Volume 90, Issue 4, October 2013
Kierkegaard on Rationality
Faith as a Passion and Virtue
The Christian tradition affirms that faith is a virtue. Faith is a multifaceted reality, though, encompassing such diverse aspects as belief, trust, obedience, and more. Given this complexity, it is no surprise that various thinkers emphasize different aspects of faith in accounting for faith’s status as a virtue. In this paper I join Søren Kierkegaard in arguing that faith is (in part) a passion, and that faith is a virtue (in part) because it disposes the person of faith to proper emotional responses. The paper has three sections. First, I lay the groundwork for understanding faith as a passion by explaining the relationship between passions and emotions. Drawing on the works of Kierkegaard, Merold Westphal, and Robert C. Roberts, I distinguish two senses of passion, and show how these senses are related to each other and to faith. The second section uses the account of faith developed in Concluding Unscientific Postscript to develop the idea that passional faith is a deep, identity-forming attachment to God. Finally, I explicate the idea that passional faith, so understood, functions as an emotion disposition. I do so by expounding part one of Kierkegaard’s Christian Discourses, which explores some of the ways in which faith disposes one away from certain emotions (what Kierkegaard calls “the cares of the pagans”) and toward other emotions.