Fear and Trembling

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Fear and Trembling (original Danish title: Frygt og Bæven) is a philosophical work by Søren Kierkegaard, published in 1843 under the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio, meaning roughly "John the Silent" in English.

It goes against the grain for me to do what so often happens, to speak inhumanly about the great as if a few millennia were an immense distance. I prefer to speak humanly about it, as if it happened yesterday, and let only the greatness itself be the distance.


  • Not merely in the realm of commerce but in the world of ideas as well our age is organizing a regular clearance sale. Everything is to be had at such a bargain that it is questionable whether in the end there is anybody who will want to bid.
  • In our age, everyone is unwilling to stop with faith, but goes further. It was different in those ancient days. Faith was then a task for a whole lifetime. The faithful one’s heart was still young enough not to have forgotten the anxiety and trembling that disciplined the youth, that the adult learned to control, but that no man outgrows – except to the extent that he succeeds in going further as early as possible. The present author is by no means a philosopher. He is in a poetic and refined way a supplementary clerk who neither writes the system nor gives promises of the system, who neither exhausts himself on the system nor binds himself to the system. He writes because to him it is a luxury that is all the more pleasant and apparent the fewer there are who buy and read what he writes. p. 7

Even if someone were able to transpose the whole content of faith into conceptual form, it does not follow that he has comprehended faith, comprehended how he entered into it or how it entered into him. p. 7

  • He dreads the even more terrible fate of being totally ignored; he has a terrible foreboding that the zealous critic will call him on the carpet many times. He dreads the even more terrible fate that some enterprising abstracter, a gobbler of paragraphs (who, in order to save science, is always willing to do to the writings of others what Trop magnanimously did with [his] The Destruction of the Human Race in order to “save good taste), will cut him up into paragraphs and do so with the same inflexibility as the man who, in order to serve the science of punctuation, divided his discourse by counting out the words fifty words to period and thirty-five to a semicolon. – I throw myself down in the deepest submission before every systematic ransacker: “This is not the system; it has not the least thing to do with the system. I invoke everything good for the system and for the Danish shareholders in this omnibus, for it will hardly become a tower. I wish them all, each and every one, success and good fortune.” p. 8

A Panegyric Upon Abraham[edit]

  • If a human being did not have an eternal consciousness, if underlying everything there were only a wild, fermenting power that writhing in dark passions produced everything, be it significant or insignificant, if a vast, never appeased emptiness is beneath everything, what would life be then but despair? If such were the situation, if there were no sacred bond that knit humankind together, if one generation emerged after another like forest foliage, if one generation succeeded another like singing of birds in the forest, if a generation passed through the world as a ship through the sea, as wind through the desert, an unthinking and unproductive performance, if an eternal oblivion, perpetually hungry, lurked for its prey and there were no power strong enough to wrench that away from it – how empty and devoid of consolation life would be! p. 15
  • The poet or orator can do nothing that the hero does; he can only admire, love, and delight in him. Yet he, too, is happy – no less than that one is, for the hero is, so to speak, his better nature, with which he is enamored – yet happy that the other is not himself, that his love can be admiration. He is recollection’s genius. He can do nothing but bring to mind what has been done, can do nothing but admire what has been done; he takes nothing of his own but is zealous for what has been entrusted. He follows his hearts desire, but when he has found the object of his search, he roams about to every man’s door with his song and speech so that all may admire the hero as he does, may be proud of the hero as he is. This is his occupation, his humble task; this is his faithful service in the house of the hero. p. 15
  • No one who was great in the world will be forgotten, but everyone was great in his own way, and everyone in proportion to the greatness of that which he loved. He who loved himself became great by virtue of himself, and he who loved other men became great by his devotedness, but he who loved God became greatest of all. Everyone shall be remembered, but everyone became great in proportion to his expectancy. One became great by expecting the possible, another by expecting the eternal; but he who expected the impossible became greatest of all. Everyone shall be remembered, but everyone was great wholly in proportion to the magnitude of that with which he struggled. For he who struggled with the world became great by conquering the world, and he who struggled with himself became great by conquering himself, but he who struggled with God became greatest of all. p. 16
  • By faith Abraham received the promise that in his seed all the generations of the earth would be blessed. Time passed, the possibility was there, Abraham had faith; time passed, it became unreasonable, Abraham had faith. There was one in the world who was given an expectancy. Time passed, evening drew near; he was not contemptible as to forget his expectancy, and therefore he will not be forgotten, either. p. 17

If Abraham had doubted as he stood there on Mount Moriah, if irresolute he had looked around, if he had happened to spot the ram before drawing the knife, if God had allowed him to sacrifice it instead of Isaac-then he would have gone home, everything would have been the same, he would have had Sarah, he would have kept Isaac, and yet how changed! For his return would have been a flight, his deliverance an accident, his reward disgrace, his future perhaps perdition. Then he would have witnessed neither to his faith nor to God’s grace but would have witnessed to how appalling it is to go to Mount Moriah. p. 22

  • Father Abraham! Second Father of the race! You who were the first to feel and to bear witness to that prodigious passion that disdains the terrifying battle with the raging elements and the forces of creation in order to contend with God, you who were the first to know that supreme passion, the holy, pure, and humble expression for the divine madness that was admired by the pagans – forgive the one who aspired to speak your praise if he has not done it properly. p. 23
  • It is human to lament, human to weep with them that weep, but it is greater to believe, more blessed to contemplate the believer.

Preamble from the Heart[edit]

  • From the external and visible world comes the old adage: “Only one who works gets bread.” Oddly enough, the adage does not fit the world in which it is most at home, for imperfection is the fundamental law of the external world, and here it happens again and again that he who does not work does get bread, and he who sleeps gets more abundantly than he who works. In the external world, everything belongs to the possessor. p. 27
  • It is different in the world of the spirit. Here an external divine order prevails. Here it does not rain on both the just and the unjust; here the sun does not shine of both good and evil. Here it holds true that only the one who works gets bread, that only the one who was in anxiety finds rest, the only the one who descends into the lower world rescues the beloved, that only the one who draws the knife gets Isaac. p. 27
  • There is a knowledge that presumptuously want to introduce into the world of the spirit the same law of indifference under which the external world sighs. It believes that it is enough to know what is great – no other work is needed. But for this reason it does not get bread; it perishes of hunger while everything changes to gold. And what in fact does it know? p. 28
  • What is omitted from Abraham’s story is the anxiety, because to money I have no ethical obligation but to the son the father has the highest and holiest. We forget it and yet want to talk about Abraham. So we and in the process of talking interchange the two terms, Isaac and the best, and everything goes fine. But just suppose that someone listening is a man who suffers from sleeplessness – then more terrifying, the most profound, tragic, and comic misunderstanding is very close at hand. He goes home, he wants to do as Abraham did, for the son, after all, it is the best. If the preacher found out about it, he perhaps would go to the man, he would muster all his ecclesiastical dignity and shout, “You despicable man, you scum of society, what devil has so possessed you that you would murder your son.” And the pastor, who had not noticed any heat or perspiration when preaching about Abraham, would be surprised at himself, at the wrathful earnestness with which he thunders at the poor man. He would be pleased with himself, for he had never spoken with such emphasis and emotion. He would say to himself and his wife, “I am an orator – what was lacking was the occasion. When I spoke about Abraham on Sunday, I did not feel gripped at all.” If the same speaker has a little superfluity of understanding to spare, I am sure he would have lost it if the sinner calmly and with dignity answered: But, after all, that was what you yourself preached about on Sunday. p. 29
  • ...passion is necessary. Every movement of infinity comes about by passion, and no reflection can bring a movement about.
  • The ethical expression of what Abraham did is that he meant to murder Isaac, the religious expression is that he meant to sacrifice Isaac – but precisely in this contradiction is the anxiety that can make a person sleepless, and yet, without this anxiety Abraham is not who he is. p. 30
  • Most people live dejectedly in worldly sorrow and joy; they are the ones who sit along the wall and do not join in the dance. The knights of infinity are dancers and possess elevation. They make the movements upward, and fall down again; and this too is no mean pastime, nor ungraceful to behold. But whenever they fall down they are not able at once to assume the posture, they vacillate an instant, and this vacillation shows that after all they are strangers in the world. This is more or less strikingly evident in proportion to the art they possess, but even the most artistic knights cannot altogether conceal this vacillation. One need not look at them when they are up in the air, but only the instant they touch or have touched the ground–then one recognizes them. But to be able to fall down in such a way that the same second it looks as if one were standing and walking, to transform the leap of life into a walk, absolutely to express the sublime in the pedestrian–that only the knight of faith can do–and this is the one and only prodigy.
  • I think myself into the hero; I cannot think myself into Abraham; when I reach that eminence, I sink down, for what is offered to me is a paradox. I by no means conclude that faith is something inferior but rather that it is the highest, also that it is dishonest of philosophy to give something else in its place and to disparage faith. Philosophy cannot and must not give faith, but it must understand itself and know what it offers and take nothing away, least of all trick men out of something by pretending that it is nothing. p. 33
  • "I believe nevertheless that I shall get her, in virtue, that is, of the absurd, in virtue of the fact that with God all things are possible."
  • Infinite resignation is the last stage before faith, so anyone who has not made this movement does not have faith, for only in infinite resignation does an individual become conscious of his eternal validity, and only then can one speak of grasping existence by virtue of faith. p.46
  • But it takes a paradoxical and humble courage to grasp the whole temporal realm by virtue of the absurd, and this is the courage of faith. By faith Abraham did not renounce Isaac, but by faith Abraham received Isaac. By virtue of resignation the rich young man should have given away everything, and if he had done so, the knight of faith would have said – by virtue of the absurd you will get every penny back again – believe it! And the formerly rich young man should by no means treat these words lightly, for if he were to give away his possessions because he was bored with them, then his resignation would not amount to much. p. 49
  • He who loves God without faith reflects upon himself; he who loves God in faith reflects upon God. This is the peak on which Abraham stands. The last stage to pass from his view is the stage of infinite resignation. He actually goes further and comes to faith. p. 37
  • Through resignation I renounce everything. I make this movement all by myself and if I do not make it, it is because I am too cowardly and soft and devoid of enthusiasm and do not feel that significance of the high dignity assigned to every human being, to be his own censor, which is far more exalted than to be the censor general of the whole Roman republic. This movement I make all my myself, and what I gain thereby is my eternal consciousness in blessed harmony with my love for the eternal being. By faith I do not renounce everything; on the contrary, by faith I receive everything exactly in the sense in which it is said that one who has faith like a mustard seed can move mountains. p. 48
  • It is supposed to be difficult to understand Hegel, but to understand Abraham is a small matter. To go beyond Hegel is a miraculous achievement, but to go beyond Abraham is the easiest of all. I for my part have applied considerable time to understanding Hegelian philosophy and believe that I have understood it fairly well; I am sufficiently brash to think that when I cannot understand particular passages despite all my pains, he himself may not have been entirely clear. All this I do easily, naturally, without any mental strain. Thinking about Abraham is another matter, however; then I am shattered.
  • It goes against the grain for me to do what so often happens, to speak inhumanly about the great as if a few millennia were an immense distance. I prefer to speak humanly about it, as if it happened yesterday, and let only the greatness itself be the distance.
    • S. Walsh, trans. (2006), p. 28

Problema I[edit]

  • Is there such a thing as a teleological suspension of the ethical?
  • If this is the case, then Hegel is right in “The Good and Conscience”, where he qualifies man only as the individual and considers this qualification as a “moral form of evil” (from The Philosophy of Right, 86-103), which must be annulled in the teleology of the moral in such a way that the single individual who remain in that stage either sins or is immersed in a spiritual trial. But Hegel is wrong in speaking about faith; he is wrong in not protesting loudly and clearly against Abraham’s enjoying honor and glory as a father of faith when he ought to be sent back to a lower court and shown up for a murderer. Faith is namely this paradox that the single individual is higher than the universal-yet, please note, in such a way that the movement repeats itself, so that after having been in the universal he as the single individual isolates himself as higher than the universal. If this is not faith, then Abraham is lost, then faith has never existed in the world precisely because it has always existed. For if the ethical – that is, social morality- is the highest … then no categories are needed other than the Greek philosophical categories. 55
  • It is certainly true that many persons may be so constituted that they are repulsed by it, but faith ought not therefore to be made into something else to enable one to have it, but one ought rather to admit to not having it, while those who have faith ought to be prepared to set forth some characteristics the paradox can be distinguished from the spiritual trial. p. 56
  • How did Abraham exist? He had faith. This is the paradox by which he remains at the apex, the paradox that he cannot explain to anyone else, for the paradox is that he as the single individual places himself in an absolute relation to the absolute. p. 62
  • It is a simple matter to level all existence to the idea of the state or the idea of a society. If this is done, it is also simple to mediate, for one never comes to the paradox that the single individual as the single individual is higher than the universal, something I can also express symbolically in a statement by Pythagoras to the effect that the odd number is more perfect than the even number. p. 62
  • When in our age we hear these words: It will be judged by the result-then we know at once with whom we have the honor of speaking. Those who talk this way are a numerous type whom I shall designate under the common name of assistant professors. p. 62
  • A person might have been born in lowly circumstances, but I would still require him not to be so inhuman toward himself that he could imagine the king’s castle only at a distance and ambiguously dream of its greatness, and destroy it at the same time he elevates it because he elevated it so basely. I require him to be man enough to tread confidently and with dignity there as well. He must not be so inhuman that he insolently violates everything by barging right of the street into the king’s hall-he loses more thereby than the king. On the contrary, he should find a joy in observing every bidding of propriety with a happy and confident enthusiasm, which is precisely what makes him a free spirit. p. 64
  • But we are curious about the result, just as we are curious about the way a book turns out. We do not want to know anything about the anxiety, the distress, the paradox. We carry on an esthetic flirtation with the result. p. 63
  • To explain the whole of existence and faith along with it, without having a conception of what faith is, is easy, and that man does not make the poorest calculation in life who reckons upon admiration when he possesses such an explanation; for, as Boileau says, "un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l'admire."
  • It is great when the poet, presenting his tragic hero before the admiration of men, dares to say, "Weep for him, for he deserves it." For it is great to deserve the tears of those who are worthy to shed tears. It is great that the poet dares to hold the crowd in check, dares to castigate men, requiring that every man examine himself whether he be worthy to weep for the hero. For the waste-water of blubberers is a degradation of the holy. – But greater than all this it is that the knight of faith dares to say even to the noble man who would weep for him, "Weep not for me, but weep for thyself."
  • To be sure, Mary bore the child wondrously, but she nevertheless did it “after the manner of women,” and such a time is one of anxiety, distress and paradox. The angel was indeed a ministering spirit, but he was not a meddlesome spirit who went to the other young maidens in Israel and said: Do not scorn Mary, the extraordinary is happening to her. The angel went only to Mary, and no one could understand her. Has any woman been as infringed upon, as Mary, and is it not true here also that the one whom God blesses he curses in the same breath? ... Mary became the mother of God. She needs worldly admiration as little as Abraham needs tears, for she was no heroine and he was no hero, but both of them became greater than these, not by being exempted in any way from the distress and the agony and the paradox, but became greater by means of these. p. 65
  • But I come back to Abraham. During the time before the result, either Abraham was a murderer every minute or we stand before a paradox that is higher than all mediation. The story of Abraham contains, then, a teleological suspension of the ethical. As the single individual he became higher than the universal. This is the paradox, which cannot be mediated. How he entered into it is just as inexplicable as how he remains in it. p. 66
  • Faith is a marvel, and yet no human being is excluded from it; for that which unites all human life is passion, and faith is a passion. p. 67

Problema II[edit]

  • The ethical is the universal, and as such it is also the divine. Thus it is proper to say that every duty is essentially duty to God, but if no more can be said than this, then it is also said that I actually have no duty to God. the duty becomes duty by being traced back to God, but in the duty itself I do not enter into relation with God. for example, it is a duty to love one’s neighbor. it is a duty by its being traced back to God, but in the duty I enter into relation not to God, but to the neighbor who I love. if in this connection I then say that it is my duty to love God, I am actually pronouncing only a tautology, inasmuch as “God” in a totally abstract sense is here understood as the divine-that is the universal, that is the duty. The whole existence of the human race rounds itself off as a perfect, self-contained sphere, and then the ethical is that which limits and fills at one and the same time. God comes to be an invisible vanishing point, an impotent thought; his power is only in the ethical, which fills all of existence. Insofar, then, as someone might wish to love God in any other sense than this, he is a visionary, is in love with a phantom, which, if it only had enough power to speak, would say to him: I do not ask for your love-just stay where you belong. Insofar as someone might wish to love God in another way, this love would be as implausible as the love Rousseau mentions, whereby a person loves the Kaffirs instead of loving his neighbor. p. 68-69
  • In Hegelian philosophy, the outer (the externalization) is higher than the inner. p. 68
  • Recent philosophy has allowed itself simply to substitute the immediate for “faith.” if that is done, then it is ridiculous to deny that there has always been faith. this puts faith in the rather commonplace company of feelings, moods, idiosyncrasies, vagaries, etc. if so, philosophy may be correct in saying that one ought not to stop there. But nothing justifies philosophy in using this language. … Only when the individual has emptied himself in the infinite, only then has the point been reached where faith can break through. p. 69
  • The paradox of faith, then, is this: that the single individual is higher than the universal, that the single individual … determines his relation to the universal by his relation to the absolute, not his relation to the absolute by his relation to the universal. The paradox can be expressed thus: there is an absolute duty to God, for in this relationship of duty the individual relates himself as the single individual absolutely to the absolute. In this connection, to say that it is a duty to love God means something different from the above, for if this duty is absolute, then the ethical is reduced to the relative. From this it does not follow that the ethical should be invalidated; rather, the ethical receives a completely different expression, a paradoxical expression, such as, for example, that love to God may bring the knight of faith to give his love to his neighbor-an expression opposite to that which, ethically speaking, is duty. If this is not the faith, then faith has no place in existence, then faith is a spiritual trial and Abraham is lost, inasmuch as he gave in to it. p. 70
  • “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14.26 … the theological student learns that these words appear in the New Testament, and in one or another exegetical resource book he finds the explanation that to hate in this passage and in a few other passages by weakening means love less, esteem less, honor not, count as nothing. The context in which these words appear, however, does not seem to affirm the appealing explanation. In the verse following this we are told that someone who wants to erect a tower first of all makes a rough estimate to see if he is able to finish it, lest he be mocked later. The close proximity of this story and the verse seems to indicate that the words are to be taken in their full terror in order that each person may examine himself to see if he can erect the building. p. 72
  • Anyone who believes that it is fairly easy to be the single individual can always be sure that he is not a knight of faith, for fly-by-nights and itinerant geniuses are not men of faith. on the contrary, this knight knows that it is glorious to belong to the universal. He knows that it is beautiful and beneficial to be the single individual who translates himself into the universal, the one who, so to speak, personally produces a trim, clean, and, as far as possible, faultless edition of himself, readable by all. He knows that is it refreshing to become understandable to himself in the universal in such a way that he understands it, and every single individual who understands him in turn understands the universal in him, and both rejoice in the security of the universal. p. 76
  • The true knight of faith is a witness, never a teacher, and therein lies his deep humanity, which is worth a good deal more than this silly participation in others' weal and woe which is honored by the name of sympathy, whereas in fact it is nothing but vanity.

What did Abraham accomplish for the universal? Let me speak humanly about it, purely humanly! It takes him seventy years to have the son of old age. It takes him seventy years to get what others get in a hurry and enjoy for a lifetime. Why? Because he is being tested and tempted. Is it not madness! But Abraham had faith, and only Sarah vacillated and got him to take Hagar as concubine, but this is also why he had to driver he away. He receives Isaac-then once again he has to be tested. He knows that it is glorious to express the universal, glorious to live with Isaac. But this is not the task. He knew that it is kingly to sacrifice a son like this to the universal; he himself would have found rest therein, and everybody would have rested approvingly in his deed, as a vowel rests in its quiescent letter. But that is not the task-he is being tested. That Roman commander widely known by his nickname Canctator stopped the enemy by his delaying tactics-in comparison with him, what a procrastinator Abraham is-but he does not save the state. This is the content of 130 years. Who can endure it? Would not his contemporaries, if such may be assumed, have said, “What an everlasting procrastination this is; Abraham finally received a son, it took long enough, and now he wants to sacrifice him-is he not mad? If he at least could explain why he wants to do it, but it is always an ordeal. Nor could Abraham explain further, for his life is like a book under divine confiscation and never becomes public property. p. 77

  • A dozen sectarians go arm in arm with one another; they are totally ignorant of the solitary spiritual trials that are in store for the knight of faith and that he dares not flee precisely because it would be still more dreadful if he presumptuously forced his way forward. The sectarians deafen one another with their noise and clamor, keep anxiety away with screeching. A hooting carnival crowd like that thinks it is assaulting heaven, believes it is going along the same path as the knight of faith, who in the loneliness for the universe never hears another human voice but walks alone with his dreadful responsibility. p. 80
  • Therefore, either there is an absolute duty to God-and if there is such a thing, it is the paradox just described, that the single individual as the single individual is higher than the universal and as the single individual stands in an absolute relation to the absolute – or else faith has never existed because it has always existed, or else Abraham is lost or one must interpret the passage in Luke 14 as did that appealing exegete and explain the similar and corresponding passages in the same way. p. 81

Problema III[edit]

  • The ethical is the universal; as the universal it is in turn the disclosed. The single individual, qualified as immediate, sensate, and psychical, is the hidden. Thus his ethical task is to work himself out of his hiddenness and to become disclosed in the universal. Every time he desires to remain in the hidden, he trespasses and is immersed in spiritual trial from which he can emerge only by disclosing himself. Once again we stand at the same point. If there is no hiddenness rooted in the fact that the single individual as the single individual is higher than the universal, then Abraham’s conduct cannot be defended, for he disregarded the intermediary ethical agents. … The Hegelian philosophy assumes no justified hiddenness, no justified incommensurability. It is then consistent for it to demand disclosure, but it is a little bemuddled when it wants to regard Abraham as the father of faith and so speak about faith. p. 82
  • Recognition and hiddenness are also an essential element of modern drama. … I assume that everyone who merely hears the word “hiddenness” will easily be able to shake a dozen novels and comedies out of his sleeve. ... If someone playing the hiding game hides nonsense, we get a comedy, but if he is related to the idea, he may come close to being a tragic hero. p. 84
  • … consider Iphigenia in Aulis, by Euripides. Agamemnon is about to sacrifice Iphigenia. Esthetics demands silence of Agamemnon, inasmuch as it would be unworthy of the hero to seek comfort from another person, just as out of solicitude for the women he ought to hide from them as long as possible. On the other hand, in order to be a hero, the hero also has to be tried in the dreadful spiritual trial that the tears of Clytemnestra and Iphigenia will cause. What does esthetics do? It has a way out; it has the old servant in readiness to disclose everything to Clytemnestra. Now everything is in order. But ethics has no coincidence and no old servant at its disposal. The esthetic idea contradicts itself as soon as it is to be implemented in actuality. For this reason ethics demands disclosure. The tragic hero demonstrates his ethical courage in that he himself, not prey to any esthetic illusion, announces Iphigenia’s fate to her. If he does that, then the tragic hero is ethics’ beloved son in whom it is well pleased. p. 87
  • Note page 88 – Lessing was not only one of the most comprehensive minds Germany has had, he not only displayed an extremely rare precision in his knowledge, which enables one to rely on him and his autopsies without fear of being taken in by loose, undocumented quotations, half understood phrases picked up in unreliable compendiums, or of being disoriented by a stupid trumpeting of something new that the ancients have presented far better-but Lessing also had a most uncommon gift of explaining what he himself had understood. With that he stopped; in our day people go further and explain more than they themselves have understood.
  • The conclusions of passions are the only dependable ones-that is, the only convincing ones. Fortunately, existence is here more affectionate and loyal than the wise assert it is, for it excludes no human being, not even the lowest; it fools no one, for in the world of spirit only he is fooled who fools himself. It is everyone’s opinion-and if I may be permitted to make a judgment about it, it is also my opinion-that to enter a monastery is not the highest, but by no means do I therefore believe that everyone in our day, when one enters the monastery, is greater than the deep and earnest souls who found rest in a monastery. How many in our times has the passion to think this and then to judge themselves honestly? The very idea about being conscientious about time in this way, of taking the time to scrutinize in sleepless vigilance every single secret thought, so that if a person does not always make the movement by virtue of the noblest and holiest in him, he may in anxiety and horror discover and lure forth-if in no other way, then through anxiety-the dark emotions hiding in every human life, whereas in association with others one so easily forgets, so easily evades this, is stopped in so many ways, gets the opportunity to begin afresh-this thought alone, conceived with due deference, could, I believe, chastise many a man in our day who believes he has already attained the highest. p. 100
  • Faust fulfills this idea. Anyone who has a notion of what it means for a person to live on spirit also knows what the hunger of doubt means and knows that the doubter hungers just as much for the daily bread of life as for the nourishment of spirit. p. 109
  • So Abraham did not speak, he did not speak to Sarah, to Eliezer, or to Isaac; he bypassed these three ethical authorities, since for Abraham the ethical had no higher expression than family life. Esthetics allowed, indeed demanded, silence of the single individual, if he knew that by remaining silent he could save another. This alone adequately shows that Abraham is not within the scope of esthetics. His silence is certainly not in order to save Isaac; in fact, his whole task of sacrificing Isaac for his own and for God’s sake is an offense to esthetics, because it is able to understand that I sacrifice myself but not that I sacrifice someone else for my own sake. p. 112.
  • A man rouges his face and wears a periwig. The same man is eager to try his fortune with the fair sex, he is perfectly sure of conquering by the aid of the rouge and the periwig which make him absolutely irresistible. He captures a girl and is at the acme of happiness. Now comes the gist of the matter: if he is able to admit this embellishment, he does not lose all of his infatuating power; when he reveals himself as a plain ordinary man, and bald at that, he does not thereby lose the loved one.
  • So either there is a paradox, that the individual as the individual stands in an absolute relation to the absolute ... or Abraham is lost.


  • Once when the price of spices in Holland fell, the merchants had a few cargoes sunk in the sea in order to jack up the price. Do we need something similar in the world of the spirit? Are we so sure that we have achieved the highest, so that there is nothing left for us to do except piously to delude ourselves into thinking that we have not come that far, simply in order to have something to occupy one’s time> is this the kind of self-deception the present age needs? Should it be trained in the virtuosity along that line, or is it not, instead adequately perfected in the art of deceiving itself? Or, rather, does it not need an honest earnestness that fearlessly and incorruptibly points to the tasks, an honest earnestness that lovingly maintains the tasks, that does not disquiet people into wanting to attain the highest too hastily but keeps the tasks young and beautiful and lovely to look at, inviting to all and yet also difficult and inspiring to the noble-minded (for the noble nature is inspired only by the difficult)? The essentially human is passion, in which one generation perfectly understands another and understands itself. For example, no generation has learned to love from another, no generation is able to begin at any other point than the beginning, no later generation has a more abridged task than the previous one, and if someone desires to go further and not stop with loving as the previous generation did, this is foolish and idle talk. But the highest passion in a person is faith, and here no generation begins at any other point that where the previous one did. Each generation begins all over again; the next generation advances no further than the previous one, that is, if that one was faithful to the task and did not leave high and dry. p. 121-122
  • As long as one generation is concerned only about its task, which is the highest, it cannot become weary, for the task is always adequate for a person’s lifetime. When children on vacation have already played all the games before twelve o’clock and impatiently ask: Can’t somebody think up a new game-does this show that these children are more developed and more advanced than the children in the contemporary or previous generation who make the well-known games last all day long? Or does it now instead that the first children lack what I would call the endearing earnestness belonging to play? p. 122
  • "One must go further, one must go further." This impulse to go further is an ancient thing in the world.
  • Faith is the highest passion in a man. There are perhaps many in every generation who do not even reach it, but no one gets further.

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