Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Daniel Smith

Committee Chair

Daniel Smith

Committee Member 1

William McBride

Committee Member 2

Jacqueline Marina

Committee Member 3

Christopher Yeomans


The following dissertation defends the view that one can have knowledge of God outside of what might be called the realm of objectivity, or objective thought, within which all traditional proofs of God lie. In other words, it will be argued that even if it is conceded that a conclusive proof of God is not possible, one can, nevertheless, be justified in one's belief in God without recourse to the traditional vein of logical-objective proofs. To do so, I call upon the works of Soren Kierkegaard and Gabriel Marcel, both of whom reject the view that there are any conclusive objective proofs of God, yet, affirm the existence of God. This alternative path that they seem to uncover - towards an assurance of God - is what I seek to explore: I characterize this path as an existential proof of God.

In the first chapter, I shall investigate the possible incommensurability of their existential approaches, as suggested by Thomas Anderson, and end with a resolution of this tension by a reflection upon concrete experience. The second chapter will explore the notion of existential truth in such a way as to absolve both Kierkegaard and Marcel from the labels of irrationalism and subjectivism as they are sometimes imagined to be. It will be also shown how Marcel's more phenomenologically robust approach provides a more philosophically friendly method (in that it makes explicit some of the reasons for his method whereas Kierkegaard does not), which also allows for some clarification of Kierkegaard's own philosophy. The third chapter provides a final reflection on the notion of an existential proof of God and its legitimacy, which can be found in the works of religious existentialists such as Kierkegaard and Marcel.

The conclusion of this dissertation is that Kierkegaard and Marcel have opened a space for the possibility of a kind of religious knowledge hitherto ignored, or rather, given scant attention in the literature. Furthermore, I have defended the view that this kind of religious knowledge amounts to what can be called an existential proof of God. In the end, this existential proof, admittedly, has the paradoxical nature of not being a conclusive proof of God (nor intending to be), but nevertheless justifying the individual's belief in God in and through his/her own concrete life experiences and existential encounters.

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Philosophy Commons