Aesthetics and Religion: Kierkegaard and the Offence of Indirect Communication

  • Brayton Polka


The question which I want to address in this paper is not so much the relationship between the aesthetic and the religious in Kierkegaard, although that is critical for our purposes. Rather, I want to ask how Kierkegaard can help us understand, and articulate, the relationship between the aesthetic and the religious. As a reader of Kierkegaard, I want Kierkegaard to contribute to my reading — of Kierkegaard, of myself, of Christianity, of what it means to be a Christian, of existence, of existence-communication, of human existence. Kierkegaard contributes enormously to our understanding of the relationship between aesthetics and religion precisely because he makes that relationship central to what he understands by existence as communication and by communication as existence, by both existence as indirectly communicated through Christianity, and Christianity as the indirect communication of existence.


Single Individual Direct Communication Human Existence Middle Term Human Equality 
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  1. 2.
    I also make this issue central to my piece ‘The Like-for-Like of Interpretation’, forthcoming in the Toronto Journal of Theology. In the present paper I follow Kierkegaard in using the term ‘Christianity’, although today we can no longer leap over the problem of the Bible, the problem of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, as Kierkegaard does. This problem is central to my books The Dialectic of Biblical Critique (New York and London: Macmillan, 1986) and Truth and Interpretation (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1990). The real question for us today is the place of the Bible, which is the way, the truth and the life for only a minority of the world’s peoples, within Christendom, which is worldwide.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    This is not the place for a critical discussion of Derrida, deconstruction and postmodernism. For an intelligent presentation of deconstruction see Barbara Johnson, A World of Difference ference (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    It is important to note that, in stating that it is his intentionin The Theologico-Political Treatise to separate philosophy from theology, what Spinoza demonstrates is the undecidability of whether thinking is philosophical or theological. That is, in separating philosophy from theology such that each is (indirectly but decisively) sovereign (true), i.e. such that neither philosophy nor theology is subordinate to or dependent (finitely) on the other, it is eternally undecidable whether the act of thinking (separation [difference]) on Spinoza’s part is philosophical or theological; and it is this undecidability which characterises the profound decisiveness, the sovereign freedom, of thinking. See Brayton Polka, ‘Spinoza and the Separation between Philosophy and Theology’, in Journal of Religious Studies, 16, nos 1–2 (1990) 91–119.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brayton Polka

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