Great Books IV Spring 2022

Fear and Trembling - Soren Kierkegaard

"What is beyond Faith?"

Reading/Discussion Schedule

Jan 10:  Introduction, Preface, Attunement;

Jan 13: Speech in Praise of Abraham,

Preamble from the Heart, Problema I;

Jan 20: Problema II-III;

Jan 24: Problema III, Epilogue

Reading/Discussion Prompts

Jan 10 

  1. Which attunement account is most interesting? most difficult?
  2. What is beyond faith? beyond doubt?
  3. Does Abraham possess free will?
  4. Is God ethical in asking Abraham to sacrifice his son?
  5. What is most striking about Rembrandt's painting of the sacrifice?

Jan 13

  1. Why are we to praise Abraham?
  2. Is individuality ethical?
  3. What are the differences between the tragic hero and the faith hero?
  4. Why didn't Satan teleologically suspend the ethical?
  5. What are the steps of faith?
  6. How is faith like temptation?
  7. Draw a picture of the relationship between: the infinite and finite movements, the individual, the particular, the universal, and the ethical, all with respect to faith.
  8. Can abortion be viewed as an act of faith?

Jan 20 

Questions du jour

  1. Has anybody ever told you a deep dark secret?

  2. When is it right to remain silent? When is it wrong?

 Discussion Questions

  1. What does the saying “always tell the truth” have to do with Abraham’s silence?

  2. How are Abraham and Isaac part of each other? Part of each one of us? 

  3. Why is the title Fear and Trembling?

  4. Is Satan part of the universal? The concealed? The disclosed? The absolute?

  5. Trace the steps of faith.

  6. What does the following statement mean:  Faith is the infinite inside of our finitude? 

  7. Find the most quotable, critical statement that Kierkegaard makes in this work.

  8. Explicate:  “in a sense there dwells infinitely more good in a demonic than in a superficial person”.

  9. Why is it imperative that Abraham not speak?



Jan 24

Bring your own questions.

Which of the following definitions of faith are consistent with Kierkegaard?

  • activity from obedience, grounded in belief that may (not) be aligned with inclinations.
  • trust and commitment despite fear/logic.
  • obedience (complete follow through) and the trust that our actions are the correct thing to do, i.e. for reason not chance.
  • expectation of the humanly impossible and commitment.
  • complete trust without regard to outside circumstances or future consequences; resolution to do whatever is demanded.
  • release of control, not understandable from outside the mind if the individual
  • belief in something despite logic and emotion that might dissuade; acknowledging the limits of understanding.
  • action and uncompromising trust