Kieerkegaard ‘s three realms, the aesthetic, ethical, and absolute, create a rather simple structure to the lives we all lead. It also comes as no surprise that this structure is inviting and easily applicable to many people from all walks of life. You have one realm, the aesthetic, in which the singularly private sphere exists, then the ethical realm which is increasingly and completely public to all (making our world as understandable as possible for everyone), and an absolute realm in which exists another private sphere, between the individual and God.
It seems to me that Kierkegaard may have purposefully explained them in the order in which he did, but not for the obvious hierarchical reasons (i.e. God prevails over universals which prevail over individuals). For me, Kierkegaard’s system works more like this: you must first completely understand yourself (self-awareness and complete self-confirmation), then you must enter the universal ethical realm, in which you may begin to make more sense of yourself in relation to others and the world with which you interact, and then and only then can you understand the religious realm of the absolute. Now, as we have learned, the aesthetic and absolute realms are exceptions to the universal realm, in that the universal realm does not dictate or define any actions in these realms.
The heart of my concern lies with the aesthetic realm and the absolute realm, while the issue that initiates my concern is the ethical realm. In Abraham’s world, it would seem that he was in a place, as we have said in class, where a suspension of the ethical realm seems possible (perhaps Abraham had been through all that needed to be done within the aesthetic realm—he may have truly known himself outside of the universal).
Today, it seems like we (not to generalize, but to generalize anyway) seem to practice religion within the ethical realm and have no comprehension of a realm outside of it: no awareness of an absolute realm. We learn little of ourselves aesthetically, but much of ourselves ethically. Being universally defined by a universal realm is more prevalent and a loss of true self-identity is not preserved. Without this progression through the realms that Kierkegaard gives us, no true connection in the absolute realm can be made. As he says, true faith is practiced privately as something you do, not something you have. As we continue to publicize faith and religion more and more, we lose insight into ourselves in order to progress through the universal and into the absolute. Perhaps the key to religion lies within first knowing ourselves privately, then universally with others, and then and only then can we truly have faith in a realm outside of the ethical.
In a nutshell: one cannot practice faith in the ethical realm and still be legit.