Some preliminary notes to facilitate this writeup:

  • The title of this node is Søren Kierkegaard's phrase, comprising an idea central to the larger part of his significant contribution to philosophy in general and existentialism in particular.
  • The main relative text for this concept is a section from Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript called “Subjective Truth, Inwardness; Truth is Subjectivity.”
  • Quoted phrases are Kierkegaard’s words, and all are from an excerpt from the Concluding Unscientific Postscript in Kierkegaard Reader Editor: Chamberlain, Jane; Editor: Ree, Jonathan Blackwell Readers; Paperback; 416 pages; Published: June 2001; Blackwell Publishers; ISBN: 0631204687

The phrase “truth is subjectivity” in fact represents the synthesis of several of Kierkegaard’s keystone ideas. The first of these was Kierkegaard’s differentiation of objective thinking and subjective thinking. This differentiation, at a base level, emerges from Kierkegaard’s disdain for the abstraction of existence in speculative philosophy. Objective thinking ignores the thinking subject and the process of thinking in existence, whereas subjective thinkers embrace their own “infinite interest in their own existence,” and take into account the process of undergoing while at the same time striving beyond themselves. This quality of subjective thought is regarded by Kierkegaardian thinkers as double-reflection, which manifests itself in the act of communication, which is inherently both an inward process of thinking, as well as a movement outward to express these thoughts. The “subjective existing thinker is aware of the dialectic of communication.”

A fault that lies in objective thinking is its emphasis on positive knowledge, i.e., sense-certainly (“deceptive.” Hume’s lack of necessary connexion and Kant’s noumena/phenomena schism), historical knowledge (“illusory”) and speculative results (“muddled mishmash”). In sum, in all these pursuits we are inevitably mistaken due to the fact that we are a “subject in existence” rather than a “fictitious objective subject.”

Subjective thinking, on the other hand, is aware of its place in existence and thus the uncertainty of all these things. The subjective thinker abandons direct communication for artistic communication (Perhaps think of this of art’s attempt to express the inexpressible). This incorporates the “negative and positive in equal measure” and has as “much humor as pathos, and is constantly in the process of becoming.”

At this point the necessity to an existing individual of acknowledging the process of becoming is critical. There is no “system of existence” available to us as existing/becoming individuals because a system implies completion and we are not yet complete. We are not yet the whole self.

The nub, then, is this! Knowledge of an objective truth then implies some sort of correspondence between thought and being that is reserved for God. This is not to say that it does not exist, simply that it is not fully within our reach as existing individuals. “Objectively he then has only uncertainty, but this is precisely what intensifies the infinite passion of inwardness, and truth is precisely the daring venture of choosing the objective uncertainty with the passion of the infinite.” Now that’s what I call some philosophy. But is it what we call relativism? No. Enter Kierkegaard's description of subjective truth as the how, as opposed to the what of objective truth, and his darling thief/wig narrative wherein in a poor man is accused of robbery because he is identified as wearing the same wig as the actual thief. The point of the discussion is really that the greater truth becomes the act, the undergoing, the bearing witness.

My oldest child will be named 'Søren'

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