Kierkegaard describes three spheres of life: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious.
The aesthetic sphere has to do with the fulfillment of the desires of the body in the material world. An example of someone who lived their lives entirely in an aesthetic way would be Barabbas, the criminal who was released from prison instead of Christ in the Bible. The ethical sphere contains virtue and moral standards. Within this sphere, an individual forgoes his own desires and needs to serve the greater good of other people. An example of this is Tyrael, a character in the video game Diablo who forsakes his identity as an immortal angel and turns into a mortal man to help humanity fight the monster known as Diablo. The religious sphere is similar to that of the ethical sphere in that a person whose life is within the religious sphere resigns something of his, except not for other people or for a greater good but for God. An example of this is Jesus Christ of the Bible. According to the will of God the Father, Christ sacrifices his own body and life for the atonement of humanity’s sins against God.
Kierkegaard discusses two kinds of people within the religious sphere. They are the knight of infinite resignation and the knight of faith. These two are similar in that they both sacrifice something of their own for God. The difference lies in what each puts their hope in. The knight of infinite resignation gives his desires up for God and has no hope for its manifestation in this world. Instead, the knight may hope for its coming in the life to come. The knight of faith differs in that he believes that whatever he gave up for God will still somehow be realized in his lifetime on Earth. So the knight of infinite resignation loses hope in this life and merely waits for the next life, where his hopes can be realized. It is not so for the knight of faith. He maintains his hope and joy in the life that he lives on Earth for he believes that whatever he has forsaken will return to him in this life. Now, this is not to say that the knight of faith has not completely resigned whatever it is that is important to him. He has indeed fully let go of whatever that may be. However, he still irrationally believes that whatever he has given up will be returned to him in some way.
Kierkegaard’s views are, to say the least, interesting. The ethical has always been contrasted with the aesthetical. In many traditional views, the religious sphere is a subcategory of the ethical. However, religion often requires people to do seemingly unethical things. Kierkegaard attempts to explain this by saying that a religious cause can call for a “suspension of the ethical”. I personally relate to all three of these spheres. I am probably and most realistically an aesthete. I pursue the fulfillment of my own desires and needs and often find myself seeking for instant gratification for every impulsive bodily desire. I am pursuing my worldly success even now, as I write this essay to try and excel in academics. At times, I can be accused of being a sensualist. I find that I am unable to exercise temperance in many instances of my life. I relate to the ethical as far as my empathy for those who are treated unfairly. Although I find it difficult to believe that there is a universal moral standard, I am often angered by events in the world that I consider unfair or unjust. I am not a religious person. I do not put my faith in a God or a Holy Book. With that being said, it is impossible for me to directly relate to the religious sphere. However, I believe that I have had similar experiences that Kierkegaard’s knight of faith might have had. The highest value that I hold in my life is music. To many musicians, a successful career in music is the ultimate goal. Due to many obstacles in my life, I have resigned the desire to obtain a successful music career. However, this does not deter me from happily pursuing my art. This is because of an irrational belief of mine that I will in some way still have a career in music. This is comparable to the knight of faith’s joyful resignation of what he desires.