Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Problema III

Some comments on and questions about Problema III.

“The ethical as such is the universal; as the universal it is in turn the disclosed. The single individual, qualified as immediate, sensate, and psychical, is the hidden.” (82)

I wonder if K doesn’t too neatly align the ethical with the universal (perhaps Derrida is already on my mind). And I wonder, too, how aligning the ethical with the universal ends up inflecting many of the ethical concerns Jeff has so cogently raised about God’s own actions in the Genesis narratives.

Jeff, are you willing to go along with K’s strict identity of the ethical and the universal? It seems also that, for K, God would necessarily be beyond ethics (though obviously in a way that doubles the ethical movement, that holds it in place and transgresses it). Can we, as Mormons, admit any difference between the ethical (the universal) and the religious (the absolute)? Or, if we allow for a gap between them, would God cease to be God?

The flip side of the question has here to do with the individual as hidden. If the religious is an absolutely singular relation to the Absolute (God), then what of the possibility of theology?

“Philosophy teaches that the immediate should be annulled. This is true enough, but what is not true is that sin is directly the immediate, any more than faith is directly the immediate.”(99)

This passage brings me back to a consideration of some Ralph’s concerns a few weeks ago. Obviously, a return to the immediate (the state of “original unity,” the “dark of night in which every cow is black”) is not what we’re after in our relation to God. But if the immediate can only be fractured by a contradiction (by the introduction of the negativity of consciousness), then I’m not sure how we would think about a “post-immediacy philistinism” sans the absurd (because the absurd always takes the form of a contradiction).

I’m deeply sympathetic to demands for religion to be rationally intelligible, but I don’t see how we can avoid or soften the necessity of the absurd contradiction. Without it, aren’t we back in the field with the cows? Any suggestions, Ralph? Perhaps I’m misreading the nature of the problematic here (or, more especially, what you’re after). Do we require a Hegelian resolution of the contradiction? Or (I’m hoping) is there some third option?

“It is amusing to think about how odd it is that doubt about the immortality of the soul can be so prevalent in the very age when everyone can achieve the highest, for the person who has actually made just the movements of infinity scarcely doubts. The conclusions of passion are the only dependable ones—that is, the only convincing ones.” (100)

The knight of faith “scarcely doubts.” Partly because he already did the work of doubting? The reason K gives for this is that the conclusions of “passion” (passion = the proper response to a paradox) are dependable. He seems to indicate that they are dependable not because they are infallibly “correct” but because they are convincing and passionate. Is this to say that one does not overcome doubt by definitively defeating skepticism on its own terms but by passionately exceeding skepticism for the sake of something else? Is this why faith remains in relation to the absurd? The field of reason is perpetually the field of skepticism? The field of reason must be traversed, but it can't be entirely straightened out?

“For Abraham the ethical had no higher expression than family life.” (112)

Here, for K, the family is expressly not a part of the religious dimension – except insofar as the ethical must be simultaneously preserved and transgressed by the knight of faith. Can we, as Mormons, be satisfied with this account of how the family connects (only secondarily) with religion?

“His response to Isaac is in the form of irony, for it is always irony when I say something and still do not say anything.” (118)

Is the point here that theology, insomuch as it approaches faith, is necessarily an ironic discourse? Theology is possible, but only as irony? Irony is the only appropriate discourse for the paradox of the absurd?

Rosalynde, what do you make of our rhetorical options here? Is it necessary to speak in religion? Should we be silent about the absurd? Should we be ironic in bearing our testimonies? Is there some other rhetorical option?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fear and Trembling: "Problema II"

I'm still stuck thinking about the individual vs. the universal that Kierkegaard focuses on so much in this and the previous chapter. I think Adam's right in pointing to Badiou's notion of a "universal singularity" as a fruitful approach to thinking about this issue. I was hoping to gain a better understanding of what this means before posting, but I'm already very late in posting this so I'll have to made due.

In Hallward's appendix to his book on Badiou, he gives a brief history of the Axiom of Choice. I don't understand very well (yet!) how this plays out in Badiou's thought, but it's given me a lot to think about, esp. pertaining to this issue of the individual vs. the universal. First, what is interesting about this axiom is that it is an axiom which is independent from the other, less controversial axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel (ZF) set theory. This essentially means that we can assert the Axiom of Choice, or the negation of the Axiom of Choice, and the implications of either assertions will be consistent with the rest of the ZF axioms. This ties in with the idea in my previous post about the production of truth(s). And I think it explicitly ties in with D&C 93:30, "all truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself." Of course it may just be coincidence that "truth" and "independence" are the terms used here, but I think the possibilities suggested by reading this passage from an Axiom of Choice and Badiouian vantage point are intriguing. In particular, this suggests (to me at least) that the possibility of theology is importantly tied to the independence of truth. Or, to take K's words more directly, "the single individual is higher than the universal" seems to imply that if we are to talk about God, we must talk about his relationship to each of us individually(/independently). This touches importantly on some unique LDS ideas, such as the fact that we don't baptize infants because we believe they are not accountable--accountability itself thus seems to be a radically individual concept. (Note also the several unique LDS scriptural passages regarding sinning against greater light and an individualized rather than universal notion of accountability....)

But doesn't this radical individuality of truth, theology, accountability, etc. undermine the possibility of community and lead to extreme relativism and incoherence? This is where I think set theory makes for an interesting analogy: for an axiom (or any logical proposition) to be independent, it must not contradict other axioms (propositions). How might we appropriate this mathematical result for thinking about the possibility of community, or the structure of families? I think it points to a peculiar notion of peaceful coexistence, perhaps as described in D&C 121:34ff ("principles of righteousness" in v. 36?). If each of us are ourselves independent truths (in a particular sphere), then perhaps our eternal sphere of independence is contingent on provenness to cohere with others, according to these principles of righteousness. And inasmuch as we violate these principles of righteousness, we become captive to the devil--or, in set-theoretic language, we become subject to other axioms/truths (but then does this imply the devil is a truth himself, a "law unto himself" per D&C 88:35?).

Next, considering what the Axiom of Choice means, it essentially assumes the existence of (infinite) sets that cannot be constructed by any rule. I think this has interesting parallels to how we might think about agency and becoming gods in LDS theology (issues that Adam has at least hinted at before). If YHWH is the Unnameable One, and taking his name in vain is such an important prohibition, then perhaps it is related to His radical independence as a God--bound perhaps by principles of righteousness, but unbound in terms of possibility. And so when we are given new names which are not to be uttered in this temporal sphere where we have already been given temporal names, we are effectively being given the promise of eternal independence (as Abraham symbolically gives Isaac...). Only in an eternal setting where infinity is appropriately approached (i.e. sacredly), is the new name uttered. And in that sacred utterance, the name connotes infinite possibility and respect (i.e. it is not a confining, rule-based name like a temporal name...).

Also, part of what seems promising in thinking theologically about the Axiom of Choice is in terms of the relationship between what is sayable in a logically rigorous way and what cannot be said. Without the Axiom of Choice, set theory essentially becomes a constructivist enterprise. This, I think, has deep implications for how we think about faith and sign-seeking (esp. in Alma 32), and the extent to which philosophical discourse can talk about faith, transcendence, etc. Badiou makes an interesting distinction between truth/philosophy and knowledge. As Hallward puts it, "Every universal . . . is a consequence of a decision, . . . a matter of being-true rather than of knowing. Philosophy consists of the analysis and articulation of such universalities" (p. 251).

I am, however, still rather puzzled by this use of the term "universal." I wish I'd looked at this earlier--it's a rather interesting address by Badiou where he lays out 8 theses which give an overview of his philosophy. In particular, he lays out this tension between the singular (K's "individual", roughly) and the universal (K's "absolute," though also related to K's "universal," I think...) in a rather interesting way, but I'm still trying to make sense of this. Is Badiou's event more like the coming-into-being of an unpredictable, unnameable infinite set, or is an event more like the Axiom of Choice itself which declares the existence of such unnameable sets/processes and is independent of all other axioms? In what sense is an event/truth universal? Is this more than what I was describing in terms of independence above? Irrespective of Badiou, is there a meaningful way we can talk about K's absolute duty of the individual (to the absolute)? Although JdS in fact talks about this absolute, to what extent is it more than a poetic-pointing-to? If we accept this abolute individual relationship to God, what is an appropriate language to talk about this relationship? What are the implications for a scriptural hermeneutic--can we meaningfully take up scripture as a community, or is it ultimately an individual undertaking that "cannot be mediated"? K talks to us indirectly through JdS who has not experienced genuine faith--is this indirect and somewhat vague, deconstructive, pointing-to type of discourse the best we can hope for in terms of talking about theology, or can we read scripture in a more positive theological or philosophical sense? (I think Badiou's criticism of all those following Heidegger is that they're doing what essentially amounts to poetry....)

Typical, I guess: a very meager attempt to take a step forward which unleashes a whole host of issues causing me to take several steps back!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Fear and Trembling: "Problema I"

[This post will briefly discuss some of my thoughts from reading "Problema I"; sometime this weekend I plan to write something on "Problema II" so that we can take up "Problema III" next week, as per the schedule.]

I think this issue of the individual vs. the universal is a very rich idea for Mormons to take up, because of our emphasis on individual exaltation (becoming as God is!?) as well as our emphasis on "personal revelation." Also, I think this is a good opportunity to try to take up again the discussion of One vs. infinity that Adam and Joe were discussing at length earlier. In particular, Adam said here,

"[T]ruths then must be produced rather than deduced because they are grounded in the procession of the infinite rather than in the givenness of the One."

This idea about "producing truths" rather than deducing them is endlessly fascinating to me, esp. in how it relates to the Mormon notion of eternal increase. I hope I am not alone in not quite understanding what Adam means by "the procession of the infinite." In fact, I think this might be an interesting way to approach Mormon theology, as an attempt to think about how this procession of the infinite takes place. Or, as JdS might put it, how does the individual become greater than the universal?

I think that what I will term hierarchy plays an important role in understanding this production of truths. In Abraham 3, we saw a very interesting hierarchical formulation of infinity (v. 16, "if two things exist, and there be one above another, there shall be greater things above them"). I wonder how this might relate to the modern LDS notion of priesthood jurisdiction (i.e. one can receive revelation for one's family, but not for one's ward, except for the bishop). I'm not claiming this is a true or even useful way to think about hierarchy (esp. as it relates to the procession of the infinite), but I think it's an interesting way to at least begin thinking about the issue. Another way to formulate this same question is in terms of the Third: if I am torn between two conflicting obligations, how can I decide between them? I'm suggesting that we consider an answer that takes some notion of hierarchy quite seriously.

When Abraham was caught between Sarah and Hagar, God, as a higher authority, mediated for Him (telling him to grant Sarah's request). Faith, then, might be taken as an affirmation of higher authority, an authority that worldly societies do not see or recognize (which leads JdS to the conclusion that faith is absurd). And so, although I think Ralph rightly points out that liberal democracy offers a promising way to construct worldly societies, I'm inclined to see liberal democracy as lacking an important kind of grounding that I think is more readily found in, say, hierarchical theocracy (however such might be structured...). The Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith both seem to say interesting things about democracy, but I'm not sure how this relates to the more hierarchical structure that seems so pervasive in Church examples (like obedience to God's authority).

But if the procession of the infinite takes place hierarchically, what is the nature and structure of this hierarchy? Here, I think D&C 121:34ff is justified in being as popular as it is because it seems to imply that every hierarchical relationship is conditionally established. If God's kingdom (a term with important hierarchical connotations, I think...) can be established "only upon the principles of righteousness" (121:36), then I think we should consider a hierarchical production of truth that does not reduce to authority which is merely given (I'm referring back to Adam's phrase "rather than the givenness of the One" which I quoted above). That is, no authority is absolutely given, but all authority is contingent on these "principles of righteousness" (though this suggests to me that these "principles" might be viewed as given...) which grant each intelligence, no matter how lowly, a voice. It is this check on absolute authority, this 'giving of a voice to all subjects of authority,' that I think opens the possibility for each subject to become himself/herself a truth that can eternally increase.

Well, this is but one strain of thought this reading elicited in me. If I have time perhaps I'll raise other thoughts below. I'd be very interested in hearing others' feedback and thoughts on my comments and/or the reading itself.

Monday, May 07, 2007

FEAR & TREMBLING: "Preliminary Expectoration"

On re-reading this text after many years, I am struck by how much I have been marked by it, how much I have over the years been discovering my own question in the traces that this text had long ago left in my mind and spirit. I confess that it is not only an intriguing and deeply moving text to me, but I also that I am convinced it bears some extremely important truth about faith, and therefore, it seems to me, about hope and about the meaning of our humanity. At the same time, I wonder whether this truth is limited by the polemical, anti-Hegelian context of the argument – like so much European philosophy of the 20th century, I would be inclined to say. In mid-century France, at least, it seems that Hegel’s claim that reason itself was identical to his system – that Hegelian philosophy (or its Marxist development) was the unsurpassable culmination of Reason – was practically a given among those who favored it and, especially, among those who opposed it. (Thus Sartre: Marxism is incontournable.)

This is not at all to say that I would confine Kierkegaard to the limits of, say, Sartre. (And not to say, for that matter, that Sartre can teach us nothing.) For one thing, Kierkegaard’s insights into pre-modern philosophy (Socratic philosophy, broadly speaking) are often very profound. Still, my very tentative question, the main point I need to understand better in order to know what my faith has to do with what Kierkegaard is describing, or, rather, evoking, concerns the prominence of the category of “the absurd.” Is the moment of the absurd really a necessary moment in faith, or is this rhetoric a part of an anti-Hegelian polemic that is not necessarily central to the deepest question? This is what I would like to know. I suppose I am enough of a lingering Thomist, in a very general sense, that I resist this category of “the absurd.”

It occurred to me on this re-reading that this “Preliminary Expectoration” can be read as Kierkegaard’s dialogue with “philistinism.” K. is one moved by greatness, by the extraordinary. “I am not unfamiliar with what the world has admired as great and magnanimous.” (33c) But beyond all worldly admiration is faith; one might say it is truly “beyond praise;” it is beyond the categories human are competent to praise; it is incommensurable with worldly greatness. And yet it must be praised.

I’ve been saying, “Kierkegaard,” but of course I should say, “Johannes de Silentio.” I am at a loss as to the meaning of this distancing from Kierkegaard’s ownmost voice. When JdS says that he cannot understand faith, or make the movements of faith, does this leave open the possibility that K does understand and make them? Is this an “aesthetic” presentation of a trans-ethical truth; somehow an impersonal presentation of what is most personal, “subjective,” existential? (I read what the editors say about this in the Historical Introduction, but I’m not sure that I follow it.) So, with this caveat, I continue to refer to the author as “K.”

Kierkegaard seeks to praise what is beyond praise: faith. Faith is more heroic than heroism and more transcendent than the object of pure philosophic contemplation. K. does not understand it and cannot account for it … and yet he is sure of its greatness. So great a marvel is the knight of faith that “I have not found a single authentic instance…I have not found anyone like that…” (38c,e) But on second thought “every second person may be such an instance.” (38c) Can it be that the “all bourgeois philistinism I see in life” is in fact the “marvel” of faith (51c), that what is most extraordinary is altogether at home in the utterly ordinary? This is the possibility that one might say haunts this whole essay – the possibility that the meanings of the ordinary and of the extraordinary are somehow completely scrambled, at least insofar as the appear before the contemplation of a writer with a taste for the extraordinary, a writer keen to praise himself in his affinity with the extraordinary. (Ah, now maybe this is why K needs JdS: the ordinariness, the philistinism of faith cannot speak for itself; and so it needs an extraordinary, literary spokesman … but then this spokesman must miss something essential in his taste for extraordinary, the heroic, the splendid – “But I do not have faith; this courage I lack… my joy is not he joy of faith.” (34b-c) And so perhaps the polemic of the “absurd” could be ascribed to a necessity of this literary-philosophical standpoint, concerned as it is with “greatness.”)


The opening paradox is acute: faith as a “work.” “Only one who works gets bread.” But this “work” is precisely that of “anxiety” and faith: the work of abandoning the logic of works.

(35f. :)Philosophy is finally the sacrifice of the finite for the eternal: it is resignation. This is profoundly true, I think, of the fundamental spirit of philosophy, only masked somewhat by the transformative, humanistic project of the moderns. (Hegel is here, as always, a synthesizer: humanistic transformation … but finally as an object of … contemplation!) The genius of faith appears in the contrast with this spirit of resignation. In sacrificing Isaac, Abraham does not resign himself to his loss, as is shown by his immediate joy in receiving him: Abraham doesn’t miss a beat: he performs what appears to be the most extraordinary sacrifice, but then lands on his feat, as prosaically as can be, loving his son as fathers love sons – not otherwise, one might say, but more: “he received Isaac more joyfully than the first time.”

This seems to me perhaps K’s central, his finest insight – or let’s just say my favorite. The one who is willing to sacrifice everything is the same one who receives it perfectly “in stride.” The philosopher, the “knight of infinite resignation,” knows how to let go of the finite; he loses the princess “because in the eternal sense he recollects her… he has grasped the deep secret that even in loving another person one ought to be sufficient to oneself.”(44c-d). “The act of resignation does nto require faith, for what I gain in resignation is my eternal consciousness.” (48b) But the knight of faith sacrifices everything and yet somehow renounces nothing. “Temporality, finitude – that is what it is all about.” (49c)

To the bafflement of the poet-philosopher, the man who praises himself by praising what is great, it turns out that the category of greatness collapses: the “contrast to existence [transcendence, otherness, the extraordinary] expresses itself as the most beautiful and secure harmony with it [immanence, the ordinary.]” (50b) Meaning does not show up in the world hierarchically; the truly other is somehow ordinary because it is incommensurable.

For this reason K’s richest example may not be the most dramatic (the princess) but the most apparently prosaic: all praise to the [apparent] philistine who fully expects his wife to have a roast lamb’s head with vegetables waiting for him. But she doesn’t, and “curiously enough, he is just the same.” (40b) This is the man JdS envies – whom he understands to achieve everything “by virtue of the absurd. (40d-e) Elsewhere “the absurd” is presented as faith in something impossible, but here, in this perhaps subtler analysis, the essence of faith seems to be the ability to except the finite as a gift of the infinite - beings as a gift of Being, I’m tempted to say – but, unlike Heidegger, really to accept the gift, with “delight in it as if finitude were the surest thing of all.” Everything common or ordinary: a roast, the sight of a rat scurrying or children playing, even an interesting little capitalist calculation -- all this presents itself “as a new creation by virtue of the absurd.”

What is “absurd” to the “self-possessed” philosophical mind, the mind that has learned to resign the miracle of beings in order to secure its own self-possession, is not so much any particular impossibility or contradiction as the miracle of gratitude for the particular – that God, the Eternal Being, could bless this particular father with this particular son, that this bond could somehow be grounded in Eternity.

For a soul formed in the admiration of “the great and magnanimous” to conceive that “temporality, finitude – that is what it is all about” (49c) – this is indeed “amazing,” if not, perhaps, precisely “absurd.”

Separate thought-strand:

Compare Kierkegaard’s radical severing of reason and revelation with Pascal’s – Protestant and Catholic versions, respectively, of extreme, trans-rational transcendence. Somehow Pascal’s radical transcendence remains colored by the contemplative philosopher as the ultimate figure of greatness, whereas Kierkegaard’s results in the possibility of an infinitely deep “philistinism.” Compare the latter with the inner-worldy asceticism of the Calvinists, according to Max Weber.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Abe 5

I'll do my best briefly to summarize the ongoing discussion of Abraham 5 (forgive me for failing to grasp all the nuances of the various readings, my own included).

1. Creation is emphatically a plural effort in Abraham 5, implicating this account in our ongoing discussions of community.

2. Reckoning shows up as an important word in Abraham's personal interjection into the creation account in verse 13.

a. "Reckoning" also appears in Romans 4, with reference to Abraham in Genesis 15, and thus the word is implicated in questions of grace and works

b. The word "reckoning" appears in Abraham 5 without any explicit reference to grace; however, the idea of the Lord's "appointing" Adam's "reckoning" may introduce divine grace

c. "Reckoning" is used prominently in Abraham 3 with reference to time and the measuring of time; this raises the question of when reckoning occurs, and whether sin and grace are temporal conditions (this also hearkens back to some of our discussions of typology, and the temporal aspects thereof)

d. Authority/obedience are cognate to grace given/grace received, because both interactions disrupt human moral autonomy

e. And yet... and yet... This reading may not yet tidily contain Abraham 5 into a grace paradigm.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fear and Trembling, Part 1

How ridiculous that I naturally feel to approach this with more fear and trembling than the texts we have spent the past few months on! Be that, however, as it may…

Johannes de Silentio: Obviously, this name is of the utmost significance. Since I’d like to dwell particularly on the prelude in my post, it is absolutely vital: how is this name connected up with the “Silent Confidant” of Repetition (which was published the same day as Fear and Trembling)? Whatever broad answers we might provide to this question, I’d like to take this question as a key to the prelude (note: not as a key to sorting out the prelude, but as a key to asking questions about the prelude).

Hence, a few words on the prelude, first in a rather broad register. What Kierkegaard puts together here is, quite simply put, astounding. There is a wealth of thought in these, what?, five pages. (If only Kierkegaard had given us a full book of this!) The prelude obviously lends itself to our first key question: Abraham as the model of fidelity. But if I can, I’d like to take up the prelude (again, in the name of Johannes de Silentio) in terms of our second question: Abraham’s fidelity as a model for the possibility of theology. And I’d like to approach this question with a series of questions that could probably be broken up into two categories: first, questions about the role of silence/speech in Abraham’s doing theology; second, questions about the role of speech/silence in Kierkegaard’s doing theology.

I will take up each… stanza? section?... separately, but first, a word or two about the prelude as a whole. Kierkegaard presents the whole of the prelude (Stemning, proem) as a series of enactments coupled with metaphors. (Jim, to what extent is Kierkegaard doing here what you’ve been talking about at feastupontheword?) This raises a number of questions. Why would de Silentio be singing (in a “still small voice”?)? To what extent are these enactments voiced? What is the significance of the song (proem, remember) being written down, but never sung to us? And what is at play, Rosalynde, in the pairing of a kind of enactment with a metaphor? That is, how does language interrupt the actuality of the enactments? Or are the metaphorical asides also enactments in a sense, though not enactments of the Genesis text? How do two enactments (that are, in the end, not enactments because they are written… though they remain, for all that, songs) play against each other in metaphor? Which is not, Adam, even to mention to what degree we ought to be dropping the name of Lacan here: the enactment of Genesis draws on the father and the son, but the metaphorical asides draw on the mother and the son. And if the father is, for Lacan, precisely language…? And one must ask whether the metaphorical asides are de Silentio’s interjections or simply his reports of the thoughts of the “man” he is talking about, “once upon a time,” etc. To what extent are these enactments theology? And to what extent are the metaphorical asides theology? Is either of these approaches to theology promising? Might either of them be like a uniquely LDS theology in any particular way? How are they different? Jim, how would the philosopher of food read the nursing theme that runs through the metaphorical asides?

I: Language plays a fascinating part in this first enactment, which is almost too horrible to read. Note the silence on the journey, but then the abundant speech, all aimed at deception. How does language, in its excessive abundance, function as a call here? And to what degree, Jeff, does Abraham in this enactment dislocate the ethical dilemma from the murder to his own voiced duplicity? That is, to what degree does Abraham’s deceptive language turn this experience into the experience on the way into Egypt? Why does Abraham speak to himself with a voice, rather than simply thinking? And what is the significance of Isaac’s shouted prayer? To what extent is it a response? To what extent is Abraham’s false front a call? Might this be connected up with Nietzsche’s “On Truth and Lie in a Non-Moral Sense”? (Might the whole prelude be connected up with the same piece?)

II: Now comes an enactment of the same scene but in perfect silence. Does the silence issue the same call to Isaac that the comforting pleas and deafening threats of Abraham did in part I? But then, to what extent and why does the silence destroy Abraham? That Abraham becomes old is interesting: does he begin to live-towards-his-death? That is, does his silence function as the silent call thematized in Being and Time? Or is the lack of speaking on Abraham’s part a kind of repression? How might this be taken in terms of Genesis 18, where Abraham is willing to give voice to his complaints? If both parts I and II result in Isaac’s thriving, might Genesis 18 be a kind of way between them?

III: This description is almost antiseptic except for the mention of Hagar and Ishmael. Why them in this retelling? And why is Ishmael nameless here (I suppose I’m thinking of the nameless Silent Confidant of Repetition)? Could “Often he rode his lonely way, but he found no rest” have reference to Hebrews 11, and the city to which Abraham always looked? Does this imply faith, then? It is certainly significant that Abraham voices himself in prayer, but it sounds as if he does so only alone and on mountains, without but looking for a city. Has the experience, then, Ralph, deprived him of the political? Why is he, that is, always on the mountain (Moriah—the site of Jerusalem, traditionally, of all places) thinking about Isaac, and not with Isaac in the polis? Why is this the only enactment in which we hear nothing about how Isaac does after the event, or even during the event?

IV: This last enactment perhaps startles me the most of all, because here is the only account in which Isaac’s faith fails. It forces me to wonder whether Kierkegaard was thinking about Isaac’s relatively small part in Genesis subsequent to the Moriah event (why does the proliferation of Abraham’s seed wait until Jacob?). And language again plays a fascinating role. Why does Kierkegaard differentiate between the reasons each has for not speaking of what Isaac saw? What does this say about their relative uses of language? And the interplay between sight and sound is interesting. Does Isaac lose his faith, Robert, precisely because he sees a sign, but never hears (nor speaks) a word? And then what is at work in the play between servant and son here? Eleazar is called precisely the “faithful servant,” while Isaac becomes the faithless son.”

“Every time he returned home after wandering to Mount Moriah, he sank down with weariness, he folded his hands and said, ‘No one is so great as Abraham! Who is capable of understanding him?’”

Why does Kierkegaard picture this man, in the end, speaking?