Poul Lübcke

Truth and Normativity in Kierkegaard and Heidegger

The paper will start with a presentation of Climacus’ definition of existential truth as subjectivity in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Although Climacus stresses the absence of objective criteria he nevertheless presupposes an absolute point of view which is the basis of his distinction between man as either “being in the truth” or “being in the untruth”. Whereas it is obvious that Climacus’ discussion of truth is within a metaethical framework, it needs a creative interpretation to read Being and Time as giring a contribution to normative or metaethical questions. Nevertheless I will suggest a reading of Heidegger’s analysis of “Entschlossenheit” in Being an Time as a place, where we may look for a metaethical position in Heidegger.

The paper will thereafter establish a fictive dialogue between the two positions. In this dialogue Climacus may try to characterize Heidegger’s “Entschlossenheit” as an aesthetic position lacking the assumption of an absolute basis upon which man may be characterized as either “being in the truth” or “being in the untruth”. On the contrary Heidegger may reject the assumption of an absolute basis as nonphenomenological and a nonjustified example of “Wertphilosophie”.

Given this fictitious controversy we may return to Climacus and reevaluate his famous theory of stages. It will be shown that this theory is not the key to an understanding of Kierkegaard’s works before (and after) Concluding Unscientific Postscript, but only one interpretation among others – and not even a very fruitful one, although it has had a lot of followers among Kierkegaard-scholars. A more careful reading of the first part of Either-Or will show that Climacus’ presentation of the so called “aesthetic” stage is very narrow. He overlooks the seriousness of many of the aesthetic texts, e.g. the texts on tragedy and boredom. These texts introduce serious ways of looking upon life, which do not assume Climacus’ metaethical absolutism.

Given this more developed aesthetic perspective the paper will continue to an interpretation of Heidegger’s “Gewissen-haben-wollen” as an ontology of this kind of aesthetical worldview. From this perspective it is possible to criticize both the so called "ethical" and "religious" by Kierkegaard. On the other hand it is also obvious, that it is not possible to construct any substantial normative position based upon this aesthetic point of view.