Søren Kierkegaard – A Criticism to Materialistic Naturalism of the 19th Century

  • Article (book excerpt)
  • 1700 words
  • Level: university

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard offers a strong criticism of those who focus too strongly on science and actually have very limited understanding. Kierkegaard writes:

If someone knew that even though he picked every leaf from the flower, separated the fibers of the stem, and observed every part microscopically, and still could not explain what is constitutive in plants—why does he do it then? Or is he not keeping the student in a completely wrong kind of self-contradiction? Instead of saying summarily, “I cannot understand this,” he encumbers the student with a mass of detail and very fascinating, engaging knowledge, which nevertheless always ends with the fact that he cannot, after all, explain the ultimate. But it is precisely this kind of preoccupation with much knowledge which results in one’s losing the impress of the purely ethical. Instead of hungrily beginning to eat, instead of enthusiastically beginning with the ethical, lightly armed and unencumbered with any knowledge about the nervous system, ganglia, and blood-circulation etc., one becomes preoccupied with knowledge about digestion and the quasi-knowledge that in spite of all this one is still unable to explain the ultimate.

Click here for an excerpt selected by the Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science (Inters.org), which is edited by the Advanced School for Interdisciplinary Research, operating at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, and directed by Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti. The Inters.org excerpt is taken from Søren Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers, published by Indiana University Press.