Postscript study questions

Hans Halvorson

The page numbers here are to the English translation by Howard and Edna Hong, published by Princeton University Press.

  1. (p 300) What do you think that K means by “the language of abstraction”? In what contexts might it be appropriate to speak in the language of abstraction? (See also p 314)

  2. What features of abstract thinking prevent it from capturing the situation of “existing individuals”?

  3. (p 303–304) There seems to be a critique here of two kinds of people: “a thinker” and “an artist”. What features of their lives bother the writer?

  4. (p 305) K says that Hegel is perfectly right in maintaining that there is no either/or in the language of abstraction, and that abstraction removes contradictions. What in the world does he mean by that?

    1. What is it about existence that demands an either/or? (See also p 306 where he says “And if he exists, is he not in the process …”)
  5. (pp 306–307) What role does the future play in this discussion?

  6. (p 308) How does motion relate to existence? Why might K think that motion cannot be described in the language of abstraction?

  7. (p 308) What does it mean to say that “all thinking is eternal”? And why is it supposed to follow from that that existence cannot be captured in thought?

  8. (p 309) What might K say against the claim that “science can explain everything”?

  9. (p 310) What ultimately is the problem with Hegelian philosophy?

  10. (p 310) What role does the past play within Hegelian philosophy?

  11. (p 310) How much can pure thinking help with existing?

  12. (p 312) There seems to be a description here of the “task” of an existing person. Explain what the task is. (Hint: it’s not simply existing, and it’s not simply moving.)

  13. (p 313) There’s a difficult passage here about “pure thinking” versus “abstract thinking”. What in the world is he talking about here? Is there any relation to Kant’s various types of thinking?

  14. (p 314) What does abstraction do vis-a-vis actuality and possibility?

  15. (p 314) Before looking at the text, how would you define the relation between possibility and actuality? Now, at the bottom of page 314, what does K say about the relation between thinking, being, actuality, and abstraction?

  16. (p 314) How does ethics relate to the principle of contradiction?

  17. (p 316) What does K mean by “all knowledge about actuality is possibility” and “genuine knowledge is a translation into possibility” and “with knowledge he is in the medium of possibility”?

  18. (p 316, bottom) How does K turn Descartes’ Cogito argument on its head?

  19. (p 318) What does K think that the aesthetic and the intellectual have in common (with regard to possibility and actuality)? (p 320) How is ethics different from the aesthetic and the intellectual? (p 323–324) How does religion/faith differ from all three others?

  20. (p 318) What in particular is disinterestedness not interested in?

  21. (p 319) How does K think that ignoring ethics hurts poetry and speculative thought?

  22. (p 319) How does K think that being an “observer” is related to living ethically? See also the long paragraph on page 320.

  23. (p 320–321) What changes possibility into actuality? What changes actuality into possibility?

  24. (p 324) These days, one often hears “objective” tied together with “external”, or “outside of one’s self.” What does K say about the relation between actuality, subjectivity, and externality?

  25. (p 325) The paragraph beginning with “When I understand a thinker …” Compare this with the discussion of studying Spinoza found in Crumbs.

  26. (p 326) What is that faith wants to come to terms with? (I use the phrase “come to terms with” because K would object to saying that faith wants to “know” something.) Why is it mistaken to talk about having faith that a certain proposition is true?

  27. (p 326) What does K say about the relation between “thought” (i.e. theoretical thinking) and particular individuals? For reflection: is there something about “thought” that demands it be this way?

  28. (p 328) What mistake does K think Kant made? How does he think this mistake can be fixed?

  29. (p 330) What does K mean by saying that “the abstract does not exist”? What kinds of things does he mean by “the abstract”?

  30. (p 331) How does K contrast the challenge that the Greeks faced versus the challenge that people in his day were facing? (Which challenge do you think we face today?)

  31. (p 332) How are existence, thinking, and being related to each other?

  32. (p 333) What’s the point of the story about the man saying that a letter fell from heaven, but then showing his blotting paper? (In a contemporary analogy, it might be like saying that a letter fell from heaven, and then describing the computer that it was typed on.)

  33. (p 338, bottom) K says some things here that explain his grounds for placing a wedge between “thought” and “actuality”. Explain his reasoning.

    1. Indeed, K here enunciates a theory of action. Explain the outlines of his theory.
  34. (p 399) In what two ways can an existing person reach outside of existence? How do these correspond to the “two ways” that K described earlier in the book?

  35. (p 401) How does K describe the ideal “form of existence”

  36. (p 402) What’s the difficulty with the task of relating oneself absolutely to the absolute telos?

  37. (p 403) Ethical eudaimonism is the view that the best (most pleasant, happiest) life is a life of virtue. What does K have to say about ethical eudaimonism?

  38. (p 404) What is the first true expression of relating onesself to the absolute telos?

  39. (p 405) Explain in your own words what K thinks was wrong with the monastic movement?

  40. (p 408) What might K say to the suggestion that every few weeks a person should take a day to meditate on what’s really important to him or her?

  41. (p 409) In the paragraph beginning with “But if this is the way …”, K says that “a double movement is continually being made.” What is this double movement?

  42. (p 410) In the paragraph at the bottom, K is describing the dynamics of a well-lived life. The person living this way, how does she look in comparison to other people?

  43. (p 414) In the analogy described here, a candidate for the monastery is like what kind of romantic partner?

  44. (p 422–423) Why does K think it’s bad for clergymen and philosophers to try to assure people about eternal life?

  45. (p 423) According to K, what happens to a person when they take the “daring venture”?

  46. (p 423–424) Do you think that K is right that it would be “lunacy to venture everything” on an uncertain prospect?

  47. (p 426–427) In your own words, what “remarkable quality” is eternal happiness supposed to have?

  48. (p 427) How does K describe the content of eternal happiness? (Hint: trick question)

  49. (p 430) What, according to K, are human beings capable of?