Particularity and ethical attunement: situating Problema III
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Cambridge University Press 2015. Shortly after launching Problema III, Johannes de silentio vows to adopt a more venturesome approach. Were he to continue to ply his present course, he surmises, he very soon would reach a familiar destination and a familiar impasse-namely, the paradox, wherein the single individual is elevated in his particularity above the ethical universal. In that event, Johannes realizes, he would have nothing new to say in response to the titular question of Problema III. Having identified the ethical universal as the disclosed (FT 82/SKS 4, 72), moreover, he now must be prepared to treat any act of secrecy or concealment as an ethical offense. In this light, Problema III appears to be headed for a conclusion similar to those delivered by Problemata I-II, which, he fears, would not advance our understanding of Abraham. Johannes thus resolves to proceed purely aesthetically, which means, inter alia, that he will bypass the ethical universal, focusing instead on particular cases in which star-crossed lovers conceal their true aims and guiding aspirations from those whom they love. His aim in doing so, as we shall see, is to determine if some of these acts of concealment might be understood to serve identifiably ethical ends. In that event, presumably, these cases might qualify as exceptions to the general ethical rule, and the concealments they feature might be judged on that basis to be ethically defensible. The point of this extended digression, moreover, is to build a consensus in favor of treating one or more of Abrahams acts of concealment as an exception to the general rule, such that we would be persuaded to respond in the affirmative to the titular question that stands at the head of Problema III. In that event, Johannes may proceed as planned with his campaign to understand Abraham on the model of the knight of faith.
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