SøREN AABYE KIERKEGAARD (/ˈsɔːrən ˈkɪərkᵻɡɑːrd/ or
/-ɡɔːr/ ; Danish: ( listen ); 5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855)
was a Danish philosopher , theologian, poet, social critic and
religious author who is widely considered to be the first
existentialist philosopher. He wrote critical texts on organized
Christendom , morality , ethics , psychology , and the
philosophy of religion , displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and
parables . Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how
one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human
reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of
personal choice and commitment. He was against literary critics who
defined idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, and
thought that Swedenborg ,
Kierkegaard's theological work focuses on
Christian ethics , the
institution of the Church , the differences between purely objective
Kierkegaard's early work was written under various pseudonyms that he
used to present distinctive viewpoints and to interact with each other
in complex dialogue. He explored particularly complex problems from
different viewpoints, each under a different pseudonym. He wrote many
Upbuilding Discourses under his own name and dedicated them to the
"single individual" who might want to discover the meaning of his
works. Notably, he wrote: "Science and scholarship want to teach that
becoming objective is the way.
Some of Kierkegaard's key ideas include the concept of "
* 1 Early years (1813–1836)
* 1.1 Journals * 1.2 Regine Olsen and graduation (1837–1841)
* 2 Authorship (1843–1846)
* 2.1 Hidden inwardness * 2.2 Pseudonyms * 2.3 The Corsair Affair
* 3 Authorship (1847–1855)
* 3.1 Attack upon the
* 4 Reception
* 4.1 19th century reception
* 4.2 Early 20th century reception
* 4.2.1 German and English translators of Kierkegaard\'s works * 4.2.2 Kierkegaard’s influence on Karl Barth’s early theology
* 4.3 Later 20th century reception
* 5 Philosophy and theology
* 5.1 Philosophical criticism
* 6 Influence * 7 Selected bibliography * 8 Notes
* 9 References
* 9.1 Citations * 9.2 Sources * 9.3 Web
* 10 External links
EARLY YEARS (1813–1836)
Kierkegaard was born to an affluent family in
Based on a speculative interpretation of anecdotes in Kierkegaard's
unpublished journals, especially a rough draft of a story called "The
Great Earthquake", some early Kierkegaard scholars argued that
Michael believed he had earned God's wrath and that none of his
children would outlive him. He is said to have believed that his
personal sins, perhaps indiscretions such as cursing the name of God
in his youth or impregnating Ane out of wedlock, necessitated this
punishment. Though five of his seven children died before he did, both
Kierkegaard and his brother Peter Christian Kierkegaard outlived him.
Peter, who was seven years Kierkegaard's elder, later became bishop in
Kierkegaard came to hope that no one would retain their sins even
though they have been forgiven. And by the same token that no one who
truly believed in the forgiveness of sin would live their own life as
an objection against the existence of forgiveness. He made the point
that Cato committed suicide before Caesar had a chance to forgive him.
This fear of not finding forgiveness is devastating. Edna H. Hong
quoted Kierkegaard in her 1984 book,
From 1821 to 1830 Kierkegaard attended the School of Civic Virtue,
Østre Borgerdyd Gymnasium, when the school was situated in
Klarebodeme, where he studied Latin and history among other subjects.
He went on to study theology at the University of
One of the first physical descriptions of Kierkegaard comes from an attendee, Hans Brøchner, at his brother Peter's wedding party in 1836: "I found almost comical. He was then twenty-three years old; he had something quite irregular in his entire form and had a strange coiffure. His hair rose almost six inches above his forehead into a tousled crest that gave him a strange, bewildered look." Another comes from Kierkegaard's niece, Henriette Lund (1829–1909). When Søren Kierkegaard was a little boy he "was of slender and delicate appearance, and ran about in a little coat of red-cabbage color. He used to be called ‘fork’ by his father, because of his tendency, developed quite early, toward satirical remarks. Although a serious, almost austere tone pervaded the Kierkegaard’s house, I have the firm impression that there was a place for youthful vivacity too, even though of a more sedate and home-made kind than one is used to nowadays. The house was open for an 'old-fashioned hospitality'" (1876).
Kierkegaard's mother "was a nice little woman with an even and happy disposition," according to a grandchild's description. She was never mentioned in Kierkegaard's works. Ane died on 31 July 1834, age 66, possibly from typhus . His father died on 8 August 1838, age 82. On 11 August, Kierkegaard wrote: "My father died on Wednesday (the 8th) at 2:00 a.m. I so deeply desired that he might have lived a few years more... Right now I feel there is only one person (E. Boesen) with whom I can really talk about him. He was a 'faithful friend.'" Troels Frederik Lund , his nephew, was instrumental in providing biographers with much information regarding Søren Kierkegaard. Lund was a good friend of Georg Brandes and Julius Lange.
The cover of the first English edition of The Journals, edited by Alexander Dru in 1938
According to Samuel Hugo Bergmann , "Kierkegaard's journals are one of the most important sources for an understanding of his philosophy." Kierkegaard wrote over 7,000 pages in his journals on events, musings, thoughts about his works and everyday remarks. The entire collection of Danish journals (Journalen) was edited and published in 13 volumes consisting of 25 separate bindings including indices. The first English edition of the journals was edited by Alexander Dru in 1938. The style is "literary and poetic manner."
Kierkegaard wanted to have Regine, his fiancée (see below), as his
confidant but considered it an impossibility for that to happen so he
left it to "my reader, that single individual" to become his
confidant. His question was whether or not one can have a spiritual
confidant. He wrote the following in his Concluding Postscript: "With
regard to the essential truth, a direct relation between spirit and
spirit is unthinkable. If such a relation is assumed, it actually
means that the party has ceased to be spirit." Goethe had said the
same thing earlier in his book Faust , "Faust: Thou, who around the
wide world wendest, Thou busy Spirit, how near I feel to thee! Spirit:
Thou'rt like the
Kierkegaard's journals were the source of many aphorisms credited to the philosopher. The following passage, from 1 August 1835, is perhaps his most oft-quoted aphorism and a key quote for existentialist studies:
"What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die."
He wrote this way about indirect communication in the same journal entry.
One must first learn to know himself before knowing anything else (γνῶθι σεαυτόν ). Not until a man has inwardly understood himself and then sees the course he is to take does his life gain peace and meaning; only then is he free of that irksome, sinister traveling companion — that irony of life, which manifests itself in the sphere of knowledge and invites true knowing to begin with a not-knowing (Socrates) just as God created the world from nothing. But in the waters of morality it is especially at home to those who still have not entered the tradewinds of virtue. Here it tumbles a person about in a horrible way, for a time lets him feel happy and content in his resolve to go ahead along the right path, then hurls him into the abyss of despair. Often it lulls a man to sleep with the thought, "After all, things cannot be otherwise," only to awaken him suddenly to a rigorous interrogation. Frequently it seems to let a veil of forgetfulness fall over the past, only to make every single trifle appear in a strong light again. When he struggles along the right path, rejoicing in having overcome temptation's power, there may come at almost the same time, right on the heels of perfect victory, an apparently insignificant external circumstance which pushes him down, like Sisyphus, from the height of the crag. Often when a person has concentrated on something, a minor external circumstance arises which destroys everything. (As in the case of a man who, weary of life, is about to throw himself into the Thames and at the crucial moment is halted by the sting of a mosquito.) Frequently a person feels his very best when the illness is the worst, as in tuberculosis. In vain he tries to resist it but he has not sufficient strength, and it is no help to him that he has gone through the same thing many times; the kind of practice acquired in this way does not apply here.
* (Søren Kierkegaard's Journals much of what I have simply jotted down carelessly in the Journals would become of great importance and have a great effect; for then people would have grown reconciled to me and would be able to grant me what was, and is, my right."
REGINE OLSEN AND GRADUATION (1837–1841)
Main article: Regine Olsen Regine Olsen, a muse for Kierkegaard's writings
An important aspect of Kierkegaard's life – generally considered to have had a major influence on his work – was his broken engagement to Regine Olsen (1822–1904). Kierkegaard and Olsen met on 8 May 1837 and were instantly attracted to each other, but sometime around 11 August 1838 he had second thoughts. In his journals, Kierkegaard wrote idealistically about his love for her:
You, sovereign queen of my heart, Regina, hidden in the deepest secrecy of my breast, in the fullness of my life-idea, there where it is just as far to heaven as to hell—unknown divinity! O, can I really believe the poets when they say that the first time one sees the beloved object he thinks he has seen her long before, that love like all knowledge is recollection, that love in the single individual also has its prophecies, its types, its myths, its Old Testament. Everywhere, in the face of every girl, I see features of your beauty... Journals "> Friedrich Engels, ca. 1840s
Kierkegaard then turned his attention to his examinations. On 13 May 1839, he wrote, "I have no alternative than to suppose that it is God's will that I prepare for my examination and that it is more pleasing to him that I do this than actually coming to some clearer perception by immersing myself in one or another sort of research, for obedience is more precious to him than the fat of rams." The death of his father and the death of Poul Møller also played a part in his decision.
On 29 September 1841, Kierkegaard wrote and defended his
dissertation, On the Concept of
Kierkegaard published some of his works using pseudonyms and for
others he signed his own name as author. Whether being published under
pseudonym or not, Kierkegaard's central writings on religion have
Fear and Trembling
Kierkegaard's magnum opus
Either/Or was published 20 February 1843;
it was mostly written during Kierkegaard's stay in Berlin, where he
took notes on Schelling's Philosophy of Revelation.
essays of literary and music criticism and a set of
romantic-like-aphorisms, as part of his larger theme of examining the
reflective and philosophical structure of faith. Edited by "Victor
Eremita", the book contained the papers of an unknown "A" and "B"
which the pseudonymous author claimed to have discovered in a secret
drawer of his secretary . Eremita had a hard time putting the papers
of "A" in order because they were not straightforward. "B"'s papers
were arranged in an orderly fashion. Both of these characters are
trying to become religious individuals. Each approached the idea of
first love from an esthetic and an ethical point of view. The book is
basically an argument about faith and marriage with a short discourse
at the end telling them they should stop arguing. Eremita thinks "B",
a judge, makes the most sense. Kierkegaard stressed the "how" of
Three months after the publication of Either/Or, 16 May 1843, he published Two Upbuilding Discourses, 1843 and continued to publish discourses along with his pseudonymous books. These discourses were published under Kierkegaard's own name and are available as Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses today. David F. Swenson first translated the works in the 1940s and titled them the Edifying Discourses; however, in 1990, Howard V. and Edna H. Hong translated the works again but called them the Upbuilding Discourses. The word "upbuilding" was more in line with Kierkegaard's thought after 1846, when he wrote Christian deliberations about works of love . An upbuilding discourse or edifying discourse isn't the same as a sermon because a sermon is preached to a congregation while a discourse can be carried on between several people or even with oneself. The discourse or conversation should be "upbuilding", which means one would build up the other person, or oneself, rather than tear down in order to build up. Kierkegaard said: "Although this little book (which is called "discourses ," not sermons , because its author does not have authority to preach, "upbuilding discourses," not discourses for upbuilding, because the speaker by no means claims to be a teacher) wishes to be only what it is, a superfluity, and desires only to remain in hiding".
On 16 October 1843, Kierkegaard published three more books about love
and faith and several more discourses.
Fear and Trembling
Kierkegaard questioned whether an individual can know if something is a good gift from God or not and concludes by saying, "it does not depend, then, merely upon what one sees, but what one sees depends upon how one sees; all observation is not just a receiving, a discovering, but also a bringing forth, and insofar as it is that, how the observer himself is constituted is indeed decisive." God's love is imparted indirectly just as our own sometimes is.
During 1844, he published two , three , and four more upbuilding discourses just as he did in 1843, but here he discussed how an individual might come to know God. Theologians, philosophers and historians were all engaged in debating about the existence of God. This is direct communication and Kierkegaard thinks this might be useful for theologians, philosophers, and historians (associations) but not at all useful for the "single individual" who is interested in becoming a Christian. Kierkegaard always wrote for "that single individual whom I with joy and gratitude call my reader" The single individual must put what is understood to use or it will be lost. Reflection can take an individual only so far before the imagination begins to change the whole content of what was being thought about. Love is won by being exercised just as much as faith and patience are.
He also wrote several more pseudonymous books in 1844: Philosophical
The Concept of Anxiety and finished the year
Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844 . He used indirect
communication in the first book and direct communication in the rest
of them. He doesn't believe the question about God's existence should
be an opinion held by one group and differently by another no matter
how many demonstrations are made. He says it's up to the single
individual to make the fruit of the Holy
Kierkegaard believed "each generation has its own task and need not trouble itself unduly by being everything to previous and succeeding generations". In an earlier book he had said, "to a certain degree every generation and every individual begins his life from the beginning", and in another, "no generation has learned to love from another, no generation is able to begin at any other point than the beginning", "no generation learns the essentially human from a previous one." He was against the Hegelian idea of mediation because it introduces a "third term" that comes between the single individual and the object of desire. Kierkegaard asked if logic ends in actuality, can a person logically prove God's existence? Logic says no. Then he turns from logic to ethics and finds that Hegelian philosophy is negative rather than positive . This "third term" isn't mediation, it's the choice to love or not, to hope or not. It's the choice between the possibility of the "temporal and the eternal", "mistrust and belief, and deception and truth", "subjective and objective". These are the "magnitudes" of choice. He always stressed deliberation and choice in his writings and wrote against comparison. This is how Kant put it in 1786 and Kierkegaard put it in 1847:
Thinking for one’s self is to seek the chief touchstone of truth in one’s self (id est, in one’s own reason); and the maxim, to think for one’s self at all times is Enlightening. Thereto belongs not just so much, as those may imagine who take knowledge, to be enlightening; as it is rather a negative principle in the use of one’s cognoscitive faculty, and he, who is very rich in knowledge, is often the least enlightened in the use of it. To exercise one’s own reason, means nothing more, than, relatively to every thing which one is to suppose, to question one’s self. Immanuel Kant, What it Means to Orient One’s Self In Thinking 1786
Worldly worry always seeks to lead a human being into the small-minded unrest of comparisons, away from the lofty calmness of simple thoughts. To be clothed, then, means to be a human being-and therefore to be well clothed. Worldly worry is preoccupied with clothes and dissimilarity of clothes. Should not the invitation to learn from the lilies be welcome to everyone just as the reminder is useful to him! Alas, those great, uplifting, simple thoughts, those first thoughts, are more and more forgotten, perhaps entirely forgotten in the weekday and worldly life of comparisons. The one human being compares himself with others, the one generation compares itself with the other, and thus the heaped up pile of comparisons overwhelms a person. As the ingenuity and busyness increase, there come to be more and more in each generation who slavishly work a whole lifetime far down in the low underground regions of comparisons. Indeed, just as miners never see the light of day, so these unhappy people never come to see the light: those uplifting, simple thoughts, those first thoughts about how glorious it is to be a human being. And up there in the higher regions of comparison, smiling vanity plays its false game and deceives the happy ones so that they receive no impression from those lofty, simple thoughts, those first thoughts.
* Søren Kierkegaard, (1847) Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong 188–189
Kierkegaard believed God comes to each individual mysteriously. Kierkegaard published Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions (first called Thoughts on Crucial Situations in Human Life, in David F. Swenson's 1941 translation) under his own name on 29 April, and Stages on Life\'s Way edited by Hilarius Bookbinder, 30 April 1845. The Stages is a rewrite of Either/Or which Kierkegaard did not think had been adequately read by the public and in Stages he predicted "that two-thirds of the book's readers will quit before they are halfway through, out of boredom they will throw the book away." He knew he was writing books but had no idea who was reading them. His sales were meager and he had no publicist or editor. He was writing in the dark, so to speak.
He then went to Berlin for a short rest. Upon returning he published
his Discourses of 1843–44 in one volume, Eighteen Upbuilding
Discourses, 29 May 1845 and finished the first part of his authorship
Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments
which was a rewrite of
Consider the woman with hemorrhages ; she did not press herself forward in order to touch Christ’s robe; she told no one what she had in mind and what she believed-she said very softly to herself, “If I only touch the hem of his robe, I shall be healed.” The secret she kept to herself; it was the secret of faith that saved her both temporally and eternally. You can keep the secret to yourself also when you profess your faith with bold confidence, and when you lie weak on your sickbed and cannot move a limb when you cannot even move your tongue, you can still have the secret within you. But the originality of faith is related in turn to the originality of Christianity. Works of Love, 1847, Hong 1995 p. 28-29
He was writing about the inner being in all of these books and his
goal was to get the single individual away from all the speculation
that was going on about God and Christ. Speculation creates quantities
of ways to find God and his Goods but finding faith in
When we take a religious person, the knight of hidden inwardness, and place him in the existence-medium, a contradiction will appear as he relates himself to the world around him, and he himself must become aware of this. The contradiction does not consist in his being different from everyone else but the contradiction is that he, with all his inwardness hidden within him, with this pregnancy of suffering and benediction in his inner being, looks just like all the others-and inwardness is indeed hidden simply by his looking exactly like others. Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 499
“What blessed equality, that in the strictest sense the sufferer can unconditionally do the highest as fully as well as the most gifted person in the most fortunate sense. Honor and praise be to the eternal: there is not a shade of difference, there is no wrongdoing and no preferential treatment, but equality. You are indistinguishable from anyone else among those whom you might wish to resemble, those who in the decision are with the good-they are all clothed alike, girdled about the loins with truth, clad in the armor of righteousness, wearing the helmet of salvation!” Søren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 111
If doubt is the beginning, then God is lost long before the end, and the individual is released from always having a task, but also from always having the comfort that there is always a task. But if the consciousness of guilt is the beginning, then the beginning of doubt is rendered impossible, and then the joy is that there is always a task. The joy, then, is that it is eternally certain that God is love; more specifically understood, the joy is that there is always a task. As long as there is life there is hope, but as long as there is a task there is life, and as long as there is life there is hope-indeed, the task itself is not merely a hope for a future time but is a joyful present. Søren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 279-280, 277
How much that is hidden may still reside in a person, or how much may still reside hidden! How inventive is hidden inwardness in hiding itself and in deceiving or evading others, the hidden inwardness that preferred that no one would suspect its existence, modestly afraid of being seen and mortally afraid of being entirely disclosed! Is it not so that the one person never completely understands the other? But if he does not understand him completely, then of course it is always possible that the most indisputable thing could still have a completely different explanation that would, note well, be the true explanation, since an assumption can indeed explain a great number of instances very well and thereby confirm its truth and yet show itself to be untrue as soon as the instance comes along that it cannot explain-and it would indeed be possible that this instance or this somewhat more precise specification could come even at the last moment. Therefore all calm and, in the intellectual sense, dispassionate observers, who eminently know how to delve searchingly and penetratingly into the inner being, these very people judge with such infinite caution or refrain from it entirely because, enriched by observation, they have a developed conception of the enigmatic world of the hidden, and because as observers they have learned to rule over their passions. Only superficial, impetuous passionate people, who do not understand themselves and for that reason naturally are unaware that they do not know others, judge precipitously. Those with insight, those who know never do this. Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, (1847) Hong 1995 p. 228-229
This poetical venture is entirely correct and perhaps can, among other things, serve to shed light on a fraud or a misunderstanding that has appeared repeatedly in all Christendom. A person makes Christian humility and self-denial empty when he indeed denies himself in one respect but does not have the courage to do it decisively, and therefore he takes care to be understood in his humility and self-denial – which certainly is not self-denial. Therefore, in order to be able to praise love, self-denial is required inwardly and self-sacrificing outwardly. If, then, someone undertakes to praise love and is asked whether it is actually out of love on his part that he does it, the answer must be: “No one else can decide this for certain; it is possible that it is vanity, pride-in short, something bad, but it is also possible that it is love.” Soren Kierkegaard, 1847, Works of Love, Hong 1995 p. 374
Kierkegaard wrote his
Concluding Unscientific Postscript to
The deification of the established order is the secularization of
everything. With regard to secular matters, the established order may
be entirely right: one should join the established order, be satisfied
with that relativity, etc. But ultimately the relationship with God is
also secularized; we want it to coincide with a certain relativity, do
not want it to be something essentially different from our positions
in life – rather than that it shall be the absolute for every
individual human being and this, the individual person’s
God-relationship, shall be precisely what keeps every established
order in suspense, and that God, at any moment he chooses, if he
merely presses upon an individual in his relationship with God,
promptly has a witness, an informer, a spy, or whatever you want to
call it, one who in unconditional obedience and with unconditional
obedience, by being persecuted, by suffering, by dying, keeps the
established order in suspense. Søren Kierkegaard, Practice in
Early Kierkegaardian scholars, such as Theodor W. Adorno and Thomas Henry Croxall , argue that the entire authorship should be treated as Kierkegaard's own personal and religious views. This view leads to confusions and contradictions which make Kierkegaard appear philosophically incoherent. Later scholars, such as the post-structuralists , interpreted Kierkegaard's work by attributing the pseudonymous texts to their respective authors. Postmodern Christians present a different interpretation of Kierkegaard's works. Kierkegaard used the category of "The Individual" to stop the endless Either/Or.
Kierkegaard's most important pseudonyms, in chronological order, were:
* Victor Eremita, editor of
* A, writer of many articles in Either/Or
* Judge William, author of rebuttals to A in Either/Or
* Johannes de Silentio, author of
Fear and Trembling
All of these writings analyze the concept of faith, on the
supposition that if people are confused about faith, as Kierkegaard
thought the inhabitants of
Christendom were, they will not be in a
position to develop the virtue.
THE CORSAIR AFFAIR
On 22 December 1845,
Peder Ludvig Møller , who studied at the
Kierkegaard wrote two small pieces in response to Møller, The Activity of a Traveling Esthetician and Dialectical Result of a Literary Police Action. The former focused on insulting Møller's integrity while the latter was a directed assault on The Corsair, in which Kierkegaard, after criticizing the journalistic quality and reputation of the paper, openly asked The Corsair to satirize him.
Kierkegaard's response earned him the ire of the paper and its second editor, also an intellectual of Kierkegaard's own age, Meïr Aron Goldschmidt . Over the next few months, The Corsair took Kierkegaard up on his offer to "be abused", and unleashed a series of attacks making fun of Kierkegaard's appearance, voice and habits. For months, Kierkegaard perceived himself to be the victim of harassment on the streets of Denmark. In a journal entry dated 9 March 1846, Kierkegaard made a long, detailed explanation of his attack on Møller and The Corsair, and also explained that this attack made him rethink his strategy of indirect communication.
There had been much discussion in
A useless and perhaps futile conflict goes on often enough in the world, when the poor person says to the wealthy person, "Sure, it’s easy for you – you are free from worry about making a living." Would to God that the poor person would really understand how the Gospel is much more kindly disposed to him, is treating him equally and more lovingly. Truly, the Gospel does not let itself be deceived into taking sides with anyone against someone else, with someone who is wealthy against someone who is poor, or with someone who is poor against someone who is wealthy. Among individuals in the world, the conflict of disconnected comparison is frequently carried on about dependence and independence, about the happiness of being independent and the difficulty of being dependent. And yet, yet human language has not ever, and thought has not ever, invented a more beautiful symbol of independence than the poor bird of the air. And yet, yet no speech can be more curious than to say that it must be very bad and very heavy to be – light as the bird! To be dependent on one’s treasure – that is dependence and hard and heavy slavery; to be dependent on God, completely dependent – that is independence. Søren Kierkegaard, 1847 Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 180-181
As part of his analysis of the "crowd", Kierkegaard accused
newspapers of decay and decadence. Kierkegaard stated
"lost its way" by recognizing "the crowd," as the many who are moved
by newspaper stories, as the court of last resort in relation to "the
Kierkegaard began to write again in 1847. His first work in this period was Edifying Discourses in Diverse Spirits which was made up of three parts. It included Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing , What we Learn from the Lilies in the Field and from the Birds in the Air, and The Gospel of Sufferings. These questions are asked, What does it mean to be a single individual who wants to do the good? What does it mean to be a human being? What does it mean to follow Christ? He now moves from "upbuilding (Edifying ) discourses" to "Christian discourses ", however, he still maintains that these are not "sermons ". A sermon is about struggle with oneself about the tasks life offers one and about repentance for not completing the tasks. Later, in 1849, he wrote devotional discourses and Godly discourses.
Is it really hopelessness to reject the task because it is too heavy; is it really hopelessness almost to collapse under the burden because it is so heavy; is it really hopelessness to give up hope out of fear of the task? Oh no, but this is hopelessness: to will with all one’s might-but there is no task. Thus, only if there is nothing to do and if the person who says it were without guilt before God-for if he is guilty, there is indeed always something to do-only if there is nothing to do and this is understood to mean that there is no task, only then is there hopelessness. Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 277
While the Savior of the world sighs, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me," the repentant robber humbly understands, but still also as a relief, that it is not God who has abandoned him, but it is he who has abandoned God, and, repenting, he says to the one crucified with him: Remember me when you come into your kingdom. It is a heavy human suffering to reach for God’s mercy in the anxiety of death and with belated repentance at the moment of despicable death, but yet the repentant robber finds relief when he compares his suffering with the superhuman suffering of being abandoned by God. To be abandoned by God, that indeed means to be without a task. It means to be deprived of the final task that every human being always has, the task of patience, the task that has its ground in God’s not having abandoned the sufferer. Hence Christ’s suffering is superhuman and his patience superhuman, so that no human being can grasp either the one or the other. Although it is beneficial that we speak quite humanly of Christ’s suffering, if we speak of it merely as if he were the human being who has suffered the most, it is blasphemy, because although his suffering is human, it is also superhuman, and there is an eternal chasmic abyss between his suffering and the human being’s. Søren Kierkegaard, 1847 Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p.280
Works of Love followed these discourses on (29 September 1847). Both books were authored under his own name. It was written under the themes "Love covers a multitude of sins" and "Love builds up." (1 Peter 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 8 :1) Kierkegaard believed that "all human speech, even divine speech of Holy Scripture, about the spiritual is essentially metaphorical speech". "To build up" is a metaphorical expression. One can never be all human or all spirit, one must be both.
When it is said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” this
contains what is presupposed, that every person loves himself. Thus,
All human speech, even the divine speech of Holy Scripture, about the spiritual is essentially metaphorical speech. And this is quite in order or in the order of things and of existence, since a human being, even if from the moment of birth his is a spirit, still does not become conscious of himself as a spirit until later and thus has sensately-psychically acted out a certain part of his life prior to this. But this first portion is not to be cast aside when the spirit awakens any more than the awakening of the spirit in contrast to the sensate-physical announces itself in a sensate-physical way. On the contrary, the first portion is taken over – by the spirit and, used in this way, is thus made the basis –it becomes the metaphorical. Therefore, the spiritual person and the sensate person say the same thing; yet there is an infinite difference, since the latter has no intimation of the secret of the metaphorical words although he is using the same words, but not in their metaphorical sense.
There is a world of difference between the two; the one has made the transition or let himself be carried over to the other side, while the other remains on this side; yet they have the connection that both are using the same words. The person in whom the spirit has awakened does not as a consequence abandon the visible-world. Although conscious of himself as spirit, he continues to remain in the visible world and to be visible to the senses, in the same way he also remains in the language, except that his language is the metaphorical language!
But the metaphorical words are of course not brand-new words but are the already given words. Just as the spirit is invisible, so also is its language a secret, and the secret lies in its using the same words as the child and the simpleminded person but using them metaphorically, whereby the spirit denies the sensate or sensate-physical way. The difference is by no means a noticeable difference. For this reason we rightfully regard it as a sign of false spirituality to parade a noticeable difference-which is merely sensate, whereas the spirit’s manner is the metaphor’s quiet, whispering secret – for the person who has ears to hear. Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 1847, Hong 1995 p. 209-210
Love builds up by presupposing that love is present. Have you not experienced this yourself, my listener? If anyone has ever spoken to you in such a way or treated you in such a way that you really felt built up, this was because you very vividly perceived how he presupposed love to be in you. Wisdom is a being-for-itself quality; power, talent, knowledge, etc. are likewise being-for-itself qualities. To be wise does not mean to presuppose that others are wise; on the contrary, it may be very wise and true if the truly wise person assumes that far from all people are wise. But love is not a being-for-itself quality but a quality by which or in which you are for others. Loving means to presuppose love in others. Soren Kierkegaard Works of Love, Hong p. 222-224
Later, in the same book, Kierkegaard deals with the question of sin and forgiveness. He uses the same text he used earlier in Three Upbuilding Discourses, 1843 Love hides a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8). He asks if "one who tells his neighbors faults hides or increases the multitude of sins".
But the one who takes away the consciousness of sin and gives the consciousness of forgiveness instead-he indeed takes away the heavy burden and gives the light one in its place. Soren Kierkegaard, 1847 Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 246
The one who loves sees the sin he forgives, but he believes that forgiveness takes it away. This cannot be seen, whereas the sin can indeed be seen; on the other hand, if the sin did not exist to be seen, it could not be forgiven either. Just as one by faith believes the unseen into what is seen, so the one who loves by forgiveness believes away what is seen. Both are faith. Blessed is the believer, he believes what he cannot see; blessed is the one who loves, he believes away that which he indeed can see! Who can believe this? The one who loves can do it. But why is forgiveness so rare? Is it not because faith in the power of forgiveness is so meager and so rare? Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 1847 Hong p. 289-295
In 1848 he published Christian Discourses under his own name and The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress under the pseudonym Inter et Inter. Christian Discourses deals the same theme as The Concept of Anxiety , angst . The text is the Gospel of Matthew 6 verses 24–34. This was the same passage he had used in his What We Learn From the Lilies in the Field and From the Birds of the Air of 1847. He wrote:
A man who but rarely, and then only cursorily, concerns himself with his relationship to God, hardly thinks or dreams that he has so closely to do with God, or that God is so close to him, that there exists a reciprocal relationship between him and God, the stronger a man is, the weaker God is, the weaker a man is, the stronger God is in him. Every one who assumes that a God exists naturally thinks of Him as the strongest, as He eternally is, being the Almighty who creates out of nothing, and for whom all the creation is as nothing; but such a man hardly thinks of the possibility of a reciprocal relationship. And yet for God, the infinitely strongest, there is an obstacle; He has posited it Himself, yea, He has lovingly, with incomprehensible love posited it Himself; for He posited it and posits it every time a man comes into existence, when He in His love makes to be something directly in apposition to Himself. Oh, marvelous omnipotence of love! A man cannot bear that his ‘creations’ should be directly in apposition to Himself, and so he speaks of them in a tone of disparagement as his ‘creations’. But God who creates out of nothing, who almightily takes from nothing and says, ‘Be ’, lovingly adjoins, ‘Be something even in apposition to me.’ Marvellous love, even His omnipotence is under the sway of love! Soren Kierkegaard, Christian Discourses, 1848 Lowrie 1940, 1961 p. 132
It is actually true that
Kierkegaard tried to explain his prolific use of pseudonyms again in The Point of View of My Work as an Author , his autobiographical explanation for his writing style. The book was finished in 1848, but not published until after his death by his brother Christian Peter Kierkegaard. Walter Lowrie mentioned Kierkegaard's "profound religious experience of Holy Week 1848" as a turning point from "indirect communication" to "direct communication" regarding Christianity. However, Kierkegaard stated that he was a religious author throughout all of his writings and that his aim was to discuss "the problem ‘of becoming a Christian’, with a direct polemic against the monstrous illusion we call Christendom." He expressed the illusion this way in his 1848 "Christian Address ", Thoughts Which Wound From Behind – for Edification.
Oh, in the customary course of life there is so much to lull a man to
sleep, to teach him to say, ‘
He wrote three discourses under his own name and one pseudonymous
book in 1849. He wrote The Lily in the Field and the Bird of the Air.
Three Devotional Discourses, Three Discourses at the Communion on
Fridays and Two Ethical-Religious Essays. The first thing any child
finds in life is the external world of nature. This is where God
placed his natural teachers. He's been writing about confession and
now openly writes about
In the month of December 1845 the manuscript of the Concluding Postscript was completely finished, and, as my custom was, I had delivered the whole of it at once to Lune -which the suspicious do not have to believe on my word, since Luno’s account-book is there to prove it. This work constitutes the turning-point in my whole activity as an author, inasmuch as it presents the ‘problem’, how to become a Christian.
In a Christian sense simplicity is not the point of departure from which one goes on to become interesting, witty, profound, poet, philosopher, &c. No, the very contrary. Here is where one begins (with the interesting, but one reflects oneself out of something else and becomes, more and more simply, a Christian.
I have never fought in such a way as to say: I am the true Christian,
others are not Christians. No, my contention has been this: I know
The Second edition of Either/Or was published early in 1849. Later that year he published The Sickness Unto Death , under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus. He's against Johannes Climacus who kept writing books about trying to understand Christianity. Here he says, "Let others admire and praise the person who pretends to comprehend Christianity. I regard it as a plain ethical task – perhaps requiring not a little self-denial in these speculative times, when all ‘the others’ are busy with comprehending-to admit that one is neither able nor supposed to comprehend it." Sickness unto death was a familiar phrase in Kierkegaard's earlier writings. This sickness is despair and for Kierkegaard despair is a sin. Despair is the impossibility of possibility. Kierkegaard writes:
When a person who has been addicted to some sin or other but over a considerable period has now successfully resisted the temptation-when this person has a relapse and succumbs again to the temptation, then the depression that ensues is by no means always sorrow over the sin. It can be something quite different; it might also, for that matter, be resentment of divine governance, as if it were the latter that had let him fall into temptation and should not have been so hard on him, seeing that until now he had for so long successfully resisted the temptation. Such a person protests, perhaps in even stronger terms, how this relapse tortures and torments him, how it brings him to despair: he swears, 'I will never forgive myself.' He never forgives himself-but suppose God would forgive him; then he might well have the goodness to forgive himself. The Sickness Unto Death, by Anti-Climacus, Edited by Soren Kierkegaard, Copyright 1849 Translation with an Introduction and notes by Alastair Hannay 1989 p. 144
In Practice in
He now pointedly referred to the acting single individual in his next three publications; For Self-Examination , Two Discourses at the Communion on Fridays , and in 1852 Judge for Yourselves! . Judge for Yourselves! was published posthumously in 1876.
In 1851 Kierkegaard wrote his Two Discourses at the Communion on Fridays where he once more discussed sin, forgiveness, and authority using that same verse from 1 Peter 4:8 that he used twice in 1843 with his Three Upbuilding Discourses, 1843 .
Would that there were a hiding place where I am so hidden that not
even the consciousness of my sin can find me! Would that there were a
border, however narrow, if it still makes a separation between me and
my sin! Would that on the other side of a chasmic abyss there were a
spot, however little, where I could stand, while the consciousness of
my sin must remain on the other side. Would that there were a
forgiveness, a forgiveness that does not increase my sense of guilt
but truly takes the guilt from me, also the consciousness of it. Would
that there were oblivion! But now this is indeed that way it is,
because love (Christ’s love) hides a multitude of sins. Behold,
everything has become new. …. A human being has no authority, cannot
command that you shall believe and just by commanding you with
authority help you to believe. But if it requires authority even to
teach, what authority is required, even greater, if possible, then the
authority that commands the heaving sea to be still, to command the
despairing person, the one who in the agony of repentance is unable
and does not dare to forget, the prostrate penitent who is unable and
does not dare to stop staring at his guilt, what authority is required
to command him to shut his eyes, and what authority is then required
to command him to open the eyes of faith so that he sees purity where
he saw guilt and sin! That divine authority he alone has, Jesus
Christ, whose love hides a multitude of sins. He hides it very
literally. Just as when one person places himself in front of another
person and covers him so completely with his body that no one, no one,
can see the person hidden behind him, so
* Soren Kierkegaard, Two Discourses at Friday Communion, 1851 (Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins 1 Peter 4:8) From Without Authority, Hong 1997 p. 184-185
Kierkegaard began his 1843 book
Either/Or with a question: "Are
passions, then, the pagans of the soul? Reason alone baptized?" He
didn't want to devote himself to
Schelling put Nature first and
Is it a perfection on the part of the bird that in hard times it sits and dies of hunger and knows of nothing at all to do, that, dazed, it lets itself fall to the ground and dies? Usually we do not talk this way. When a sailor lies down in the boat and lets matters take their course in the storm and knows nothing to do, we do not speak of his perfection. But when a doughty sailor knows how to steer, when he works against the storm with ingenuity, with strength, and with perseverance, when he works himself out of the danger, we admire him. Søren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, 1847, Hong p. 198
Suppose that it were not one man who traveled from Jericho to Jerusalem , but there were two, and both of them were assaulted by robbers and maimed, and no traveler passed by. Suppose, then, that one of them did nothing but moan, while the other forgot and surmounted his own suffering in order to speak comfortingly, friendly words or, what involved great pain, dragged himself to some water in order to fetch the other a refreshing drink. Or suppose that they were both bereft of speech, but one of them in his silent prayer sighed to God also for the other-was he then not merciful? If someone has cut off my hands, then I cannot play the zither, and if someone has cut off my feet, then I cannot dance, and if I lie crippled on the shore, then I cannot throw myself into the sea in order to rescue another person’s life, and if I myself am lying with a broken arm or leg, then I cannot plunge into the flames to save another’s life-but I can still be merciful. I have often pondered how a painter might portray mercifulness, but I have decided that it cannot be done. As soon as a painter is to do it, it becomes dubious whether it is mercifulness or it is something else.
* Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, Hong 1995 p. 324
Seek Ye First God’s Kingdom And His Righteousness Matthew 6:33
But what does this mean, what have I to do, or what sort of effort is it that can be said to seek or pursue the kingdom of God? Shall I try to get a job suitable to my talents and powers in order thereby to exert an influence? No, thou shalt first seek God’s kingdom. Shall I then give all my fortune to the poor? No, thou shalt first seek God’s kingdom. Shall I then go out to proclaim this teaching to the world? No, thou shalt first seek God’s kingdom. But then in a certain sense it is nothing I shall do. Yes, certainly, in a certain it is nothing, thou shalt in the deepest sense make thyself nothing, become nothing before God, learn to keep silent; in this silence is the beginning, which is, first to seek God’s kingdom. In this wise, a godly wise, one gets to the beginning by going, in a sense, backwards. The beginning is not that with which one begins, but at which one arrives at the beginning backwards. The beginning is this art of becoming silent; for to be silent, as nature is, is not an art. It is man’s superiority over the beasts to be able to speak; but in relation to God it can easily become the ruin of man who is able to speak that he is too willing to speak. God is love, man is (as one says to a child) a silly little thing, even so far as his own wellbeing is concerned. Only in much fear and trembling can a man walk with God; in much fear and trembling. But to talk in much fear and trembling is difficult for as a sense of dread causes the bodily voice to fail; so also does much fear and trembling render the voice mute in silence. This the true man of prayer knows well, and he who was not the true man of prayer learned precisely this by praying .
* Søren Kierkegaard, Christian Discourses, 1848 Lowrie 1940, 1961 p. 322
Nikolai Berdyaev makes a related argument against reason in his 1945 book The Divine and the Human.
ATTACK UPON THE LUTHERAN STATE CHURCH AND DEATH
"Vor Frue Kirke", the
Kierkegaard's final years were taken up with a sustained, outright
attack on the Church of
Kierkegaard first moved to action after Professor (soon bishop) Hans
Lassen Martensen gave a speech in church in which he called the
recently deceased Bishop
Jacob Peter Mynster a "truth-witness, one of
the authentic truth-witnesses." Kierkegaard explained, in his first
article, that Mynster's death permitted him—at last—to be frank
about his opinions. He later wrote that all his former output had been
"preparations" for this attack, postponed for years waiting for two
preconditions: 1) both his father and bishop Mynster should be dead
before the attack and 2) he should himself have acquired a name as a
famous theologic writer. Kierkegaard's father had been Mynster's
close friend, but Søren had long come to see that Mynster's
Kierkegaard described the hope the witness to the truth has in 1847.
When the concepts are shaken in an upheaval that is more terrible than an earthquake, when the truth is hated and its witness persecuted-what then? Must the witness submit to the world? Yes. But does that mean all is lost? No, on the contrary. We remain convinced of this, and thus no proof is needed, for if it is not so, then such a person is not a witness to the truth either. Therefore we are reassured that even in the last moments such a person has retained a youthful recollection of what the youth expected, and he therefore has examined himself and his relationship before God to see whether the defect could lie in him, whether it was not possible for it to become, as the youth had expected, something he perhaps now desired most for the sake of the world-namely, that truth has the victory and good has its reward in the world. Woe to the one who presumptuously, precipitously, and impetuously brings the horror of confusion into more peaceable situations; but woe, also, to the one who, if it was necessary, did not have the bold confidence to turn everything around the second time when it was turned around the first time! Søren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 330
Before the tenth issue of his periodical The Moment could be published, Kierkegaard collapsed on the street. He stayed in the hospital for over a month and refused communion. At that time he regarded pastors as mere political officials, a niche in society who were clearly not representative of the divine. He said to Emil Boesen, a friend since childhood who kept a record of his conversations with Kierkegaard, that his life had been one of immense suffering, which may have seemed like vanity to others, but he did not think it so. Søren Kierkegaard's grave in Assistens Kirkegård
Kierkegaard died in Frederik\'s Hospital after over a month, possibly from complications from a fall he had taken from a tree in his youth. It has been suggested by professor Kaare Weismann and literature scientist Jens Staubrand that Kierkegaard died from Pott disease , a form of tuberculosis. He was interred in the Assistens Kirkegård in the Nørrebro section of Copenhagen. At Kierkegaard's funeral, his nephew Henrik Lund caused a disturbance by protesting Kierkegaard's burial by the official church. Lund maintained that Kierkegaard would never have approved, had he been alive, as he had broken from and denounced the institution. Lund was later fined for his disruption of a funeral.
Kierkegaard's pamphlets and polemical books, including The Moment,
criticized several aspects of church formalities and politics.
According to Kierkegaard, the idea of congregations keeps individuals
as children since Christians are disinclined from taking the
initiative to take responsibility for their own relation to God. He
stressed that "
Main article: Influence and reception of Søren Kierkegaard
19TH CENTURY RECEPTION
In September 1850, the Western Literary Messenger wrote: "While Martensen with his wealth of genius casts from his central position light upon every sphere of existence, upon all the phenomena of life, Søren Kierkegaard stands like another Simon Stylites , upon his solitary column, with his eye unchangeably fixed upon one point." In 1855, the Danish National Church published his obituary. Kierkegaard did have an impact there judging from the following quote from their article: "The fatal fruits which Dr. Kierkegaard show to arise from the union of Church and State, have strengthened the scruples of many of the believing laity, who now feel that they can remain no longer in the Church, because thereby they are in communion with unbelievers, for there is no ecclesiastical discipline." Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783–1872)
Changes did occur in the administration of the Church and these changes were linked to Kierkegaard's writings. The Church noted that dissent was "something foreign to the national mind." On 5 April 1855 the Church enacted new policies: "every member of a congregation is free to attend the ministry of any clergyman, and is not, as formerly, bound to the one whose parishioner he is". In March 1857, compulsory infant baptism was abolished. Debates sprang up over the King's position as the head of the Church and over whether to adopt a constitution. Grundtvig objected to having any written rules. Immediately following this announcement the "agitation occasioned by Kierkegaard" was mentioned. Kierkegaard was accused of Weigelianism and Darbyism , but the article continued to say, "One great truth has been made prominent, viz (namely): That there exists a worldly-minded clergy; that many things in the Church are rotten; that all need daily repentance; that one must never be contented with the existing state of either the Church or her pastors." Hans Lassen Martensen (1808–1884)
Hans Martensen was the subject of a Danish article, Dr. S.
Kierkegaard against Dr. H. Martensen By Hans Peter Kofoed-Hansen
(1813–1893) that was published in 1856 (untranslated) and Martensen
mentioned him extensively in Christian Ethics, published in 1871.
"Kierkegaard's assertion is therefore perfectly justifiable, that with
the category of "the individual" the cause of
August Strindberg was influenced by the Danish individualistic
philosopher Kierkegaard while a student at Uppsala University
(1867–1870) and mentioned him in his book Growth of a
Several of Kierkegaard's works were translated into German from 1861
onward, including excerpts from Practice in
Otto Pfleiderer in The Philosophy of Religion: On the Basis of Its
History (1887), claimed that Kierkegaard presented an anti-rational
view of Christianity. He went on to assert that the ethical side of a
human being has to disappear completely in his one-sided view of faith
as the highest good. He wrote, "Kierkegaard can only find true
An article from an 1889 dictionary of religion revealed a good idea of how Kierkegaard was regarded at that time, stating: "Having never left his native city more than a few days at a time, excepting once, when he went to Germany to study Schelling's philosophy. He was the most original thinker and theological philosopher the North ever produced. His fame has been steadily growing since his death, and he bids fair to become the leading religio-philosophical light of Germany, not only his theological, but also his aesthetic works have of late become the subject of universal study in Europe."
EARLY 20TH CENTURY RECEPTION
1879 German edition of Brandes' biography about Søren Kierkegaard
The first academic to draw attention to Kierkegaard was fellow Dane
Georg Brandes , who published in German as well as Danish. Brandes
gave the first formal lectures on Kierkegaard in
There are two types of the artistic soul. There is the one which needs many varying experiences and constantly changing models, and which instantly gives a poetic form to every fresh incident. There is the other which requires amazingly few outside elements to fertilise it, and for which a single life circumstance, inscribed with sufficient force, can furnish a whole wealth of ever-changing thought and modes of expression. Soren Kierkegaard among writers, and Max Klinger among painters, are both great examples of the latter type. To which did Shakespeare belong? William Shakespeare; a critical study, by George Brandes. 1898 p. 195
During the 1890s, Japanese philosophers began disseminating the works
of Kierkegaard, from the Danish thinkers.
Tetsuro Watsuji was one of
the first philosophers outside of
Harald Høffding wrote an article about him in A brief history of
modern philosophy (1900). Høffding mentioned Kierkegaard in
"We live forward, we understand backward, said a Danish writer; and to understand life by concepts is to arrest its movement, cutting it up into bits as if with scissors, and, immobilizing these in our logical herbarium where, comparing them as dried specimens, we can ascertain which of them statically includes or excludes which other. This treatment supposes life to have already accomplished itself, for the concepts, being so many views taken after the fact, are retrospective and post mortem. Nevertheless, we can draw conclusions from them and project them into the future. We cannot learn from them how life made itself go, or how it will make itself go; but, on the supposition that its ways of making itself go are unchanging, we can calculate what positions of imagined arrest it will exhibit hereafter under given conditions." William James, A Pluralistic Universe, 1909, p. 244
Kierkegaard wrote of moving forward past the irresolute good intention:
The yes of the promise is sleep-inducing, but the no, spoken and therefore audible to oneself, is awakening, and repentance is usually not far away. The one who says, "I will, sir," is at the same moment pleased with himself; the one who says no becomes almost afraid of himself. But this difference if very significant in the first moment and very decisive in the next moment; yet if the first moment is the judgment of the momentary, the second moment is the judgment of eternity. This is precisely why the world is so inclined to promises, inasmuch as the world is the momentary, and at the moment a promise looks very good. This is why eternity is suspicious of promises, just as it is suspicious of everything momentary. And so it is also with the one who, rich in good intentions and quick to promise, moves backward further and further away from the good. By means of the intention and the promise, he is facing in the direction of the good, is turned toward the good but is moving backward further and further away from it. With every renewed intention and promise it looks as if he took a step forward, and yet he is not merely standing still, but he is actually taking a step backward. The intention taken in vain, the unfulfilled promise, leaves despondency, dejection, that in turn perhaps soon blazes up into an even more vehement intention, which leaves only greater listlessness. Just as the alcoholic continually needs a stronger and stronger stimulant-in order to become intoxicated, likewise the one who has become addicted to promises and good intentions continually needs more and more stimulation-in order to go backward. Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, Hong p. 93-94 (1850)
One thing James did have in common with Kierkegaard was respect for the single individual, and their respective comments may be compared in direct sequence as follows: "A crowd is indeed made up of single individuals; it must therefore be in everyone's power to become what he is, a single individual; no one is prevented from being a single individual, no one, unless he prevents himself by becoming many. To become a crowd, to gather a crowd around oneself, is on the contrary to distinguish life from life; even the most well-meaning one who talks about that, can easily offend a single individual." In his book A Pluralistic Universe, James stated that, "Individuality outruns all classification, yet we insist on classifying every one we meet under some general label. As these heads usually suggest prejudicial associations to some hearer or other, the life of philosophy largely consists of resentments at the classing, and complaints of being misunderstood. But there are signs of clearing up for which both Oxford and Harvard are partly to be thanked."
The Encyclopaedia of religion and ethics had an article about Kierkegaard in 1908. The article began:
"The life of Søren Kierkegaard has but few points of contact with the external world; but there were, in particular, three occurrences—a broken engagement, an attack by a comic paper, and the use of a word by H.L. Martensen—which must be referred to as having wrought with extraordinary effect upon his peculiarly sensitive and high-strung nature. The intensity of his inner life, again—which finds expression in his published works, and even more directly in his notebooks and diaries (also published)—cannot be properly understood without some reference to his father." Friedrich von Hügel 1852–1925
Friedrich von Hügel wrote about Kierkegaard in his 1913 book,
Eternal life: a study of its implications and applications, where he
said: "Kierkegaard, the deep, melancholy, strenuous, utterly
uncompromising Danish religionist, is a spiritual brother of the great
John George Robertson wrote an article called Soren Kierkegaard in
1914: "Notwithstanding the fact that during the last quarter of a
century, we have devoted considerable attention to the literatures of
the North, the thinker and man of letters whose name stands at the
head of the present article is but little known to the
English-speaking world. The Norwegians, Ibsen and Bjørnson, have
exerted a very real power on our intellectual life, and for Bjørnson
we have cherished even a kind of affection. But Kierkegaard, the
writer who holds the indispensable key to the intellectual life of
Scandinavia, to whom
Wilhelm Stekel (1868–1940) referred to
Kierkegaard as the "fanatical follower of Don Juan, himself the
Don Juanism " in his book Disguises of Love. German
psychiatrist and philosopher
German And English Translators Of Kierkegaard\'s Works
Hermann Gottsche published Kierkegaard's Journals in 1905. It had taken academics 50 years to arrange his journals. Kierkegaard's main works were translated into German by Christoph Schrempf from 1909 onwards. Emmanuel Hirsch released a German edition of Kierkegaard's collected works from 1950 onwards. Both Harald Hoffding's and Schrempf's books about Kierkegaard were reviewed in 1892.
In the 1930s, the first academic English translations, by Alexander
Dru, David F. Swenson ,
Douglas V. Steere , and Walter Lowrie
appeared, under the editorial efforts of Oxford University Press
editor Charles Williams , one of the members of the
Kierkegaard’s Influence On Karl Barth’s Early Theology
Kierkegaard’s influence on
Karl Barth ’s early theology is
evident in The Epistle to the Romans . The early Barth read at least
three volumes of Kierkegaard’s works: Practice in
Wilhelm Pauk wrote in 1931 (
Karl Barth Prophet Of A New Christianity)
that Kierkegaard's use of the Latin phrase Finitum Non Capax Infiniti
(the finite does not (or cannot) comprehend the infinite) summed up
Barth's system. David G. Kingman and Adolph Keller each discussed
Barth's relationship to Kierkegaard in their books, The Religious
Educational Values in Karl Barth's Teachings (1934) and
Karl Barth and
Christian Unity (1933). Keller notes the splits that happen when a new
teaching is introduced and some assume a higher knowledge from a
higher source than others. But Kierkegaard always referred to the
equality of all in the world of the spirit where there is neither
"sport" nor "spook" or anyone who can shut you out of the world of the
spirit except yourself. All are chosen by God and equal in His sight.
The Expectancy of Faith," Before this faith came, we were held
prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the
law was put in charge to lead us to
It was in his study of Paul that he found his first peace of mind. He
was fascinated by the revelation of the power of the Holy
Wherever Kierkegaard is understood, opposition is aroused to organized ecclesiasticism, to the objective treatment of religious questions, to the sovereignty of man, whether it be called idealism or theology of mystical experience. In this Kierkegaard circle of young pastors and pupils of Geismar there arose not only resistance against the teacher himself, whom they accused of failing to present Kierkegaard’s ideas as sufficiently radical, but also against the prevalent work of the church as such. The work with the youth, the work with Home Missions appears as superficial church business. In Grundtvigianism they frequently saw secularized piety, which had gone over to a concern with all sorts of cultural possessions. The majesty of God seemed to have been preserved too little and the institution of the church seemed to have taken over the meaning of the existential meeting with the transcendent God. In this opposition to the prevalent church life the thoughts of Kierkegaard have certainly remained alive. However, they became effective only when their reinforced echo from foreign lands reached Denmark. This effect was more marked when Barthianism became known. Into this group of dissatisfied, excited radicals Barthian thought penetrated with full force. The inward distress, the tension and the preparation of Kierkegaard made them receptive to the new. A magazine entitled the Tidenverv (The Turn of the Times), has been their journal since 1926. Especially the Student Christian Movement became the port of invasion for the new thought. But this invasion has been split completely into two camps which vehemently attack each other. Indictment was launched against the old theology. The quiet work of the church was scorned as secularization of the message or as emotional smugness, which had found a place in Home Missions despite all its call to repentance.
Kierkegaard and the early Barth think that in Christianity, direct
communication is impossible because
The expectation of faith is then victory, and this expectation cannot be disappointed unless a man disappoints himself by depriving himself of expectation; like the one who foolishly supposed that he had lost faith, or foolishly supposed that some individual had taken it from him; or like the one who sought to delude himself with the idea that there was some special power which could deprive a man of his faith; who found satisfaction in the vain thought that this was precisely what had happened to him, found joy in frightening others with the assurance that some such power did exist that made sport of the noblest in man, and empowered the one who was thus tested to ridicule others. Søren Kierkegaard, Two Edifying Discourses 1843, Swenson trans., 1943 p. 30
Barth endorses the main theme from Kierkegaard but also reorganizes the scheme and transforms the details. Barth expands the theory of indirect communication to the field of Christian ethics; he applies the concept of unrecognizability to the Christian life. He coins the concept of the "paradox of faith" since the form of faith entails a contradictory encounter of God and human beings. He also portrayed the contemporaneity of the moment when in crisis a human being desperately perceives the contemporaneity of Christ. In regard to the concept of indirect communication, the paradox, and the moment, the Kierkegaard of the early Barth is a productive catalyst.
LATER 20TH CENTURY RECEPTION
William Hubben compared Kierkegaard to Dostoevsky in his 1952 book Four Prophets of Our Destiny, later titled Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Kafka.
Logic and human reasoning are inadequate to comprehend truth, and in
this emphasis Dostoevsky speaks entirely the language of Kierkegaard,
of whom he had never heard.
In 1955 Morton White wrote about the word "exists" and Kierkegaard's idea of God's is-ness.
The word “exists” is one of the most pivotal and controversial in
philosophy. Some philosophers think of it as having one meaning: the
sense in which we say that this book exists, that God does or does not
exist, that there exist odd numbers between 8 and 20, that a
characteristic like redness exists as well as things that are red,
that the American government exists as well as the physical building
in which the government is housed, that minds exist as well as bodies.
And when the word “exists” is construed in this unambiguous way,
many famous disputes in the history of philosophy and theology appear
to be quite straightforward. Theists affirm that God exists while
atheists deny the very same statement; materialists say that matter
exists while some idealists think that it is illusory; nominalists, as
they are called, deny the existence of characteristics like redness
while platonic realists affirm it; some kinds of behaviorists deny
that there are minds inside bodies. There is, however, a tendency
among some philosophers, to insist that the word “exists” is
ambiguous and therefore that some of these disputes are not disputes
at all but merely the results of mutual misunderstanding, of a failure
to see that certain things are said to exist in one sense while others
exist in another. One of the outstanding efforts of this kind in the
twentieth century occurs in the early writings of realists who
maintained that only concrete things in space and time exist, while
abstract characteristics of things or relations between them should be
said to subsist. This is sometimes illustrated by pointing out that
while Chicago and St. Louis both exist at definite places, the
relation more populous than which holds between them exists neither in
Chicago nor in St. Louis nor in the area between them, but is
nevertheless something about which we can speak, something that is
usually assigned to a timeless and spaceless realm like that of which
So far as one can see, Kierkegaard too distinguishes different senses of “exists,” except that he appears to need at least three distinct senses for which he should supply three distinct words. First of all he needs one for statements about God, and so he says that God is. Secondly, and by contrast, persons or personalities are said to exist. It would appear then that he needs some third term for physical objects, which on his view are very different from God and persons, but since existentialists don’t seem to be very interested in physical objects or “mere” things, they appear to get along with two. The great problem for Kierkegaard is to relate God’s is-ness, if I may use that term for the moment, to human existence, and this he tries to solve by appealing to the Incarnation. Christ’s person is the existent outgrowth of God who is. By what is admittedly a mysterious process the abstract God enters a concrete existent. We must accept this on faith and faith alone, for clearly it cannot be like the process whereby one existent is related to another; it involves a passage from one realm to another which is not accessible to the human mind, Christians who lacked this faith and who failed to live by it were attacked by Kierkegaard; this was the theological root of his violent criticism of the Established Church of Denmark. It is one source of his powerful influence on contemporary theology.
* 20th Century Philosophers, The Age of Analysis, selected with introduction and commentary by Morton White 1955 p. 118-121 Houghton Mifflin Co
Mortimer J. Adler wrote the following about Kierkegaard in 1962:
For Kierkegaard, man is essentially an individual, not a member of a species or race; and ethical and religious truth is known through individual existence and decision-through subjectivity, not objectivity. Systems of thought and a dialectic such as Hegel’s are matters merely of thought, which cannot comprise individual existence and decision. Such systems leave out, said Kierkegaard, the unique and essential “spermatic point, the individual, ethically and religiously conceived, and existentially accentuated.” Similarly in the works of the American author Henry David Thoureau, writing at the same time as Kierkegaard, there is an emphasis on the solitary individual as the bearer of ethical responsibility, who, when he is right, carries the preponderant ethical weight against the state, government, and a united public opinion, when they are wrong. The solitary individual with right on his side is always “a majority of one.” Ethics, the study of moral values, by Mortimer J. Adler and Seymour Cain. Pref. by William Ernest Hocking. 1962 p. 252
In 1964 Life Magazine traced the history of existentialism from
But the orthodox, textbook precursor of modern existentialism was the Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), a lonely, hunchbacked writer who denounced the established church and rejected much of the then-popular German idealism – in which thought and ideas, rather than things perceived through the senses, were held to constitute reality. He built a philosophy based in part on the idea of permanent cleavage between faith and reason. This was an existentialism which still had room for a God whom Sartre later expelled, but which started the great pendulum-swing toward the modern concepts of the absurd. Kierkegaard spent his life thinking existentially and converting remarkably few to his ideas. But when it comes to the absurdity of existence, war is a great convincer; and it was at the end of World War I that two German philosophers, Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger , took up Kierkegaard’s ideas, elaborated and systematized them. By the 1930s Kierkegaard’s thinking made new impact on French intellectuals who, like Sartre, were nauseated by the static pre-Munich hypocrisy of the European middle class. After World War II, with the human condition more precarious than ever, with humanity facing the mushroom-shaped ultimate absurdity, existentialism and our time came together in Jean-Paul Sartre .
* Existentialism, Life, November 6, 1964, Volume 57, No. 19 ISSN 0024-3019 Published by Time Inc. P. 102-103, begins on page 86
Kierkegaard's comparatively early and manifold philosophical and
theological reception in Germany was one of the decisive factors of
expanding his works' influence and readership throughout the world.
Important for the first phase of his reception in Germany was the
establishment of the journal Zwischen den Zeiten (Between the Ages) in
1922 by a heterogeneous circle of Protestant theologians:
Karl Barth ,
Emil Brunner ,
Rudolf Bultmann and
Friedrich Gogarten . Their thought
would soon be referred to as dialectical theology . At roughly the
same time, Kierkegaard was discovered by several proponents of the
PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY
Kierkegaard has been called a philosopher, a theologian, the Father
The leap of faith is his conception of how an individual would
believe in God or how a person would act in love.
Kierkegaard also stresses the importance of the self, and the self's
relation to the world, as being grounded in self-reflection and
introspection. He argued in
Concluding Unscientific Postscript to
Kierkegaard does not deny the fruitfulness or validity of abstract thinking (science, logic, and so on), but he does deny any superstition which pretends that abstract theorizing is a sufficient concluding argument for human existence. He holds it to be unforgivable pride or stupidity to think that the impersonal abstraction can answer the vital problems of human, everyday life. Logical theorems, mathematical symbols, physical-statistical laws can never become patters of human existence. To be human means to be concrete, to be this person here and now in this particular and decisive moment, face to face with this particular challenge. C Svere Norborg, David F. Swenson, scholar, teacher, friend. P. 20-21 Minneapolis, The University of Minnesota, 1940
Kierkegaard primarily discusses subjectivity with regard to religious matters. As already noted, he argues that doubt is an element of faith and that it is impossible to gain any objective certainty about religious doctrines such as the existence of God or the life of Christ. The most one could hope for would be the conclusion that it is probable that the Christian doctrines are true, but if a person were to believe such doctrines only to the degree they seemed likely to be true, he or she would not be genuinely religious at all. Faith consists in a subjective relation of absolute commitment to these doctrines.
Kierkegaard's famous philosophical 20th century critics include
Levinas' main attack on Kierkegaard focused on his ethical and
religious stages, especially in
Fear and Trembling
Levinas pointed to the
Judeo-Christian belief that it was God who
I conceive of God as one who approves in a calculated vigilance, I
believe that he approves of intrigues, and what I have read in the
sacred books of the Old Testament is not of a sort to dishearten me.
The Old Testament furnishes examples abundantly of a shrewdness which
is nevertheless well pleasing to God, and that at a later period
Sartre objected to the existence of God : If existence precedes essence, it follows from the meaning of the term sentient that a sentient being cannot be complete or perfect. In Being and Nothingness , Sartre's phrasing is that God would be a pour-soi (a being-for-itself; a consciousness) who is also an en-soi (a being-in-itself; a thing) which is a contradiction in terms. Critics of Sartre rebutted this objection by stating that it rests on a false dichotomy and a misunderstanding of the traditional Christian view of God. Kierkegaard has Judge Vilhelm express the Christian hope this way in Either/Or,
Either, “the first” contains promise for the future, is the forward thrust, the endless impulse. Or, “the first” does not impel the individual; the power which is in the first does not become the impelling power but the repelling power, it becomes that which thrusts away. .... Thus – for the sake of making a little philosophical flourish, not with the pen but with thought-God only once became flesh, and it would be vain to expect this to be repeated. Soren Kierkegaard, Either – Or II 1843, p. 40-41 Lowrie Translation 1944, 1959, 1972
Sartre agreed with Kierkegaard's analysis of
Kierkegaardian scholar Paul Holmer described Kierkegaard's wish in his introduction to the 1958 publication of Kierkegaard's Edifying Discourses where he wrote:
Kierkegaard’s constant and lifelong wish, to which his entire literature gives expression, was to create a new and rich subjectivity in himself and his readers. Unlike any authors who believe that all subjectivity is a hindrance, Kierkegaard contends that only some kinds of subjectivity are a hindrance. He sought at once to produce subjectivity if it were lacking, to correct it if it were there and needed correction, to amplify and strengthen it when it was weak and undeveloped, and, always, to bring subjectivity of every reader to the point of eligibility for Christian inwardness and concern. But the Edifying Discourses, though paralleling the pseudonymous works, spoke a little more directly, albeit without authority. They spoke the real author’s conviction and were the purpose of Kierkegaard’s lifework. Whereas all the rest of his writing was designed to get the readers out of their lassitude and mistaken conceptions, the discourses, early and late, were the goal of the literature. Edifying Discourses: A Selection 1958 Introduction by Paul Holmer p. xviii
Later, Naomi Lebowitz explained them this way: The edifying discourses are, according to Johannes Climacus, “humoristically revoked” (CUP, 244, Swenson, Lowrie 1968) for unlike sermons, they are not ordained by authority. They start where the reader finds himself, in immanent ethical possibilities, aesthetic repetitions, and are themselves vulnerable to the lure of poetic sirens. They force the dialectical movements of the making and unmaking of the self before God to undergo lyrical imitations of meditation while the clefts, rifts, abysses, are everywhere to be seen.
* Noami Lebowitz, Kierkegaard A Life of Allegory 1985 p.157
Many 20th-century philosophers , both theistic and atheistic, and
theologians drew concepts from Kierkegaard, including the notions of
angst, despair, and the importance of the individual. His fame as a
philosopher grew tremendously in the 1930s, in large part because the
ascendant existentialist movement pointed to him as a precursor,
although later writers celebrated him as a highly significant and
influential thinker in his own right. Since Kierkegaard was raised as
Philosophers and theologians influenced by Kierkegaard are numerous
and include major twentieth century theologians and philosophers.
Paul Feyerabend 's epistemological anarchism in the philosophy of
science was inspired by Kierkegaard's idea of subjectivity as truth.
Kierkegaard has also had a considerable influence on 20th-century
literature . Figures deeply influenced by his work include W. H. Auden
Jorge Luis Borges ,
Don DeLillo ,
Kierkegaard had a profound influence on psychology . He is widely
regarded as the founder of
Christian psychology and of existential
psychology and therapy . Existentialist (often called "humanistic")
psychologists and therapists include
Ludwig Binswanger , Viktor Frankl
Erich Fromm ,
Kierkegaard is considered by some modern theologians to be the
"Father of Existentialism." Because of his influence and in spite of
it, others only consider either
Martin Heidegger or Jean-Paul Sartre
to be the actual "Father of Existentialism." Kierkegaard predicted
his posthumous fame, and foresaw that his work would become the
subject of intense study and research. In 1784
* (1841) On the Concept of
Works of Love (Kjerlighedens Gjerninger)
Christian Discourses (Christelige Taler)
* (1848, published 1859) The Point of View of My Work as an Author
"as good as finished" (IX A 293) ((Synspunktet for min
Forfatter-Virksomhed. En ligefrem Meddelelse, Rapport til Historien))
The Sickness Unto Death (Sygdommen til Døden)
* (1849) Three Discourses at the Communion on Fridays
(("Ypperstepræsten" – "Tolderen" – "Synderinden", tre Taler ved
Altergangen om Fredagen))
* (1850) Practice in
* ^ Kierkegaard is not an extreme subjectivist; he would not reject the importance of objective truths.
* ^ A B H. Newton Malony (ed.), A Christian Existential Psychology:
The Contributions of John G. Finch, University Press of America, 1980,
* ^ A B C D Ostenfeld almost sinking under the demands of the
ideal, with the glow of a certain unhappy love they set forth the
ideal. Present-day pastors may now take second rank. These religious
poets must have the particular ability to do the kind of writing that
helps people out into the current. When this has happened, when a
generation has grown up that from childhood on has received the
pathos-filled impression of an existential expression of the ideal,
the monastery and the genuine witnesses of the truth will both come
again. This is how far behind the cause of
* ^ Caesar did many an illustrious deed, but even if nothing were preserved but one single statement he is supposed to have made, I would admire him. After Cato committed suicide, Caesar is supposed to have said, "There Cato wrested from me my most beautiful victory, for I would have forgiven him." Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 384, 481–485 he wrote more about this in 1847 and linked forgiveness to self-denial.
In eternity you will not be asked how large a fortune you are leaving
behind-the survivors ask about that; or about how many battles you
won, about how sagacious you were, how powerful your influence-that
after all, becomes your reputation for posterity. No, eternity will
not ask about what worldly things you leave behind you in the world.
But it will ask about what riches you have gathered in heaven, about
how often you conquered your own mind, about what control you have
exercised over yourself or whether you have been a slave, about how
often you have mastered yourself in self-denial or whether you have
never done so, about how often you in self-denial have been willing to
make a sacrifice for a good cause or whether you were never willing,
about how often you in self-denial have forgiven your enemy, whether
seven times or seventy times seven times, about how often you have
suffered, not for your own sake, for your own selfish interests’
sake, but what you in self-denial have suffered for God’s sake.
Søren Kierkegaard 1847 Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong
p. 223-224 * ^ Johann Goethe was also very much interested in
suicide and wrote about it in his autobiography where he described
external methods used for committing suicide Suicide from Goethe\'s
* ^ Edna Hong,
In one of his earlier writings, the System of Transcendental
Idealism; which we shall consider first of all, Schelling represented
transcendental philosophy and natural philosophy as the two sides of
scientific knowledge. Respecting the nature of the two, he expressly
declared himself in this work, where he once more adopts a Fichtian
starting-point: “All knowledge rests on the harmony of an objective
with a subjective” In the common sense of the words this would be
allowed; absolute unity, where the Notion and the reality are
undistinguished in the perfected Idea, is the Absolute alone, or God;
all else contains an element of discord between the objective and
subjective. “We may give the name of nature to the entire objective
content of our knowledge the entire subjective content, on the other
hand, is called the ego or intelligence.” They are in themselves
identical and presupposed as identical. The relation of nature to
intelligence is given by Schelling thus: “Now if all knowledge has
two poles which mutually presuppose and demand one another, there must
be two fundamental sciences, and it must be impossible to start from
the one pole without being driven to the other”. Thus nature is
impelled to spirit, and spirit to nature; either may be given the
first place, and both must come to pass. “If the objective is made
the chief” we have the natural sciences as result, and; “the
necessary tendency” the end, of all natural science thus is to pass
from nature to intelligence. This is the meaning of the effort to
connect natural phenomena with theory. The highest perfection of
natural science would be the perfect spiritualization of all natural
laws into laws of intuitive perception and thought." Georg Wilhelm
* ^ He write the following in Zones of the Spirit:
One can read fragments of
* Angier, Tom (2006). Either Kierkegaard/or Nietzsche: Moral
Philosophy in a New Key. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN
* Beck, M. (1928). Referat und Kritik von M.Heidegger: Sein und Zeit
(in German). Indiana: Philosophische Hefte 1 7.
* Bergmann, Samuel Hugo (1991). Dialogical philosophy from
Kierkegaard to Buber. New York: SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-0623-6 .
* Bösl, Anton (1997). Unfreiheit und Selbstverfehlung. Søren
Kierkegaards existenzdialektische Bestimmung von Schuld und Sühne (in
German). Basel, Wien: Herder: Freiburg.
* Cappelorn, Niels J. (2003). Written Images. Princeton: Princeton
University Press. ISBN 0-691-11555-9 .
* Caputo, John D. (2008). How to Read Kierkegaard. New York:
W.W.Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-33078-6 .
* Carlisle, Claire (2006). Kierkegaard: a guide for the perplexed.
London: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN
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critical assessments of leading philosophers. London: Taylor &
Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-23587-7 .
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the Present Age, A Literary Review trans. by Howard and Edna Hong.
Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-14076-6 .
* Kierkegaard, Søren (1985). Johannes Climacus, De Omnibus
Dubitandum Est, trans. by Howard and Edna Hong. Princeton: Princeton
University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-02036-5 .
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Adorno, Theodor (1989). Kierkegaard: Construction of the Aesthetic.
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* McGee, Kyle. "
Fear and Trembling
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