Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Existentialism, truth, and fallenness

All existentialists focus on the immediate inwarness of the individual subject's experience. In that sense, they lack the objectivistic openness to the world characteristic of traditional metaphysicians like Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. Thus even the Christian Soren Kierkegaard (pictured right) defines truth in terms of "subjectivity." Such a definition, of course, has its hazards. As Notre Dame Professor Ralph McInerny (pictured left) says, Kierkegaard is, at best, a "corrective." Kierkegaard was reacting to the excessive emphasis upon rational, scientific facticity characteristic of his time. But his reaction has often been understood to have been an overreaction, landing him in the quanderies of subjectivism.

Atheistic existentialists, such as Jean-Paul Sartre (pictured right, looking typically alienated amidst the oppressive greyness of a Parisian drizzle), lack any notion of "fallenness" whatsoever, except the fallenness that lies in the "bad faith" of refusing to choose what one wants to do. Kierkegaard, however, as a Christian, couldn't quite brazen out such a position. He still possessed on some level a sensitivity to the notion that one could sin, though this took an existentially over-inflated Lutheran form of describing God as a being over against which one "must always be in the wrong." However paradoxically Kierkegaard may express himself, therefore, I am disinclined to think that he jettisoned all notion of objective truth and fallenness.

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