Essay on The Meaning of Faith

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FAITH is a strong word. Its utterance can evoke powerful emotions and spark lively discussions. But when one tries to probe deeper into its subject matter, the need for a clearer definition emerges. The question that drives people's interest sounds ironically simple: What does it mean to have faith? Many philosophers have dealt with the concept of faith. Evidence of this can be found in Kirkegaard's Fear and Trembling and Nietzsche's The Gay Science. These works present the reader with engaging attempts to answer the aforementioned question.

Nietzsche introduces various notions of faith in his book. Only one, however, represents true faith. He asserts that "Few people have faith in themselves. Of these few, some are endowed with it as
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This ultimate disadvantage is reflected in the fact that persons who are in the universal are satisfied with a certain kind of knowledge- a knowledge that merely aims to reduce something strange to something that is familiar (Nietzsche, p.300). Evidently, a basic flaw in universal thinking is that what is familiar is known. Once one is able to realize that the reversed is true, namely, that what is familiar is hardest to know, one might be able to begin thinking faithfully.

Kirkegaard's interpretation of faith seems contradictory to that of Nietzsche at first glance. Upon further analysis, however, one comes to recognize the similarities in their reasoning. Kirkegaard identifies three realms: the realm of the religious, the ethical and the esthetic. The realm of the religious is where true faith can be found. To make the contrast between the realms more apparent, their specific attributes should be outlined. "The ethical as such is the universal"(Kirkegaard, p.54) says Kirkegaard. The universal here can be equated to Nietzsche's universal. The individual, who is in the ethical, is bound by its rules. His or her "ethical task" is to "annul his [or her] singularity in order to become the universal"(Kirkegaard, p.54). Furthermore, the ethical is characterized by the inclination of its members to judge by the result. But if one judges by the result, the result gains control,

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