Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Uncertainty, Kierkegaard And How I Got This Way

Repeat after me: "I don't know."

I tried to read The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir once but the truth is I didn't get very far. I like to blame it on second rate translation. My reason for reading it was my interest in certainty as a value and how people deal with uncertainty in their belief systems. Not ontology or epistemology, but how the things one does and does not know are dealt with.

I recently realized that this isn't just an interesting idea but a theme in my own life. When I look at changes in my interests and values over the last decade or so a lot of it has to do with issues related to certainty.

In the last ten years I have...

1) Become an anarchist
2) Become interested in the paranormal
3) Moved from evangelicalism to a mainline Protestant Christian church
4) Begun identifying as a feminist
5) Quit caring whether or not anyone thinks I am a "good Christian"
6) Acknowledged that I do not have control over my children's decisions

Compared to The Ethics of Ambiguity I had pretty good luck with Fear And Trembling by Kierkegaard. I really enjoyed Kierkegaard's acknowledgment that Abraham's situation, being commanded by God to slaughter his son, was both horrific and absurd. I think what I liked most of all was the realization that Abraham didn't have any special insight into the situation.

When Abraham is held up in the New Testament as a giant of faith I think we often hear "he trusted God and knew Isaac would be spared." I agree with Kierkegaard; Abraham knew no such thing. He is a giant of faith because he had no fucking idea what was going to happen and was still able to deal.

So, I invite you to repeat after me: "I don't know."

I'm working on blog items about the significance of learning to deal with uncertainty and how it has played itself out in my life. Look for items on faith, the paranormal and feminism in the next week or two.

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