by Steve W. Lemke
A paper presented at the Eastern regional meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers
at Salem College

        Søren Kierkegaard is often depicted as the paradigmatic subjective thinker. Survey ethics and philosophy textbooks (and some sermons) frequently use Kierkegaard as a convenient model of unqualified subjectivism. This designation is, of course, not without warrant. Kierkegaard consciously sought to counterbalance the objectivism of Hegelian idealism with subjective thinking. His definition of truth was that "An objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation-process of the most passionate inwardness is the truth, the highest truth attainable for an existing individual" (CUP, 182). He could dare to say, "Subjectivity is the truth" (CUP, 187). (1)

        Kierkegaard's unequivocal emphasis on subjectivity has led some Kierkegaardian scholars, championed by Louis Mackey, to portray Kierkegaard as an antirationalist or irrationalist. Mackey described Kierkegaard's work as "a piece of rhetorical exhortation masquerading as discursive presentation" and as "anti-philosophy." In Mackey's view, Kierkegaard did not merely believe that subjectivity was one important form of truth, or even the ultimate form of truth, but that "subjectivity is alone the truth there is." (2)

        Mackey depicted Kierkegaard as a comical, enigmatic poet. He summed up the Dane's "entire life (as) a retelling--to his journals, to himself, to God, and to posterity--of a grief inexpressibly out of proportion to the events that occasioned it." (3)>  Mackey took Kierkegaard (as distinguished from the views of the pseudonyms) "at his word when he says he has no opinion and proposes no doctrine." (4) Mackey did not regard Kierkegaard's pseudonymous works as "mouthpieces through which Kierkegaard hopes to get a hearing for his views, but fictive personalities whose lives are poetically observed and reported." (5) In fact, "the truth is that Kierkegaard the poet of inwardness did not 'really mean' anything." (6)

        Louis Pojman has led an effort by other Kierkegaardian scholars (7) to point out an objectivist and rationalist pole in Kierkegaard's epistemology. While freely admitting that Kierkegaard's major emphasis was the need for subjective thinking with regard to the Christian faith, Pojman has contended that Kierkegaard attempted to demonstrate that Christianity was "eminently reasonable":

        Kierkegaard is a philosopher, a thinker who uses arguments, develops concepts, and employs "thought
        projects" to establish conclusions. He is a rationalist, who makes use of reason even if it is to show
        reason's limits . . . . He has a message to communicate which is founded in a belief in objective truth. (8)

        Whereas Mackey was inclined to discount Kierkegaard as an irrational poet who had no opinion or doctrine, Pojman finds Kierkegaard's work to be "filled with doctrines." (9)  And whereas Mackey accepted at face value Kierkegaard's self-designation as a humorist and the Dane's disavowals of his pseudonymous works, Pojman took more seriously Kierkegaard's la