PHL 346
Instructor: Dr. Bob Zunjic

The Subjective Truth
An Outline

Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments is probably the most philosophically "laden" of all Kierkegaard's writings. It marks the pinnacle of his pseudonymous authorship which was carried out in the mode of "indirect communication" (as opposed to the direct, non-pseudonymous authorship of his religious works). The initial title in outlines was "Logical Issues", but Kierkegaard eventually changed this neutral heading to a more humorous version (see explanation below). In accord with this change the two subtitles now read "A Mimical-Pathetical-Dialectical Compilation, An Existential Contribution". The work was published under pseudonym (alias) Johannes Climacus in 1846.


Title Parts:

The title is a composite that could be best explained in a reversed order of its components.

Postscript (PS): An addendum to something previously written, in this case to Philosophical Fragments (1844). As the addendum exceeds five times its base, it is obvious that Kierkegaard is making fun of his own urge to complement his previous "pamphlet" (also a self-ironizing term) with a "compilation" of prolonged after-thoughts on speculative philosophy.

Unscientific: This adjective clearly indicates that for Kierkegaard existing is not a science or a speculative reflection upon the vicissitudes of human life. Consequently, it is not something that could be thought, obtained from others or transmitted to others. It is something very simple and individual. As there are no partnerships in faith, by the same token there are no schoolmasters in the art of existing. No philosophical system or speculative construction could replace first-hand experience and passion. "In relation to existing there is for all existing persons one schoolmaster - existence itself." (Journals, iii 2809, 2823)
Note: This statement is directed against Hegel and abstract philosophizing in general, but should not be understood as a repudiation of thinking and reflection tout court. Kierkegaard is a thinker himself, and misology was the last thing he would subscribe himself to. As we shall see below, he only wanted to distinguish between essential knowledge pertaining to existence and accidental knowledge pertaining just to our learning and social roles.

Concluding: With this adjective Kierkegaard announces the end of his activity as a literary author. This is the reason why he signed the book with the pseudonym Climacos (The Ladder) indicating that he has reached the final point in his literary career. He planned to continue writing but only under his real name and in the form of criticism or religious authorship. However he soon found himself enmeshed in several polemics which prevented him from terminating his literary activity and so the Postscript became rather the turning point between his aesthetic and religious oeuvre then the final end of indirect authorship.

Subtitle: Kierkegaard uses the expression "mimical" to suggest that the work appropriately imitates ("mimes") the emotions and thoughts discussed by the author. As H. and E. Hong point out, it may also refer to a gathering of all the earlier "mimed" (pseudonymous) works as the background material for this "concluding" work. The "pathetical" means simply "pathos-filled" and refers to Kierkegaard's poetical rendering of Climacus. The "dialectical" denotes Kierkegaard himself in the capacity of a thinker. Thus the author (Climacus) is all at once: an imitator, a poet and a philosopher (the whole formula could be also a reference to various stages in life and respective transitions in thought or existence).
Motivation: What is "true" existence? In Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard has already suggested that authentic existence does not consist in the comfortable conformism of regular civic life. On the contrary, its characteristics are feelings of uncertainty, fear, trembling, distress, anxiety - all stemming from the absolute relationship with the Absolute.


But there are some unresolved questions about the very idea of truth and its place in life:
(A) What is truth? (B) Where does truth lie?
(C) How an individual can be "in truth"?
The first question is a general philosophical issue, the second is more specifically an epistemological one, the third is an existential (soteriological) problem.

Note: Kierkegaard understands fully the nature of logical and epistemological issues surrounding the philosophical analysis of truth. Common charges against him to the effect that he was simply ignoring the epistemological foundation of truth while espousing his "wild relativism" and "subjectivism" are as superficial as unjustified.

Conformity: It seems that Kierkegaard accepts the correspondence theory of truth ("conformity") as the adequate answer to the first question about truth. According to this theory, a statement is true if it corresponds to that what it refers to. Or as Aristotle puts it: "to say of what is that it is, or what is not that it is not, is true." (Metaph., 1077b 26)
Note: All other theories of truth are rather elucidations of certain aspects or criteria of truth than a straightforward answer to the question: "What is truth?"
  Two Faces of Conformity:
Idealism vs. Empiricism

Kierkegaard conceives correspondence between thoughts and objects as symmetrical and transitive both ways. Objects could be true if they correspond to the idea, or ideas could be called true if they correspond closely to objects.

For German Idealists being or reality must agree with reason as expressed in thoughts. For British Empiricists thought is true when it agrees with the real.

In both cases we have a "reduplication" of thought and reality, the only difference being in the direction of this "doubling".

Two Types of Conformity:

(1) Empirical

Thought conforms with Being
(2) Idealistic / Normative
Being conforms with Thought

What Matters:

In both cases two things are of utmost importance:
(1) to understand "what is meant by being" (reality), and
(2) not to get lost into "the indeterminate" (an abstract being, "a phantom").

As to (1) Kierkegaard distinguishes between being in an abstract sense and a concrete being in existential sense. The former is at best ideal, the latter is real and actual, although it could be degraded into something abstract. If that happens (2) the subject becomes a "phantom" residing within the "fantastic realm" of tautologies like those of Parmenides: one is one, being is being or the object knowing itself. A knowing subject dissolved into an abstraction can easily conform to an abstract being (A=A), but this identity is empty. Appropriate comparisons here are those with "a fantastic rendezvous in the clouds", or "an unfruitful embrace" (like Axion's).


"The knowing spirit" is a Hegelian phrase for individual existence involved in the cognitive process ("the inquirer").

  Two Approaches:

(I) Objective Reflection: It leads to the "objective truth" allegedly unaffected by our subjectivity and without affecting it itself. In order to accomplish this ideal of chemically pure knowledge it "makes the subject accidental, and thereby transforms existence into something indifferent". Its hailed neutrality makes up its "objective validity". This type of objective truth occurs equally in mathematics and historical sciences. In both cases "abstract thinking" as exemplified in "objective reflection" leads "away from the subject" whose real status and interests become irrelevant. However, by making the subject indifferent objective reflection paradoxically makes the truth itself indifferent because what is in itself is not "interesting" (for the subject)

(II) Subjective Reflection: It turns inwardly to the subject and attempts to find the truth in the inwardness of subjectivity or, as Kierkegaard puts it, "to realize the truth" in "intensification of inwardness". The ultimate goal in this approach is to reach "the subjectivity of the subject". Conversely, in affirming "the subjectivity of the subject" subjective reflection suppresses objectivity as a "vanishing factor". The constant memento in subjective approach remains that the subject is "an existing individual" who cares for the truth and is affected by it.


Existence is "a process of becoming", never something given and finished. (Sartre will build upon this in his philosophy of freedom.)






(1) The correspondence theory of truth loses ground in the realm of human existence: the notion of identity becomes "a chimera of abstraction" if both thought and being are constantly changing. If the knower is an existing individual, an individual who lives in time, this notion is inapplicable. Fichte's formula "I am I" is such an abstraction, an example of "fantastic realism" that does not speak anything to a "particular individual". Speculative philosophy leads to abstract formulas without explaining how they relate to particular individuals.

(2) The only meaningful truth for a particular individual becomes the one that expresses temporal expectations and current approximations. If the object of self-knowing constantly supersedes itself then no stage in the process of becoming is final and thus no statement could be the final truth about it. Concrete beings can never be adequately and definitely cognized - our ideas about ourselves are always "subject to correction and improvement". Therefore the "I-am-I" point is non-existent as is any geometrical point.

Finality and Completeness: Speculative philosophy professes to provide the complete and the final truth about human existence. This truth is allegedly objective precisely because it is complete. To be able to view the whole world from without speculative philosophy invents a kind of Munchausen's ladder (lift) that leads beyond and outside individual existence. To remain complete the world of objective thinking becomes the world of the Parmenidean finite sphere which does not allow coming to being or passing away: "From the abstract point of view everything is and nothing comes into being." Being clings to being, unmovable and unchangeable, totally fettered in the perpetual present.
Conditions: The truth about oneself could be "final" and "complete" only if an existing individual were able to get out of his own skin and assume a position outside himself. God possesses such a complete and final knowledge of the world. God sees reality as a system. But such a position is not possible for humans, because the moment one transcends himself "objectively" one loses himself as a particular individual. In their inductive efforts humans can attain only approximations, while logical constructions offer only idealizations. These idealizations capture the truth only at the price of making it entirely un-informative as is the case in analytic statements whose truth is in advance secured through the relation of the subject and predicate term.
Emptiness: The "I-am-I" is an empty mathematical formula (A=A) which does not denote any real identity. Real identity based on the equasion A=A is not possible simply because human existence is a tension between the finite and the infinite. The "I-am-I" is not a real identity because both I's are fantastic products of abstraction. Within it a correspondence between thought and being is quite possible, but this correspondence is one of empty forms, a sheer tautology, a being dissolved into abstract thought or into being and thought conceived as one and the same thing. The real practical meaning of the "I-am-I" formula is therefore equal to a suicide, a particular individual reduced to a corpse.
Transcendence: All philosophical attempts to entice man to transcend himself "objectively" are doomed to fail. A concrete, particular human existence could be transcended only in the unity of the finite and the infinite. The only situation when a unity of the finite and the infinite is possible within human existence occurs in the moment of passion. Only in passion I can become "infinite" in the eternity of imaginative representations, and still remain myself. Passion is therefore "the culmination of existence for an existing individual". But this self-realization of unity is only temporary and so the ensuing transcendence of human existence occurs only momentarily.

Note 1: "Modern philosophy holds passion in contempt." This does not hold true for many great thinkers, including Hegel, who became renown for his claim that nothing great happens in history without passion. Lessing took passion as the most fundamental characteristic of being human. In the same vein Feuerbach asserted that "only passion is the mark of existence" and "only what is an object of passion really is". Without acknowledging his debt to this tradition Kierkegaard agrees that passion is the ultimate source of personal integration. Only through passion can a person begin to collect herself and acquire a direction that unites otherwise dissipated life plans and inclinations. The decision to adopt certain life-style is never just an intellectual decision based solely on some objective cognitions. It is always ultimately rooted in what a person cares about and deeply values, i.e. in passions. Only through passion intellectually conceived possibilities could be transformed into actualities. The individual synthetizes the eternal and the temporal by reduplicating timeless ideals and norms in time and concrete existence. In this respect passions are much more important than intellectual insights or ideas. It is possible to imaginatively conceive many possibilities and to be able to think them through without ever humanly existing.

Note 2: Passion reveals interest in existence, that is, the care for Self which is the engine of all individual strivings. To have a passion means to care for something or someone, as opposed to the indifference of the objective attitude. If I care about something I do not regard it as valueless. The object of passion is always considered by passion as worthy of the caring passion. Thus we speak about being passionate about something in the sense of being enthusiastic. This usage of the term stresses the active moment of passion which is regarded as the source of free action. Kierkegaard rejects the notion that passion is just an irrational and involuntary emotion that takes control over us from without, as if we are only passive object of its unpredictable and unaccountable force (for instance, "he murdered her in a fit of passion"). He recognizes that passion possesses a moment of passivity, since we cannot induce a passion deliberately. For instance, it is not possible to decide to have a love or religious passion (passions are not intentionally created), but they could be developed and cultivated. In that sense the individual is responsible for them as his own state of mind. The individual also bears a credit for having a creative passion, artistic, teaching, or religious. Possessing a passion is what makes someone better than a person of the same occupation or activity, not physical abilities or the intensity of desire.

  Two Types of Knowledge:

(A) Essential Knowledge - the knowledge which has an inward relation to existence. The essential relation means that there is an essential relationship between the knowledge and the knower which is an existing individual (the Latin root esse in "essential" is semantically linked to the existential as it means to be, to exist). "Only ethical and ethico-religious knowledge has an essential relationship to the existence of the knower." - because it involves the subject. In practical life and religion it does not make sense to speak about proving the conformity between being and thought as embodied in objective truth.
Note: The quality of being essentially related should not be confused with either idealist or realist identity between thought and being.

(B) Accidental Knowledge - the knowledge which does not inwardly relate itself to subjective existence in the reflection of inwardness (it comes along coincidentally). This type of knowledge is characteristic for all objective and descriptive sciences that require an absolute disengagement (detachment) of the knowing subject.

  Speculative philosophy diffuses this distinction by claiming that man is basically a mediation, that is to say, always related to something.

Mediation presupposes movement, but it is being claimed by objective abstract thinking which brings movement to a permanent halt in its effort to capture the totality and present it in the final picture.

Objective knowledge may have the existent for its object, but the knowing subject is an existing individual in the process of becoming.

Mediation: How a particular subject is related to a knowledge of mediation as proclaimed by speculative philosophy? Where is he in it, how he enters into it, miraculously or by virtue of oblivion ("abracadabra" or forgetfulness")? Mediation is a "mirage" if it is conceived abstractly. How could it be a man? Only by disregarding the underlying relation to it from the part of an existing individual. Before we decide whether there is a mediation or not we need to ask a plain question "what it means to be a human being"?
Reversal: Contrary to the process of objectification that transforms the knowing subject into a "fantastic entity" and the truth into a "fantastic object", passion reaffirms subjectivity as the real core of individual existence. Subjective reflection plunges into inwardness which in turn culminates in passion. Passion attests that one cares for his own existence. In response to this transformation within the subject the truth becomes a paradox precisely by virtue of establishing a relationship to an existing subject.

Philosophical Lexicon

Tautology, from the Greek to auto legein = to say the same. In linguistics, a pleonasm, a redundant phrase like "a young boy". In logic, explicating in the predicate term what is already contained in the subject term ("Bachelors are unmarried males."). The truth of tautologies is established either through the logical form of the expression (A=A) or through the meanings of the involved concepts. Experience cannot falsify tautologies.

Speculative Philosophy, literally, the philosophy that "mirrors" the existing consequences unto their invisible first causes; therefore it is "theoretical" and abstract; Kierkegaard uses the expression either to denote German Idealism or any philosophy that curtails thinking from its existential ground and so creating "tautologies", "fantastic beings" and "phantoms" of abstraction.

Analytic Statements, statements that are necessarily true either by their form or by their meaning (A=A, "I am I", or "All mothers are women" and "All obese people are fat").

Reduplication, the term used by Kierkegaard to denote the reality "doubling" of what we think, that is to say, it refers to the realizion or "putting into practice" that "how one thinks one ought to live". To be able to "be what one says" one needs both the ability of subjective self-reflection and the strenght to carry out the insights into existence.

Mediation, (in German Vermittlung) the term used by Hegel to oppose the view that our knowledge of phenomenal and supernatural reality is direct (F. Jacobi). Hegel was convinced that unrelated existence is not possible and therefore the process of understanding reality consists in establishing links with the pertinent factors and instances of reality (nature, society, language). For Hegel, these connections and mediations already exist; the question is only to become aware of them and thus to overcome the illusion of immediacy through an insight into the mediated immediacy. For Kierkegaard, individual existence could be mediated only through negation of its individuality.

Subjectivity, a whole host of concepts denoting inwardness: Ego, I, Self, consciousness, existence, spirit. For Kierkegaard it is the place of existential truth, which is defining for an individual. The term thus refers to the process by which an individual existentially appropriates what he thinks.



Two Ways of Asking About Truth:

Objectively: What is the truth about X?

(1) Truth is reflected upon objectively as an object rendered accurately ("O is T").
(2) The subject relates himself to what is true as an object.
(3) The subject is in the truth if the content taken as object ("what") is true.

Subjectively: How do I relate to the truth about X?

(1) Truth is reflected upon subjectively as a relation to subjectivity (S-T)
(2) The subject relates himself to the relation.
(3) The subject is in the truth if the relation ("how") is true.

Relations: There are at least four different uses of the word "relation" in Kierkegaard's discussion of truth.
R1 = P:X (a proposition relating to the things or events)
R2 = S:P (a subject term relating to a predicate term)
R3 = S:R2 (a knowing subject relating to a true proposition as truth)
R4 = S:R3 (an existing subject relating to his relation regarding the truth)
  Only the 4th is existentially true.
  Two Truths:
Kierkegaard makes a sharp distinction between two kinds of truth:
(I) Objective and (II) Subjective.
(I) Objective Truth: Is the "what" (object), "what is said", "what is stated" with regard to an indifferent object.
I am objectively in truth when I know what the things are, pronounce it and agree with it. (In fact I am detached from the truth.)
(II) Subjective Truth: Is the "how" of the relation toward the truth ( the "what").
I am in truth if I relate myself toward what I understand as true by actualizing this truth in my actions. (Commitment to truth is preserved even if the subject relates himself to untruth.)
  existence = essence = substance
(I) In the first case the knowing subject relates himself to the propositional truth in the sense of recognizing the connection of the subject and the predicate term as true. Truth is a feature of propositions, something objective. Propositions are true when they correspond to a state of affairs (facts). The subject relates himself to it as knowing it, stating it or admitting it.
(II) In the second case, the knowing subject relates himself to his relation toward truth. For Kierkegaard, truth does not lie in the system of true propositions but in a lived existential relation. Human existence possesses content and could be matched with the idea or reality much more than a sheer proposition. Existence provides the only adequate form for the realization of the truth that essentially concerns humans.
  Essential truth is opposed to accidental (knowledge) which does not bear on existence essentially. Existence is the double movement in which the individual conceives of ideas and then reduplicates those ideas in reality. When the truth is existentially realized (lived, actualized in time) the individual is in the truth.
Subjectivism: Kierkegaard's subjective truth is not equal to subjectivism or relativism. Kierkegaard does not preach wild irrationalism or arbitrariness in the sense of "anything goes" or "what I think is true for me, and what you think is true for you." Subjective truth is not an inference, a summation from the realm of objective truth. It is the answer to the question: How should I believe that what is true?
  Subjective thinking = appropriative thinking.
Something objectively uncertain could be subjectively assured by active appropriation.


Knowledge of God

  Direction of Relation Personal Position
Objectively What is reflected upon is the statement that this is the true God. I am in truth if my knowledge is about the object (O) which is the true God (R1).
Subjectively What is reflected upon is that the individual relates itself to an object (O) which is God. I am in truth if I relate myself to the object in such a way that this relation is "in truth a God relation" (R2).

Now, on which side is the truth (of God)?
Objective Answer: Truth is always a characteristic of true propositions, therefore the truth about God lies in true beliefs about God. We ask when our knowledge of God is true? For this we need to know what is God? And we need to relate to "the true God"(0). This is at best what I believe about God.
Existential Objection: God is infinite and eternal. God is not an object like a rock to be defined the way we determine the nature of other things. We can have only approximations about God. But the process of approximations is endless, and thus the truth we are looking for is not achievable in all eternity.

The "objective person" seems not be worried about this difficulty. He sets on the long road of approximations as if he possesses all the time of the world. But:
(a) he can die tomorrow before the immense task has been even started and so he could miss both the opportunity and the objective that justifies the whole undertaking.
(b) he cannot take God at his convenience along the way (why then be bothered?) because God could be taken only at all risk, not as a comfortable gadget. To regard God as one commitment among other means not to regard God as God.
Speculative Answer: On neither side separately. Truth should be both something in itself and for us. Truth must be rocognized and appropriated, but it is not something subjective. Therefore, truth resides only in mediation, as the unity of identity and difference (Hegel).
Existential Objection: Kierkegaard concedes that this answer is superbly formulated, but he objects that it is not possible for an individual to be in a state of mediation. It is just another embellishing delusion for a deluded "I am I".
(a) To be in mediation as a subject means to be finished. But existence is open, becoming, not something final - only as dead could it be defined.
(b) An existing person cannot be in two places at the same time and that is precisely what the formula about the unity requires. It is a physical and logical impossibility to be both the subject and the object.
Passion: Kierkegaard allows that an individual comes close to the unity of the subject and object (to be near is not the same as to be identical though), but contends that this proximity is possible only momentarily, in passion. Passion unites the individual with the object of passion as in metaphysical strivings or in playing. In that sense passion is a union of the temporal with the eternal. But Kierkegaard reminds that passion itself is the highest pitch of subjectivity.
Note: To exist truly for Kierkegaard means to imbue existence with consciousness. When reflection penetrates existence (the ultimate achievement we can hope for) then passion starts to be generated.
Questions: What to do given the impossibility of being at once the subject and the object, which means given the impossibility of seeking at the same time both the objective truth ("the approximate truth") and following "an infinite concern" for his own relationship with the truth?
How can the individual come to exist truly, to be in the truth?
How can the truth be realized in existence?
  What kind of life is true? Am I in truth? Am I true?
Subjective Need: Even if I possess a true belief about God I am still not "in truth", I am still not the true myself. Only when I relate myself to something, whatever that may be, which determines the way I am (how I believe) I could be in a true (God) relation, I could be myself (S). In other words, God is not an idea, a proposition, an objective truth, but how one involves themselves with Him. "God is a subject" (not an object) - hence he exists only for subjectivity and inwardness.
Urgency: The existing person who chooses the subjective way understands the problem: it would take a lot of time to find God objectively, perhaps unlimited time to establish the true S-O relation. But he needs God immediately, and at all costs. If he does not get God he is wasting his time. Therefore God becomes a postulate for him: I need God, I believe in God. Thus he obtains God by virtue of the infinite passion of inwardness (not by virtue of collecting data or "objective deliberation" about God).
Seeking God
Seeking the true God objectively Needing God with infinite passion
Pursuing the approximate truth of the God-idea Feeling an infinite concern for his own relationship to God in truth
Going to the house of the true God Living in an idolatrous community
Having the true conception of God Looking upon the image of an idol
Praying in a false spirit Praying with the passion of the infinitive
Investigating immortality objectively Embracing immortality with an infinite passion
Being on the path of approximations Struggling with uncertainty
More Truth: The answer to the question "where there is more truth" is obvious for everyone who is not "botched by scholarship" - it is on the side of a person who is infinitely concerned that he in truth relates himself to God. The answer is easy since existence is not thinking but acting. Someone who prays untruly although with the true idea of God is less in truth than someone who prays with all the passion of infinity although he is looking at an idol. The latter prays in truth to God although he is worshiping an idol, the former prays in untruth to the true God and is therefore worshiping an idol.

The Life-Prevalence of Existential Truth

Community/Knowledge Quality of Worship/Relation Truth Value
True Religion (Christendom) False Spirit Less Truth (Idol)
False (Idolatrous) Religion True Spirit More Truth (True God)

Thinking existentially does not suffer discrepancies like these:

Sitting at a desk (thinking) and writing about what one has never done.
Writing about universal doubt and be credulous as any sensuous man.

Embracing Uncertainty

Immortality Reaction Mode State Truth, Certainty
Mendelsohn (?) Provides proofs Objective Inquiry Lack of Enthusiasm Apodictic
Socrates Stakes own life Socratic Ignorance Infinite Passion Problematic



Proofs: Philosophers and theologians provide proofs of immortality, but they do not set their lives accordingly. So they in fact provide a counter-demonstration of what they purport to prove - their acts are the most convincing refutation of immortality. Kierkegaard compares them with wedded matrons who have been subjected to many expressions of (erotic) love but never enjoyed love itself (as passion). Socrates is in that respect like a girl who stakes everything on the weak hope that (s)he is beloved (by immortality).
Ignorance: Socrates stakes his life on the condition that the soul is immortal, but he does not possess any certainty about it. He puts the question of immortality in a "problematic manner": If there is an immortality. Thus he is cognitively a doubter or an ignorant. But nobody was more in truth (in paganism) than Socrates while in his ignorance. Ignorance is the adequate expression of the relationship between the eternal truth and the existing individual. The eternal truth which is not paradoxical in itself becomes paradoxical by being related to an existing person. This relation must remain a paradox as long as the individual exists. But in risking his entire life he provides a more effective proof of immortality than anything one can derive from philosophical assertions about the nature of the soul. The certainty of immortality is rooted in subjectivity and the quality of existential appropriation (reduplication).
Distinction: In contrast to logic and epistemology, which are interested only in the thought content and the content of our utterances, existentialism focuses on the relationship sustained by the existing individual. "The objective accent falls on WHAT is said, the subjective accent on HOW it is said."
Integrity: Kierkegaard is convinced that the "how" is more fundamental than the "what". When the "how" is scrupulously rendered, the "what" should follow. That the quality of our existential stature is crucial for the assessment of our veracity attests the principle which places integrity over orthodoxy. In the light of this principle it is easy to understand the saying that what is "in itself true" may become untrue in the mouth of such and such person. This personal moment of truthfulness is an essential part of what Kierkegaard calls the "how" of utterances or the "mode of the relationship". The "how" refers to the passion of inwardness, i.e. subjectivity (Kierkegaard's "all the passion of infinity" is what we call "inner integrity"). This is why it matters who speaks, almost as much as what the person is saying, and much more than the demeanor of the speaker, his expression or the modulation of his voice.
Dissemination: In ancient times only a few knew the truth by virtue of their individual readiness to take the risk of infinite engagement.
In modern times everyone knows the truth, simply because it is being transmitted and proclaimed as something objectively available.
But the inwardnes of the truth appropriation stands in the inverse relationship to the extent of its dissemination within Christendom.
Limited Value: The infinite passion of subjectivity that sincerely puts everything at risk possesses "more truth" than the entire System of Philosophy which lacks enthusiasm and personal commitment. The adjective "more" (truth) indicates in fact that Kierkegaard does not renounce the objective truth entirely and does not treat it as worthless. But it has its limits, especially if separated from our subjectivity. Living truthfully is man's primary task in life. Having right beliefs follows from this as a matter of course.
Deficiences: The ideal of objective truth is in itself deceptive. Objective truth is not achievable and if achieved it remains objectively uncertain despite its assertoric formulations. In that respect the objective uncertainty of subjective truth is no argument against it.
The truth about God is not gained through detached theoretical inquiry, but through the proces of existing. To believe in objectivity as such, based on what the others say, is like laughing at a joke because someone said it was funny.

These defects of objective truth do not mean that it is irrelevant what a person believes. Kierkegaard wants to say only that proper objective beliefs are existentially worthless without the involvement of our subjectivity. In themselves they could lead to insanity even when presented as a disinterested commitment to pure truth and objectivity. A detached assistant professor is not less crazy than a passionate character who is out of touch with reality - in fact he is more pitiable (the president of the Plato society who does not believe in Plato's doctrines). The pervasive extension of scientific objectivity to the whole of life is ridiculuous and insane (causes a lack of emotional and human interest).


Only when appropriated by a single individual, that is to say, when they penetrate the life-world, true propositions become existentially relevant. Truth can only exist in and through individual apprehension of it. On the other hand, proper subjectivity is not worthless even when it is not backed by proper beliefs. Why? Because it is possible for a person to be better than his beliefs. A preson with confused or even wrong moral ideas can act morally. Bertrand Russell disclaimed any cognitive distinction between good and bad and proclaimed it to be just a matter of emotions or taste. But still he was a great humanist in his life and an activist for peace and human dignity.

Fork: Either take the comfortable route of objectivity or the uncertain route of subjectivity. Where the "the way swings off" cannot be determined in advance and for every individual. It must be decided by the individual himself.


Objectivity lacks existential decisiveness. Only in subjectivity there is the decisiveness that realizes the untruth of the accepted obsession with objectivity. This is what makes up the "decisive passion of the infinite".

In this manner subjectivity and the subjective "how" constitute the truth. The definition of truth must reflect this antithesis to objectivity which is now being suspended.


Truth is an objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation process of the most passionate inwardness.

  This definition indicates the resilience of the inwardness, which is not intimidated by objective uncertainty. It stays within the the paradoxical position of linking objective uncertainty with subjective certainty.


There are many signs of divine omnipotence and wisdom in the worls. The order and regularity of the universe (teleology) nourish the hope of finding a God.
On the other hand, the sufferings of the innocent and many imprefections in the design gve rise to doubts, and speak against the idea.
The outcome is "an objective uncertainty". The more so it makes sense to compensate for it with "the entire passion of the infinite".
An objective uncertainty + the greatness of inwardness = faith.

Parallels: There is an analogy between this definition of truth and the nature of faith. Faith is "precisely the contradiction between the infinite passion of the individual's inwardness and the objective uncertainty". Without risk no faith. Socratic ignorance is an analogue to the category of the absurd. The absurd contains even less objective certainty than ignorance. as the ignorance of inwardness overcomes the repulsion of not knowing with certainty so the inwardness of faith overcomes the repulsion of the absurd.
Condition: It makes sense to believe precisely because I cannot grasp God objectively. If I can apprehend God objectively I do not believe. I do not then need God. But because I cannot do this, I must have faith. Otherwise I lose the relation toward eternity.



The Fork of Existential Choice:

To be in Truth
State of Knowledge (A) Type of Existence (B)
Objectively (I) Science
Philosophy of Reason
Moses Mendelson
Subjectively (II) Faith

Don Quixote


This is a very special concept of truth: truth as subjectivity or subjectivity as truth. But it does not mean that every truth claim is based only on the fervor with wich something is being asserted, that if I believe something truly it becomes automatically true and that it does not matter what i believe as long as I am adamant about it. Subjectivity is not a matter of sheer taste or our volatile inclinations.

In the religiosity A (the religiousness of immamence) truth was conceived as residing within man. Subjectivity is ideally the truth but actually existed as untruth in paganism. This is why Climacus says that the "higher" expression for "subjectivity is the truth" begins by regarding subjectivity as untruth.

Eternity: Truth is not individual's eternal possession that ensues once we examine ourselves thoroughly. It is something that may or may not be acquired in time (moment). It is not a product of relating toward ommanent moral and religious consciousness, but toward god outside the individual. Existence could be constructed only around eternal values. The person who has not acquired the capacity for caring deeply for his existence can never recognize the eternal.
Depth: The Christian principle that subjectivity is untruth, when combined with the claim that subjectivity is the truth, provides a "higher view". It is higher because it secures a deeper subjectivity.
Note: Evans thinks that all this is a reference to John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Jesus is the truth by being life (existence).
  The peculiarity of Christianity is that the founder himself is the truth, while in all other religions the founder merely proclaims the truth or witnesses to it.
  In Christianity God enters the world from without and so creates a paradox by fusing the infinite and the finite, the eternal and the temporal.


Objectivity's Repulsion against Uncertainty. Subjectivity's Resilience in sustaining Ignorance.
Objectivity's Repulsion against Incomprehension. Subjectivity's Resilience in sustaining the Absurd.



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