Theology and Philosophy
Kierkegaard on Faith, Doubt, and Uncertainty.
Kierkegaard is frequently described as a thinker who has a positive view of doubt, or who even maintains that doubt is an essential or necessary element in faith. In this paper I argue that this is a mistake. Kierkegaard considers doubt as something (like despair) that must be surmounted or overcome; it is not virtuous in itself. I argue that the explanation as to why many get Kierkegaard wrong on this point is that they have confused doubt with uncertainty. Uncertainty is an essential component in faith because uncertainty is part of the human condition, at least with respect to beliefs outside of pure logic and mathematics. Faith and doubt are rival strategies for dealing with uncertainty, and thus they are incompatible. Kierkegaard’s view of faith/belief turns out to be similar in important ways to that of John Henry Newman, and very different from the dominant philosophical view of belief that stems from John Locke.
Dr Stephen Evans is a University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, and Professorial Fellow of the Australian Catholic University.