With cultural issues, modernization efforts have confronted humans indirectly or indirectly. Human culture strives to constantly renew and improve itself in facing the challenges of modern life. While facing the challenges, we can see social changes in various forms as information and communication, technology and science, consumption patterns, and lifestyles. A nation must always be able to pay attention to its identity and personality in the currents of broad social changes today.
In the 19th century, Europe experienced the heyday of science. At the time, there was a tendency to give the highest position to the ability of human reason as a tool to understand reality. Therefore, we must formulate the truth as a positive but definite thought. Besides, we also expressed our idea about actuality in general formulas. The fundamental problems are indeed very urgent and demand answers.
In answer, we need an approach that orients toward human existence. In essence, humans face their ratio with nature. To accept nature, humans prepare to care for nature so that they can live and underlie human life in the future. In short, creation rules over primitive humans.
The Present Age
According to nature’s will, pre-modern humans emphasized harmony with nature. In both inner and outer life, modern humans consciously separate themselves from nature so that they can master nature and make use of it. The problems have also touched upon fundamental human values such as alienation and restlessness. Structures that humans create themselves trap them.
Indeed, modern humans increasingly dug the hole. In modern civilization, technological advances have made them arrogant. In the end, it plunges humans into a pseudo-life. Even though it is not only dealing with problems that are regional in nature, it is also fundamental, spectacular, and global. Thus, there is a process of depersonalization and dehumanization that characterizes modern life.
In his work entitled The Present Age, Sören Kierkegaard warns humanity to face the emergence of a leveling process in present-day human life. Massification will become ghosts that eliminate the singleness of human personality so that modern humans transfigure as mass humans. The procedure of leveling will cause frustration in humans because it grips humans themselves. In addition, it does not pay attention to human personality, qualitative differences between humans and others, and subjective appreciation.
Within the generalized mass, the private individual becomes alien and experiences self-alienation. In truth, it does not carry out its existence. Kierkegaard is a Danish philosopher who was born on May 5, 1813. He expressed a different opinion from previous philosophers. According to him, life is not as Kierkegaard thinks but as life. He communicated this through his philosophical thoughts in his work entitled Either/Or.
The deeper the human appreciation of life, the more meaningful his life will be. Kierkegaard warned that in an era of human and scientific technology advances, it is easy for us to manipulate or trick through all that is meaningless. Through abstractions, humans tend to cause it to associate and work with reality. Any abstract description of reality will not display the true meaning of reality.
According to him, the starting point for all observations is human beings. Humans become a subjective reality where human subjectivity, such as they carry out their existence. Existentialism is a philosophy that views all phenomena as starting from their extant. We can interpret it as a form of existence. In other words, man is in the world and man’s way of being in the world.
The word “existence” comes from the word “ex” and “existence,” which comes from the word “sisto.” Therefore, we can interpret the word “existence” as a human being who stands as himself by coming out of himself. Kierkegaard is a philosopher who inspired existentialist thought. He denotes a religious stage. Despite being very different from existentialist philosophers are generally atheists, Kierkegaard emphasizes the divine and divine issues at the pinnacle of his thought when talking about the philosophy of existentialism having genealogical roots.
If we look at it from the realm of Western thought, the philosophy of existentialism is a response to previous philosophical schools. Kierkegaard’s thought rejects Hegel’s philosophy which is too idealistic. In every part of Western thought’s all traditions, they look to the abstract or the general, culminating in Hegel. Kierkegaard launched a proficient reaction to social life. At the time, it can solve problems in practical everyday life.
Contrastingly, Hegel’s philosophy has been very influential but has not been able to lead to solutions to various drawbacks. Hegel’s philosophy obscures only concrete life, realizing life only through developing ideas. On the other hand, Hegel’s view that Kierkegaard rejected would create confusion.
Therefore, humans cannot separate themselves from the concrete life problems they face. We can say that Kierkegaard is a philosopher of existentialism. Although he does not belong to the existentialists, his name is not on a list of existentialist philosophers. Indeed, we can say that he obeys the inspiration for what existentialists buzz about or reveal about human existence at all times.
In addition, we often call him the father of existentialism. Although he is the father of existentialism, he is not himself a philosopher of existentialism. In facing choices, humans cannot avoid them because, in reality, they will always countenance demands to be able to make decisions. Thus, the nature and reason of life from existence begin to work as a philosophical parole with a wake-up call.
Existence is the new Archimedes point where man attaches the world and himself. According to Kierkegaard, what is very important for humans is their existence or state of themselves. In its existence, human existence is not static but becomes, implicitly occurs in it a displacement or change from the level of reality. In its development, human existence’s dynamics occur in freedom and out of autonomy.
The Human Existence Form
Thus, human existence is in freedom because the choices in life confront humans. Furthermore, Kierkegaard said that humans who can make decisions are a literal form of human existence. Conversely, if humans cannot make a firm decision, it is a form of corporeality that is not faithful. To determine their life, humans must dare to make decisions. With his courage in making decisions, decisions will become meaningful.
They do not carry out a meaningful existence without proceeds a firm decision. Precisely his willingness to decide implicitly manifested an enthusiasm to be responsible. Kierkegaard divides human existence into three levels, each of which has its characteristics: religious existence, ethical existence, and aesthetic existence. The three levels of actuality will affect human existence and constitute the way of human existence.
The kind of human existence that always gets his attention. After man lives, realizes, and improves with his moral awareness, we confront his faults, shortcomings, and sins. At the level of ethical existence, humans are aware of this. Humans must illuminate themselves to the level of religious subsistence. In moving to the devout reality, humans must do so with an awareness of faith.
Abraham, Fear and Trembling
According to Kierkegaard, an example of a human who can reach a reverent level was Abraham. In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard writes that Abraham was the greatest of all, great by strength whose power was helplessness, great by wisdom whose secret was folly, great by hope whose form was madness, and great by self-loathing love. The form of religious existence can provide an essential human behavior and attitude in dealing with the eternal.
All decision forms are in the hands of God, manifesting themselves in human consciousness. In reaching the level of religious existence, humans cannot only do it once. Humans cannot only hold out the height of godly corporality once, but they must repeat it continuously as a continuation and continuity. Humans no longer question objective truth because, in existence, humans no longer crave testimony and understanding from fellow human beings.
Instead, the truth that humans face is the essential or absolute truth. Humans live their encounters with God as a veracious dialogue in religious existence. Belief in God is a form of transcendental action that God makes possible. It is because God allows humans to overcome themselves and face Him. Therefore, we cannot walk the path to God with abstract logic.
Preferably, it must go through a form that we base on subjective appreciation. Human closeness to God is a form of existential appreciation. It is because God acts as the truth that we live is subjective. The existence of God is a belief that cannot be objectified. Thus, humans appear with their true nature as a single person facing God in religious realness. At the level of ethical existence, human attention focus on his heart.
They live in concrete things. Kierkegaard describes the shift from the aesthetic altitude to the moral elevation as a person leaving temporary passions. It goes into all forms of liability. However, the human attitude has led to the aspect of inner life. Choices confront humans continuously. In his life, humans have lived and are aware of the existence of quality values that are general in nature.
Therefore, they must also be able to place themselves between the choices. At the same time, they always make those related to unacceptable and approving issues. If without a firm stance regarding the option of decision, humans do not live a meaningful or meaningful form of existence. Instead, the decision becomes meaningful by behaving and acting on the situation.
The freedom to decide and choose becomes meaningful with a willingness to be responsible. That is, humans must be able to take responsibility for themselves because, in life, humans are free to make and choose decisions. At the level of existence, humans are aware of ethical considerations and live out moral awareness. An ethical stance supports all actions which do not release the steps from responsibility.
At the aesthetic level of existence, human attention focuses on what is outside themselves and their life in society with everything they have in the community and the world. Apart from the spiritual and physical pleasures man fulfills, we can say that his mind is empty because it avoids making decisive decisions. Through the experience of passion and emotion, we indulge in wholly existing desires.
Driven by passions and emotions, we think the pleasures we achieve are limitless. However, the assumption can we say completely wrong. In other words, we will realize that the state of existence is limited; we will come to despair. In fact, in the form of existence, humans will not be able to find anything that can negate desperation.
The Essential Existence
With the attitude or act of choosing, humans always face various choices related to inadequate and praising issues. It also must be able to place itself between the preferences. At the aesthetic level of existence, the essential characteristic is that no general moral standards we define. Presumably, it is appropriate for us to learn from historical experience in the West that shows weaknesses.
We don’t think we need to repeat such frailties in various parts of the world; the time has come to develop a new paradigm. Either through time with nature, we should no longer think of development as a technological or economic race in the mere pursuit of progress. We must always see development as a dynamic understanding. Instead, it should emphasize more as an effort and work that grows based on values and experiences, sources and history of the local wisdom of the community concerned.
We could say that Kierkegaard is different from other existentialists who rule out the existence of God or from existentialist philosophers who can say nothing. For him, religion is a form of appreciation and theological understanding to reach God.
- Jaarsma, A. S., Kinaschuk, K., & Xing, L. (2016). Kierkegaard, despair and the possibility of education: Teaching existentialism existentially. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 35(5), 445-461.
- Kierkegaard, S. (1990). The present age. Quadrant, 34(5), 78-80.
- Lippitt, J. (2004). The Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kierkegaard and Fear and Trembling. Routledge.
- Matuštík, M. J. (1994). Kierkegaard as socio-political thinker and activist. Man and World, 27(2), 211-224.