Soren Kierkegaard's Leap of Faith

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  • 0:01 Belief
  • 1:19 Faith
  • 2:20 Stage I & II
  • 3:15 Stage III
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will focus on the philosophies of Soren Kierkegaard and his concept of a leap of faith. It will also highlight his three stages of human development, the famous work found in 'Philosophical Fragments.'


Which of these sentences sounds better?

  1. I believe my car will start in the morning.
  2. I have faith my car will start in the morning.

If you said 1, you have a leg up on today's lesson concerning Soren Kierkegaard and his leap of faith. If you said 2, I'll explain why this same fellow would tell you you're wrong.

For starters, Soren Kierkegaard is a 19th-century philosopher who argued the merits of faith in God. In fact, he asserted life is only worth living if you have total faith in God.

Now, notice I am saying faith in God and not belief in God. This is very much on purpose. According to Kierkegaard, belief is reserved for things that can be supported or proved with evidence.

Using this reasoning, I believe my car will start because it has started every day for the past several years. There's evidence to prove a turn of my key will reward me with a humming engine. For this reason, Kierkegaard would say yes to the sentence, 'I believe my car will start.' However, since he believed God's existence can't really be proven, he'd say no to the sentence, 'I believe in God.'


Moving away from belief, Kierkegaard argued faith is reserved for things that lack evidence. Since he also agreed God is beyond logic, proof, or reason, he had no problems admitting it takes a leap of faith to believe in God. After all, lack of logic, proof, and reason are the very things necessary for faith to be faith!

In order to reach this type of faith, which Kierkegaard deemed nigh unto impossible, he argued that one must be constantly busied with self-evaluation and analysis. Rather than just sitting around saying 'I have faith,' one must take a good long look at themselves.

Expounding on his views of self-analysis and faith, Kierkegaard gave the world his Philosophical Fragments. These are writings in which he explains the three stages of human existence. For the remainder of our time, we'll explore these stages.

Stage I & II

Kierkegaard's first stage is the stage of the aesthetic. According to Kierkegaard, a person in this stage seeks pleasure above all else. To Kierkegaard, this is the most immature stage. Yes, it might help fight boredom, but in the end, it will prove empty and meaningless. In order to really grow, a person must move on.

Kierkegaard's second stage is the ethical one. In this stage, a person lives life based on rules. Rather than pursuing bliss, he pursues the greater good. Rather than chasing blindly after pleasure, he considers how his actions affect others. Although an ethical person obeys rules, his obedience doesn't always come from the heart. For this, one must pass into Kierkegaard's third stage, the religious life.

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