Kierkegaard's dialectic of the one and the many : a Platonic quest for existential unity.




Nam, Andrew S.

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The dissertation argues that Kierkegaard's major philosophical works overall offer faith in Christ as the only genuine solution to 'the problem of the one and the many.' The problem lies with the apparently contradictory properties of 'being' (e.g., universal/particular, infinite/finite, etc.), that—speaking most generally—everything has the same being insofar as it exists and yet each thing has a different being, its own being, from every other. The solution then must be one of 'dialectical unity,' the kind of unity that validates both contradictories equally. Kierkegaard argues that the one/many problem is really the problem of freedom, for the very consciousness of the contradiction arises from sinning against God, our self-conscious misrelation of 'being' by loving the finite infinitely. Therefore, unity cannot be obtained at the theoretical—metaphysical-epistemological—level, but rather, must be practically realized by becoming a dialectically unified self, achieving 'existential unity.' To explain the thesis, I conceptually reconstruct Kierkegaard's stages of existence theory in terms of this dialectical problem: the contradiction between the aesthetic (capable of affirming particularity only) and the ethical (universality) gets resolved in a higher dialectical unity, the religious. Kierkegaard describes faith in Christ as the self's final telos, the highest form of existential unity, explaining the final religious stage by comparing and contrasting Christian categories of existence with the corresponding philosophical categories in Plato's works, specifically meant to address the one/many problem. Three Christian/Platonic counterparts are explained here: (1) the general characteristic of faith as 'repetition' vs. the philosophical existence characterized by recollection; (2) the ontological 'moment' of the God/man and the epistemological 'moment' of faith in Christ vs. Plato's idea of 'the instant' in the Parmenides in addressing the problem of universals; (3) love of the neighbor vs. Platonic Eros. I shall analyze the one/many dialectic in these Platonic and Christian categories so as to clarify Kierkegaard's claim that only the fully lived life of faith, characterized by a dynamic love relation between God and the self and the resulting progressive revelation of divine love in and from the self, can reconcile the one and the many.


Includes bibliographical references (p. 257-263).


Kierkegaard, Søren, 1813-1855., Plato., Dialectic., Existentialism., Christianity and existentialism., Christian philosophy.