Volume 56, Issue 3, September 2016
Stephen R. Munzer
Kierkegaard on Purity of Heart
Kierkegaard holds that purity of heart is to will one thing. But his treatment of despair, double-mindedness, and self-deception runs into difficulties over whether one can choose beliefs about oneself, which theories of the will (if any) could establish its unity, and whether the individual who fails to become pure of heart is blameworthy. Pace Kierkegaard, willing the good does not make immutable the person who so wills, and purity of heart should not be entirely will-based. This essay articulates a broad understanding of purity of heart whose value and importance in moral and religious life are much clearer. This understanding recasts willing in terms of certain higher-order desires, identifies ambivalence as a different phenomenon from double-mindedness, brings in motives and beliefs, emphasizes trusting radically in God, and explicates purity of heart as a moral and religious ideal.