On Faith and Reason(s): Kierkegaard's Logic of Conviction
In different voices and different ways, Kierkegaard reiterates throughout his authorship that it is intellectually unpalatable, even offensive, to be asked to accept the claims that ground religious life. But if, as Kierkegaard claims, religious beliefs are inconsistent with what one otherwise takes to be reasonable, defensible, and intellectually satisfying, why would a reflective, critically-educated person ever opt for religious life at all? Why would one ever risk one’s life on something so incredible? Upon what does Kierkegaard think religious conviction is based? His answer is subjective religious experience, the so-called ‘proof of the holy spirit.’ This paper charts the basic movements of this odd proof. Like mystical experience, this spiritual testimony might be utterly persuasive to an individual who has experienced it, but it cannot be imparted to anyone else, nor explained in the same way one explains most other kinds of human experience. It is to this inner, spiritual experience that Kierkegaard points as the basis of conviction, inexplicable as it is.