I have this weird tradition, that when ever I head of on a multi-day trip skiing or climbing, and I think I might have a few hours down time, I take the same book in my pack. It’s happily called Sickness Unto Death and every time I read I start to think I missed much of the point the previous time. Anyway, this time I decided I need to put more Kierkegaard in the core theme section of my IB Philosophy course. This year I began to think a bit about the CAS part of the diploma, wondering if there was a way to help it delver the sort of end Kierkegaard would have hoped for. I wondered if we actually give students the opportunity to find a cause for which they would live and die. Obviously that’s a scary big goal, in fact it gets scarier the more you think about it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what if…
Discounted by too many as a ‘religious’ philosopher, Kierkegaard has had a massive influence of the Western Philosophy that followed him. SK’s primary task is convince the reader she exists. Which sound obvious, right? But his concern is with what it means to truly exist, which is far less obvious. For the Dane, it has something to do with our freedom and what we choose to do with it. This freedom is difficult for traditional philosophy to access as it has tended to deal with the realm of deductive argument and reason. For Kierkegaard this, of course, relates to his belief that man is to be defined essentially by her passion, and not, as Kant, Hegel and Aristotle thought, by reason.
Going back to CAS, the implication is clear. CAS needs to be designed with the student’s passions in mind. Kierkegaard told us the truth is more complicated than we thought. That some how the way I act in response to what I believe is hugely significant. That if I don’t act as if I believe, then I must ask myself how true my idea of who I am is.
CAS should be all about this.
We know that students have a more profound CAS ‘journey’ when they undertake activities they care deeply about. It is here that the gap between reason and action in reality, the gap of which Kierkegaard warns us, is smallest and where reflection is most ‘real’. This is true in each of the strands.
The beauty of understanding ‘Service’ in the broadest sense is that it can allow students to discover a genuine passion and do what they can where they are.