Statesboro, GA, USA
"Kierkegaard's Absurdity" makes Kierkegaard himself sound silly. His willingness to point out that belief requires a leap into the unknown is not in retrospect such a shocking concept ... I think you may be giving Kierkegaard short shrift.
Bob, you are very right about me giving him "short shrift". Kirkegaard is someone of whom I am sure of only two things 1) He was brilliant, and 2) he hasn't been read near enough by the likes of me. My plans are to become less and less sure of number 2.
Of what I have read of him however (and admittedly what I have read about him through others) has lead me to think there is a strong image of faith and reason as sheer opposites. Wasn't the idea in "Fear and Trembling" that faith (like Abraham's) begins "precisely where thought stops"? Don't worry I don't think this will prevent me from catching the finer nuances of Soren's thinking and insights. But the faith of Abraham can be explained without pitting reason against faith. As Hebrews 11:19 reads "Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. ". It seems the syllogism itself is not in question here, but that which informs it ... more of an epistemological/ relational issue than a logical one.
Even when you read C.S. Lewis talking about his conversion experience, it's clear that Lewis hadn't suddenly gotten that last little logical connection that he'd been missing, all the gaps were closed and now his rationality was convinced of the truth. Lewis is like many in his conversion experience in this way, like Saul to Paul. Perhaps it was an intercession of Grace, if you're in a Calvinist sort of mood; but a shift took place. I hate using the passive voice here and would not had a better words for it. If this is what you care to call Absurd, then I guess I'd have to think of Kierkegaard as an apostle of the Absurd; but I suspect you'd be willing to call it the Grace of God and a genuine Blessing that something would visit somebody with such a force of revelation. Or, in the case of Lewis, with the force of "of course." As in, O Sure, I guess I realize that there is such a thing as gravity now, I wonder why I was putting up such a fuss about the whole thing before? Of Course!
Yes, that's a good way to describe it. But if it is an epiphany, it is one that is much more reasonable than the mindset of "holding out". In my opinion Lewis came not so much to a realization that was above rationality, as an understanding that he was stealthily rebelling against God, and therefore (ultimately) against reason herself. Consider Lewis' own account of his conversion as shared in "Surprised by Joy":
"You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?"
It is his own awareness of personal sin that convinces me that Lewis would call his newer state "reasonable" and his former as "rationalizing". This is consistent with Lewis' own Theistic arguments from reason. Other more-vintage writers have made the same point; Anselem, Augustine and Pascal all said something to the effect of "I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand". Faith in this paradigm is not the opposite of reason, but the foundation for it. Reasoning to the contrary of faith may be thought of as sometimes internally consistent, but ultimately disconnected and arbitrary ... dimly lit globules floating in the void.
One conclusion I hold (that all of these thinkers I think would agree with) is that faith is the opposite of autonomous reason. And that a purely visceral response of faith, like falling in love, can be as reasonable as anything. And though I'm not a Calvinist, I think it is nothing less than the grace of God that would permit (or help) such a thing to occur.
The folks who do things according to reason can be capable of making incredible sacrifices and statements, they can be marvelous people, but they go through life with a sense of necessity, they aren't necessarily lifted by the joy of the whole thing.
Again, those who seemed to defend divine reason the most seemed the more joyful. Wasn't Kirkegaard's life marked by much melancholy, and didn't Lewis (for example) write much more about joy? I know this is anecdotal and perhaps a simplistic way to think about it, but it is interesting to me. The Faith of Soren seems to have been more of a struggle than any faith I've seen excepting my own.
With Sartre, Absurdity is a different thing. It's a statement in the face of meaninglessness. A man makes decisions about his or her life because they create meaning in a world of despair and randomness. I think that this sort of Absurdity is something that probably is more difficult for you because it accepts a world in which man is the sole creator of meaning. And each man is the creator of his own meaning within that world. Myself, I find this quite a useful bit of philosophy as well, and very useful indeed in helping troubled folks make meaningful lives for themselves. It think at its best, it's not quite as natural as Kierkegaard, but I can't tell you how wobbly I feel in making a judgement like that. It may simply be false.
It may ... but a wobbly bridge is better than no bridge. I would say you're better off with Kirkegaard (whose melancholy was silver-lined) than with Sartre's intractable nausea. Sartre's literary gift for expressing his existential crises is not in question. But I would say that you Bob are not at all helping people create their own meaning any more than teaching them to cook would be helping them to create their own food. Purpose is always (by its nature) purposive- being placed, hid for the finding, or what have you ... not random. The nauseous fetter that Sartre would always have to come to is the conclusion that our creations (in a Godless cosmos) must only have the appearance of purpose, being themselves random.