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Analysis of Soren Kierkegard’s Idea of Subjective Truth

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Kierkegard has many beliefs and ideas. One of those being that truth is subjectivity. The truth of subjectivity can be defined in many ways in ones eyes. For instance, truth as subjectivity (and reality) is his definition of faith. Kierkegaard’s definition of truth is, ‘An objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation-process of the most passionate inwardness is the truth, the highest truth attainable for the individual.’ Which one can agree with because all Kierkegard is trying to say and deny is the objectiveness of truth. But, what he means by this is that most essentially, truth is not just a matter of discovering objective facts. Also truth can be expressed in different ways such as you finding a statistic, or you figuring out your final grade, those are all truths but there not subjective and it’s not about just discovering objective facts. People may think that when they hear truth that it’s only to hear facts that are objective. Kierkegard also states that the objective thinker is interested in objective truth, while the subjective thinker is interested in subjective truth. 

Objective truth includes historical truth and philosophical truth. Subjective truth includes religious truth. But the difference between subjective and objective truth is that subjective truth is something that’s not confirmed by science and depends heavily on opinions, beliefs, but it could be true or false. Meanwhile, objective is confirmed by science but is universally accepted by all. For example, scientists and historians study the objective world, trying to figure out the truth of nature — or perhaps the truth of history. Although through this way, scientists and historians hope to predict and get right how the future will unfold in accordance with these laws. In terms of the history aspect, by studying and focusing on the past, the individual can perhaps figure out the laws that determine how events will unfold — through this way the individual can predict the future with more exactness and hopefully take control of events that in the past appeared to fall outside the control of humans. Subjectivity (as we stated before) is that which the individual — and no one else — has. But you may be wondering what does it mean to have something like this? It cannot be understood in the same way as having a car or a bank account. It means to be someone who is becoming someone—it means being a person with a past, a present, and a future. No one can have an individual’s past, present or future. Different people experience these in various ways — these experiences are unique, not anyone else’s. Having a past, present, and future means that a person is an existing individual — that a person can find meaning in time and by existing. Individuals do not think themselves into existence, they are born. But once born and past a certain age, the individual begins to make choices in life; now those choices can be his, his parents’, society’s, etc. The important point is that to exist, the individual must make choices — the individual must decide what to do the next moment and on into the future. What the individual chooses and how he chooses will define who and what he is — to himself and to others. 

According to Socrates the goal of life is to know thyself (know yourself and who you truly are). Knowing oneself means being aware of who one is, what one can be and what one cannot be. Kierkegaard uses the same idea that Socrates used in his own writings. In terms of subjectivity it demonstrates and comes with consciousness of myself as a self. It encompasses the emotional and intellectual resources that the individual is born with. Subjectivity is what the individual is as a human being. Now the problem of subjectivity is to decide and determine how to choose what rules or models is the individual going to use to make the right choices? What are the right choices? Who defines right? To be truly an individual, to be true to himself, his actions should in some way be expressed so that they describe who and what he is to himself and to others. The problem, according to Kierkegaard, is that we must choose who and what we will be based on subjective interests — the individual must make choices that will mean something to him as a reasoning, feeling being. Kierkegaard decided to step up to the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil for himself, replacing Adam, and makes his choice in the presence of God, where no one was there to accuse or judge him but his Creator. This is what he had Abraham do in Fear and Trembling. This is how Kierkegaard thought learning about oneself takes place. Here is where the single individual learns about guilt and innocence. His book, The Concept of Anxiety, makes clear that Adam did have knowledge when he made his choice and that was the knowledge of freedom. The prohibition was there but so was freedom and Eve and Adam decided to use it. In Kierkegaard’s meaning, purely theological assertions are subjective truths and they cannot be either verified or invalidated by science, or through objective knowledge. For him, choosing if one is for or against a certain subjective truth is a purely arbitrary choice. He calls the jump from objective knowledge to religious faith a leap of faith, since it means subjectively accepting statements cannot be rationally justified. For him the Christian faith is the result of the trajectory initiated by such choices, which don’t have and cannot have a rational ground (meaning that reason is neither for or against making such choices). Objectively regarded, purely theological assertions are neither true nor false.

Although, Kierkergard’s truth is subjectivity is interpreted in different ways such as the ones we discussed above. It can also be easily misinterpreted unfortunately as you can believe in whatever you want to believe. But, that’s not what Kierkergard seeks and means by that. He is trying to express that selecting beliefs out of convenience is a superficial, consumer level mode of living. Which leaves and leads people to justify their beliefs through saying “it works for me” or “it is my truth”. Making the main difference between “it works for me” and “I work for it thus is true” is the idea of matter of personal commitment to truth. Leading to Kierkegaard saying that “Most people are subjective toward themselves and objective towards all others, frightfully objective sometimes but the task is precisely to be objective toward oneself and subjective toward all others.” Which does not display a picture of a convenient subjectivity that supports the comfort of avoiding any type of change. It can be described as a subjectivity that requires reorientation of the self and acceptance of commitment that makes personal demands. Kierkegaard phrase stated above expresses this huge persona and commitment of the “leap of faith”. Which is often used in many ways such as taking risks in your daily life or when being comfortable enough to trust someone whether it’s a friend or family member. We also have to play into count that Kierkegaard was a Christian and in Kierkegaard’s meaning, purely theological assertions are subjective truths and they cannot be either verified or invalidated by science, i.e. through objective knowledge. He explained that “if God does not exist it would of course be impossible to prove it; and if he does exist it would be folly to attempt it. For at the very outset, in beginning my proof, I will have presupposed it, not as doubtful but as certain”. He tried to explain the subjectivity and objectivity in his faith by saying that “The existing individual who chooses to pursue the objective way enters upon the entire approximation-process by which it is proposed to bring God to light objectively. But this is in all eternity impossible, because God is a subject, and therefore exists only for subjectivity in inwardness.” 

In conclusion, the whole moral of Kierkegaard’s “truth is subjectivity” is that a subjective truth is a truth based off of a person’s perspective, feelings, or opinions. Everything we know is based off of our input – our senses, our perception. Thus, everything we know is subjective. All truths are subjective. 

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