S0ren Kierkegaard's thesis, "Truth is Subjectivity", is presented in Concluding
Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, as the central philosophical
concept of his pseudonymous authorship. Contrary to most readings, it is argued here
that Kierkegaard's subjectivity principle is epistemologically normative, not for
ethical and religious beliefs only, but for a wider, general epistemology as well. The
significance of Kierkegaard's claim that truth is subjectivity is that Kierkegaard is
recasting epistemological issues in theological and ethical terms.
Part One argues that Kierkegaard formulates his subjectivity principle as a
response to the Enlightenment epistemologies, specifically of Kant and Hegel, and
more generally Descartes, that seek to ground epistemology infallibly in the
metaphysical resources of human rationality. Kierkegaard limits the scope of reason
and philosophy in a manner that is reminiscent of the late Wittgenstein, and
understands the activity of philosophy as analogous to grammar. What is glossed over
by Enlightenment epistemology is the human subject's involvement in any act of
belief. Rather than seeing human subjectivity as a hindrance to the pursuit of truth,
Kierkegaard understands subjectivity (for humans) to be the means of attaining truth.
There are two basic types of subjectivity for Kierkegaard. Constitutional
subjectivity refers to human persons as beings who achieve subjectivity, or a first person
perspective on the world. Reflexive subjectivity, on the other hand, refers to
the general subject-forming activities that comprise the process of becoming
subjective, and has as its primary constituent a reflective component. These senses of
subjectivity combine to provide Kierkegaard's subjectivity principle with its
normative and critical capacity.
Part Two outlines how Kierkegaard's two senses of subjectivity function
normatively with respect to beliefs. This section demonstrates that Kierkegaard's
grammar of subjectivity in the end is a grammar of belief also. The conclusion of the
dissertation is that Kierkegaard's subjectivity principle is a meta-epistemological
principle through which Kierkegaard details an ethic of belief that is ultimately
theological in nature.