leaps of faith

My friends Siobhan and Joe gave birth to their second child, Søren, on Sunday.  Announced just 40 minutes after the fact via Facebook, I heard, he’s named not only for Siobhan’s baby brother but – I suspect – also for Danish philosopher/critic/poet Søren Kierkegaard.

Kierkegaard is probably best known for two ideas:  “subjectivity” and “the leap of faith.”  And since there is no greater leap of faith in this world than bringing a child into it, I thought I’d take a little stroll down philosophy lane today.

The notion popularly referred to as “a leap of faith” is Kierkegaard’s conception of how an individual would believe in God or how a person would act in love. Faith is not a decision based on evidence that, say, certain beliefs about God are true or a certain person is worthy of love. No such evidence could ever be enough to pragmatically justify the kind of total commitment involved in true religious faith or romantic love. Faith involves making that commitment anyway. Kierkegaard thought that to have faith is at the same time to have doubt. So, for example, for one to truly have belief in love, one would also have to doubt one’s beliefs about love; the doubt is the rational part of a person’s thought involved in weighing evidence, without which the faith would have no real substance.  As Kierkegaard writes, “doubt is conquered by faith, just as it is faith which has brought doubt into the world.”

Kierkegaard also has one of the great quotes of the pre-modern age, as taken from his Journals – 20 November 1847, to be exact.  It’s truth rings out again and again with each successive generation:  “What the age needs is not a genius—it has had geniuses enough…. What the age needs is awakening.”

So here’s to taking leaps of faith.  And to the newest Søren, the new awakening.


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