“Teleological Suspension of the Ethical”
Abraham is a man of faith. He is a crucial and central figure in three of the major religions, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. From Abraham arises the issue of whether or not it is possible to have a “teleological suspension of the ethical.” In the biblical story, Abraham is required by God to sacrifice his son (Issac) as a sign of his faith to God. This is where the conflict resides, as in what is universally good (not killing your own child) is abandoned by the religion or rather the God that provides it with meaning and purpose in the first place.
In this situation, God requires a sign from Abraham that he is faithful to him. That is God's purpose in asking this of Abraham. The ethical, which is far from being removed from Kierkegaard's equation, is just ‘suspended’ so that the purpose of God can be achieved.
However, there are a number of problems with this. The first I feel, is a distinction Kierkegaard makes between the `religious' and `morality'. The goodness of God can be questioned if a teleological suspension of what is morally good is needed in order to follow God’s will. Furthermore, if God's purpose involves the suspension of the universal good,
In conclusion, to suggest that there is any kind of suspension of the ethical, as Kierkegaard describes the ethical, is to disregard the religious and its role in leading a good life. Here we find the universal law at work which keeps men and women in check, aligning them with guides to help them live more obediently and faithfully. Kierkegaard has stated that there are three stages to life: Aesthetic, Ethical and Religious. God causes the "leap" of the Ethical man to the Religious Man. If God is holy and good, and all that is good and holy in the world comes from him, no matter what stage, then how is it possible that God himself could break a command which would violate his own nature In the example of Abraham and Isaac, the suspension of the ethical for the purpose of the religious did not bring this conflict over goodness, as God stopped Abraham before he ended his child's life. Abraham is an excellent example of this religious man. After the Aesthetical, man enters into what Kierkegaard states as "dread and despair," the ethical. It is impossible for God to override himself, but yet that is apparently what has happened. This lends itself to the conflict of which is the "highest or greatest good"tm. In this sense, there was no suspension of the ethical. Kierkegaard describes the ethical as an alignment with the universal good, but how can this be if that good can be suspended on account of a higher good' Here it seems that Kierkegaard suggests that there are two levels of good, and when considering the religious' it is occasionally necessary to act in accordance with the higher good and disregard the good by which those living by the ethical' live their lives. God has contradicted himself in order for his purposes to be fulfilled. However in the suspension of the ethical, God contradicts himself. God"tms problem which is placed upon Abraham, is the question of; "Is there a higher "law"tm above that which the ethical stage may procure" Yet how is it possible for the ethical stage to differ in respect to laws and commands with the religious stage It is unrealistic to say that just because a law states "do not kill" as an ethical guideline, that by becoming religious you get a license to kill.