Skip over navigation

Fear and Trembling

Soren Kierkegaard

Preliminary Expectoration - Part 2

Preliminary Expectoration - Part 1

Preliminary Expectoration - Part 2, page 2

page 1 of 3
Summary

Johannes remarks that he has never met a knight of faith, but that he would not know such a man if he saw one. Outwardly, the knight of faith is just like everyone else: simple, philistine, and bourgeois, perhaps a shopkeeper, showing no sign of infinitude or sorrow. Because he has made the infinite leap of faith and regained the finite, he is able fully to delight in the finite pleasures of this world. Johannes compares the knight of faith to a ballet dancer who can make a leap and land on the ground all the while maintaining a particular posture. Most of us cling to the joys and passions of this world and don't bother even to involve ourselves in the dance. The "knight of infinite resignation," in contrast, makes the leap quite beautifully, but is a little awkward in landing since he has detached himself from the grounded world of sensory pleasure.

Johannes draws out the distinction between the slave of the finite, the knight of infinite resignation, and the knight of faith by means of a story. A man is in love with a princess, but their union is impossible. In such a case, the slave of the finite would scream, being unable to stand such a gulf between himself and his desires.

The knight of infinite resignation would never give up on his love. It is the substance of his life and so he allows it to fill him entirely. When he sees that his love will never be realized, he makes the movement of infinity, which requires passion, not reflection. He does not forget his love, since it would be a contradiction to forget the substance of one's life, and the knight of infinite resignation never contradicts.

Instead, he recollects his love. This recollection is precisely of the pain of denied fulfillment, but through resignation he is reconciled with this pain, with himself, with what Johannes calls the eternal consciousness: he expresses spiritually what is impossible for him in the finite world. She will remain the same to him no matter what she does--if she marries, if he never sees her again--since he keeps her alive to himself in recollection. The knight of infinite resignation is self-sufficient, and needs nothing outside himself in order to sustain him. If his princess keeps him also in recollection the two will remain spiritually true to one another for eternity. Johannes remarks that everyone is capable of recollection, but that it must be done with passion.

The knight of faith behaves similarly to the knight of infinite resignation in infinitely renouncing his love and reconciling himself to the pain. However, the knight of faith goes one step further and says: "Nevertheless I have faith that I will get her--that is, by virtue of the absurd, by virtue of the fact that for God all things are possible." According to the understanding, this is impossible, and the knight of faith is resigned to that fact. But faith is beyond the understanding, and the knight has faith.

Unless resignation is antecedent, faith might be confused with the aesthetic. Infinite resignation takes strength, energy, courage, and spiritual freedom, but anyone can do it. One renounces the finite and temporal, thereby gaining eternal consciousness. The next movement beyond infinite resignation, by which one regains everything by virtue of the absurd, is incomprehensible. While the knight of infinite resignation renounces the finite to gain the infinite, the knight of faith regains the finite as well.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us