This passage from Fear and Trembling was written by Soren Kierkegaard but he is writing under the pseudonym of “Johannes de Silentio.” Kierkegaard’s aim in this passage is to discuss teleological ethics, and if there is higher cause to which we may cancel out our ethical obligations. Kierkegaard uses the biblical story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son Isaac to God as a discussion point for our motivations for ethical actions.
2. In the passage, Kierkegaard discusses ethical actions as being universal, that is, an individual giving up his individuality in order to become one with the universal. An example of this would be becoming a “tragic hero,” which means sacrificing yourself for the good of all people (and ultimately being understood for doing so). The question of whether there is a teleological suspension of the ethical seeks to find out if there may be some higher cause, some higher end goal, which might nullify our ethical obligations. So then, is Abraham a murderer for trying to sacrifice his son since he was willing to suspend his ethical obligation to Isaac? Kierkegaard argues that Abraham went beyond universal ethics to become a “knight of faith,” wherein he made a leap of faith. Abraham suspended his universal ethics in his effort to sacrifice Isaac in faith to God, an action in which no one can understand him or advise him. Abraham acted as a single individual, secluded from universal ethics, putting religious faith above the ethical.
3. Kierkegaard was very interested in discussing our reasoning behind ethical actions in Fear and Trembling. Kierkegaard was fascinated with Abraham’s reasoning for being willing to sacrifice his son, simply because of faith in God.
Abraham breaks away from universal ethics, that is, doing something for the greater good. He acts as an individual, motivated purely by his passion for being faithful to God. Even though we do not understand faith, we are not isolated from it. Faith is a passion, and passion connects all human lives.