Climacus is not a believer.

The ladder is not then the ascent to God but is meant to call to mind an ascending series of logical plateaus, where the logician, represented particularly by Descartes and Hegel, proceeds from one premise to the next.

Johannes rejects this method in spiritual matters, thinking it ridiculous to approach the Absolute in any way except through faith. He is concerned with subjective knowledge and with the leap for more on the leap see A Primer on Kierkegaardian Motifs. Though Johannes is no Christian, he leads the reader up to the point by which he can make a decision.

Objective knowledge, which is the avowed goal of rational philosophers, is impossible to appropriate by subjective creatures. Thus Kierkegaard was concerned with knowledge that would encourage the soul to turn to God. But again, Johannes claims not to be a Christian, since he has not yet reached that knowledge of God. The rigorous ascent to God toward impassibility has been replaced by the very passionate and subjective approach to truth whereby the believer, by virtue of the absurd, finds himself before Christ.

Johannes Climacuslike Repetitionis an unorthodox philosophical work, in that it is in narrative form. Though unfinished as ofKierkegaard began it in the previous year. Here he uses the pseudonym as the subject of the work. The Latin subtitle means “One must doubt everything”, and that is what Johannes sets out to do.

This is meant to recall the young Descartes who began his Meditations by seeking to remove all presuppositions, except that which is unassailably self-evident. Descartes, in his famous dictum Cogito ergo sum [I think therefore I am], posited the existence of the self based on the activity or presence of the cognitive process.

In other words, Descartes reasoned that since his “I” thought, he therefore had an “I” which existed in the process of thinking. He needed to posit the self so that he could posit God and the world.


This does not mean that Descartes conceived God’s existence to be less necessary. Ontologically, God’s existence is prior to that of man. But epistemologically, Descartes felt constrained to give man primacy.

This philosophical shift was a colossal moment in the history of thought. However, Descartes maintained that the Scriptures were true. This would appear to make a divide between different kinds of truth. How did Descartes, after all, come to know the veracity of the Scriptures? Why were the Scriptures not the object of his scrutiny?

His explanation for not appealing to an a priori acceptance of Scripture is that it would appear to unbelievers to be a circular argument. This might make it appear that his “method” was solely for unbelievers. Whether Descartes’ nod to Scripture was also designed to satisfy the Church, I cannot say. Kierkegaard would not suffer any such dichotomy of kinds of truth as metaphysical versus physical, and so forth.

Nor would he consent to the methodology of skepticism. When Descartes reasoned that he had an “I” because his “I” was engaged in cognitive johannee, could he not have equally claimed that he possessed an “I” because it was engaged in the act of faith or in the act of being in love?

Descartes would have acknowledged this too.

Johannes Climacus: Or: A Life of Doubt

However, one would like to know why this particular activity of his “I” was more important than any other activity, so as to posit it as the primary act of one’s own existence. In Concluding Unscientific Postscript Kierkegaard refers to the Cogito ergo sumcalling it a tautology. That is, the conclusion is a repetition of the premise.

If the I in cogito is understood to be an individual human being, then the statement demonstrates nothing: I am thinking ergo I am, but if I am thinking, no wonder, then, that I am; after all, it has already been said Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is the second philosopher that Kierkegaard has in mind.

Hegel sought to devise a philosophical johanes that would encompass all thought.

Søren Kierkegaard, Johannes Climacus – PhilPapers

He posited the famous triad: Kierkegaard refused to place the highest premium on cognitive activity. His emphasis on the self was always on the self in relation to God, the self “before God”, not the self in isolation, johxnnes itself as a kind of summa summarum. In Johannes Climacus Kierkegaard seeks to show the impossibility of developing, much less living, such a philosophy.

This is especially important because the popular and influential philosophy of his day, Hegelianism, was a comprehensive system. How, Clomacus often asked, could someone within the system a philosopher devise an all-encompassing system as if he were outside it? Hence Kierkegaard’s utter rejection of speculative philosophy, especially Hegel’s system.

Kierkegaard questions why modern philosophy begins with doubt. Why is skepticism a superior method of knowledge acquisition? Would not an utter skepticism be self-contradictory, since it would doubt everything except the very process of skepticism? Moreover, skepticism cannot outrightly reject the absolute, since the presupposition to doubt everything is an absolute.

A true doubter may come to reject the method of doubt at some point. Could there be a different basis for philosophizing? In his journals, Kierkegaard offered an alternative, and a criticism of the limitations of skepticism. What skeptics should really be caught in is the ethical. Since Descartes they have all thought that during the period in which they doubted they dared not to express anything definite with regard to knowledge, but on the other hand they dared to act, because in this respect they could be satisfied with probability.

What an enormous contradiction! As if it were not far more dreadful to do something about which one is doubtful thereby incurring responsibility than to make a statement.


Or was it because the ethical in itself is uncertain? But then there was something which doubt itself could not reach! Man is in the world and yet before God. All that he does and says comes under the rubric of the ethical. One cannot apply skepticism coherently in one’s daily living. True skepticism is speculative, hypothetical and decidedly non-existential.

Johannes Climacus

Johannes Climacus is divided into two parts. The narrative begins with Johannes pondering the three principles of philosophy which he has learned: Martensen,a professor of theology at the University of Copenhagen, and later Bishop of Zealand. Martensen was a Hegelian, whom Kierkegaard would later publicly oppose.

Thesis two is again supported by Hegelianism, the prevailing philosophy of the time. Thesis three emphasizes modern philosophy, which is often thought to begin with Descartes.

Kierkegaard is concerned not only with the presupposition of doubt in philosophy, but he also wished to question whether philosophy before Descartes presupposed doubt, that is, whether doubt is an integral, and therefore necessary, feature of philosophy. After examining the climxcus, Kierkegaard asks:.

Kierkegaard first considers whether it was “by accident that modern philosophy began with doubt” but finds the evidence inconclusive. Next he asks, “Was it by necessity that modern philosophy begin with doubt? Now [Johannes] asked what climacuz nature of that which preceded must have been in order to necessitate modern philosophy’s beginning with doubt, whether that which preceded was a philosophy or something else. Answering his own question, he decided that, according to the wording of the thesis, it had to be a philosophy.

Of what nature must the philosophy have been that could make it necessary for modern philosophy to begin with doubt?

Whether that philosophy, which by way of its precedence had made it necessary for modern philosophy to begin with doubt, whether that philosophy and modern philosophy alone were philosophy, so that if there formerly had been a philosophy in the world that had begun some other way, that philosophy would have to reconcile itself to not being philosophy?

He inquired further whether that antecedent philosophy itself was begun by accident or necessity. Lest he be led too far, he tried to explain the following: If modern philosophy by necessity begins with doubt, then its beginning is defined in continuity with an earlier philosophy. Then if we wanted to say something historical about what philosophy begins with, we presumably should rather mention that with which the antecedent philosophy began, inasmuch as the beginning of modern philosophy would be only a consequence within an earlier beginning The beginning philosopher could never be justified in saying: With me begins modern philosophy In all this deliberating, Johannes Climacus did not advance one step p.

Johannes concludes that philosophy must be exceedingly difficult. This is doubtless a reference to the snare of Hegelianism, specifically the concept of the Zeitgeistliterally time-spirit, which is the necessary and purposeful unfolding of history. This is a type of historicism, or a belief that history has a built-in telos. Thus, the individual philosopher must become conscious of himself and in this consciousness of himself also become conscious of his significance as a moment in modern philosophy; in turn modern philosophy must become conscious of itself as an element in a prior philosophy, which in turn must become conscious of itself as an element in the historical unfolding of the eternal philosophy Johannes again wonders how thesis one and three really differ, and how philosophy before and after Descartes and Hegel differ in their approach.