The concept of eternity in Kierkegaard's philosophical anthropology.
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Hemati, Christi Lyn.
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This study provides a critical analysis of the meaning of eternity as it relates to the human being in Kierkegaard’s psychological work, The Concept of Anxiety. First, the eternal signifies the divine image implanted in human beings from the beginning of creation, making us spiritual, embodied beings with the capacity for self-consciousness, a God relationship, freedom, everlasting life, and communal fellowship with other persons. Second, the eternal is present both ontologically and normatively in human beings, providing an unchanging criterion and telos of human existence, a task we are responsible to fulfill. Third, eternity signifies perfection; it is the ideal for which we were created. By failing to fulfill this task, we can be said to “lose” the eternal through sin and “gain” it again through redemption. As sinners who are guilty of refusing to fulfill this task, Haufniensis argues that eternity’s criterion can only be fulfilled through faith in Christ’s atonement. This decision in time paradoxically has eternal consequences, and in this sense the eternal signifies transcendence beyond our spatiotemporal world. However, the believer’s eternal decision in time not only determines whether life after death entails eternal happiness instead of eternal damnation; it also has redemptive consequences that begin in temporality, bringing a spiritual continuity and sanctified vision of oneself, others, and the temporal world here and now. Chapter one gives an overview of the significance and conceptual aspects of eternity. Chapter two investigates the predominantly ontological presence of the eternal in the self, specifically in a human being’s original created structure (i.e., before the fall into sin). Chapter three explores the self’s falling away from the eternal, a fall that reveals eternity’s ontological and normative role, as well as what Kierkegaard calls the “demonic” relation to eternity. Chapter four offers a contrast between the Platonic and Christian ways of helping the self regain a proper relationship to eternity, both ontologically and normatively. Chapter five further develops and analyzes the normative implications of Christian repetition and explains how the qualities of inwardness, earnestness, and concretion characterize a proper conception and relationship to the eternal.