Of course, everyone knows I’m majoring in planetary science, but not everybody knows that I added philosophy as my second major earlier this year. I get as excited about philosophical discussions as I do about planets (which is reading Lonely Planets by David Grinspoon has been an overwhelmingly excellent experience for me) so yesterday I really couldn’t wait to begin my second class of Monday afternoons: Søren Kierkegaard and the Challenge of Existence.
The professor is basically a beaming German version of Robin Williams, in terms of looks. Today he cheerfully told us that this class would cover Kierkegaard’s philosophy of the nature of despair, of morality, of God, of relationship, of love, of passion, and of the absurdity of your own existence. He explained that he expected active participation—”And by active participation, I mean biological presence.” And then he realized he needed to get rid of his gum, so he squished it up and stuck it under the table. And he followed that by taking a long swig out of his two-liter bottle of Coke.
Now, I didn’t know how this class could get any better, but then we watched this:
For the rest of the class, we made a quick overview of topics we would be covering throughout the semester, following Kierkegaard’s theory of the four stages of existence: aesthetic, ethical, religious, and Christian. To Kierkegaard, as we progress through these four stages (in the above order), we move from disoriented to truthfully oriented, and in the process experience a “devaluation of standards of rationality.” This means that the more we progress, the less reasonable or rational we become. And Kierkegaard argued for this commitment to the absurd!
Yes, this is going to be excellent.