chapter  2
11 Pages

Johannes Climacus and the Dialectical Method: From Dialectics Back to Existence

WithClaudine Davidshofer

Kierkegaard often worries that, because Hegelian dialectical thinking requires the individual to remove himself from concrete existence and to assume the abstract viewpoint of pure thought, it distracts the individual from being invested in his own existence. And yet, Kierkegaard himself often uses the dialectical method to analyse human existence and to encourage the individual to become invested in his existence. This is somewhat curious, for it suggests that Kierkegaard uses dialectics to critique dialectics and uses abstract dialectical thinking to lead the individual out of abstract thought and back to everyday existence. This chapter focuses on how Johannes Climacus uses the dialectical method in Philosophical Fragments to analyse human existence as it is defined by both paganism and Christianity. This chapter explores two main questions: Why does Climacus use the dialectical method to analyse human existence? How does Climacus use the dialectical method to lead the individual out of abstract thought and back to concrete existence? It is argued that Climacus’ dialectical method is one of irresolvable paradox: when subjected to dialectical scrutiny, both the pagan and the Christian definition of human existence prove to be self-contradictory. Climacus uses this dialectic of paradox to shake the rational certainty of paganism and Christianity, in order to encourage the individual to become existentially certain of his own personal investment in either paganism or Christianity in his everyday life.