This whole book is way over my head. It takes me like an hour to completely understand any of this.
Is there a book I should read to prepare for this?
What can I do to truly understand and contemplate what Kierkegaard is saying?
My suggestion is to focus on the Knight of Faith, because I think that's the easiest thing that understand that also gives a good window into the book as a whole. What's your take on the Knight of Faith? We can go from there.
Also you're about to get >>>/his/ed so brace yourself.
Dont disregard reading guides, theyre almost necessary for F&T.
You also have to be very familiar with the Binding of Isaac in the book of Genesis. This book is an interpretation of it, with Kierk asking us to imagine possible scenarios and attitudes Abraham could have in sacrificing his own son, and his attitude toward listening to the word of God.
>Got this having NO idea what it was
>Kierkegaard is always mentioned, the picture is really good to.
I understand a bit of it but gave up since a lot went over my head and I've got a backlog way too big and sorted to add all the reading I'd need to do to understand F&T properly.
Yes that's generally correct. And the reason his actions make no difference is because of his ultimate belief in a "good" outcome through faith in God. A Knight of Faith, to generalize and simplify, is essentially an individual who both understands the need to take a leap of faith, and more crucially, actually makes it - Kierkegaard stresses that a Knight of Faith is defined by his action.
IIRC in Fear and Trembling, the specific example was Abraham and also the Virgin Mary. Abraham defined his faith by raising his knife to kill Isaac, and reconciles what appears to be a paradox - Isaac will both be killed, but will also be saved. And the distinction here between the Knight of Faith and the Knight of Infinite Resignation is that while both believe in the ultimate goodness/purpose/design/will/whatever of God, the Knight of Faith takes it a step further by believing it will come to fruition within the mortal life, and that he will be able to witness/experience it. In contrast, the Knight of Infinite Resignation could raise the knife to kill Isaac with the expectation of a reward in the afterlife, but not in this life.
And this is the concept that permeates Fear and Trembling - the leap of faith that is undertook is what Kierkegaard calls the teleological suspension of the ethical; that is, the individual's ethical beliefs must be suspended by an external doctrine, in this case God.
The latter. If he believed God acts through him, it would mean there is an expectation of logic and rationality, but the key tenet of the leap of faith is the acceptance of the absurd and the irrational.
So, the book seems to not be from Kierkegaard's point of view, but of that of this Johannes de silentio. It's also called a "dialectical lyric", so try to pay attention to 1) whatever might clue you into what this Johannes character's position is (it might not be Kierkegaard's; try to make sense of how silence might play into this figure's interests), and 2) what kind of work this is (it's not a polemic, or a homily, or a treatise--are there any clues in the book to indicate what a dialectical lyric is? Re: the dialectical part of that, it does become clear by the Problemata that this Johannes character is something like a critical student of Hegelian dialectic).
Some rough hints:
In the attunements, all of the passages that follow the retellings of the Abraham story relate to the particular retelling they follow. Pay attention to silence in this section.
A few passages from the Preamble to the Problemata that might help make sense of who Johannes is (pages referred to are in the edition shown in OP):
"For my own part I don't lack the courage to think a thought whole." (p.60)
"I am convinced that God is love; this thought has for me a pristine lyrical validity. When it is present to me I am unspeakably happy, when it is absent I yearn for it more intensely than the lover for the beloved; but I don not have faith; this courage I lack." (p.63)
"But I wonder whether all my contemporaries really are capable of making the movement of faith?" (p.64)
"I for my part can indeed describe the movements of faith, but I cannot perform them." (p.67)
"In my own experience I frankly admit to having found no reliable examples, though I would not deny on that ground that possibly every other person is one. Still, I have tried now in vain for several years to track one down." (p.67)
(For my own part, I suspect that we're to notice that J.'s understanding of the knight of faith might be insufficient, having no experience of faith himself, and seeming to be suspicious of whether his peers could ever be one; given his description of the KoF, one wonders how we'd ever recognize one without faith. There's also this tendency of J. to focus in on the ethical over the religious.)
I read a lot of Kierkegaard's work back-to-back and it got significantly easier with each work. The ideas come together after a few books. Probably helped I watched a lot of youtube vidyas about his philosophy. The Sickness Unto Death is very closely related to Fear and Trembling, you should pick that up and listen to Hubert Dreyfus' 4 part lecture on it. I think with just these two you can clear up a lot of misunderstand about Kierkegaard's main ideas. Then Repetition after The Sickness Unto Death to put despair into an even better context. F&T is probably his densest work and contains the most of his ideas in one book.
For a quick summary of Kierkegaard this absolutely worth watching, this is the only summary on youtube that is worthy of watching. It actually lays out a lot of concepts in F&T very sleek-like. Careful taking other people's word on Kierkegaard, though.
These are probably better than Dreyfus but are a lot more winded. Still, Sadler was a big help, and nice to listen to. He has a good grasp on Kierkegaard.
I think Either/Or is his greatest work, but I don't think it would clear anything up concerning F&T besides placing a bit more context on the spheres of existence. It's also a let less to the point than Kierkegaard's shorter works like F&T, The Sickness Unto Death, and Repetition.