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What Light Does Balance in Life Shed on the Meaning of Kierkegaard's Definition of Faith?

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What light does balance in life shed on the meaning of Kierkegaard's definition of faith?

In “The Sickness Unto Death”, written by Soren Kierkegaard (1813—1855), recognized Danish philosopher and theologist, considered the father of existentialism[1], he gives us a different version of existentialism, a version where religion, faith and sin takes place. Life is composed by different situations, variables, facts, influences, etc. Whenever one opposes another, finding the balance point and keep ourselves in that position will take us to make right decisions, find and pursue our purpose in life. Moreover, this balance must be accompanied by faith in order to motivate oneself to always move forward, so we don get stuck due to the uncertain future.

First, he states that "the human self is such a derived, established relation, a relation that relates itself to itself and in relating itself to itself relates itself to another" (XI:128). In other words, the self is a combination of a series of opposites. Kierkegaard analyzes the elements that compose the self. For him, the elements are a relation, and the synthesis of relation between them is the self, the self acts like a verb and it is also conscious of itself. We can know that we have a self because we are constantly reflecting on our self, our consciousness. The self is also related to the infinite-finite, eternal-temporal, freedom-necessity and most important, to God. Whenever, the previous relations are off-balanced, despair appears within the self. Moreover, in this situation, despair starts playing a role in your life. Having a lack on one or more components leads to living a life of despair.

One of these pairs of opposites he called the infinite and finite: "the self is intensified in relation to the criterion for the self, infinitely when God is the criterion…the greater the conception of God, the more self" (XI.192).” The power which established the self is God, and that faith in God comes from “relating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self-rests transparently in the power that established it" (XI:161) Through faith, we can define our true selves. The infinite resembles to having the freedom of choosing between innumerable possibilities and the ability to change oneself, to expand the self. However, the finite links to necessity and limitations, the concrete reality of ourselves. A disbalance between this opposite leads to completely absorb oneself in either freedom or necessity, this is a form of despair because when you lose yourself in the finite means you are not able to change losing any possibility to choose, finally becoming a slave of necessity, without freedom. On the contrary if we lose ourselves in the infinite, excessive freedom comes with a series of endless alternatives causing anxiety on the self, realizing that you are able to choose any path on life becomes a vicious circle of options, finally wasting your life on never achieving what your true-self pursues, not knowing what to pursue.

To be your real self involves balancing this series of elements. When realizing one self’s freedom is attached with responsibility, one is ready to look for the correct path in order to become your truly self, but one might fall into a deep anxiety when facing endless possibilities, causing the will of wanting to become not oneself. You do not assume any responsibility because of the anxiety caused by the “must to choose” only one option and then fail.  This only happens in despair because if you have a balanced life you will be able to choose the best option and correct your path if failing appears in the horizon. Sickness of spirit is a state of despair characterized by the attempt to get rid of oneself from oneself, and thus throw away any responsibility of being yourself and with other selves. Despair takes many forms, but the real issue is whether one is conscious of their despair or not. Once you are conscious of your despair, the more intensified the feeling of anguish and anxiety, but also the closer to eradicate despair in order to become our real self. Some might think that this concept of faith is impossible to achieve, the author believes that most of the people invent their own rules and definitions about faith and sin to make a “light” version of what it really is, according to Kierkegaard.  



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