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The aesthetic as mirror of faith in Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling

Abstract One of the most intractable issues in Kierkegaard scholarship continues to be the question of what one is to make of the relation between infinite resignation and faith in Fear and Trembling. Most commentators follow Kierkegaard's pseudonymous author in claiming that progression to faith is a “linear” process that requires infinite resignation as a first step. The problem with such a reading is that it leads to paradox: It seems to require attributing to the “knight of faith” two inconsistent belief‐attitudes simultaneously—on the one hand, the willingness to resign one's heart's desires (infinite resignation) and, on the other, the conviction that one will somehow receive back what one has resigned. But this is a confused way of thinking about faith. I will show that faith's alleged paradoxicality is only apparent and that the element of resignation that constitutes an aspect of it actually bears some striking similarities to what the aesthete has in mind when he speaks, in Either/Or, of throwing hope overboard in order to make possible a truly artistic way of life. Hence, on my interpretation, the knight of faith does not need to adopt two contradictory attitudes at the same time (or constantly to “annul” one of them), but must rather practice a form of spiritual discipline in many ways analogous to the aesthete's endeavour to become a “poet of possibility.”

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