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Chapter 13 - The Ethics of Belief: Fideism and Pragmatism

from Part IV - Faith and Reason

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 January 2022

Roe Fremstedal
Affiliation:
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim
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Summary

The final chapter shows that Kierkegaard discusses the ethics of belief, that is the normativity that governs the formation, maintenance, and relinquishment of beliefs. Kierkegaard is a clear nonevidentialist concerning religious belief, since he denies that justified religious belief requires sufficient evidence (indeed, such evidence is impossible). Still, the widespread fideist reading of Kierkegaard, which takes belief to involve a self-constituting leap of faith, is challenged by a pragmatist reading, which takes belief to be justified by normative practical reasons instead. By examining different interpretations and different primary sources, the chapter concludes that the ignored pragmatist reading is highly promising both textually and philosophically. Despite appearances (and long-standing interpretative traditions), Kierkegaard does offer justificatory practical reasons for religious belief. Still, an element of fideism remains, since divine revelation seems to constitute itself supernaturally at least in part, although this does not amount to a blind leap of faith.

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Kierkegaard on Self, Ethics, and Religion
Purity or Despair
, pp. 236 - 250
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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