Fear and Trembling

From Wikiquote
Jump to: navigation, search

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.

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?
    • p. 15
  • 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
  • ...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
  • "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
  • 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
  • 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?
    • p. 54
  • The ethical as such is the universal, and as the universal it applies to everyone, which from another angle means that it applies at all times. It rests immanent in itself, has nothing outside itself that is its τέλος but is itself the τέλος for everything outside itself, and when the ethical has absorbed this into itself, it goes not further. The single individual, sensately and psychically qualified in immediacy, is the individual who has his τέλος in the universal, and it is his ethical task continually to express himself in this, to annul his singularity in order to become the universal. As soon as the single individual asserts himself in his singularity before the universal, he sins, and only by acknowledging this can he be reconciled again with the universal. ... Faith [in contrast to the ethical] is namely this paradox that the single individual is higher than the universal ... so that after having been in the universal he as the single individual isolates himself as higher than the universal.
    • pp. 54-55
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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."
  • 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]

  • 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 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.

Problema III[edit]

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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?
    • p. 121-122
  • "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.

Quotes about Fear and Trembling[edit]

  • The leading figures of the generation that came to philosophical maturity in the 1840s¹stressed, from the start, their sharp disagreements with the systematic idealism of their predecessors. As Søren Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous author Johannes de Silentio makes clear in Fear and Trembling, the one thing that he is notwriting is 'the System'—that is, any version of Hegelian idealism. …
    • Karl Ameriks, Kant and Historical Turn (2006), 10. The Legacy of Idealism in the Philosophy of Feuerbach, Marx, and Kierkegaard
  • Kierkegaard’s relation to idealism is not the confrontation of one ‘system’ with another, or the attempted substitution for philosophy of an anthropological science or a program for necessary social liberation. Nonetheless, he borrows more from German Idealism than his relentless campaign against Hegel would lead one to expect. This background is indicated in the title of one of his major works, Stages on Life’s Way, as well as in the subtitle he chose for his classic Fear and Trembling: A Dialectical Lyric. At the center of Kierkegaard’s thought is a project that parallels the plot of Hegel’s Phenomenology—namely, a philosophical outline of the ideal ‘pathway of consciousness’. Whereas Hegel describes four main stages in the social history of ‘freedom’, Kierkegaard focuses on four ‘stages on life’s way’ in the development of individual freedom. These stages are deeply Hegelian because they are ordered dialectically in a series of determinate negations, and they exhibit a progression of stages that employs —and then reorders —the key phases of Hegel’s ‘objective’ and ‘absolute’ spirit. In place of Hegel’s sequence—ethics, aesthetics, religion, philosophy—Kierkegaard uses the ascending order: aesthetics, ethics, philosophical religion, orthodox religion.
  • There were some pre-Nietzschean efforts to formulate perspectives that were “beyond” or “above” the traditional “moral” outlooks, insofar as these outlooks were considered negatively, as being either too rigidly mechanical, overly rule-governed, and/or morally uninspiring (i.e., as not expressing the “true” moral spirit). One example is in Hegel’s early writings (e.g.,“The Spirit of Christianity,” 1797), where he stated that via the feeling of love, all thought of [Kantian] duties vanishes, and one rises above the whole [mechanically defined] sphere of justice and injustice. A slightly more extreme example is in the writings of Søren Kierkegaard (1813–55), who characterized the paradoxical and incomprehensible “religious” perspective as one located beyond the rationally-grounded and rule-governed “ethical” perspective. He referred to this as the “teleological suspension of the ethical” in Fear and Trembling (1843).
    • Robert Wicks, Nietzsche (2002), p. 165

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about: