chapter  32
11 Pages

Irony and the Conversion Experience

WithWalter Wietzke

Kierkegaard’s understanding of the conversion experience is complex, given that his work describes transitions between aesthetic, ethical, and religious existence spheres. Although some scholars may argue that God is necessary for facilitating these experiences, this chapter shall argue otherwise. Kierkegaard’s philosophical writings describe how the subjective features of human agency set the individual up for a radical personal transformation between any sphere without assuming a causal role for God to play. For instance, the concepts of irony and the leap provide a framework for understanding conversions under the purview of our volitional activity. These concepts do not explicitly invoke divine grace or other forms of external intervention as a necessary condition for conversion. Yet this account is also incomplete. Close examination of the former concepts inevitably raises questions about their ability to account for all the factors of a personal transformation, even leading some individuals to doubt their capacity to determine the conversion experience themselves. My view is not that this tension means we must postulate additional external conditions for such transformations, but simply that it explains the significance of risk and uncertainty in framing the conversion experience.