Volume 9, 2006
Living at and beyond the Grenzenpunkte
A Comparison of Nietzsche's Artistic Socrates and Kierkegaard's Knight of Faith
This paper compares and contrasts Nietzsche's conceptualization of the "artistic Socrates" with Kierkegaard's vision of the "knight of faith". The paper argues that Nietzsche and Kierkegaard attempted to transcend the rational-ethical sphere of human action in favor of a more spontaneous, yet deeper understanding of the universe. Nietzsche believes that the thread of causality and the principle of sufficient reason, embodied as they are in the personality of Socrates, are not capable of explaining our existence in its entirety. Hence he suggests the tragic insight and the subsequent artistic worldview as a remedy. Nietzsche's vision is encapsulated in his eulogy of madness and humor as manifestations of an artistic worldview with the tragic insight. The paper argues that Kierkegaard deals with the same problem that Nietzsche faces in that he also wants to incorporate the recognition of the world beyond rational comprehension into our understanding of the Universe. Hence, both philosophers are attempting to comprehend what is beyond human comprehension. The paper claims that Kierkegaard is more successful in this endeavour because he introduces the virtue of the absurd as an organizing principle of the irrational space (space beyond the Grenzenpunkte). With a movement of infinite resignation the knight of faith renounces the world and moves beyond the Grenzenpunkte, but then with a movement of faith he embraces back the world he renounced. The theme that captures the condition of the knight of faith is anxiety and fear, rather than madness and humor as it was with Nietzsche. The paper concludes by emphasizing Kierkegaard's vision for offering a more comprehensive understanding of the Universe and of the human agency and action operating within it.