chapter  24
12 Pages

Imagination and Belief

WithEleanor Helms

I argue that faith for Kierkegaard is a continuation of imaginative activity rather than a turn away from it. For Kierkegaard, building on German Idealism and anticipating the work of phenomenologists like Maurice Merleau-Ponty, belief of any kind takes place within an implicit teleological structure of experience. I focus on Either/Or and The Concept of Anxiety, showing how in both works the arbitrary power to imagine is placed within a wider context of the ability to see, which means to recognize what is actual as continuous with what is possible. Even the most basic belief in existing objects, according to Merleau-Ponty, requires such a synthesis. I argue that Kierkegaard similarly describes existence as a relation of appearances. By looking ahead to Merleau-Ponty’s work, we gain a better understanding of the relationship between imagination and belief in Kierkegaard’s philosophy.