Søren Kierkegaard

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Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (5 May 181311 November 1855) was a Danish Christian philosopher and theologian, considered to be a founder of Existentialist thought and Absurdist traditions.

See also:

Fear and Trembling
Repetition (Kierkegaard)
Philosophical Fragments
The Concept of Anxiety
Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions
Stages on Life's Way
Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments
The Sickness Unto Death



The more one suffers, the more, I believe, has one a sense for the comic...
To be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner. Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner, put yourself in his place so that you may understand what he understands and the way he understands it.
  • The reason I cannot really say that I positively enjoy nature is that I do not quite realize what it is that I enjoy. A work of art, on the other hand, I can grasp. I can — if I may put it this way — find that Archimedian point, and as soon as I have found it, everything is readily clear for me. Then I am able to pursue this one main idea and see how all the details serve to illuminate it.
    • Journals of Soren Kierkegaard, 1A 8 1834
  • For as only one thing is necessary, and as the theme of the talk is the willing of only one thing: hence the consciousness before God of one’s eternal responsibility to be an individual is that one thing necessary.
    • Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, 1847 p. 197-198
  • To understand oneself in existence is the Christian principle, except that this self has received much richer and much more profound qualifications that are even more difficult to understand together with existing. The believer is a subjective thinker, and the difference, is only between the simple person and the simple wise person. Here again the oneself is not humanity in general, subjectivity in general, and other such things, whereas everything becomes easy inasmuch as the difficulty is removed and the whole matter is shifted over into the shadow play of abstraction.
  • **Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, Vol. I, Hong p. 353
  • If a man were to stand on one leg or, in a droll dancing posture, swing his hat, and in this pose recite something true, his few listeners would fall into two classes, and he would not have many, since most of them would probably abandon him. The one class would say: How can what he says be true when he gesticulates that way? The other class would say: Well, it makes no difference whether he performs an entrechat or stands on his head or turns somersaults; what he says is true, and I will appropriate and let him go. So it is also with the imaginary construction. If what is said is earnestness to the writer, he keeps the earnestness essentially to himself. If the recipient interprets it as earnestness, he does it essentially by himself, and precisely this is the earnestness. Even in elementary education one distinguishes between “learning by rote.” The being-in-between of the imaginary construction encourages the inwardness of the two away from each other in inwardness. This form won my complete approval, and I believed I had also found that in it the pseudonymous authors continually aimed at existing and in this way sustained an indirect polemic against speculative thought. If a person knows everything but knows it by rote, the form of the imaginary construction is a good exploratory means; in this form, one even tells him what he knows, but he does not recognize it.
    • Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, Vol. I, Hong p. 264
  • What is your frame of mind toward others? Are you in harmony with everyone-by willing one thing? Or are you divisively in a faction, or are you at loggerheads with everyone and everyone with you? Do you want for everyone what you want for yourself, or do you want the highest for yourself, for yourself and for yours, or that you and yours shall be highest? Do you do unto others what you want others to do to you-by willing one thing? This willing is the eternal order that orders everything, that brings you in harmony with the dead and with the people you never saw, with strange people whose language and customs you do not know, with all the people on the whole earth, who are blood relatives and eternally related to divinity by eternity's task to will one thing. Do you want a different law for yourself and for yours than for others; do you want to have your comfort in something different from that in which every human being unconditionally can and will be comforted? If a king and a beggar and one of your peers came to you at the same time, would you in their presence dare with bold confidence to assert what you want in the world, with bold confidence to assert wherein you seek your comfort, positive that his Royal Majesty would not disdain you even though you are an inferior, positive that the beggar would not go away disheartened as if he could not have the same comfort, positive that your peer would rejoice in your bold confidence! Alas, there is something in the world called an alliance; it is a dangerous thing, because all alliances are divisiveness. It is divisive when the alliance excludes the commoner, and when it excludes the nobleman, and when it excludes the government worker, and when it excludes the king, and when it excludes the beggar, and when it excludes the wise, and when it excludes the simple soul-because all alliances are divisiveness in opposition to the universally human. But to will one thing, to will the good in truth, to will as a single individual to be allied with God-something unconditionally everyone can do-that is harmony.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 144 (1847)
  • I was brought up in the Christian religion, and although I can scarcely sanction all the improper attempts to gain the emancipation of woman, all paganlike reminiscences also seem foolish to me. My brief and simple opinion is that woman is certainly as good as man-period. Any more discursive elaboration of the difference between the sexes or deliberation on which sex is superior is an idle intellectual occupation for loafers and bachelors.
    • Stages on Life's Way, 1845 (Hong) p. 124
  • Some years ago at a specific hour of the day, a tall, slender man could be seen walking with measured steps back and forth on the flagstones in the southern section of Overgaden over Vandet. Hardly anyone failed to notice the peculiarity in his walks, for the distance he covered was so short that even the uninitiated were bound to become aware of him, that he did not enter shops and that he was not, like others, out for a stroll either. Anyone who observed him frequently could see in his gait an image of the force of habit. … He was, of course, well known in the whole neighborhood, but even though he was mentally disordered, he was never exposed to any insult; on the contrary, the neighbors treated him with a certain respect. Conducive to this were his wealth and also his charitableness and his attractive appearance. It is true that his countenance had the impassive expression characteristic of a certain kind of mental disorder, but his features were handsome, his figure erect and well formed, his attire very meticulous, even elegant. Moreover, his mental disorder manifested itself most clearly only in the forenoon between eleven and twelve o’clock, when he paced the flagstones between Bornehaus [Orphanage] Bridge and the south end of the street. The rest of the day he presumably spent trailing after his unhappy concern, but it did not express itself in this way. he spoke with people, went on longer strolls, involved himself in many things, but between eleven and twelve o’clock no one for all the world could stop him from walking, make him walk farther, answer any questions, or even respond to a greeting-he who otherwise was courtesy itself. … The conduct of the nearby residents toward him was almost reminiscent of the conduct of the Indians toward a mentally disordered person, whom they venerated as a wise man, in private they possibly had many conjectures as to the cause of his misfortune. It happens not infrequently that by this kind of conjecturing the so-called sagacious people betray just as much disposition to lunacy or perhaps more foolishness than anyone mentally disordered. The so-called sagacious people are often so stupid as to believe everything a lunatic says, and not infrequently stupid enough to believe that everything he says is lunacy, although many a time no one is more cunning at hiding what he wants to hide than a mentally disordered person, and although many a word from him contains a wisdom of which the wisest need not be ashamed. This no doubt explains how the same view that thinks that in the governance of existence a grain of sand or an accident determines the outcome can hold also in psychology, for it is the same view if one sees no deeper cause for insanity but regards insanity as easily explained by nothing, just as mediocre actors believe that acting the role of an intoxicated person is the easiest of tasks, which is true only if one is sure of having a mediocre audience to see the acting.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 278-279 (1845)
  • I shall suggest in a few words the danger that faces a person in the moment of despair, the reef on which he can be stranded and utterly shipwrecked. The Bible says: For what would it profit a person if he gained the whole world but damaged his own soul; what would he have in return? Scripture does not state the antithesis to this, but it is implicit in the sentence. The antitheses would read something like this: What damage would there be to a person if he lost the whole world and yet did not damage his soul; what would he need in return? There are expressions that in themselves seem simple and yet fill the soul with a strange anxiety, because they almost become more obscure the more one thinks about them. In the religious sphere, the phrase “sin against the Holy Spirit” is such an expression. I do not know whether theologians are able to give a definite explanation of it, but then I am only a layman. But the phrase “to damage one’s soul” is an esthetic expression, and the person who thinks he has an ethical life-view must also think he is able to explain it. We often hear the words used, and yet anyone who wants to understand them must have experienced the deep movements of his soul-indeed, he must have despaired, for it is actually the movements of despair that are described here: on the one side the whole world, on the other side one’s own soul. You will readily perceive, if we pursue this expression, that we arrive at the same abstract definition of “soul” at which we arrived earlier in the definition of the word “self” in the psychological consideration of wishing, without, however, wanting to become someone else. In other words, if I can gain the whole world and yet damage my soul, the phrase “the whole world” must include all the finite things that I possess in my immediacy. Then my soul proves to be indifferent to these things. If I can lose the whole world without damaging my soul, the phrase “the whole world” again includes all the finite qualifications that I possess in my immediacy, and yet if my soul is undamaged it is consequently indifferent toward them. I can lose my wealth, my honor in the eyes of others, my intellectual capacity; and yet not damage my soul: I can gain it all and yet be damaged. What, then, is my soul? What is this innermost being of mine that is undismayed by this loss and suffers damage by this gain?
    • Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 220-221
  • The immediacy of falling in love recognizes but one immediacy that is ebenburtig (of equal standing), and this is a religious immediacy; falling in love is too virginal to recognize any confidant other than God. But the religious is a new immediacy, has reflection in between-otherwise, paganism would actually be religious and Christianity not. That the religious is a new immediacy every person easily understands who is satisfied with following the honest path of ordinary common sense. And although I imagine I have but few readers, I confess nevertheless that I do imagine my readers to be among these, since I am far from wanting to instruct the admired ones, who make systematic discoveries a la Niels Klim, who have left their good skin in order to put on the “real appearance.”
    • Stages on Life's Way, p. 161-162
  • God creates out of nothing, but here, if I dare say so, he does more-he dresses an instinct in all the beauty of erotic love so that the lovers see only the beauty and are unaware of the instinct.
    • Stages on Life's Way, p. 122-123
  • I am well aware that as a human being I am very far from being a paradigm; if anything, I am a sample human being. With a fair degree of accuracy, I give the temperature of every mood and passion, and when I am generating my own inwardness, I understand these words: homo sum, nil humani a me alienum puto [I am a human being, I hold that nothing human is alien to me]. But humanly no one can model himself on me, and historically I am even less a prototype for any human being. If anything, I am someone who could be needed in a crisis, as a guinea pig that life uses to feel its way. A person half as reflective as I would be able to be of significance for many people, but precisely because I am altogether reflective I have none at all. As soon as I am outside my religious understanding, I feel as an insect with which children are playing must feel, because life seems to have dealt with me so unmercifully; as soon as I am inside my religious understanding, I understand that precisely this has absolute meaning for me. Hence, that which in one case is a dreadful jest is in another sense the most profound earnestness. Earnestness is basically not something simple, a simplex, but is a compositum [compound], for true earnestness is the unity of jest and earnestness.
    • Stages on Life's Way, p. 365 Hong
  • he [Goethe] expressly laments that the age and he as a part of it have become depressed by reading English authors-Young, for example. Well, why not? If one is so constituted, one can become depressed by listening to a sermon, if it really has substance, as Young has, but Young is far from depressing.
    • Stages on Life’s Way, Hong p. 150-151
  • Are passions, then, the pagans of the soul? Reason alone baptized? (Edward Young)
    • Title page - Either/Or Part I, Swenson
  • Is reason then alone baptized, are the passions pagans? (Edward Young)
    • Title page - Either/Or Part I, Hong
  • The great passions are hermits, and to transport them to the desert is to hand over to them their proper domain. Chateaubriand
    • Title page - Either/Or Part II, Swenson and Hong
  • What I write in the morning is from the past and belongs to the past year; what I am writing now, these "night thoughts" of mine, are my diary for the current year.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 216
  • if the ethical – that is, social morality- is the highest … then no categories are needed other than the Greek philosophical categories.
    • Fear and Trembling, p. 55
  • By paying attention to the opinion of the visible reading public and of the usual reviewers, one falls into the most fatuous confusion.
    • Prefaces p. 17
  • 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.
    • Journal entry, Gilleleie (1 August 1835) Journals 1A; this is considered to be one of the earliest statements of existentialist thought.
    • Variant translation: My focus should be on what I do in life, not knowing everything, excluding knowledge on what you do. The is key to find a purpose, whatever it truly is that God wills me to do; it's crucial to find a truth which is true to me, to find the idea which I am willing to live and die for.
    • Later variant: What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain knowledge must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. ... I certainly do not deny that I still recognize an imperative of knowledge and that through it one can work upon men, but it must be taken up into my life, and that is what I now recognize as the most important thing.
      • Later expression of such thoughts in a letter to Peter Wilhelm Lund (31 August 1835)
      • Variant translation: I must find a truth that is true for me.
  • But this I thought was the meaning of life, that the individual shook off the habit of accepting the favors of difference, should that be tempting, steeled himself against its humiliation, should that weigh down on him, in order to find the universal, what is common to all human beings, to concern oneself only with that. Oh! How beautiful to lose oneself in this way. But then I thought again that in the having of this concern the meaning of life was to be concerned for oneself as if the particular individual were all there was. Oh! How beautiful thus to find oneself in the universal! If the universal is the rule then the individual is the paradigm [corrected from demand]; if the universal is the demand then the universal is the fulfillment; if the universal is everything, if the universal says everything, then the particular individual believes that the everything is said about him-him alone. So if the place and context here did not require signature, none would be needed, for again it is infinitely inconsequential who has said it (as though the favored one said it, the one who was wronged being in no position to say it, since after all they all have it in them to do it).
    • S. Kierkegaard 1846 Journals, Hannay 1996 VII IB200 p. 252
  • But it never occurred to him to want to be a philosopher, or dedicate himself to Speculation; he was still too fickle for that. True, he was not drawn now to one thing and now to another – thinking was and remained his passion – but he still lacked the self-discipline required for acquiring a deeper coherence. Both the significant and the insignificant attracted him equally as points of departure for his pursuits; the result was not of great consequence – only the movements of thought as such interested him. Sometimes he noticed that he reached one and the same conclusion from quite different starting points, but this did not in any deeper sense engage his attention. His delight was always just to be pressing on; wherever he suspected a labyrinth, he had to find the way. Once he had started, nothing could bring him to a halt. If he found the going difficult and became tired of it before he ought, he would adopt a very simple remedy – he would shut himself up in his room, make everything as festive as possible, and then say loudly and clearly: I will do it. He had learned from his father that one can do what one wills, and his father’s life had not discredited this theory. Experiencing this had given Johannes indescribable pride; that there could be something one could not do when one willed it was unbearable to him. But his pride did not in the least indicate weakness of will, for when he had uttered these energetic words he was ready for anything; he then had a still higher goal – to penetrate the intricacies of the problem by force of will. This again was an adventure that inspired him. Indeed his life was in this way always adventurous. He needed no woods and wanderings for his adventures, but only what he possessed – a little room with one window.
    • Johannes Climacus p. 22-23
  • You friendly genii, who protect all innocent love, to you I commit all endowments of my mind and soul; guard the questing thoughts that they may be found worthy of the subject; fashion my soul into a harmonious instrument, let the soft breezes of eloquence blow over it, send the refreshment and blessings of fruitful moods! You righteous spirits, who guard the boundaries in the realms of the beautiful, watch over me, that I do not in a moment of unclarified enthusiasm and a blind zeal to exalt Don Juan above all, do it wrong, disparage it, make it something other than what it is, which is the highest! You powerful spirits, you who know and understand the hearts of men, stand my me that I may catch the reader, not in the net of passion, nor by the artfulness of eloquence, but by the eternal truth of conviction.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 85-86
  • Every human being is spirit and truth is the self-activity of appropriation.
    • Concluding Postscript p. 242
  • The meaning lies in the appropriation. Hence the book’s joyous giving of itself. Here there are no worldly “mine” and “thine” that separate and prohibit appropriating what is the neighbor’s. Admiration is in part really envy and thus a misunderstanding; and criticism, for all its justification, is in part really opposition and thus a misunderstanding; and recognition in a mirror is only a fleeting acquaintance and thus a misunderstanding-but to see correctly and not want to forget what the mirror is incapable of effecting, that is the appropriation, and the appropriation is the reader’s even greater, is his triumphant giving of himself.
    • Three Discourses On Imagined Occasions, Soren Kierkegaard, June 17, 1844, Hong 1993 Preface p. 6
  • Take a book, the poorest one written, but read it with the passion that it is the only book you will read-ultimately you will read everything out of it, that is, as much as there was in yourself, and you could never get more out of reading, even if you read the best of books.
    • Stages on Life's Way, 1845 p. 363-364
  • In Stages on Life’s Way (p. 342) it says: “It is spirit to ask about two things. (1) Is what is being said possible? (2) Am I able to do it? It is to lack spirit to ask about two things: (1) Did it actually happen? (2) Has my neighbor done it; has he actually done it? In asking with regard to my own actuality, I am asking about its possibility, except that this possibility is not esthetically and intellectually disinterested but is a thought-actuality that is related to my own personal actuality-namely that I am able to carry it out. The how of the truth is precisely the truth.
    • Concluding Postscript p. 322-323
  • People know everything, and in order not to stop with that, they know also that they are not to do the least of what they know, because with the aid of external knowledge they are in seventh heaven, and if one must begin to do it, one will become a poor, wretched existing individual who stumbles again and again and progresses very slowly from year to year.
    • Soren Kierkegaard,Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Vol I, Hong pages 254-256
  • Seeing marriages every day makes one rarely perceive the greatness in marriage, especially since everything is done to belittle it.
    • Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 59
  • Where is the boundary for the single individual in his concrete existence between what is lack of will and what is lack of ability; what is indolence and earthly selfishness and what is the limitation of finitude? For an existing person, when is the period of preparation over, when this question will not arise again in all its initial, troubled severity; when is the time in existence that is indeed a preparation? Let all the dialecticians convene-they will not be able to decide this for a particular individual in concreto.
    • Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 490
  • If someone were to expound that godliness is to belong to childhood in the temporal sense and thus dwindle and die with the years as childhood does, is to be a happy frame of mind that cannot be preserved but only recollected; if someone were to expound that repentance as a weakness of old age accompanies the decline of one’s powers, when the senses are dulled, when sleep no longer strengthens but increases lethargy-this would be ungodliness and foolishness.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong P. 12
  • The only person I actually manage to learn anything from is a long way from being in my service. Yet we have a secret understanding. He knows everything; he is perhaps the most dependable of all. Fortunately he hates me. If possible, he will torture me-indeed, that I understand. He never says anything directly, never mentions any names, but he tells me such strange stories. At first, I did not understand him at all, but now I know that he is talking about her but using fictitious names. He believes I have sufficient imagination to understand every illusion, and this I do, but I also have enough sense to pass it off as nothing. Yet I must count on his being malevolent.
    • Stages on Life's Way p. 218-219
  • When in sickness I go to a physician, he may find it necessary to prescribe a very painful treatment-there is no self-contradiction in my submitting to it. No, but if on the other hand I suddenly find myself in trouble, an object of persecution, because, because I have gone to that physician: well, then then there is a self-contradiction. The physician has perhaps announced that he can help me with regard to the illness from which I suffer, and perhaps he can really do that-but there is an "aber" [but] that I had not thought of at all. The fact that I get involved with this physician, attach myself to him-that is what makes me an object of persecution; here is the possibility of offense. So also with Christianity. Now the issue is: will you be offended or will you believe. If you will believe, then you push through the possibility of offense and accept Christianity on any terms. So it goes; then forget the understanding; then you say: Whether it is a help or a torment, I want only one thing, I want to belong to Christ, I want to be a Christian.
    • Practice in Christianity, Hong p. 115
  • In the New Testament sense, to be a Christian is, in an upward sense, as different from being a man as, in a downward sense, to be a man is different from being a beast. A Christian in the sense of the New Testament, although he stands suffering in the midst of life’s reality, has yet become completely a stranger to this life; in the words of the Scripture and also of the Collects (which still are read-O bloody satire!-by the sort of priests we now have, and in the ears of the sort of Christians that now live) he is a stranger and a pilgrim-just think, for example of the late Bishop Mynster intoning, “We are strangers and pilgrims in this world”! A Christian in the New Testament sense is literally a stranger and a pilgrim, he feels himself a stranger, and everyone involuntarily feels that this man is a stranger to him.
    • Attack Upon Christianity, The Instant, No. 7, Soren Kierkegaard, 1854-1855, Walter Lowrie 1944, 1968
  • The actuality of action is so often confused with all sorts of ideas, intentions, preliminaries to resolutions, preludes of mood, etc. that there is very seldom any action at all.
    • Concluding Postscript p. 330
  • The religious does not dare to ignore what occupies other people’s lives so very much, what continually comes up again every day in conversations, in social intercourse, in books, in the modification of the entire life view, unless the Sunday performances in church are supposed to be a kind of indulgence in which with morose devoutness for one hour a person buys permission to laugh freely all week long. … it shows far greater respect for the religious to demand that it be installed in its rights in everyday life rather than affectedly to hold it off at a Sunday distance.

Concluding Postscript p. 513

  • The result of an education by novels and romances can be two-fold. Either the individual sinks deeper and deeper into illusion, or he emerges from it and loses faith in the illusion, but gains a belief in mystification. In the illusion the individual is hidden from himself; in mystification, he is hidden from others, but both cases are results of a romantic training.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 248
  • It occurs to me that artists go forward by going backward, something which I have nothing against intrinsically when it is a reproduced retreat — as is the case with the better artists. But it does not seem right that they stop with the historical themes already given and, so to speak, think that only these are suitable for poetic treatment, because these particular themes, which intrinsically are no more poetic than others, are now again animated and inspirited by a great poetic nature. In this case the artists advance by marching on the spot. — Why are modern heroes and the like not just as poetic? Is it because there is so much emphasis on clothing the content in order that the formal aspect can be all the more finished?
    • Kierkegaard Journals and papers 1A 86 September 29, 1835
  • The art of recollecting is not easy, because in the moment of preparation it can become something different, whereas memory merely fluctuates between remembering correctly and remembering incorrectly. For example, what is homesickness? It is something remembered that is recollected. Homesickness is prompted simply by one’s being absent. The art would be to be able to feel homesickness even though one is at home. This takes proficiency in illusion. To go on living in an illusion in which there is continual dawning, never daybreak, or to reflect oneself out of all illusion is not as difficult as to reflect oneself into an illusion, plus being able to let it work on oneself with the full force of illusion even though one is fully aware. To conjure up the past for oneself is not as difficult as to conjure away the present for the sake of recollection. This is the essential art of recollection and is reflection to the second power.
    • Stages on Life's Way, 1845, Hong p. 13
  • My demand of life is this-that it would make it clear whether I was trapped in self-delusion or I loved faithfully, perhaps more faithfully than she [Regine]. How long I must persevere is not known. Even if the age of oracles vanished long ago, there is still one thing of which the simplest and the most profound person must, if he talks about it, talk mysteriously-that is: time. Without a doubt it is the most difficult mystery, just as it is also supposed to be the most profound wisdom, to arrange one’s life as if today were the last day one lives and also the first in a sequence of years.
    • Stages on Life's Way, 1845, Hong p. 384
  • There was a time, and not so long ago, when one could score a success also here with a bit of irony, which compensated for all other deficiencies and helped one get through the world rather respectably, gave one the appearance of being cultured, of having a perspective on life, an understanding of the world, and to the initiated marked one as a member of an extensive intellectual freemasonry. Occasionally we still meet a representative of that vanished age who has preserved that subtle, sententious, equivocally divulging smile, that air of an intellectual courtier with which he has made his fortune in his youth and upon which he had built his whole future in the hope that he had overcome the world. Ah, but it was an illusion! His watchful eye looks in vain for a kindred soul, and if his days of glory were not still a fresh memory for a few, his facial expression would be a riddle to the contemporary age, in which he lives as a stranger and foreigner. Our age demands more; it demands, if not lofty pathos then at least loud pathos, if not speculation then at least conclusions, if not truth then at least persuasion, if not integrity then at least protestations of integrity, if not feeling then at least verbosity of feelings. Therefore it also coins a totally different kind of privileged faces. It will not allow the mouth to be defiantly compressed or the upper lip to quiver mischievously; it demands that the mouth be open, for how, indeed, could one imagine a true and genuine patriot who is not delivering speeches; how could one visualize a profound thinker’s dogmatic face without a mouth able to swallow the whole world; how could one picture a virtuoso on the cornucopia of the living world without a gaping mouth? It does not permit one to stand still and to concentrate; to walk slowly is already suspicious; and how could one even put up with anything like that in the stirring period in which we live, in this momentous age, which all agree is pregnant with the extraordinary? It hates isolation; indeed, how could it tolerate a person’s having the daft idea of going through life alone-this age that hand in hand and arm in arm (just like itinerant journeymen and soldiers) lives for the idea of community.
    • The Concept of Irony with continual reference to Socrates p. 246-247
  • One person talks day in and day out in general assemblies and always about what the times demand, yet not repetitiously in a Cato-like, tedious way, but always interestingly and intriguingly he follows the moment and never says the same thing; at parties, too, he imposes himself and doles out his fund of eloquence, at times with full even measure, at times heaped up, and always to applause; at least once a week there is something about him in the newspaper; also at night he bestows his favors, on his wife, that is, by talking even in his sleep about the demands of the times as if he were at the general assembly. Another person is silent before he speaks and goes so far that he does not speak at all; they live the same length of time-and here the question of the result is raised: Who has more to recollect?
    • Stages on Life's Way, 1845 Hong p. 11
  • The veritably great is common property for everybody, a peasant goes to Tribler’s Widow, or to a ballad seller in Halmtorvet, and reads it half aloud to himself at the at the very time Goethe is composing a Faust. And indeed this folk-book merits attention, for it has what one appreciates above all as an honorable quality in wine, it has bouquet, it is an excellent bottling from the Middle Ages, and as one opens it, it bubbles forth so spicy, so sparkling, so characteristically fragrant, that one is quite strangely affected.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 89-90
  • When David would rightly savor his power and glory, he took a census of the people; in our age, on the other hand, one might say that the people, in order to feel their importance in comparison with a higher power, count themselves.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 139
  • Each being is assigned only to himself, and the one who takes care to remain here has a solid foundation to walk on that will not shame him. If he then deliberates with himself about what he will, how far he wills, if by virtue of this deliberation he begins slowly and silently, his earnestness will not be put to shame. If, on the other hand, it pleases a man to wax serious in thought of what he will do for others, this demonstrates that basically he is a fool whose life is and remains a jest despite looks and gestures and powerful eloquence and careful theatrical postures, the existence of which means nothing except insofar as with the assistance of irony there can be a little amusement out of it.
    • Prefaces p. 42-43 (1844)
  • You have surely noticed among schoolboys, that the one that is regarded by all as the boldest is the one who has no fear of his father, who dares to say to the others, "Do you think I am afraid of him?" On the other hand, if they sense that one of their number is actually and literally afraid of his father, they will readily ridicule him a little. Alas, in men’s fear-ridden rushing together into a crowd (for why indeed does a man rush into a crowd except because he is afraid!) there, too, it is a mark of boldness not to be afraid, not even of God. And if someone notes that there is an individual outside the crowd who is really and truly afraid -- not of the crowd, but of God, he is sure to be the target of some ridicule. The ridicule is usually glossed over somewhat and it is said: a man should love God.Yes, to be sure, God knows that man’s highest consolation is that God is love and that man is permitted to love Him. But let us not become too forward, and foolishly, yes, blasphemously, dismiss the tradition of our fathers, established by God Himself: that really and truly a man should fear God. This fear is known to the man who is himself conscious of being an individual, and thereby is conscious of his eternal responsibility before God.
    • Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart, 1847 Steere translation p. 196-197
  • The self-deceived person may even think he is able to console others who became victims of perfidious deception, but what insanity when someone who himself has lost the eternal wants to heal the person who is extremely sick unto death!
    • Works of Love, Hong p. 7
  • While the preceding argument has tried in every possible manner, conceivable and inconceivable, to have it recognized that Mozart’s Don Juan takes the highest place among all classical works, it has made practically no attempt to prove that this work is really a classic; for the suggestions found here and there, precisely as being only suggestions, show that they are not intended to furnish proof, but only to afford an opportunity for enlightenment. This procedure may seem more than peculiar. The proof that Don Juan is a classic work is in the strictest sense a problem for thought; while, on the contrary, the other attempt, with regard to the exact sphere of thought, is quite irrelevant. The movement of thought is satisfied with having it recognized that Don Juan is a classic, and that every classic production is equally perfect; to desire to do more than that is for thought a thing of evil. In this way the preceding argument involves itself in a self-contradiction and easily dissolves into nothing. This is, however, quite correct, and such a self-contradiction is deeply rooted in human nature. My admiration, my sympathy, my piety, the child in me, the woman in me, demanded more than thought could give. My thought found repose, rested happy in its knowledge; then I came to it and begged it yet once more to set itself in motion, to venture the utmost. I knew very well that it was in vain; but since I am accustomed to living on good terms with my thought, it did not refuse me. However, its efforts accomplish nothing; incited by me it constantly transcended itself, and constantly fell back into itself. It constantly sought a foothold, but could not find it; constantly sought bottom, but could neither swim nor wade. It was something both to laugh at and to weep over. Hence, I did both, and I was very thankful that it had not refused me this service. And although I know perfectly well that it will accomplish nothing, I am still as likely to ask it once more to play the same game, which is to me an inexhaustible source of delight. Any reader who finds the game tiresome is, of course, naturally not of my kind; for him the game has no significance, and it is true here as elsewhere, that like-minded children make the best play-fellows.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 56-57
  • The Moral: As soon as it has come to the point that the crowd is to judge what is truth, it will not be long before decisions are made with fists.
    • Writing Sampler, Nichol p. 90
  • Irony limits, finitizes, and circumscribes and thereby yields truth, actuality, content; it disciplines and punishes and thereby yields balance and consistency.
    • On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates (1841)
  • “When the world commences its drastic ordeal, when the storms of life crush youth’s exuberant expectancy, when existence, which seemed so affectionate and gentle, changes into a pitiless proprietor who demands everything back, everything that it gave in such a way that it can take it back-then the believer most likely looks at himself and his life with sadness and pain, but he still says, “There is an expectancy that the whole world cannot take from me; it is the expectancy of faith, and this is victory. I am not deceived, since I did not believe that the world would keep the promise it seemed to be making to me, my expectancy was not in the world but in God.
    • Two Upbuilding Discourses (16 May 1843) in The Expectancy of Faith From Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses. p. 23-24
  • For whoever has what he has from the God himself clearly has it at first hand; and he who does not have it from the God himself is not a disciple. Let us assume that it is otherwise, that the contemporary generation of disciples had received the condition from the God, and that the subsequent generations were to receive it from these contemporaries -- what would follow?
    • Philosophical Fragments, Swensen p. 76
  • When the understanding stands still, it behooves one to have the courage and the heart to believe the wondrous and, continually strengthened by this vision, to return to actuality and not just sit still and want to fathom it.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 122
  • What kind of authority is it that dares to thrust itself between me and my bride, the bride I myself have chosen and who has chosen me. And this authority will command her to be faithful to me-does she need, then, a command-and what if she would be faithful to me only because a third party, whom she loved more than me, commanded it! And it orders me to be faithful to her-do I need to be ordered, I who belong to her with my whole soul! And this authority determines our relation to each other; it says that I am to order and she to obey; but what if I do not want to order, what if I feel too inferior for that? No, her I will obey; for me her hint is my command but I will not submit to an alien authority.
    • Either/Or Part II p. 53
  • The state really does not need to penalize bachelors; life itself punishes the person who deserves to be punished, for the person who does not make a resolution is a poor wretch of whom it must be said in the sad sense: He does not come under judgment. I do not speak this way because I am envious of those who do not will to marry; I am too happy to envy anyone, but I am zealous for life. I return to what I said before, that resolution is a person’s highest ideality. I shall now attempt to develop how the resolution most formative of the individuality must be constituted, and I rejoice in thinking that marriage is precisely so constituted, which, as stated, I assume for the time being to be a synthesis of falling in love and resolution.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 109
  • Who is to blame but her and the third factor, from whence no one knows, which moved me with its stimulus and transformed me? After all, what I have done is praised in others.-Or is becoming a poet my compensation? I reject all compensation, I demand my rights-that is, my honor. I did not ask to become one, I will not buy it at this price. – Or if I am guilty, then I certainly should be able to repent of my guilt and make it good again. Tell me how. On top of that, must I perhaps repent that the world plays with me as a child plays with a beetle?-Or is it perhaps best to forget the whole thing? Forget-indeed, I shall have ceased to be if I forget it. Or what kind of life would it be if along with my beloved I have lost honor and pride and lost them in such a way that no one knows how it happened, for which reason I can never retrieve them again? Shall I allow myself to be shoved out in this manner? Why, then, was I shoved in?
    • Repetition 202-203
  • For the environment it is not difficult to think of Clavigo as a deceiver; for it has never loved him, and so there is no paradox; … Nor is it difficult for the environment to erase every memory of him, and hence it demands that Marie shall do the same. Her pride breaks forth in hate, the environment fans the flames, she finds a vent for her passion in strong words and powerful energetic resolutions, and intoxicates herself with these. The environment rejoices. It does not perceive, what she will hardly acknowledge herself, that the next moment she is weak and faint; it does not notice the anxious misgiving that seizes her, as to whether the strength she has in certain moments is an illusion. This she carefully conceals and will admit to no one. The environment continues the theorizing exercises with vigor, but begins to wish signs of practical results. They do not appear. The environment continues to inflame her; her words reveal an inward strength, and yet the suspicion grows that all is not well. It becomes impatient, and ventures upon extreme measures, it drives the spur of ridicule into her side to incite her.
    • Either/Or Part 1, Swenson p. 180
  • Knowledge can in part be set aside, and one can then go further in order to collect new; the natural scientist can set aside insects and flowers and then go further, but if the existing person sets aside the decision in existence, it is eo ipso lost, and he is changed.
    • Papers VI B 66 1845
  • It is usually thought to be very clever to say that Faust finally becomes a Don Juan, but this means very little, since the real question is in what sense he becomes one. Faust is a daemonic figure like a Don Juan, but higher. The sensuous first becomes significant in him only after he has lost the entire preceding world, but the consciousness of this loss is not erased, it is constantly present, and he seeks therefore in the sensuous not so much enjoyment as a diversion of mind. His doubting soul finds nothing in which it can rest, and now he reaches after love, not because he believes in it, but because it has a present element in which there is rest for a moment, and a striving which distracts and diverts his attention from the nothingness of doubt. Hence his enjoyment does not have the cheerful serenity which distinguishes a Don Juan. His countenance is not wreathed in smiles, his brow is not unclouded, and happiness is not his companion; the young women do not dance into his embrace, but he frightens them to him. What he seeks is not merely the pleasure of the sensuous, but what he desires is the immediacy of the spirit. As the shades of the underworld, when they got hold of a living being, sucked his blood, and lived as long as this blood warmed and nourished them, so Faust seeks an immediate life by which he can be renewed and strengthened. And where can this be found better than in a young woman, and how can he absorb it more perfectly than in the embrace of love? As the Middle Ages tell of sorcerers who understood how to prepare an elixir for the renewal of youth, and used the heart of an innocent child for that purpose, so is this the strengthening potion his starved soul needs, the only thing which is able to satisfy him for a moment. His sick soul needs what I might call a young heart’s first green shoots; and with what else shall I compare an innocent feminine soul’s first youth? If I were to call it a blossom, I should say too little, for it is more, it is a flowering: the soundness of hope and faith and trust shoots forth and blossoms in rich variety, and soft impulses move the delicate shoots, and dreams shade their fruitfulness. Thus it affects a Faust, it beckons to his restless soul like a peaceful isle in the quiet sea. That it is transient no one knows better than Faust; he does not believe in it any more than he believes in anything else; but that it exists, of that he convinces himself in the embrace of love. Only the fullness of innocence and childlikeness can for a moment refresh him. 204-205

Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 204-205

  • In the external, patience is some third element that must be added, and, humanly speaking, it would be better if it were not needed; some days it is needed more, some days less, all according to fortune, whose debtor a person becomes, even though he gained ever so little, because only when he wants to gain patience does he become one’s debtor.
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 168

“he fixed his definition thus: reflection is the possibility of the relation, consciousness is the relation, the first form of which is contradiction. He soon noted that, as a result, the categories of reflection are always dichotomous. For example ideality and reality, soul and body, to recognize – the true, to will – the good, to love – the beautiful, God and the world, and so on, these are categories of reflection. In reflection, these touch each other in such a way that a relation becomes possible. The categories of consciousness, on the other hand, are trichotomous, as language itself indicates, for when I say I am conscious of this, I mention a trinity. Consciousness is mind and spirit, and the remarkable thing is that when in the world of mind or spirit one is divided, it always becomes three and never two. Consciousness, therefore, presupposes reflection. If this were not true it would be impossible to explain doubt. True, language seems to contest this, since in most languages, as far as he knew, the word ‘doubt’ is etymologically related to the word ‘two’. Yet in his opinion this only indicated the presupposition of doubt, especially because it was clear to him that as soon as I, as spirit, become two, I am eo ipso three. If there were nothing but dichotomies, doubt would not exist, for the possibility of doubt lies precisely in that third which places the two in relation to each other. One cannot therefore say that reflection produces doubt, unless one expressed oneself backwards; one must say that doubt presupposes reflection, though not in a temporal sense. Doubt arises through a relation between two, but for this to take place the two must exist, although doubt, as a higher expression, comes before rather than afterwards.”

    • Johannes Climacus (1841) p. 80-81
  • Man is a synthesis of psyche and body, but he is also a synthesis of the temporal and the eternal. In the former, the two factors are psyche and body, and spirit is the third, yet in such a way that one can speak of a synthesis only when the spirit is posited. The latter synthesis has only two factors, the temporal and the eternal. Where is the third factor? And if there is no third factor, there really is no synthesis, for a synthesis that is a contradiction cannot be completed as a synthesis without a third factor, because the fact that the synthesis is a contradiction asserts that it is not. What, then, is the temporal?
    • The Concept of Anxiety p. 85
  • Anxiety and nothing always correspond to each other. As soon as the actuality of freedom and of spirit is posited, anxiety is canceled. But what then does the nothing of anxiety signify more particularly in paganism. This is fate. Fate is a relation to spirit as external. It is the relation between spirit and something else that is not spirit and to which fate nevertheless stands in a spiritual relation. Fate may also signify exactly the opposite, because it is the unity of necessity and accidental. … A necessity that is not conscious of itself is eo ipso the accidental in relation to the next moment. Fate, then, is the nothing of anxiety.
    • The Concept of Anxiety p. 96-97
  • In all the flat, lethargic, dull moments, when the sensate dominates a person, to him Christianity is a madness because it is incommensurate with any finite wherefore. But then what good is it? Answer: Be quiet, it is the absolute. And that is how it must be presented, consequently as, that is, it must appear as madness to the sensate person. And therefore it is true, so true, and also in another sense so true when the sensible person in the situation of contemporaneity (see II A) censoriously says of Christ, “He is literally nothing”-quite so, for he is the absolute. Christianity is an absolute. Christianity came into the world as the absolute, not, humanly speaking, for comfort; on the contrary, it continually speaks about how the Christian must suffer or about how a person in order to become and remain a Christian must endure sufferings that he consequently can avoid simply by refraining from becoming a Christian.
    • Practice in Christianity, Hong P. 61-62
  • ... anxiety is a reflection, and in this respect is essentially different than sorrow. Anxiety is the organ by which the subject appropriates sorrow and assimilates it. Anxiety is the energy of the movement by which sorrow bores its way into one’s heart. But the movement is not swift like the thrust of a dart, it is successive; it is not once for all, but it is constantly continuing. As a passionate, erotic glance desires its object, so anxiety looks upon sorrow to desire it. As the quiet, incorruptible glance of love is preoccupied with the beloved object, so anxiety occupies itself with sorrow. But anxiety has another element in it which makes it cling even more strongly to its object, for it both loves it and fears it. Anxiety has a two-fold function. Partly it is the detective instinct which constantly touches, and by means of this probing, discovers sorrow, as it goes round about the sorrow. Or anxiety is sudden, posits the whole sorrow in the present moment, yet so that this present moment instantly dissolves in succession. Anxiety is in this sense a truly tragic category, and the old saying: quem deus vult perdere, primum dementat, (whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes insane) in truth rightly applies here. That anxiety is determined by reflection is shown by our use of words; for I always say: to be anxious about something, by which I separate the anxiety from that about which I am anxious, and I can never use anxiety in an objective sense; whereas, on the contrary, when I say “my sorrow,” it can just as well express that which I sorrow over, as my sorrow over it. In addition, anxiety always involves a reflection upon time, for I cannot be anxious about the present, but only about the future; but the past and the future, so resisting one another that the present vanishes, are reflective determinations.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 152-153
  • One sticks one’s finger into the soil to tell by the smell in what land one is: I stick my finger in existence — it smells of nothing. Where am I? Who am I? How came I here? What is this thing called the world? What does this world mean? Who is it that has lured me into the world? Why was I not consulted, why not made acquainted with its manners and customs instead of throwing me into the ranks, as if I had been bought by a kidnapper, a dealer in souls? How did I obtain an interest in this big enterprise they call reality? Why should I have an interest in it? Is it not a voluntary concern? And if I am to be compelled to take part in it, where is the director? I should like to make a remark to him. Is there no director? Whither shall I turn with my complaint?
  • Suppose she really has made a decision, suppose she insists on being offended, wants it to be in the open, wants to despair and to have a distinctive form of desperation. Good God! Only not this, everything else, only not this! Cursed be wealth and earthly tinsel and being or seeming to be somebody important in the eyes of the world! Would that I were a workhouse inmate, a poor wretch of a man, then the misrelation would be something else again. True enough, in the eyes of the world I am a scoundrel. In the eyes of the world-what are the eyes of the world but blindness, and what is the world’s verdict? I have not found ten men who are capable of judging rigorously. Or am I not honored and esteemed as before, do I not enjoy more recognition than before, and in the eyes of the world is this not the necessary qualification, the justification for being a scoundrel, or at least for having an extraordinary natural talent for becoming one? Let it choose between an abandoned girl who bows her innocent head in sorrow and seeks a hiding place in the country so that she can grieve-and an actor in the theater of life, a brazen fellow who keeps his head up and defies everybody with proud eyes-the world’s choice is soon made. A man is given a lifelong fine for an accidental injury, but I, I have no verdict pronounced on me. Condemned! I incite people against me, and they shout, “Bravo!”; I wait for them to kill me, and they carry me in triumph. I tremble, I doubt whether I have the strength and courage to bear the world’s verdict, whether I do not owe it to myself to place myself in a better light, but I do not falter, and I pull the cord of the shower-and the world’s judgment is utterly favorable. But, merciful God, do not let this happen, do not let it happen. I despair. I wrestle with you, I rush out there, I win her once again, I give up everything in order to challenge with gold all the splendor of the manor house, I have a wedding, and I shoot myself on the wedding day. But I must go out there; I must see what he wants out there. Alas, I do not dare to ask anything, not for anything. It is easy enough to take the vow of silence when one would rather not have anything more to do with the world, but to have to be silent when one is as concerned as this!
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 256
  • I vow: as soon as possible to realize a plan envisaged for thirty years, to publish a logical system, as soon as possible to fulfill my promise, made ten years ago, of an esthetic system; furthermore, I promise an ethical and dogmatic system, and finally the system. As soon as this has appeared, generations to come will not even need to learn to write, because there will be nothing more to write; but only to read-the system.
    • Prefaces, Nichol, 1997 p. 14
  • the true eternity does not lie behind either/or, but before it … to bring forth this true eternity requires a determination of will … A religiously developed person makes a practice of referring everything to God, of permeating and saturating every finite relation with the thought of God, and thereby consecrating and ennobling it. … When around one everything has become silent, solemn as a clear, starlit night, when the soul comes to be alone in the whole world, then before one there appears, not an extraordinary human being, but the eternal power itself, then the heavens open, and the I chooses itself or, more correctly, receives itself. Then the personality receives the accolade of knighthood that ennobles it for an eternity. … It is an earnest and significant moment when a person links himself to an eternal power for an eternity, when he accepts himself as the one whose remembrance time will never erase, when in an eternal and unerring sense he becomes conscious of himself as the person he is. And yet one can refrain from doing it! … The crux of the matter, then, is the energy by which I become ethically conscious, or, more correctly, I cannot become ethically conscious without energy. Therefore, I cannot become ethically conscious without becoming conscious of my eternal being. This is the true demonstration of the immortality of the soul. It is fully developed, of course, only when the task is congruent with the duty, but that to which I am duty-bound for an eternity is an eternal task. ... The knight will have the power to concentrate the conclusion of all his thinking into one act of consciousness. If he lacks this focus, his soul is dissipated in multiplicity from the beginning, and he will never find the time to make the movement; he will continually be running errands in life and will never enter into eternity, for in the very moment he approaches it, he will suddenly discover something and therefore must go back. In the next moment he thinks, it will be possible, and this is quite true, but with such observations one will never come to make the movement but with their help will sink deeper and deeper into the mire. … wishing to be in the wrong is an expression of an infinite relationship, and wanting to be in the right, or finding it painful to be in the wrong, is an expression of a finite relationship! Hence, it is upbuilding always to be in the wrong-because only the infinite builds up; the finite does not!
    • Either/Or I Swenson p. 37-38, Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 21-22, 43, 177, 206-207, 270, Fear and Trembling p. 43, Repetition p. 137, Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 348
  • " No human being can give an eternal resolution to another or take it from him; If someone objects to that then one might just as well be silent if there is no probability of winning others, he thereby has merely shown that although his life very likely thrived and prospered in probability and everyone of his undertakings in the service of probability went forward, he has never really ventured and consequently has never had or given himself the opportunity to consider that probability is an illusion, but to venture the truth is what gives human life and the human situation pith and meaning, to venture is the fountainhead of inspiration, whereas probability is the sworn enemy of enthusiasm, the mirage whereby the sensate person drags out time and keeps the eternal away, whereby he cheats God, himself, and his generation: cheats God of the honor, himself of liberating annihilation, and his generation of the equality of conditions."
    • Four Upbuilding Discourses (31 August 1844) in Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 382
  • Ordinarily we speak only of a married man’s unfaithfulness, but what is just as bad is a married man’s lack of faith. Faith is all that is required, and faith compensated for everything. Just let understanding and sagacity and sophistication reckon, figure out, and describe how a married man ought to be: there is only one attribute that makes him loveable, and that is faith, absolute faith in marriage. Just let experience in life try to define exactly what is required of a married man’s faithfulness; there is only one faithfulness, one honesty that is truly loveable and hides everything in itself, and that is the honesty toward God and his wife and his married estate in refusing to deny the miracle.
    • Stages On Life's Way, 1845, Hong p. 90-91
  • Deep within every human being there still lives the anxiety over the possibility of being alone in the world, forgotten by God, overlooked among the millions and millions in this enormous household. One keeps this anxiety at a distance by looking at the many round about who are related to him as kin and friends, but the anxiety is still there, nevertheless, and one hardly dares think of how he would feel if all this were taken away.
    • Journals VII 1A 363
  • Death induces the sensual person to say: Let us eat and drink, because tomorrow we shall die – but this is sensuality’s cowardly lust for life, that contemptible order of things where one lives in order to eat and drink instead of eating and drinking in order to live.
    • Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Hong p. 83
  • In the life of the individual when love awakens it is older than everything else, because when it exists it seems as if it has existed for a long time; it presupposes itself back into the distant past until all searching ends in the inexplicable origin. Whereas all beginnings are ordinarily said to be difficult, this does not hold true of love’s beginning. Its happy awakening is unacquainted with work, and there is no advance preparation. Even if love can give birth to pain, it is not brought forth in pain; lightly, jubilantly, it bursts forth in its enigmatic coming into existence. What a wonderful beginning. But the life of freedom requires a beginning, and here a beginning is a resolution, and the resolution has its work and its pain-thus the beginning has its difficulty. The one making the resolution has, of course, not finished, because in that case he would have experienced that of which the resolution is the beginning. But if no resolution is made, the same thing can happen to such a person as sometimes happens to a speaker who only when he has finished speaking knows how he should have spoken: only when he has lived, only then does he know how he should have lived (what a sorry yield from life!) and how he should have made the beginning with the good resolution-what a bitter wisdom now that a whole life lies between the beginning and the one who is dying.
    • Three Discourses On Imagined Occasions, Hong 1993, p. 47
  • "Christianity cannot be poured into a child. No one begins with being Christian; each one becomes that in the fullness of time-if one becomes that. A strict Christian upbringing in Christianity’s decisive categories is a very venturesome undertaking, because Christianity makes men whose strength is in their weakness: but if a child is cowed into Christianity in its totally earnest form, it ordinarily makes a very unhappy youth. The rare exception is a sort of luck."
    • Concluding Unscientific Postscript Vol 1, p. 591
  • If a person is unwilling to make a decisive resolution, if he wants to cheat God of the heart’s daring venture in which a person ventures way out and loses sight of all shrewdness and probability, indeed, takes leave of his senses or at least all his worldly mode of thinking, if instead of beginning with one step he almost craftily seeks to find out something, to have the infinite certainty changed into a finite certainty, then this discourse will not be able to benefit him. There is an upside-downness that wants to reap before it sows; there is a cowardliness that wants to have certainty before it begins. There is a hypersensitivity so copious in words that it continually shrinks from acting; but what would it avail a person if, double-minded and fork-tongued he wanted to dupe God, trap him in probability, but refused to understand the improbable, that one must lose everything in order to gain everything, and understand it so honestly that, in the most crucial moment, when his soul is already shuddering at the risk, he does not again leap to his own aid with the explanation that he has not yet fully made a resolution but merely wanted to feel his way. Therefore, all discussion of struggling with God in prayer, of the actual loss (since if pain of annihilation is not actually suffered, then the sufferer is not yet out upon the deep, and his scream is not the scream of danger but in the face of danger) and the figurative victory cannot have the purpose of persuading anyone or of converting the situation into a task for secular appraisal and changing God’s gift of grace to the venture into temporal small change for the timorous. It really would not help a person if the speaker, by his oratorical artistry, led him to jump into a half hour’s resolution, by the ardor of conviction started a fire in him so that he would blaze in a momentary good intention without being able to sustain a resolution or to nourish an intention as soon as the speaker stopped talking.
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, One Who Prays Aright Struggles In Prayer and is Victorious-In That God is Victorious p. 380-381
  • Since reflection does not dare to set foot in the holy place of love and on the consecrated ground of immediacy, what direction shall it then take until it arrives at the resolution? Reflection turns toward the relation between falling in love and actuality. For the lover, the most certain of all things is that he is in love, and no meddlesome thoughts, no stockbrokers run back and forth between falling in love and a so-called ideal-that is a forbidden road. Nor does reflection inquire whether he should marry; he does not forget Socrates. But to marry is to enter an actuality in relation to a given actuality; to marry involves an extraordinary concretion. This concretion is the task of reflection. But is it perhaps so concrete (defined in terms of time, place, surroundings, the stroke of the clock, seventeen relationships, etc.) that no reflection can penetrate it? If this is assumed, one has thereby also assumed that, on the whole, no resolution is possible. A resolution is still always an ideality; I have the resolution before I begin to act in virtue of this resolution. But how, then, have I come to the resolution? A resolution is always reflective; if this is disregarded, then language is confused and resolution is identified with an immediate impulse, and any statement about resolution is no more an advancement than a journey in which one drives all night but takes the wrong road and in the morning arrives at the same place from which he departed. In a perfectly ideal reflection the resolution has ideally emptied actuality, and the conclusion of this ideal reflection, which is something more than the summa summarum [sum total] and enfin [finally], is precisely the resolution: the resolution is the ideality brought about through a perfectly ideal reflection, which is the action’s required working capital.
    • Stages On Life's Way, 1845, Hong p. 160
  • the world and Christianity have completely opposite conceptions. The world says of the apostles, of the Apostle Peter as their spokesman, "He is drunk,"-and the Apostle Peter admonishes, "Become sober." Consequently the secular mentality considers Christianity to be drunkenness, and Christianity considers the secular mentality to be drunkenness. "Do become reasonable, come to your senses, try to become sober"-thus does the secular mentality taunt the Christian. And the Christian says to the secular mentality, "Do become reasonable, come to your senses, become sober." The difference between secularity and Christianity is not that one has one view and the other another-no, the difference is always that they have the very opposite views, that what one calls good the other calls evil, what the one calls love the other calls selfishness, what the one calls piety the other calls impiety, What the one calls being drunk the other calls being sober. it is precisely the drunken man, the apostle, who finds it necessary to bring home to the sober (I assume) world the admonition: "Become sober!" This very admonition may, as intended, most severely wound the callous secular mentality, which as a rule cannot be wounded very easily or disconcerted. Soren Kierkegaard,
    • Judge for Yourself, p. 96-97 1851
  • Freedom’s possibility is not the ability to choose the good or the evil. The possibility is to be able. In a logical system, it is convenient to say that possibility passes over into actuality. However, in actuality it is not so convenient, and an intermediate term is required. The intermediate term is anxiety, but it no more explains the qualitative leap than it can justify it ethically. Anxiety is neither a category of necessity nor a category of freedom; it is entangled freedom, where freedom is not free in itself but entangled, not by necessity, but in itself.
  • Once in his early youth a man allowed himself to be so far carried away in an overwrought irresponsible state as to visit a prostitute. It is all forgotten. Now he wants to get married. Then anxiety stirs. He is tortured day and night with the thought that he might possibly be a father, that somewhere in the world there could be a created being who owed his life to him. He cannot share his secret with anyone; he does not even have any reliable knowledge of the fact. –For this reason the incident must have involved a prostitute and taken place in the wantonness of youth; had it been a little infatuated or an actual seduction, it would be hard to imagine that he could know nothing about it, but now this this very ignorance is the basis of his agitated torment. On the other hand, precisely because of the rashness of the whole affair, his misgivings do not really start until he actually falls in love.
    • Journal and Papers 5622 (Papers IV A 65) n.d. 1843
  • In order to eliminate misunderstandings, the main point is that marriage is a τέλος, yet not for nature’s striving so that we touch on the meaning of the τέλος in the mysteries, but for the individuality. But if it is a τέλος, it is not something immediate but an act of freedom, and belonging under freedom as it does, the task is actualized only through a resolution. Erotic love or falling in love is altogether immediate; marriage is a resolution; yet falling in love must be taken up into marriage or into the resolution; to will to marry-that is the most immediate of all immediacies must also be the freest resolution, that which is so inexplicable in its immediacy that it must be attributed to a deity must also come about by virtue of deliberation, and such exhaustive deliberation that from it a resolution results. Furthermore, the one must not follow the other; the resolution must not come slinking along behind but must occur simultaneously; both parts must be present in the moment of decision. If deliberation has not exhausted thought, then I make no resolution; I act either on inspiration or on the basis of a whim.
    • Stages On Life's Way, 1845, Hong p. 101-102
  • There are three existence-spheres: the esthetic, the ethical, the religious. The metaphysical is abstraction, and there is no human being who exists metaphysically. The metaphysical, the ontological, is, but it does not exist, for when it exists it does so in the esthetic in the ethical, in the religious, and when it is, it is the abstraction from or a something prior to the esthetic, the ethical, the religious. The esthetic sphere is only a transition sphere, and therefore its highest expression is repentance as a negative action. The esthetic sphere is the sphere of immediacy, the ethical the sphere of requirement (and this requirement is so infinite that the individual always goes bankrupt), the religious the sphere of fulfillment, but, please note, not a fulfillment such as when one fills an alms box or a sack with gold, for repentance has specifically created a boundless space, and as a consequence the religious contradiction: simultaneously to be out on 70,000 fathoms of water and yet be joyful. Just as the ethical sphere is a passageway-which one nevertheless does not pass through once and for all-just as repentance is its expression, so repentance is the most dialectical. No wonder, then, that one fear it, for if one gives it a finger it takes the whole hand. Just as Jehovah in the Old Testament visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the latest generations, so repentance goes backward, continually presupposing the object of its investigation. In repentance there is the impulse of the motion, and therefore everything is reversed. This impulse signifies precisely the difference between the esthetic and the religious as the difference between the external and the internal.
    • Stages On Life's Way, 1845, Hong p. 476-477
  • A person can be both good and evil, just as it is quite simply said that a human being has a disposition to both good and evil, but one cannot simultaneously become both good and evil. Esthetically, the poet has been required not to depict these abstract models of virtue or diabolical characters but to do as Goethe does, whose characters are both good and evil. And why is this a legitimate requirement? Because we want the poet to depict human beings as they are, and every human being is both good and evil, and because the poet’s medium is the medium of imagination, is being but not becoming, at most is becoming in a very foreshortened perspective. But take the individual out of this medium of imagination, out of this being, and place him in existence-then ethics immediately confronts him with its requirement, whether he now deigns to become, and then he becomes-either good or evil. In the earnest moment of self-contemplation, in the sacred moment of confession, the individual removes himself from the process of becoming and in the realm of being inspects how he is. Alas, the result unfortunately is that he is both good and evil, but as soon as he is again in the process of becoming he becomes either good or evil.
    • Concluding Unscientific Postscript P. 420-421
  • Writing is not speaking; sitting at a desk and copying what is said is only baneful toil in comparison with stepping forth in an assembly, looking at a great throng who all are inspired by the same thing and for the same thing, having the stillness enter in like the prayer before battle, having the word break forth like the thunder of combat, being oneself transported by the silence that is the silence of attention, hearing the whisper that is the whisper of approval, sensing the stentoriousness of the Amen of conviction.
    • Prefaces, Todd W. Nichol, 1997, Princeton University Press p. 27
  • The author qua author is thereby also in the fortunate position of owing no one anything. I am referring to critics, reviewers, intermediaries, appraisers, etc., who in the literary world are just like the tailors, who in civil life “create the man”-they set the fashion of the author, the point of view of the reader. With their help and art, a book amounts to something. But then it is with these benefactors as, according to Baggesen, with the tailors: “In turn they slay people with bills for the creation.” One comes to owe them everything, yet without even being able to pay off this debt with a new book, because the importance of the new book, if it comes to have any, will in turn be due to the art and help of these benefactors.
    • Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 5-6
  • To write a book is the easiest of all things in our time, if, as is customary one takes ten older works on the same subject and out of them puts together an eleventh on the same subject. In this way one gains the honor of being an author just as easily as one gains, according to Holberg’s advice, the rank of being a practiced physician and the possession of his fellow citizens’ money, trust, and esteem by getting a new black suit and writing on one’s door: “John Doe Physician.”
    • Prefaces, Todd W. Nichol, 1997, Princeton University Press p. 35
  • It is now about four years since the idea came to me of wanting to try my hand as an author. I remember it very clearly. It was on a Sunday; yes, correct, it was a Sunday afternoon. As usual, I was sitting outside the café in Frederiksberg Gardens, that wonderful garden which, for the child, was an enchanted land where the king lived with the queen; that lovely garden which, for the youth, was a pleasant diversion in the happy gaiety of the populace; that friendly garden which, for the adult, is so cozy in its wistful elevation above the world and which belongs to the world; that garden where even the envied glory of royalty is what it indeed is out there-a queen’s recollection of her late lord. There as usual I sat and smoked my cigar. Regrettably, the only similarity I have been able to detect between the beginning of my fragment of philosophic endeavor and the miraculous beginning of that poetic hero is that it was a public place. Otherwise there is no similarity at all, and although I am the author of Fragments, I am so insignificant that I am an outsider in literature. I have not even added to subscription literature, nor can it truthfully be said that I have a significant place in it. I have been a student for half a score years. Although I was never lazy, all my activity was nevertheless only like a splendid inactivity, a kind of occupation I still much prefer and for which perhaps I have a little genius. I read a great deal, spent the rest of the day loafing or thinking, or thinking and loafing, but nothing came of it. The productive sprout in me went for everyday use and was consumed in its first gleaming.
    • Concluding Unscientific Postscript P. 185
  • What Goethe has somewhere said about Hamlet, that in relation to his body his soul was an acorn planted in a flower-pot, which at least breaks the container, is also true of Margaret’s love. Faust is too great for her, and her love must finally break her soul in pieces. And the moment for this soon comes, for Faust doubtless feels that she cannot remain in this immediacy; he does not carry her up in the higher realms of the spirit; for it is from these he flees; he desires her sensually-and abandons her. ... It might seem that it would be more difficult for reflection to be set in motion in Margaret; that which really tends to stop it is the feeling that she was absolutely nothing. And yet there lies in this a tremendous dialectical elasticity. If she were able to hold the thought fast that she was, in the strictest sense of the word, absolutely nothing, then reflection would be excluded, and then she would not have been deceived; for when you are nothing, then there is no relation, and where there is no relation, there can be no talk of a deception. So far she is at peace. However, this thought cannot be held fast, but instantly changes into its opposite. That she was nothing is merely an expression for the fact that all the finite differences of love are negatived, and is therefore the exact expression for the absolute validity of her love, wherein again lies her absolute justification. His conduct is then not merely a deception, but an absolute deception, because her love was absolute. And herein she will again be unable to find rest; for since he has been her all, she will not even be able to hold this thought fast except through him; but she cannot think it through him, because he was a deceiver. As her environment becomes more and more alien to her, the inner movement begins. She has not merely loved Faust with all her soul, but he was her vital force, through him she came into being. This has the effect, while her soul is not less moved than Elvira’s, of making the individual moods less violent. She is on the way to developing a fundamental emotional tone, and the individual mood is like a bubble rising from the deep without strength to maintain itself, which is not so much replaced by a new bubble as it is dissolved in the general mood that she is nothing. This fundamental mood is again a state of mind that is felt, that does not receive expression in any particular outbreak; it is inexpressible, and the attempt that each particular mood makes to give life to it, to raise it up, is in vain. The total mood is therefore constantly present as an undertone of impotence and faintness. The individual mood gives it expression, but it does not soothe, it does not ease, it is-to use an expression of my Swedish Elvira which is certainly very apt, though a man will scarcely feel its full import-like a false sigh which disappoints, and not like a genuine sigh, which is strengthening and beneficial. Nor is the individual mood full-toned and energetic, since her expression is too heavily encumbered.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 208-211
  • When it is stated in Genesis that God said to Adam, “Only from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you must not eat,” it follows as a matter of course that Adam really has not understood this word, for how could he understand the difference between good and evil when this distinction would follow as a consequence of the enjoyment of the fruit. When it is assumed that the prohibition awakens the desire one acquires knowledge instead of ignorance, and in that case Adam must have had knowledge of freedom, because the desire was to use it. The explanation is therefore subsequent. The prohibition induces in him anxiety, for the prohibition awakens in him freedom’s possibility. What passed by innocence as the nothing of anxiety has now entered into Adam, and here again it is a nothing-the anxious possibility of being able. He has no conception of what he is able to do; otherwise-and this it what usually happens-that which comes later, the difference between good and evil, would have to be presupposed. Only the possibility of being able is present as a higher form of ignorance, as a higher expression of anxiety, because in a higher sense it both is and is not, because in a higher sense he both loves it and flees from it. The Concept of Anxiety p. 44-45
  • the Christian doctrine of sin is nothing but insolent disrespect of man, accusation upon accusation; it is the suit which the divine as prosecutor permits itself to prefer against man. Can any human being comprehend this Christian teaching? By no means; this too is Christian, that is, an offense. It must be believed. Comprehension is man's circumference in relation to the human; but to believe is man's relation to the divine. How then does Christianity explain the incomprehensible? Quite consistently, just as incomprehensibly by its being revealed.
    • The Sickness Unto Death, Hannay p. 128
  • Human justice is very prolix, and yet at times quite mediocre; divine justice is more concise and needs no information from the prosecution, no legal papers, no interrogation of witnesses, but makes the guilty one his own informer and helps him with eternity’s memory."
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Against Cowardliness p. 351
  • I felt a real Christian satisfaction in the fact that, if there were no other, there was one man who (several years before existence set the race another lesson to learn) made a practical effort on a small scale to learn the lesson of loving one’s neighbor and alas! Got at the same time a frightful insight into what an illusion Christendom is, and (a little later, to be sure) an insight also into what a situation the simpler classes suffered themselves to be seduced by paltry-newspaper writers, whose struggle or fight for equality (since it is in the service of a lie) cannot lead to any other result but to prompt the privileged classes in self-defence to stand proudly aloof from the common man, and to make the common man insolent in his forwardness.
    • The Point of View, Lowrie p. 49
  • As do all who suffer from fixed ideas, it has a strong tendency to see espionage and persecution everywhere, and just as rheumatic people feel drafts everywhere, so does it sense pressure everywhere, the misuse of power, and knows how to explain in a satisfying way the feeble signs of life in the public spirit not on the basis that its strength is merely symptomatic and imaginary but on the basis that it is cowed by governments, somewhat as the Busybody explains that he accomplishes nothing during the day, not on the basis that he is fussy and fidgety but on the basis of the many affairs that burst in on him. ** Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 466 (1845)
  • Only the person himself understands that he is guilty. The person who does not understand it this way still misunderstands; and the person who does understand it will find the harsh or gentle or quickly sympathizing explanation, according to what he has deserved. … And you, my listener, you of course know that earnestness is to be alone before the Holy One, whether it is the world’s applause that is shut out or whether it is the world’s accusation that withdraws. Did the woman who was a sinner feel her guilt more deeply when the scribes were accusing her than when there was no accuser anymore and she stood alone before the Lord! But you also realize that the most dangerously deceived person is the one who is self-deceived, that the most dangerous condition is that of the one who is deceived by much knowledge, and, furthermore, that it is a lamentable weakness to have one’s consolation in another’s light-mindedness, but it is also a lamentable weakness to have one’s terror from another’s heavy-mindedness. Leave it solely to God-after all, he knows best how to take care of everything for one who becomes alone by seeking him.
    • Three Discourses On Imagined Occasions, Soren Kierkegaard, June 17, 1844, Hong 1993, p. 35-36
  • The consciousness of sin definitely belongs to the consciousness of the forgiveness of sin.
    • Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 524
  • Dogmatics must be designed in this way. Above all, every science must vigorously lay hold of its own beginning and not live in complicated relations with other sciences. If dogmatics begins by wanting to explain sinfulness or by wanting to prove its actuality, no dogmatics will come out of it, but the entire existence of dogmatics will become problematic and vague. The Concept of Anxiety Note p. 58
  • Anxiety may be compared with dizziness. He whose eye happens to look down into the yawning abyss becomes dizzy. But what is the reason for this? It is just as much in his own eye as in the abyss, for suppose he had not looked down. Hence, anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, which emerges when the spirit wants to posit the synthesis and freedom looks down into its own possibility, laying hold of finiteness to support itself. Freedom succumbs to dizziness. Further than this, psychology cannot and will not go. In that very moment everything is changed, and freedom, when it again rises, sees that it is guilty. Between these two moments lies the leap, which no science has explained and which no science can explain. He who becomes guilty in anxiety becomes as ambiguously guilty as it is possible to become. Vigilius Haufniensis, The Concept of Anxiety p. 61
  • Every human being is tried this way in the active service of expectancy. Now comes the fulfillment and relieves him, but soon he is again placed on reconnaissance for expectancy; then he is again relieved, but as long as there is any future for him, he has not yet finished his service. And while human life goes on this way in very diverse expectancy, expecting very different things according to different times and occasions and in different frames of mind, all life is again one nightwatch of expectancy.
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses: "Patience in Expectancy" (1844)
  • The question is asked in ignorance, by one who does not even know what can have led him to ask it.
  • And how does the God’s existence emerge from the proof? Does it follow straightway, without any breach of continuity? Or have we not here an analogy to the behavior of the little Cartesian dolls? As soon as I let go of the doll it stands on its head. As soon as I let it go -- I must therefore let it go. So also with the proof. As long as I keep my hold on the proof, i.e., continue to demonstrate, the existence does not come out, if for no other reason than that I am engaged in proving it; but when I let the proof go, the existence is there. But this act of letting go is surely also something; it is indeed a contribution of mine. Must not this also be taken into the account, this little moment, brief as it may be -- it need not be long, for it is a leap. However brief this moment, if only an instantaneous now, this "now" must be included in the reckoning. Philosophical Fragments, Swenson, p. 32
  • How often do we have an urge to go beyond the historical consciousness, a longing, a homesickness for the primeval forest that lies behind us, and does not this longing acquire a double significance when it joins to itself the conception of another being whose home is also in that region? Therefore, every marriage, even one that is entered into after sober consideration, has an urge, at least in particular moments, to imagine such a foreground. And how beautiful it is that the God who is spirit also loves the earthly love. That there is much lying among married people on this score, I readily admit to you, and that your observations along this line have frequently amused me, but the truth in it ought not to be forgotten. Perhaps someone thinks it is better to have complete authority in the choice of “one’s life-partner,” but such an expression as that betrays an extreme narrowness of mind and foolish self-importance of understanding and has no intimation that in its genius romantic love is free and that precisely this genius constitutes its greatness.
    • Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 20-21
  • Now just as the historical gives occasion for the contemporary to become a disciple, but only it must be noted through receiving the condition from the God himself, since otherwise we speak Socratically, so the testimony of contemporaries gives occasion for each successor to become a disciple, but only it must be noted through receiving the condition from the God himself. Philosophical Fragments, Swenson, p. 75
  • The person who wishes also seeks, but his seeking is in the dark, not so much in regard to the object of the wish as in regard to his not knowing whether he is getting closer to it or further away. Among the many goods there is one that is the highest, that is not defined by its relation to the other goods, because it is the highest, and yet the person wishing does not have a definite idea of it, because it is the highest as the unknown-and this good is God. The other goods have names and designations, but where the wish draws its deepest breath, where this unknown seems to manifest itself, there is wonder, and wonder is immediacy’s sense of God and is the beginning of all deeper understanding. The seeking of the wishing person is in the dark not so much in regard to the object, because this is indeed the unknown, as in regard to whether he is getting closer to it or further away-now he is startled and the expression of his wonder is worship. Wonder is an ambivalent state of mind containing both fear and blessedness. Worship therefore is simultaneously a mixture of fear and blessedness. Even the most purified, reasonable worship is blessedness in fear and trembling, trust in mortal danger, bold confidence in the consciousness of sin. Even the most purified and reasonable worship of God has the fragility of wonder, and the magnitude of the God-relation is not directly determined by the magnitude of power and of wisdom and of deed; the most powerful person is the most powerless; the most devout person sighs out of deepest distress; the most mighty is the one who rightly folds his hands.
    • Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions p. 18
  • Woe to the person who wants to be excused from suffering! That apostolic expression does not indicate only the forsakenness, the suffering of separation, which is even more terrible than the separation of death, since, death only separates a person from the temporal and therefore is a release, whereas this separation shuts him out from the eternal and therefore is an imprisonment that again leaves the spirit sighing in the fragile earthen vessel, in the cramped space, in the status of an alien, because the home of the spirit is in the eternal and the infinite. Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844 p. 337 (Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses)
  • The eternal fears no future, hopes for no future, but love possesses everything without ceasing, and there is no shadow of variation. As soon as he returns to himself, he understands this no more. He understands what bitter experiences have only all too unforgettably inculcated, the self-accusation, if the past has the kind of claim upon his soul that no repentance can entirely redeem, no trusting in God can entirely wipe out, but only God himself in the inexpressible silence of beatitude. The more of the past a person’s soul can still keep when he is left to himself, the more profound he is.
    • Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844 p. 338 (Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses)
  • To God, world history is the royal stage where he, not accidentally but essentially, is the only spectator, because he is the only one who can be that. Admission to this theater is not open to any existing spirit. If he fancies himself a spectator there, he has simply forgetting that he himself is supposed to be the actor in that little theater and is to leave it to that royal spectator and poet how he wants to use him in that royal drama, The Drama of Dramas. This applies to the living, and only they can be told how they ought to live; and only by understanding this for oneself can one be lead to reconstruct a dead person’s life, if it must be done at all and if there is time for it. But it is indeed upsidedown, instead of learning by living one’s own life, to have the dead live again, then to go on wanting to learn from the dead, whom one regards as never having lived, how one ought-indeed, it is unbelievable how upside-down it is-to live-if one is already dead. Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 158
  • Alas, time comes and time goes, it subtracts little by little; then it deprives a person of a good, the loss of which he indeed feels, and his pain is great. Alas, and he does not discover that long ago it has already taken away from him the most important thing of all-the capacity to make a resolution-and it has made him so familiar with this condition that there is no consternation over it, the last thing that could help gain new power for renewed resolution!
    • Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Hong p. 48
  • The more one suffers, the more, I believe, has one a sense for the comic. It is only by the deepest suffering that one acquires true authority in the use of the comic, an authority which by one word transforms as by magic the reasonable creature one calls man into a caricature.
    • Stages on Life's Way (1845) Variant translation: The more one suffers, the more, I believe, one has a sense of the comic. It is only by the deepest suffering that one acquires the authority in the art of the comic.
  • It doesn't occur to me at this moment to say more; another time, perhaps tomorrow, I may have more to say, but "always the same thing and about the same," for only gypsies, robber gangs and swindlers follow the adage that where a person has once been he is never to go again.
    • Stages on Life's Way (1845)
  • Above all do not forget your duty to love yourself; do not permit the fact that you have been set apart from life in a way, been prevented from participating actively in it, and that you are superflous in the obtruse eyes of a busy world, above all, do not permit this to deprive you of your idea of yourself, as if your life, if lived in inwardness, did not have just as much meaning and worth as that of any human being in the eyes of all-wise Governance, and considerably more than the busy, busiest haste of busy-ness - busy with wasting life and losing itself.
  • To be a teacher does not mean simply to affirm that such a thing is so, or to deliver a lecture, etc. No, to be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner. Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner, put yourself in his place so that you may understand what he understands and the way he understands it.
    • The Point of View for My Work as an Author (1848)
  • Seek first God's Kingdom, that is, become like the lilies and the birds, become perfectly silent — then shall the rest be added unto you.
    • The Lilies of the Field and the Birds of the Air (1849)
    • Alluding to words spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount
  • When God chooses to let himself be born in lowliness, when he who holds all possibilities in his hand takes upon himself the form of a lowly servant, when he goes about defenseless and lets people do with him what they will, he surely must know well enough what he is doing and why he wills it; but for all that it is he who has people in his power and not they who have power over him-so history ought not play Mr. Malapert by this wanting to make manifest who he was.
    • Practice in Christianity (1850) Princeton p. 34
  • That for which Christianity has striven through eighteen-hundred years is specifically to produce the cultured person, who is the fairest flower and richest unfolding of the Christian life. The essentially Christian is not something historically concluded that enviously would be able to judge whether the cultured person is Christian. On the contrary, the cultured person provides the criterion and thereby contributes to the exaltation of the doctrine that admittedly began as a village affair (paganism) but now through the cultured has gained admittance to circles where tone, manners, elegance, wit, intellect are reconciled with their vanishing opposite. But just as the essentially Christian is not concluded in the past, so also it is not concluded in the present moment either but has the future open and can still become what it is to be.
    • Prefaces, Todd W. Nichol, 1997, Princeton University Press p. 33-34
  • Of all ridiculous things, it seems to me the most ridiculous is to be a busy man of affairs, prompt to meals, and prompt to work. Hence when I see a fly settle down in a crucial moment on the nose of a business man, or see him bespattered by a carriage which passes by him in even greater haste, or a drawbridge opens before him, or a tile from the roof falls down and strikes him dead, then I laugh heartily. And who could help laughing? What do they accomplish, these hustlers? Are they not like the housewife, when her house was on fire, who in her excitement saved the fire-tongs? What more do they save from the great fire of life?
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 24
  • If a man possessed a letter which he knew, or believed, contained information bearing upon what he must regard as his life’s happiness, but the writing was pale and fine, almost illegible-then would he read it with restless anxiety and with all possible passion, in one moment getting one meaning, in the next another, depending on his belief that, having made out one word with certainty, he could interpret the rest thereby; but he would never arrive at anything except the same uncertainty with which he began. He would stare more and more anxiously, but the more he stared the less he would see. His eyes would sometimes fill with tears; but the oftener this happened the less he would see. In the course of time, the writing would become fainter and more illegible, until at last the paper itself would crumble away, and nothing would be left to him except the tears in his eyes.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 188
  • If I were to imagine a human being in a wreck at sea, unconcerned for his life, remaining on board because there was something he wanted to save and yet could not save, because he could not decide what it was he should save, then would I have a picture of Elvira; she is in distress at sea, her destruction impends, but this does not worry her, she does not notice it, she is hesitating about what she should save.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 202
  • when the philosopher becomes blessed through his philosophy, this is an accidental blessedness. There is, then, something higher than philosophy. It is higher in that it includes me and similar bunglers. If this is so, then the question is: will philosophy continue to be called the absolute? But if it is not the absolute, then it must be able to state its boundary. If I wanted to be a poet, the esthetician would certainly instruct me about which capacities are required for that. I would then perceive that I am not a poet and would accept my fate. If, on the other hand, poetry wanted to claim to be the absolute, then it would not dare to exclude me, because the absolute cannot be anything that is not common to all.
    • Prefaces, Todd W. Nichol, 1997, p. 59-60
  • But precisely this is the misfortune, and has been the misfortune, in Christendom that Christ is neither the one nor the other — neither the one he was when living on earth, nor he who will return in glory, but rather one about whom we have learned to know something in an inadmissible way from history — that he was somebody or other of great account. In an inadmissible and unlawful way we have learned to know him; whereas to believe in him is the only permissible mode of approach.
    • Preparation for a Christian Life
  • The task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted.
    • Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers Vol. 1 A-E (1967), edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, p. 303
  • What our age needs is an honest earnestness which affectionately preserves the tasks, which does not alarm people into wanting to rush pellmell into the highest but keeps the tasks young and beautiful and lovely to look at and beckoning to all and yet for all that difficult and inspiring to the noble, for the noble nature is inspired only by what is difficult. My listener, how did I dare to be so impolite as to doubt that I shall succeed in inspiring you — for I have the difficulties all ready.
    • Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers Vol. 1 A-E (1967), edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, p. 303
  • One understands only in proportion to becoming himself that which he understands.
    • Papers, V B 40, cited in Louis Pojman, The Logic of Subjectivity, p. 61

The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard[edit]

Translations used include those from: A Selection from the Journals of Kierkegaard (1938) by Alexander Dru, and Søren Kierkegaard : Papers and Journals (1996) by Alastair Hannay

Kierkegaard's Journals were first given to his brother-in-law, J.C. Lund and then to his brother, Peter Kierkegaard, but it wasn't until 1865 that serious work was done on them. H.P Barnum translated 1833–1846 but he threw away a significant portion of the originals. However, according to Samuel Hugo Bergmann, Kierkegaard's journals are one of the most important sources for an understanding of his philosophy. Kierkegaard wrote over 7000 pages in his journals on events, musings, thoughts about his works and everyday remarks. The entire collection of Danish journals has been edited and published in 13 volumes which consist 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 in manner".

Oh, can I really believe the poet's tales ... that all love like all knowledge is remembrance, that love too has its prophecies in the individual...
It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand...
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
  • How close men, despite all their knowledge, usually live to madness? What is truth but to live for an idea? When all is said and done, everything is based on a postulate; but not until it no longer stands on the outside, not until one lives in it, does it cease to be a postulate. (Dialectic - Dispute)
    • Journals of Soren Kierkegaard 1A75 1835
  • I have just now come from a party where I was its life and soul; witticisms streamed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me, but I went away — yes, the dash should be as long as the radius of the earth's orbit ——————————— and wanted to shoot myself.
    • March 1836
  • There are many people who reach their conclusions about life like schoolboys; they cheat their master by copying the answer out of a book without having worked out the sum for themselves.
  • God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but He does what is still more wonderful: He makes saints out of sinners.
    • 7 July 1838
  • Christianly the emphasis does not fall so much upon to what extent or how far a person succeeds in meeting or fulfilling the requirement, if he actually is striving, as it is upon his getting an impression of the requirement in all its infinitude so that he rightly learns to be humbled and to rely upon grace. To pare down the requirement in order to fulfill it better (as if this were earnestness, that now it can all the more easily appear that one is earnest about wanting to fulfill the requirement)—to this Christianity in its deepest essence is opposed. No, infinite humiliation and grace, and then a striving born of gratitude—this is Christianity.
    • Journals and Papers X3 A 734
  • After a considerable walk through the forest, where I became acquainted with several of the little lakes I am so fond of, I came to Hestehaven and Lake Carl. Here is one of the most beautiful regions I have ever seen. The countryside is somewhat isolated and slopes steeply down to the lake, but with the beech forests growing on either side, it is not barren. A growth of rushes forms the background and the lake itself the foreground; a fairly large part of the lake is clear, but a still larger part is overgrown with the large green leaves of the waterlily, under which the fish seemingly try to hide but now and then peek out and flounder about on the surface in order to bathe in sunshine. The land rises on the opposite side, a great beech forest, and in the morning light the lighted areas make a marvelous contrast to the shadowed areas. The church bells call to prayer, but not in a temple made by human hands. If the birds do not need to be reminded to praise God, then ought men not be moved to prayer outside of the church, in the true house of God, where heaven's arch forms the ceiling of the church, where the roar of the storm and the light breezes take the place of the organ's bass and treble, where the singing of the birds make up the congregational hymns of praise, where echo does not repeat the pastor's voice as in the arch of the stone church, but where everything resolves itself in an endless antiphony — Hillerød, July 25, 1835
  • In order to learn true humility (I use this expression to describe the state of mind under discussion), it is good for a person to withdraw from the turmoil of the world (we see that Christ withdrew when the people wanted to proclaim him king as well as when he had to walk the thorny path), for in life either the depressing or the elevating impression is too dominant for a true balance to come about. Here, of course, individuality is very decisive, for just as almost every philosopher believes he has found the truth, just as almost every poet believes he has reached Mount Parnassus, just so we find on the other hand many who link their lives entirely to another, like a parasite to a plant, live in him, die in him (for example, the Frenchman in relation to Napoleon). But in the heart of nature, where a person, free from life's often nauseating air, breathes more freely, here the soul opens willingly to every noble impression. Here one comes out as nature's master, but he also feels that something higher is manifested in nature, something he must bow down before; he feels a need to surrender to this power that rules it all. (I, of course, would rather not speak of those who see nothing higher in nature than substance — people who really regard heaven as a cheese-dish cover and men as maggots who live inside it.) Here he feels himself great and small at one and the same time, and feels it without going so far as the Fichtean remark (in his Die Bestimmung des Menschen) about a grain of sand constituting the world, a statement not far removed from madness.
    • Journals 1A 68 (29 July 1835)
  • It will be easy for us once we receive the ball of yarn from Ariadne (love) and then go through all the mazes of the labyrinth (life) and kill the monster. But how many are there who plunge into life (the labyrinth) without taking that precaution?
    • Journal entry, August 1, 1835
  • It is as useless for a person to want first of all to decide the externals and after that the fundamentals as it is for a cosmic body, thinking to form itself, first of all to decide the nature of its surface, to what bodies it should turn its light, which its dark side, without first letting the harmony of centrifugal and centripetal forces realize its existence and letting the rest come of itself. One must learn to know oneself before knowing anything else (gnothi seauton). Not until a person has inwardly understood himself and then sees the course he is to take does his life gain peace and meaning.
    • Journal entry, August 1, 1835
  • In vain do individual great men seek to mint new concepts and to set them in circulation — it is pointless. They are used for only a moment, and not by many, either, and they merely contribute to making the confusion even worse, for one idea seems to have become the fixed idea of the age: to get the better of one's superior. If the past may be charged with a certain indolent self-satisfaction in rejoicing over what it had, it would indeed be a shame to make the same charge against the present age (the minuet of the past and the gallop of the present). Under a curious delusion, the one cries out incessantly that he has surpassed the other, just as the Copenhageners, with philosophic visage, go out to Dyrehausen "in order to see and observe," without remembering that they themselves become objects for the others, who have also gone out simply to see and observe. Thus there is the continuous leap-frogging of one over the other — "on the basis of the immanent negativity of the concept", as I heard a Hegelian say recently, when he pressed my hand and made a run preliminary to jumping. — When I see someone energetically walking along the street, I am certain that his joyous shout, "I am coming over," is to me — but unfortunately I did not hear who was called (this actually happened); I will leave a blank for the name, so everyone can fill in an appropriate name.
    • Journals IA 328 1835
  • One could construe the life of man as a great discourse in which the various people represent different parts of speech (the same might apply to states). How many people are just adjectives, interjections, conjunctions, adverbs? How few are substantives, active verbs, how many are copulas? Human relations are like the irregular verbs in a number of languages where nearly all verbs are irregular.
    • Journals A 126 (March 1836)
  • Oh, can I really believe the poet's tales, that when one first sees the object of one's love, one imagines one has seen her long ago, that all love like all knowledge is remembrance, that love too has its prophecies in the individual. ... it seems to me that I should have to possess the beauty of all girls in order to draw out a beauty equal to yours; that I should have to circumnavigate the world in order to find the place I lack and which the deepest mystery of my whole being points towards, and at the next moment you are so near to me, filling my spirit so powerfully that I am transfigured for myself, and feel that it's good to be here.
  • There must have been many who had a relationship to Jesus similar to that of Barabbas (his name was Jesus Barrabas). The Danish "Barrabas" is about the same as "N.N." [Mr. X or John Doe], filius patris, his father's son. — It is too bad, however, that we do not know anything more about Barrabas; it seems to me that in many ways he could have become a counterpart to the Wandering Jew. The rest of his life must have taken a singular turn. God knows whether or not he became a Christian. — It would be a poetic motif to have him, gripped by Christ's divine power, step forward and witness for him.
    • Journals IIA 346 (1 February 1839)
  • It belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.
    • 1841
  • Aristotle’s view that philosophy begins with wonder, not as in our day with doubt, is a positive point of departure for philosophy. Indeed, the world will no doubt learn that it does not do to begin with the negative, and the reason for success up to the present is that philosophers have never quite surrendered to the negative and thus have never earnestly done what they have said. They merely flirt with doubt.
    • Journals and Papers III 3284 (1841)
  • To stand on one leg and prove God's existence is a very different thing from going on one's knees and thanking Him.
    • 1841
  • I may live for thirty years, or perhaps forty, or maybe just one day: therefore I have resolved to use this day, or whatever I have to say in these thirty years or whatever I have to say this one day I may have to live — I have resolved to use it in such a way that if not one day in my whole past life has been used well, this one by the help of God will be. JP VIII 1 A 533
  • It seems to be my destiny to discourse on truth, insofar as I discover it, in such a way that all possible authority is simultaneously demolished. Since I am incompetent and extremely undependable in men's eyes, I speak the truth and thereby place them in the contradiction from which they can be extricated only by appropriating the truth themselves. A man's personality is matured only when he appropriates the truth, whether it is spoken by Balaam's ass or a sniggering wag or an apostle or an angel.
    • Journals IV A 87 (1843)
  • Once in his early youth a man allowed himself to be so far carried away in an overwrought irresponsible state as to visit a prostitute. It is all forgotten. Now he wants to get married. Then anxiety stirs. He is tortured day and night with the thought that he might possibly be a father, that somewhere in the world there could be a created being who owed his life to him. He cannot share his secret with anyone; he does not even have any reliable knowledge of the fact. –For this reason the incident must have involved a prostitute and taken place in the wantonness of youth; had it been a little infatuated or an actual seduction, it would be hard to imagine that he could know nothing about it, but now this this very ignorance is the basis of his agitated torment. On the other hand, precisely because of the rashness of the whole affair, his misgivings do not really start until he actually falls in love.
    • Journal and Papers 5622 (Papers IV A 65) n.d. 1843
  • A man who for a long time has gone around hiding a secret becomes mentally deranged. At this point one would imagine that his secret would have to come out, but despite his derangement his soul still sticks to its hideout, and those around him become even more convinced that the false story he told to deceive them is the truth. He is healed of his insanity, knows everything that has gone on, and thereby perceives that nothing has been betrayed. Was this gratifying to him or not; he might wish to have disposed of his secret in his madness; it seems as if there were a fate which forced him to remain in his secret and would not let him go away from it. Or was it for the best, was there a guardian spirit who helped him keep his secret.
    • (JP IV A81) 1843
  • What is asked of a man that he may be able to pray for his enemies? To pray for one’s enemies is the hardest thing of all. That is why it exasperates us so much in our present day situation.
    • Journals and Papers X4A 435
  • Lord Jesus Christ, there is so much that will keep us back and draw us to itself. Everyone has something, and all of us much. But thou art eternally the most strong. Draw us then the more strongly to thee. We call thee our Deliverer, because thou didst come to the world to deliver us from all the bonds, the unworthy worries, which we put upon ourselves, and to break the heavy chains of our sins. We call thee Savior, that so thou mayest save us, and deliver us from all these things. For this was God’s will, which thou didst fulfill and make possible, even our sanctification. To this end thou didst descent to earth’s lowly meadows; and for this didst thou ascent up on high, in order to draw us unto thee.
    • Journals and Papers VIII A 372
  • It also occurs again later in the life of Christ, that he was tempted in loneliness-while the apostles sleep. The same thing happens to us at those times when it seems as if all to whom we might have turned are sleeping too soundly and immovably to be roused by our cares. Then it is necessary to find a higher comfort.
    • Journals and Papers II A 294
  • I have never worked as hard as now. I go for a brief walk in the morning. Then I come home and sit in my room without interruption until about three o’clock. My eyes can barely see. Then with my walking stick in hand I sneak off to the restaurant, but am so weak that I believe that if somebody were to call out my name, I would keel over and die. Then I go home and begin again. In my indolence during the past months I had pumped up a veritable shower bath, and now I have pulled the string and the ideas are cascading down upon me: healthy, happy, merry, gay, blessed children born with ease and yet all of them with the birthmark of my personality.
    • Letter from Berlin to Emil Boesen, May 25, 1843 Letter 82
  • The art in all communication is to come as close as possible to actuality, to contemporaries in the role of readers, and yet at the same time to have the distance of a point of view, the reassuring, infinite distance of ideality from them. Papers VII B 325
  • Consciousness presupposes itself, and asking about its origin is an idle and just as sophistical a question as that old one, "What came first, the fruit-tree or the stone? Wasn't there a stone out of which came the first fruit-tree? Wasn't there a fruit-tree from which came the first stone? Journals and Papers, Hannay, 1996 1843 IVA49
  • So it happens at times that a person believes that he has a world-view, but that there is yet one particular phenomenon that is of such a nature that it baffles the understanding, and that he explains differently and attempts to ignore in order not to harbor the thought that this phenomenon might overthrow the whole view, or that his reflection does not possess enough courage and resolution to penetrate the phenomenon with his world-view.
    • Pap. V B 53:20 1844 The Concept of Anxiety, Nichol p. 188
  • Even Plato assumes that the genuinely perfect condition of man means no sex distinction (and how strange this is for people like Feuerbach who are so occupied with affirming sex-differentiation, regarding which they would do best to appeal to paganism). He assumes that originally there was only the masculine (and when there is no thought of femininity, sex-distinction is undifferentiated), but through degeneration and corruption the feminine appeared. He assumes that base and cowardly men became women in death, but he still gives them hope of being elevated again to masculinity. He thinks that in the perfect life the masculine, as originally, will be the only sex, that is, that sex-distinction is a matter of indifference. So it is in Plato, and this, the idea of the state notwithstanding, was the culmination of his philosophy. How much more so, then, the Christian view. Journals VA 14
  • It is quite true what philosophy says; that life must be understood backwards. But then one forgets the other principle: that it must be lived forwards. Which principle, the more one thinks it through, ends exactly with the thought that temporal life can never properly be understood precisely because I can at no instant find complete rest in which to adopt a position: backwards.
    • Journals IV A 164 (1843)
    • Variant: Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
    • As quoted in The Trouble with Cinderella : An Outline of Identity (1979) by Artie Shaw
    • See Kierkegaard: Papers and Journals, Translated by Alastair Hannay, 1996 P. 63 and 161
  • Death cannot explain itself. The earnestness consists precisely in this, that the observer must explain it to himself.
    • Pap VI B 120:13 1845
  • If I were to imagine a girl deeply in love and some man who wanted to use all his reasoning powers and knowledge to ridicule her passion, well, there's surely no question of the enamoured girl having to choose between keeping her wealth and being ridiculed. No, but if some extremely cool and calculating man calmly told the young girl, "I will explain to you what love is," and the girl admitted that everything he told her was quite correct, I wonder if she wouldn't choose his miserable common sense rather than her wealth?
    • 1846
  • Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am ironic — if it is pulled out I shall die.
    • 1847
  • What the age needs is not a genius — it has had geniuses enough, but a martyr, who in order to teach men to obey would himself be obedient unto death. What the age needs is awakening. And therefore someday, not only my writings but my whole life, all the intriguing mystery of the machine will be studied and studied. I never forget how God helps me and it is therefore my last wish that everything may be to his honour.
    • (20 November 1847)
  • Father in heaven, when the thought of thee awakens in our soul, let it not waken as an agitated bird which flutters confusedly about, but as a child waking from sleep with a celestial smile.
    • Journals and Papers IIA320
  • It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand, and what those things are. Human understanding has vulgarly occupied itself with nothing but understanding, but if it would only take the trouble to understand itself at the same time it would simply have to posit the paradox.
    • 1847
  • But on the other hand, the understanding, reflection, is also a gift of God. What shall one do with it, how dispose of it if one is not to use it? And if one then uses it in fear and trembling not for one’s own advantage but to serve the truth, if one uses it that way in fear and trembling and furthermore believing that it still is God who determines the issue in its eternal significance, venturing to trust in him, and with unconditional obedience yielding to what he makes use of it: is this not fear of God and serving God the way a person of reflection can, in the somewhat different way than the spontaneously immediate person, but perhaps more ardently. But if this is the case, does not a maieutic element enter into the relation to other man or to various other men. The maieutic is really only the expression for a superiority between man and man. That is exists cannot be denied-but existence presses far more powerfully upon the superior one precisely because he is a maieutic (because he has the responsibility) than upon the other. As far as I am concerned, there has been no lack of witnesses. All my upbuilding discourses are in fact in the form of direct communication. Consequently there can be a question only about this, something that has occupied me for a long time (already back in earlier journals): should I for one definitely explain myself as author, what I declare myself to be, how I from the beginning understood myself to be a religious author. But now is not the time to do it; I am also somewhat strained at the moment, I need more physical recreation.
    • JP VI 6234 (Pap. IX A 222 1848)
  • The tyrant dies and his rule is over; the martyr dies and his rule begins.
    • 1848
  • Job endured everything — until his friends came to comfort him, then he grew impatient.
    • 1849
  • A line by Thomas à Kempis which perhaps could be used as a motto sometime. He says of Paul: Therefore he turned everything over to God, who knows all, and defended himself solely by means of patience and humility . . . . He did defend himself now and then so that the weak would not be offended by his silence. Book III, chapter 36, para. 2, or in my little edition, p. 131.
    • JP X2A 167
  • The truth is always in the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because as a rule the minority is made up of those who actually have an opinion, while the strength of the majority is illusory, formed of that crowd which has no opinion — and which therefore the next moment (when it becomes clear that the minority is the stronger) adopts the latter's opinion, which now is in the majority, i.e. becomes rubbish by having the whole retinue and numerousness on its side, while the truth is again in a new minority.
    • 1850
  • The truth is a trap: you can not get it without it getting you; you cannot get the truth by capturing it, only by its capturing you.
    • 1854

Either/Or (1843)[edit]

These are just a few samples for more quotes from this work see the page for Either/Or
  • Carking care is my feudal castle. It is built like an eagle’s nest upon the peak of a mountain lost in the clouds. No one can take it by storm. From this abode I dart down into the world of reality to seize my prey; but I do not remain down there, I bear my quarry aloft to my stronghold. My booty is a picture I weave into the tapestry of my palace. There I live as one dead. I immerse everything I have experienced in a baptism of forgetfulness unto an eternal remembrance. Everything temporal and contingent is forgotten and erased. Then I sit like an old man, grey-haired and thoughtful, and explain picture after picture in a voice as soft as a whisper; and at my side a child sits and listens, although he remembers everything before I tell it.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 41
  • To tell a young peasant girl that she is pretty, that she has sparkling eyes, to beg her to turn around in order to observe her form, does not exhibit Don Juan as someone exceptional but simply as a lewd fellow who looks over a girl as a dealer does a horse.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 114
  • The synthesis of absolute innocence and absolute guilt is not an aesthetic category, but a metaphysical one. This is the real reason why one has always been ashamed to call the life of Christ a tragedy, because one instinctively feels that aesthetic categories do not exhaust the matter. In yet another way it is clear that Christ’s life is something more than can be exhausted in aesthetic categories: by the fact that these categories neutralize themselves in this phenomenon, and are still in equilibrium. The identity of an absolute action and an absolute suffering is beyond the powers of aesthetics, and belongs to metaphysics. This identity is exemplified in the life of Christ, for His suffering is absolute because the action is absolutely free, and His action is absolute suffering because it is absolute obedience. Hence the element of guilt which remains is not subjectively reflected, and this makes the sorrow profound.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 148
  • When you belong to the "readers' sect," when in one way or another, you get a reputation for being a diligent and attentive reader, the supposition grows among other people that you probably will become an author of sorts, for, as Hamann says: "Out of children grow people, out of virgins grow brides, out of readers grow writers."
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 243
  • What was it, on the other hand, that delayed the fall of Rome, was it not panis and circenses (bread and circuses)? And is anything being done now? Is anyone concerned about planning some means of diversion? Quite the contrary, the impending ruin is being accelerated. It is proposed to call a constitutional assembly. Can anything more tiresome be imagined, both for the participants themselves, and for those who have to hear and read about it? It is proposed to improve the financial condition of the state by practicing economy. What could be more tiresome? Instead of increasing the national debt, it is proposed to pay it off. As I understand the political situation, it would be an easy matter for Denmark to negotiate a loan of fifteen million dollars. Why not consider this plan? Every once in a while we hear of a man who is a genius, and therefore neglects to pay his debts-why should not a nation do the same, if we were all agreed? Let us then borrow fifteen millions, and let us use the proceeds, not to pay our debts, but for public entertainment. Let us celebrate the millennium in a riot of merriment. Let us place boxes everywhere, not, as at present, for the deposit of money, but for the free distribution of money. Everything would become gratis; theaters gratis, women of easy virtue gratis, one would drive to the park gratis, be buried gratis, one’s eulogy would be gratis; I say gratis, for when one always has money at hand, everything is in a certain sense free. No one should be permitted to own any property. Only in my own case would there be an exception. I reserve to myself securities in the Bank of London to the value of one hundred dollars a day, partly because I cannot do with less, partly because the idea is mine, and finally because I may not be able to hit upon a new idea when the fifteen millions are gone.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 282
  • That which is true in this whole development, the genuinely esthetic, is that love is situated in striving, that this feeling is seen to be battling its way through an opposition. The defect is that this battle, this dialectic, is completely external and that love emerges from this battle just as abstract as when it entered into it. As soon as the idea of love’s proper dialectic awakens, the idea of its passionate struggle, of its relation to the ethical, the religious, then in truth there will be no need for hardhearted fathers or maiden bowers or enchanted princesses or trolls and monsters in order to give love an opportunity to show how much it can do. In our day, we seldom encounter such cruel fathers or such horrible monsters, and therefore insofar as modern literature has patterned itself on past literature, it actually is money that has become the medium of opposition through which love moves, and so we again drudge through four acts if there are sound prospects that a rich uncle may die in the fifth. Either/Or Part 2 p.18
  • Enough has been said abut the light-mindedness of the age; it is high time, I think, to say a little about its depression. And I hope that everything will turn out better. Or is not depression the defect of the age, is it not that which echoes even in its light-minded laughter; is it not depression that has robbed us of the courage to command, the courage to obey, the power to act, the confidence to hope? And now when the philosophers are doing everything to endow actuality with intensity, shall we not soon become stuffed so full that we choke on it. Everything is cut away but the present; no wonder, then, that one loses it in the constant anxiety about losing it. Either/Or II 24-25
  • To work for a living certainly cannot be the meaning of life, since it is indeed a contradiction that the continual production of the conditions is supposed to be the answer to the question of the meaning of that which is conditional upon their production.
    • p. 31
  • "An ancient pagan-I believe it is Seneca- has said that when a person has reached his thirtieth year he ought to know his constitution so well that he can be his own physician; I likewise believe that when a person has reached a certain age he ought to be able to be his own pastor. Not as if I would in any way minimize participation in public worship and the guidance given there, but I do think one ought to have one’s view settled with regard to the most important relationships, which, furthermore, one seldom hears preached about in the stricter sense. To devotional books and printed sermons, I have an idiosyncratic aversion, that is why I resort to Scripture when I cannot go to church." Either/Or Part 2 p. 70
  • What, then, is depression? It is hysteria of the spirit. There comes a moment in a person’s life when immediacy is ripe, so to speak, and when the spirit requires a higher form, when it wants to lay hold of itself as spirit. As immediate spirit, a person is bound up with all the earthly life, and now spirit wants to gather itself together out of this dispersion, so to speak, and to transfigure itself in itself; the personality wants to become conscious in its eternal validity. If this does not happen, if the movement is halted, if it is repressed, then depression sets in. Either/Or II p. 188-189
  • What intoxication is as beautiful as despair … It gives a slight flourish to the hat and to the whole body; it gives a proud, defiant look. The lips smile haughtily. It provides an indescribable lightness to life, a regal outlook on everything. Either/Or II p. 195
  • When a person considers himself esthetically his soul is like soil out of which grow all sorts of herbs, all with equal claim to flourish; his self consists of this multiplicity, and he has no self that is higher than this. Pt. 2, Hong p. 225
  • Every person, if he so wills, can become a paradigmatic human being, not by brushing of his accidental qualities, but by remaining in them and ennobling them. He ennobles them by choosing them.
    • p. 262
  • By now you have easily seen that in his life the ethical individual goes through stages we previously set forth as separate stages. He is going to develop in his life the personal, the civic, the religious virtues, and his life advances through his continually translating himself from one stage to another. As soon as a person thinks that one of these stages is adequate and that he dares to concentrate on it one-sidedly, he has not chosen himself ethically but has failed to see the significance of either isolation or continuity and above all has not grasped that the truth lies in the identity of the two. The person who has ethically chosen and found himself possess himself defined in his entire concretion. He then possesses himself as an individual who has these capacities, these passions, these inclinations, these habits, who is subject to these external influences, who is influenced in one direction thus and in another thus. Here he then possesses himself as a task in such a way that it is chiefly to order, shape, temper, inflame, control-in short, to produce an evenness in the soul, a harmony, which is the fruit of the personal virtues.
    • Pt. 2, p. 262
  • The self that is the objective is not only a personal self but a social, a civic self. He then possesses himself as a task in an activity whereby he engages in the affairs of life as this specific personality. Here his task is not to form himself but to act, and yet he forms himself at the same time, because, as I noted above, the ethical individual lives in such a way that he is continually transferring himself from one stage to another.
    • Pt. 2, Hong p. 262
  • The esthete says: Without work life finally becomes boring. “One’s work nevertheless ought not to be work in the strict sense but should be able to be continually defined as pleasure. A person discovers some aristocratic talent in himself that distinguishes him from the crowd. He does not develop this recklessly, because then he would soon be bored with it, but with all the esthetic earnestness possible. Life then has a new meaning for him, since he has his work, a work that nevertheless is really his pleasure. In his independence, he shelters it so that it can develop in all its luxuriance, undismayed by life. He does not, however, make this talent into a plank on which one manages to squeeze through life but into wings on which one soars over the world; he does not make it into a drudging hack but into a parade horse.” But our hero has no such aristocratic talent; his is like most people. The esthete knows no other way out for him than that “he has to resign himself to falling into the crowd’s hackneyed category of a person who works. Do not lose heart, this too, has its meaning, is decent and respectable; become a handy industrious fellow, a useful member of society. I already look forward to seeing you, for the more varied life is, the more interesting for the observer. That is why I and all esthetes abhor a national costume, for it would be so tiresome to see everyone going around dressed alike. Let every individual take up his occupation in life that way; the more beautiful it will be for me and my kind, who make a profession of observing life.” I hope that our hero will be somewhat impatient over such treatment and be indignant at the insolence of such a classification of people. Furthermore, independence played a role in this esthete’s consideration also, and independent he certainly is not. ** Either/Or Part II p. 290
  • “One must work for a living in order to live-that’s just the way life is-it’s the shabby side of existence. We sleep seven hours out of twenty-four; its wasted time, but it has to be that way. We work five hours out of the twenty-four; it is wasted time, but it has to be that way. By working five hours, a person has his livelihood, and when he has that he begins to live. Now, a person’s work should preferably be as boring and meaningless as possible, just so he has his livelihood from it. If he has a special talent, he should never commit the sin against it of making it his source of income. No, he coddles his talent; he possesses it for its own sake; he has even greater joy from it than a mother from her child. He cultivates it; he develops it for twelve hours of the day, sleeps for seven hours, is a nonhuman for five, and thus life becomes quite bearable, even quite beautiful, because working five hours is not so bad, inasmuch as, since a person’s thoughts are never on the work, he hoards his energies for the pursuit of his delight.” Our hero is making no headway. For one thing, he has no special talent with which to fill the twelve hours at home; for another, he has already gained a more beautiful view of working, a view he is unwilling to give up. So he probably will decide to seek help from the ethicist again. The latter is very brief. “It is every human being’s duty to have a calling.” More he cannot say, because the ethical as such is always abstract, and there’s no abstract calling for all human beings. On the contrary, he presupposes that each person has a particular calling. Which calling our hero should choose, the ethicist cannot tell him, because for that a detailed knowledge of the esthetic aspects of his whole personality is required, and even if the ethicist did have this knowledge, he would still refrain from choosing for him, because in that case he would indeed deny his own view of life. What the ethicist can teach him is that there is a calling for every human being and, when our hero has found this, that he is to choose it ethically.
    • Either/Or Part II p. 291-292
  • The ethical thesis that every human being has a calling expresses that there is a rational order of things, in which every human being, if he so wills, fills his place in such a way that he simultaneously expresses the universally human and the individual. As soon as talent is not regarded as a calling-and if it is regarded as a calling ever human being has a calling-the talent is absolutely egotistic. Therefore, everyone who bases his life on a talent establishes to the best of his ability a robber existence. He has no higher expression for the talent than that it is a talent. Consequently, this talent want to advance in all its difference. Therefore, every talent has a tendency to make itself central; every condition must be present to promote it, because only in this wild onrushing is there the genuinely esthetic enjoyment of the talent. If there is a concurrent talent going in another direction, they clash in a life-and-death struggle, since they have no concentricity, no higher shared expression. So our hero has found what he was looking for, a work from which he can live; he has also found a more significant expression for the relation of this work to his personality: it is his calling-consequently, the carrying out of it is bound up with a satisfaction for his whole personality. He has also found a more significant expression for his relation of his work to other people, inasmuch as his work is his calling, he is thereby placed essentially on the same level as all other human beings. Hence through his work he is doing the same as everyone else-he is carrying out his calling. He insists on this acknowledgment; he does not insist on more, for this is the absolute. “If my calling is a humble one,” he says, “I can nevertheless be faithful to my calling, and then according to what is essential I am as great as the greatest. If my calling is humble, I can nevertheless, be unfaithful to it, and if I am, I am committing just as great a sin as the greatest. I shall not be so foolish as to want to forget the differences or to believe that my unfaithfulness would have just as corrupting consequences for the whole as the unfaithfulness of the greatest-to do so would be of no benefit to me; I myself would be the one who would lose the most.” The ethical view, then, that every human being has a calling, has two advantages over the esthetic theory of talent. First, it does not account for anything accidental in existence but for the universal; second, it shows the universal in its true beauty. In other words, the talent is not beautiful until it is transfigured into a calling, and existence is not beautiful until every person has a calling. (…)When a person has a calling he generally has a norm outside himself, which, without making him a slave, nevertheless gives him some indication of what he has to do, maps out his time for him, often provides him with the occasion to begin. If at some time he fails in his task, he hopes to do it better the next time, and this next time is not so very far away. Our hero has found a more beautiful expression for the relation of his work to the work of other men-that it is a calling. So he has been acknowledged, has received his credentials. But now when he carries out his calling-yes, then he finds his satisfaction in it, but he also insists on an expression of the relation of this activity to other people; he insists on accomplishing something. At this point he may again go astray. The esthete will explain to him that the satisfaction of the talent is the highest, and whether he accomplishes something or does not accomplish anything is entirely beside the point. He may encounter a practical narrow-mindedness that in its bungling zeal thinks it is accomplishing everything, or an esthetic snobbery that thinks that accomplishing something in the world falls to the lot of a chosen few, that there are a few very talented individuals who accomplish something, that the rest of the people are ciphers, superfluities in life, extravagances of the creator. But none of these explanations helps our hero.
    • Either/Or Part II p. 292-294
  • The movement of doubt consisted precisely in this: that at one moment he was supposed to be in the right, the next moment in the wrong, to a degree in the right, to a degree in the wrong, and this was supposed to mark his relationship with God; but such a relationship with God is not relationship, and this was the sustenance of doubt. In his relationship with another person, it certainly was possible that he could be partly in the wrong, partly in the right, to a degree in the wrong, to a degree in the right, because he himself and every human being is finite, and their relationship is a finite relationship that consists in a more or less. Therefore as long as doubt would make the infinite relationship finite, and as long as wisdom would full up the infinite relationship with the finite-just so long he would remain in doubt. Thus every time doubt wants to trouble him about the particular, tell him that he is suffering too much or is being tested beyond his powers, he forget the finite in the infinite, that he is always in the wrong. Every time the cares of doubt want to make him sad, he lifts himself above the finite into the infinite, because this thought, that he is always in the wrong, is the wings upon which he soars over the finite. This is the longing with which he seeks God; this is the love which he finds God.
    • Either/Or Part II p. 352-353

Upbuilding Discourses (1843)[edit]

As translated in Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Soren Kierkegaard 1843-1844 (1990) by Howard V. Hong

Two Upbuilding Discourses[edit]

  • 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, just as it came into existence in concealment, I nevertheless have not bidden it farewell without an almost fantastic hope. Inasmuch as in being published it is in a figurative sense starting a journey, I let my eyes follow it for a little while. I saw how it wended its way down solitary paths or walked solitary on public roads. After a few little mistakes, through being deceived by a fleeting resemblance, it finally met that single individual whom I with joy and gratitude call my reader, that single individual it is seeking, to whom, so to speak, it stretches out it’s arms, that single individual who is favorably enough disposed to allow himself to be found, favorably enough disposed to receive it, whether at the time of the encounter it finds him cheerful and confident or “weary and pensive,” –On the other hand, inasmuch as in being published it actually remains quiet without moving from the spot, I let my eyes rest on it for a little while. It stood there like a humble little flower under the cover of the great forest, sought neither for its splendor nor its fragrance nor its food value. But I also saw, or thought I saw, how the bird I call my reader suddenly noticed it, flew down to it, picked it, and took it home, and when I had seen this, I saw no more. Copenhagen, May 5, 1843 Preface
The Expectancy of Faith[edit]
  • There is talk of the good things of the world, of health, happy times, prosperity, power, good fortune, a glorious fame. And we are warned against them; the person who has them is warned not to rely on them, and the person who does not have them is warned not to set his heart on them. About faith there is a different kind of talk. It is said to be the highest good, the most beautiful;, the most precious, the most blessed riches of all, not to be compared with anything else, incapable of being replaced. Is it distinguished from the other good things, then, by being the highest but otherwise of the same kind as they are-transient and capricious, bestowed only upon the chosen few, rarely for the whole of life? If this were so, then it certainly would be inexplicable that in these sacred places it is always faith and faith alone that is spoken of, that it is eulogized and celebrated again and again. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 9-10
  • If one person went to another and said to him, I have often heard faith extolled as the most glorious good: I feel though that I do not have it; the confusion of my life, the distractions of my mind, my many cares, and so much else disturbs me, but this I know, that I have but one wish, one single wish, that I might share in this faith. p. 11
  • If by my wishing or by my gift I could bestow upon him the highest good” he said, “then I could also take it from him, even if he would not have to be afraid of that. Worse yet, if I could do that, then the very moment I gave it to him I would be taking it from him, since by giving him the highest, I would be depriving him of the highest, because the highest was that he could give it to himself. Therefore, I will thank God that this is not the way it is. p.16
  • all who are expecting do have one thing in common, that they are expecting something in the future, because expectancy and the future are inseparable ideas. The person who is expecting something is occupied with the future. p. 16
  • How, then, shall we face the future? When the sailor is out on the ocean, when everything is changing all around him, when the waves are born and die, he does not stare down into the waves, because they are changing. He looks up at the stars. Why? Because they are faithful; they have the same location now that they had for our ancestors and will have for generations to come. By what means does he conquer the changeable? By the eternal, one can conquer the future, because the eternal is the ground of the future, and therefore through it the future can be fathomed. What, then, is the eternal power in a human being? It is faith. What is the expectancy of faith? Victory-or, as Scripture so earnestly and so movingly teaches us, that all things must serve for good those who love God. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 19
  • Knowledge of the truth I may perhaps have attained to; happiness certainly not. What shall I do? Accomplish something in the world, men tell me. Shall I then publish my grief to the world, contribute one more proof for the wretchedness and misery of existence, perhaps discover a new flaw in human life, hitherto unnoticed? I might then reap the rare reward of becoming famous, like the man who discovered the spots on Jupiter. I prefer, however, to keep silent.
    • Either/Or Part I, Swensen, p. 34
  • If you had loved people then the earnestness of life might have taught you not to be strident but to become silent, and when you were in distress at sea and did not see land, then at least not to involve others in it; it might have taught you to smile at least as long as long as you believed anyone sought in your face an explanation, a witness. We do not judge you for doubting, because doubt is a crafty passion, and it can certainly be difficult to tear oneself out of its snares. What we require of the doubter is that he be silent. That doubt did not make him happy-why then confide to others what will make them just as unhappy. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 22-23
  • An expectancy that without a specified time and place is nothing but a deception; In that way one may always go on waiting; such an expectancy is a circle into which the soul is bewitched and from which it does not escape. In the expectancy of faith, the soul is indeed prevented from falling out of itself, as it were, into multiplicity; it remains in itself, but it would be the worst evil that could befall a person if it escaped from this cycle. p. 23
Every Good and Every Perfect Gift Is from Above[edit]
  • You wanted God’s ideas about what was best for you to coincide with your ideas, but you also wanted him to be the almighty Creator of heaven and earth so that he could properly fulfill your wish. And yet, if he were to share your ideas, he would cease to be the almighty Father. p. 37
  • When you had doubts about what came from God or about what was a good and perfect gift, did you risk the venture? And when the light sparkle of joy beckoned you, did you thank God for it? And when you were so strong that you felt you needed no help, did you then thank God? And when your allotted portion was little, did you thank God? And when you allotted portion was sufferings, did you thank God? And when your wish was denied, did you thank God? And when you yourself had to deny your wish, did you thank God? And when people wronged you and insulted you, did you thank God? We are not saying that their wrong thereby ceased to be wrong-what would be the use of such pernicious and foolish talk! It is up to you to decide whether it was wrong; but have you taken the wrong and insult to God and by your thanksgiving received it from his hand as a good and perfect gift? Did you do that? Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 43
  • Did you keep the apostolic words holy? Did you treasure them in a pure and beautiful heart and refuse to be ransomed for any price or any wily bribe on the part of prudence, from the deep pain of having to confess again and again that you never loved as you were loved? That you were faithless when God was faithful; that you were lukewarm when he was ardent; that he sent good gifts that you perverted to your own detriment; that he inquired about you but that you would not answer; that he called to you but you would not listen; that he spoke cordially to you but you ignored it; that he spoke earnestly to you but you misunderstood it; that he fulfilled your wish and for thanks you brought new wishes; that he fulfilled your wish but you had made the wrong wish and were quick to anger? p. 44

Three Upbuilding Discourses[edit]

Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins[edit]
  • What is it that makes a person great, admired by creation, well pleasing in the eyes of God? What is it that makes a person strong, stronger than the whole world; what is it that makes him weak, weaker than a child? What is it that makes a person unwavering, unwavering as a rock; what is it that makes him soft, softer than wax? –It is love! What is it that is older than everything? It is love. What is it that outlives everything? It is love. What is it that cannot be taken but itself takes all? It is love. What is it that cannot be given but itself gives all? It is love. What is it that perseveres when everything falls away? It is love. What is it that comforts when all comfort fails? It is love. What is it that endures when everything is changed? It is love. What is it that remains when the imperfect is abolished? It is love. What is it that witnesses when prophecy is silent? It is love. What is it that does not cease when the vision ends? It is love. What is it that sheds light when the dark saying ends? It is love. What is it that gives blessing to the abundance of the gift? It is love. What is it that gives pith to the angel’s words? It is love. What is it that makes the widow’s gift an abundance? It is love. What is it that turns the words of the simple person into wisdom? It is love. What is it that is never changed even though everything is changed? It is love; and that alone is love, that which never becomes something else. It is love! Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 55
  • What is it that is never changed even though everything is changed? It is love. And only that which never becomes something else is love, that which gives away everything and for that reason demands nothing, that which demands nothing and therefore has nothing to lose, that which blesses and blesses when it is cursed, that which loves its neighbor but whose enemy is also its neighbor, that which leaves revenge to the Lord because it takes comfort in the thought that he is even more merciful. p. 57
  • Should I warn against a certain ingenious common sense that in human eyes is less culpable, that cunningly knows how to discover people’s faults, that admittedly does not misuse its knowledge to condemn but nevertheless by its curiosity does not so much violate the neighbor as hinder itself. Should we admonish everyone to aspire to that Christian love because everyone so often needs forgiveness himself. p. 58
  • But the evil eye discovers much that love does not see, since an evil eye even sees that the Lord acts unjustly when he is good. When evil lives in the heart, the eye sees offense, but when purity lives in the heart, the eye sees the finger of God. The pure always see God, but “he who does evil does not see God” 3 John 11A person’s inner being, then, determines what he discovers and what he hides. When an appetite for sin lives in the heart, the eye discovers the multiplicity of sin and makes it even more multiple. … When anxiety of sin lives in the heart, the ear discovers the multiplicity of sin and makes it even more multiple. … When love lives in the heart, the eye is shut and does not discover the open act of sin, to say nothing of the concealed act … When love lives in the heart, the ear is shut and does not hear what the world says, does not hear the bitterness of blasphemy, because he who says, “you fool”, to his brother is guilty before the council, but he who hears it when it is said to him is not perfect in love. … When rashness lives in the heart, a person is quick to discover the multiplicity of sin, then he understands splendidly a fragmentary utterance, hastily comprehends at a distance something scarcely enunciated. When love lives in the heart, a person understands slowly and does not hear at all words said in haste and does not understand them when repeated because he assigns them good position and a good meaning. He does not understand a long angry and insulting verbal assault, because he is waiting for one more word that will give it meaning. When fear lives in the heart, a person easily discovers the multiplicity of sin, discovers deceit and delusion and disloyalty and scheming, discovers that; Every heart is a net, Every rogue like a child, Every promise like a shadow. But the love that hides a multitude of sins is never deceived. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 60-61
  • When stinginess lives in the heart, when one gives with one eye and looks with seven to see what one obtains in return one readily discovers the multiplicity of sin. But when love lives in the heart, then the eye is never deceived, because when love gives, it does not watch the gift but keeps its eye on the Lord. When envy lives in the heart, the eye has the power to elicit the impure even from the pure; but when love lives in the heart, the eye has the power to love forth the good in the impure, but his eye sees not the impure but the pure, which it loves, and loves forth by loving it. Yes, there is a power in this world that in its language translates good into evil, but there is power from above that translates evil into good-it is the love that hides a multitude of sins. … When hate lives in the heart, sin is right there at the door of a human being, and the multitude of its cravings is present to him. But when love lives in the heart, then sin flees far away and he does not even catch a glimpse of it. p. 61
Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins[edit]
  • One must have the courage to will love; the secret of earthly love is that it bears the mark of God’s love, without which it would become silliness, or insipid philandering, as if a person in comparison with another were so perfect that he could arouse this anxiety or truly be able to take everything. p. 74-75
  • To remember everything is a great thing to the understanding; that love hides a multitude of sins is foolishness to it. Or should we deprive ourselves of this comfort by sensibly wanting to measure out love, so to speak, by wanting to portion it out as compensation for particular sins and in this way continue in the sins? Should we shut ourselves out from love; if we continue in love, who is it, then, who accuses? Or is not the love in a person that hides a multitude of sins from himself the same love that out of love hides a multitude of sins? p. 77
Strengthening in the Inner Being[edit]
  • Only the person who cravingly runs away from every more profound explanation, who does not have the courage to assume the responsibility of the master by submitting to the obligation of a servant, who does not have the humility to be willing to obey in order to learn how to rule and at all times is willing to rule only insofar as he himself obeys-only he fills time with perpetual deliberations that takes him nowhere but only serves as a dissipation in which his soul, his capacity for comprehending and willing, vanishes like mist and is extinguished like a flame. How doleful is such a self-consuming, how far from witnessing by his life, from giving expression in his life, to a human being’s exalted destiny-to be God’s coworker. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 85-86
  • Not until the moment when there awakens in his soul a concern about what meaning the world has for him and he for the world, about what meaning everything within him by which he himself belongs to the world has for him and he therein for the world-only then does the inner being announce its presence in this concern. This concern is not calmed by a more detailed or a more comprehensive knowledge; it craves another kind of knowledge, a knowledge that does not remain as knowledge for a single moment but is transformed into an action the moment it is possessed, since otherwise it is not possessed. This concern also craves an explanation, a witness, but of another kind. p. 86
  • Consider him the person who was wronged. He complains not about life but about people who corrupt everything and embitter what God made good. … Then everything became confused for him; there was no God who intended everything for good, but everything was left up to human beings who intended everything for evil. But the more his soul stared down into the abyss of dark passions that arose in him, the greater was the power that the anxiety of temptation gained over him, until he himself plunged down into it and lost himself in despair. p. 95-96
  • Blessed is the person who could truthfully say: God in heaven was my first love; blessed is the person whose life was a beneficent strengthening of his love; blessed is the person who, even though in his life he made the mistake of taking the outer instead of the inner, even though his soul in many ways was ensnared by the world, yet was again renewed in the inner being by turning back to his God. p. 101

Four Upbuilding Discourses[edit]

The Lord Gave, and the Lord Took Away; Blessed Be the Name of the Lord[edit]
  • Not only do we call someone a teacher of humankind who by a special stroke of fortune discovered some truth or fathomed it by unflagging toil and thoroughgoing persistence and then left his attainment as learning that subsequent generations strive to understand and in this understanding to appropriate to themselves; but we also call someone – perhaps in an even stricter sense – a teacher of humankind who had no teaching to hand over to others but left mankind only himself as a prototype, his life as a guide for everyone, his name as security for many, his work as an encouragement for those who are being tried. Such a teacher and guide of humankind is Job, whose significance by no means consists in what he said but in what he did. He did indeed leave a statement that by its brevity and beauty has become a proverb preserved from generation to generation, and no one has presumptuously added anything to it or taken anything from it; but the statement itself is not the guide, and Job’s significance consists not in his having said it but in his having acted upon it. p. 109
  • When one generation has finished its service, completed its work, fought through its struggle, Job has accompanied it; when the new generation with its incalculable ranks, each individual in his place, stands ready to begin the pilgrimage, Job is there again, takes his place, which is the outpost of humanity. If the generation sees nothing but happy days in prosperous times, then Job faithfully accompanies it; but if the single individual experiences the terrors in thought, is anguished over the thought of what horror and distress life can have in store, over the thought that no one knows when the hour of despair may strike for him, then his troubled thought seeks out Job, rests in him, is calmed by him, for Job faithfully accompanies him and comforts him, not, to be sure, as if he had suffered once and for all what would never be suffered again, but comforts as someone who witnesses that the horror has been suffered, the horror has been experienced, the battle of despair has been fought to the glory of God, for his own rescue, for the benefit and joy of others. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 110
  • Only the person who has been tried and who tested the saying in being tested himself, only he rightly interprets the saying; Job desires only that kind of pupil, only that kind of interpreter; he alone learns from him what there is to learn, the most beautiful and the most blessed, compared with which all other art or wisdom is very inessential. Therefore, we quite rightly call Job a teacher of humankind and not of individuals, because he presents himself to everyone as the prototype. p. 112
  • 'But Job! The moment the Lord took everything away, he did not say, “The Lord took away,” but first of all he said “The Lord gave'. … Job’s soul was not squeezed into silent subjection to the sorrow, but that his heart first expanded in thankfulness, that the first thing the loss of everything did was to make him thankful to the Lord that he had given him all the blessings that he now took away from him. … His thankfulness no doubt was not the same as in those days that already seemed so far away, when he received every good and every perfect gift from God’s hand with thankfulness. But his thankfulness was nevertheless honest, just as honest as the idea of God’s goodness that was now so vivid in his soul. p. 115-116
  • If he [Job] had never known happiness, then the pain would not have overwhelmed him, for what is pain but an idea that the person knows nothing else does not have, but now it is precisely joy that has educated and developed him to perceive pain.” Then his joy became his own ruin; it was never lost but only lacking, and in its lack it tempted him more than ever before. What had been his eye’s delight, his eyes craved to see again and his ingratitude punished him by inducing him to believe it to be more beautiful than it had ever been. What his soul delighted in, it now thirsted for, and ingratitude punished him by picturing it to him as more delightful than it had ever been. What he once had been able to do, he now wanted to be able to do again, and ingratitude punished him with fantasies that had never had any truth. Then he condemned his soul, living, to be starved out in the insatiable craving of the lack. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 117
  • Are you perhaps thinking that something like this could not happen to you? Who taught you this wisdom, or on what do you base this conviction? Are you wise and sensible, and is this your comfort? Job was the teacher of many people. Are you young and is youth your security? Job, too, was once young. Are you old, on the edge of the grave? Job was an old man when sorrow caught up with him. Are you powerful and is this the proof of your exemption? Job was highly regarded by the people. Is wealth your security? Job possessed the blessings of the land. Are friends your security? Job was loved by all. Do you trust in God? Job was an intimate of the Lord. Have you really pondered these thoughts, or do you rather avoid them lest they force a confession from you, which would now perhaps be called a depressed mood? And yet there is no hiding place in the whole world where trouble will not find you, and no one has ever lived who could say more than you can say, that you do not know when sorrow will visit your house. So, then, be earnest with yourself; fix your eyes upon Job. p. 123-124
Every Good and Every Perfect Gift Is from Above[edit]
  • The Garden of Eden was closed; everything was changed, the man became afraid of himself, afraid of the world around him. Troubled he asked: What is the good, where is the perfect to be found? If it exists, where is its source? But the doubt that had come along with the knowledge coiled itself alarmingly around his heart, and the serpent that had seduced him with the delectable now squeezed him in its coils. Would he find out what the good and perfect is without learning where it came from, would he be able to recognize the eternal source without knowing what the good and perfect is? Doubt would explain to him first one thing, then another, and in the explanation itself would lie in wait for him in order to disquiet him still more. What happened at the beginning of days is repeated in every generation and in the individual; the consequences of the fruit of the knowledge could not be halted. With the knowledge, doubt became more inward, and the knowledge, which should have guided man, fettered him in distress and contradiction. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 127
  • Perhaps you would say: Who would want to deny that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above? But not wanting to deny it is still a very long way from wanting to understand it, and wanting to understand it is still a very long way from wanting to believe it. Does the fruit of the knowledge here again seem so delectable that instead of making a spiritual judgment you demand and identifying sign from the good and the perfect, a proof that it actually did come from above? How should such a sign be constituted? Should it be constituted? Should it be more perfect than the perfect, better than the good, since it is assumed to demonstrate, and it pretends to demonstrate, that the perfect is the perfect. Should it be a sign, a wonder? Is not a wonder the archenemy of doubt, with which it is never combined? p. 135
  • The apostle turns to the single individual in order to explain the condition that makes it possible for him to receive the good and perfect gift. This condition God himself has given, since otherwise the good would not be a gift. This condition is in turn itself a perfection, since otherwise the good would not be a perfect gift. Earthly need is no perfection but an imperfection. … but to need the good and perfect gift from God is a perfection; therefore the gift, which is intrinsically perfect, is also a perfect gift because the need is perfect. Before this need awakens in a person, there must be a great upheaval. All of doubt’s busy deliberation was mankind’s first attempt to find it. However long this continues, it is never finished, and yet it must be finished, ended, that is, broken off, before the single individual can be what the apostle calls the first fruit of creation. p. 136
Every Good and Every Perfect Gift Is from Above[edit]
  • Every upbuilding view of life first finds its resting place or first becomes upbuilding, by and in the divine equality that opens the soul to the perfect, and blinds the sensate eye to the difference, the divine equality. p. 143
  • Every good and every perfect gift still comes down from above, and thus providence does not need specifically your treasure and your goods, since it always has twelve legions of angels ready to serve humankind. … You could just as well keep everything or give everything away; you still would not achieve or produce equality before God. All this I will give you if you will fall down and worship me. Have you forgotten that this was the tempter? p. 145-146
  • God in heaven surely knows best what is the highest that a person can aspire to and complete. Scripture only asks if you were a trustworthy servant. p. 148
  • When the rich man thanks God for the gift and for being granted the opportunity of bestowing it in a good way, he does indeed thank for the gift and for the poor man; when the poor man thanks the giver for the gift and God for the giver, he does indeed also thank God for the gift. Consequently equality prevails in the giving of thanks to God. p. 157
To Gain One's Soul in Patience[edit]
  • A human being is born naked and brings nothing with him into the world, and whether the conditions of life are like friendly forms with everything in readiness or he himself must laboriously find them, everyone must nevertheless acquire the conditions of his life in one way or another. Even if this observation makes an individual impatient and thereby totally incompetent, yet the better people know how to comprehend this and how to conform to the idea that life must be gained and that it must be gained in patience, to which they admonish themselves and others, because patience is a soul strength that everyone needs to attain what he desires in life. p. 160
  • The world can be possessed only by its possessing me, and this in turn is the way it possesses the person who has won the world, since one who possesses the world in any other way possesses it as the accidental, as something that can be diminished, increased, lost, won, without his possession being essentially changed. If, however, he possesses the world in such a way that the loss of it can diminish his possession, then he is possessed by the world. p. 164-165
  • But whose possession, then, is his soul? Is it not the world’s, since illegitimate possession is no possession; it is not his, for he, of course, must gain it. Consequently, there must still be a possessor. This possessor must possess the soul only as legitimate property but nevertheless must not possess it in such a way that the person himself cannot gain it as his legitimate possession. Therefore, this possessor can be none other than the eternal being, than God himself. p. 166
  • Must he not possess his soul in order to have patience in which he gains his soul? Not at all, for patience comes into existence during the gaining, and in this gaining he does not become stronger and stronger, which must be assumed if he were to use force, but he seemingly becomes weaker and weaker. Precisely because the world possessed his soul illegitimately, the ultimate consequence of this, also because the world actually is the stronger, is that he becomes weaker and weaker in regard to the life of the world. p. 171

Upbuilding Discourses (1844)[edit]

As translated in Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Soren Kierkegaard 1843-1844 (1990) by Howard V. Hong

Two Upbuilding Discourses March 5, 1844[edit]

  • even though a person was not without education insofar as he learned from what he suffered, it still would never be very pleasant if he needed to suffer much in order to learn little. Its desire is to give thanks if on the word of authority it were to win the tacit permission of the multitude to dare to go its way unnoticed in order to find what it seeks: that single individual whom I with joy and gratitude call my reader, who with the right hand accepts what is offered with the right hand;
    • p. 179
To Preserve One's Soul in Patience[edit]
  • You may have heard how someone who had thoughtlessly frittered away his life and never understood anything but wasted the power of his soul in vanities, how he lay on his sick bed and the frightfulness of disease encompassed him and the singularly fearful battle began, how he then for the first time in his life understood something, understood that it was death he struggled with, and how he then pulled himself together in a purpose that was powerful enough to move the world, how he attained marvelous collectedness for wrenching himself out of the sufferings in order to use the last moment to catch up on some of what he had neglected, to bring order to some of the chaos he had caused during a long life, to contrive something for those he would leave behind.
    • p. 181
  • Let us praise what is truly praiseworthy, the glory of human nature; let us give thanks that it was granted also to us to be human beings; […]does not even a mentally handicapped person frequently demonstrate how strong a human being is, and yet we do not praise the mentally handicapped, even though he puts many to shame.
    • p. 182
  • If a person with troubled imagination conjured up anxieties he was unable to surmount, while he still could not leave off staring at them, evoking them ever more alarmingly, pondering them ever more fearfully, then we shall not praise him, even though we praise the wonderful glory of human nature. But if he brought out the horror and detected the mortal danger, without any thought of providing people, by pointless talk, with subject matter for pointless pondering, but grasped that the danger had to do with himself-if, then, with this in mind, he won the strength of soul that horror gives, this would in truth be praiseworthy, would in truth be wondrously wonderful.
    • p. 183
  • since life is uncertain, there is something one desires to preserve, desires to safeguard for oneself. […] It could not be something temporal, inasmuch as for life’s sake it probably would be desirable to preserve it, but how would one wish to preserve it for death’s sake, since it is precisely that which one abandons in death, which without envy and without preference would make everyone equal, equally poor, equally powerless, equally miserable, the one who possessed a world and the one who had nothing not love, the one who left behind a claim upon a world and the one who was in debt for a world, the one whom thousands obeyed and the one whom no one knew except death, the one whose loveliness was the object of people’s admiration and the poor wretch who sought only a grave in order to hide from people. It would have to be something eternal, then, that the discourse was about or, more accurately, what it could truly be about, and, in a single word, what else could that be but a person’s soul?
    • p. 185
  • Spiritually, deliberation is a difficult and rather unrewarding labor. One dares leave nothing out in the fog, leave no little secret lying there in concealment. Perhaps one discovers that the tower cannot be as high as desired. Perhaps one had never seriously made a beginning on it and therefore did not really find out that one was incapable of doing it; but then one nevertheless had kept this dream in one’s soul, this seductive fantasy with which one could at times entertain oneself-why destroy it, since it nether injures nor benefits? One discovers a little defect in one’s work-well, the building could last for all that, just as well as all the others, because, after all, one does not build for an eternity-so why make difficulties for oneself? Suppose one discovered no irregularity at all, then why all this deliberation.
    • p. 188
  • Does patience perhaps say with the cold calculation of the understanding that wishing is useless and that therefore one must stop wishing? Not at all; it does not speak about the fulfillment or nonfulfillment of the wish, for it says: Even if the wish were fulfilled, it would be to a person’s loss; he would lose the best, the holiest, to be what God has intended him to be, neither more nor less.
    • p. 190
  • To preserve one’s soul in patience-that is, to keep the soul bound together in patience so that it does not go outside this and thereby become lost when he must begin the long battle with an indefatigable enemy, time, and with a multifarious enemy, the world.
    • p. 192
  • What is hope? An importunate pest one cannot get rid of, a cunning deceiver who holds out even longer than integrity, a cantankerous friend who always retains his rights even when the emperor has lost his. What is recollection? A troublesome comforter, a cowardly knave who wounds thee from behind, a shadow one cannot get rid of, even if someone would buy it. What is bliss? A wish one gives away to whoever wants to have it! What is friendship? A figment of the imagination, a superfluity, an added plague!
    • p. 195
  • He who, believing, continues to aspire to the eternal never becomes satiated in such a way that he does not continue blessedly to hunger; he who hopefully looks to the future can never be petrified at some moment by the past, because he always turns his back to it; he who loves God and human beings still continually has enough to do, even when need is the greatest and despair is most imminent. Before he lies down to die, he asks once again: Do I love God just as much as before, and do I love the common concerns of human beings? If he dares to answer in the affirmative, then he does not die or he dies saved; if he dare not, then he certainly has enough to do. Then in love and for the sake of his love he must deliberate whether it is not possible to see, to glimpse, to presage the joy and comfort that still must hide in the sadness, since this must still truly serve him for good.
    • p. 198-199
  • Patience has another phrase, a powerful phrase, just what the anxious one needs: This very day, (Luke 12.20 Hebrews 4.7) says the Lord. Let us not rashly venture to fathom deeply the mystery here; let us not become too engrossed in this phrase; but let us not forget, either, that it is there. Let us regard it as an angel of deliverance who stands there with his flaming sword, and every time the soul is about to rush out to the outermost boundary of despair it must pass by him; he judges the soul but also strengthens it. The phrase is like a mighty warrior who stands at the post on the outermost boundary of the kingdom, always engaged in that terrible border dispute. When people of the interior of the country have an intimation of the terror and the women and children rush out-he stands there, he soberly turns them back and says: Take courage; I am standing here, I never doze off; go home again, prepare your souls in patience and quiet alertness.
    • p. 200-201
Patience in Expectancy[edit]
  • only the earthly and temporal mind, to its own deprivation, makes duplicitous that which in patience wants to be understood as comforting and alleviating and as rescuing and guiding in earnest.
    • p. 206
  • Is Anna not patient in expectancy? Anyone who wants to harvest before he sows or as soon as he has sown, anyone who wants to be victorious without struggling, anyone who wants something but does not want the means is a fool in people’s eyes. Everyone believes that the expectant person needs some patience, and only the person who wants to cast away all patience, he alone is called impatient and childish in his impatience. Some patience! If a person were to go out into the world with this wisdom, he would find scarcely a single impatient person without some patience.
    • p. 213
  • “Forget the past once again, quit all this calculating in which you trap yourself, do not stop the prompting of your heart, do not extinguish the spirit in useless quarreling about who waited the longest and suffered the most-once again cast all your sorrow upon the Lord and throw yourself upon his love. Up out of this sea, expectancy rises reborn again and sees heaven open-reborn, no newborn, for this heavenly expectancy begins precisely when the earthly expectancy sinks down powerless and in despair.”
    • p. 214
  • The error of the one doubting and the one despairing does not lie in cognition, since cognition cannot decide with certainty anything about the next moment, but the error lies in the will, which suddenly no longer wills but on the contrary wants to make the indeterminate into a passionate decision.
    • p. 215
  • Whatever God gives, he “gives not the spirit of cowardliness but the spirit of power and self-control". (2 Timothy 1.7) Just as it is required of the expectant person, if his expectancy is noble and worthy of a human being, that he seeks this spirit of power and self-control, and that, just as his expectancy is laudable, he must also be one who is properly expectant, so in turn will the object of expectancy, the more glorious and precious it is, form the expectant person in its own likeness, because a person resembles what he loves with his whole soul.
    • p. 219
  • Anyone who expects what truly pertains to him cannot thereby become indifferent to it, since then he no longer grasps that it truly pertains to him, and neither does he then expect that which truly pertains to him. He cannot become apathetic in habit, since at all times he is just as close to the fulfillment.
    • p. 221
  • Impatience is an evil spirit that can be expelled only by prayer and much fasting. … the hunger of impatience is not easy to satisfy-how, then, through fasting? The demands of impatience certainly use many words and long speeches, but in prayer it is very sparing with words.
    • p. 223
  • People often lament that life is so impoverished, existence so powerless in all its magnificence, that it seeks in vain to take the soul by surprise or to captivate it in wonder, since to wonder at nothing is the highest wisdom, and to expect nothing is the highest truth. The child is astonished at insignificant things. The adult has laid aside childish things; he has seen the wondrous, but it amazes him no more; there is nothing new under the sun, and nothing marvelous in life. If, however, a person knew how to make himself truly what he truly is-nothing-knew how to set the seal of patience on what he had understood-ah, then his life, whether he is the greatest or the lowliest, would even today be a joyful surprise and be filled with blessed wonder and would be that throughout all his days, because there is truly only one eternal object of wonder-that is God-and only one possible hindrance to wonder-and that is a person when he himself wants to be something.
    • p. 225-226

Three Upbuilding Discourses June 8, 1844[edit]

Think About Your Creator in the Days of Your Youth[edit]
  • REMEMBER ALSO your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, "I have no pleasure in them"; Ecclesiastes 12:1 RSV
    • p. 231
  • There is a truth, the greatness and the grandeur of which we are accustomed to praise by saying admiringly that it is indifferent, equally valid, whether anyone accepts it or not; indifferent to the individual’s particular condition, whether he is young or old, happy or dejected; indifferent to its relation to him, whether it benefits him or harms him, whether it keeps him from something or assists him to it; equally valid whether he totally subscribes to it or coldly and impassively professes it, whether he gives his life for it or uses it for ill gain; indifferent to whether he has found it himself or merely repeats what has been taught. […] There is another kind of truth or, if this is humbler, another kind of truths that could be called concerned truths. They do not live on a lofty plane, for the simple reason that, ashamed, as it were, they are conscious of not applying universally to all occasions but only specifically to particular occasions. They are not indifferent to the single individual’s particular condition, whether he is young or old, happy or dejected, because this determines for them whether they are to be truths for him.
    • p. 233
  • There is nothing in the wide world that is able to compensate a person for the harm he would inflict on his soul if he gave up the thought of God; but the person who demanded the highest, blinded though he was, still let it be understood that in a certain imperfect sense he grasped the significance of what he was abandoning.
    • p. 235
  • Think about your Creator in the days of your youth. One does this best and most naturally in youth, and if anyone kept the thoughts of youth through all the rest of his life-well, then he would have accomplished a good work.
    • p. 240-241
  • There was a thinker who became a hero by his death; he said that he could demonstrate the existence of God with a single straw.
    • p. 243
  • When a person grows older he often scrutinizes his thoughts and retards himself.
    • p. 245
The Expectancy of an Eternal Salvation[edit]
  • For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4.17-18
    • p. 253
  • It may be a merit of our present age that in many ways it has known how to work the wish weary and in that way to wean the soul from wishing; it may be to its advantage if it thereby has developed an honest earnestness that for the good renounces the fraudulence of wishes. We do not reproach the age for having made the idea of the power of the wish into playing with words if it thereby motivates someone to work with his own hands instead of with the borrowed energy of the wish. But the wish for heaven’s salvation-is this, too, a play on words, as wishing for heavenly help has become for the frivolous, who thinks that we ought to depend on God the way we depend on people –that is, if you help yourself then God does the rest. And if the wish for heaven’s salvation has become playing with words, has the aim in it been to incite people to work all the harder to gain it? This seems not at all to be the case.
    • p. 254
  • Salvation is a matter of course; nothing follows in turn from it. Therefore, let us not waste time by first making doubtful something that is a matter of course, and then by allying the doubt that never brings the assurance one has when one lets it come as a matter of course, this point of view still does not deny that heaven’s salvation is a good and can disapprove of the wish for it only insofar as the wish already is a kind of unnecessary concern, since salvation is a matter of course whether one wishes it or not.
    • p. 256
  • The thought of heaven’s salvation dare not become a matter of indifference to a person. How would salvation become a matter of indifference to him for whom the discourse need not venture out to the outermost boundary of thoughtlessness, but whose soul is well educated to hear the serious words of earnestness “that God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7), whose soul is prepared by considering what presumably would completely overwhelm the confused, “that no one can serve two masters, since he must hate the one and love the other” (Matthew 6:24), whose soul is fully awakened from sleep to understand what presumably would hurl the sleepwalker into the abyss, “that love of the world is hatred of God!” (James 4.4) has the spiritual sense to be disgusted at the thought that heaven’s salvation, despite it gloriousness, could be nonsense, has the maturity of understanding to grasp that heaven’s salvation can no more be taken by force than it can be redeemed like a fine in a game of forfeits. Such a person has the time to consider the one thing needful, the heart to wish for heaven’s salvation, the earnestness to reject the flirting of light-minded ideas, the fear and trembling in his soul to be terrified at the thought of breaking with heaven or of taking it in vain.
    • p. 258
  • Experience certainly has long known how to think of some cheer for the troubled, but, as is natural, it does not know a joy that passes all understanding. Experience knows all the many inventions of the human heart, but a rapture that did not arise in any man’s heart it does not know. ** p. 263
  • The expectancy of an eternal salvation will reconcile everyone with his neighbor, with his friend, and with his enemy in an understanding of the essential.
    • p. 265
  • Even though the concern did not provide a person humble entrance, it is still worth endeavoring to gain it so that there may be an inwardness, a hallowed place in the soul, where the consciousness retreats, lets the world go, incloses itself in itself, becomes reconciled with itself and thereby with the differences in life, an inclosure where thoughts of finitude, insofar as they presumptuously want to force entry, are found every morning to be overthrown, like Dagon’s statue at the foot of the Ark of the Covenant, before the sublimity of the concern that is solely concerned about the intrinsically valid, and that is not the expectation that wants to enter heaven triumphantly and wants its festive entrance to be decisive for others.
    • p. 267-268
  • Is not heaven’s salvation so great a good that it needs no increment by means of some external circumstance? The person who has salvation certainly can neither wish to become more blessed by some irrelevant thought nor wish to be disturbed by any irrelevant thought. If a person thinks that his salvation is assured nevertheless thinks something like this, it simply shows that he is not thinking about salvation, and this other thought may very well make him lose salvation, just as the consciousness of the good deed causes one to lose the reward.
    • p. 270
  • If one was not what in a more elevated way is called a simple man, but what in plain, everyday speech is called a real simpleton, and you, my listener, were a wise person who profoundly asked, “What is truth?” and restlessly pondered the question with competence and success-do you suppose it would disturb you if he became just as blessed as you and heaven’s infinite salvation made you both equal?
    • p. 271-272
He Must Increase; I Must Decrease[edit]
  • He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3.29-30
    • p. 275
  • A person should not, if life is to have deeper meaning, become accustomed to understanding everything in general, should not be in a hurry to understand everything, but should patiently follow the pointer that continually points to himself. And even though in every other sense it is just a figurative expression to say that we see the finger of God in life, a person who is concerned about himself understands it quite literally, because all deeper and more inward self-knowledge sees the finger of God that points to him. To miss one letter confuses the whole world, and yet this confusion is nothing compared with the confusion that occurs when a person, in understanding life in its totality and the history of the human race, skips over one human being-himself-since the individual human being is, after all, not like a single letter, in itself a meaningless part of the word, but is the whole world. And yet this happens very frequently, and therefore very little is learned from life.
    • p. 75-276
  • The same thing that happened to the greatest among those born of women also happens to lesser ones; what happens in the unique decision also happens in the lesser ones, and the words are not profanely used by learning from them to compose oneself in the lesser situation of one’s own life.
    • p. 278
  • We shall not decide which life fights the good fight most easily, but we all agree that every human being ought to fight the good fight, from which no one is shut out, and yet this is so glorious that if it were granted only once to a past generation under exceptional circumstances-yes, what a description envy and discouragement would then know how to give! The difference is about the same as that in connection with the thought of death. As soon as a human being is born, he begins to die. But the difference is that there are some people for whom the thought of death comes into existence with birth and is present to them in the quiet peacefulness of childhood and the buoyancy of youth; whereas others have a period in which this thought is not present to them until, when the years run out, the years of vigor and vitality, the thought of death meets them on their way.
    • p. 280
  • Every human being is only an instrument and does not know when the moment will come when he will be put aside. If he himself does not at times evoke this thought, he is a hireling, an unfaithful servant, who is trying to free himself and to cheat the Lord of the uncertainty in which he comprehends his own nothingness. That much in life is empty and worthless, people certainly do know, but how frequently the single individual makes an exception, and even the highest mission in the spiritual world is only an errand, and one who is equipped for it with all spiritual-intellectual gifts is only on an errand-but why is the sending out of angels so beautiful, inasmuch as they return again to God’s throne so speedily that they have no time to be tempted by the thought that they are taking care of their own affairs!
    • p. 282
  • John remained true to himself; precisely when his disciples’ news seemed to call for a different response, he gave witness to them of that which he had proclaimed in the wilderness before the coming one appeared and had preached to the people. He requested them to witness along with him that this had been his witness from the beginning, and the disciples had to witness along with him that this witness was his conclusion, his yes and amen.
    • p. 284
  • How many roads there are in the hour of decision! And yet, there is only one road; the others are wrong roads, whether they lead to the place where envy concocts its plans, where grief has its haunts, where the worm of desire does not die, where disconsolateness stares at its loss, where mockery alarms others with its vile wisdom, or where the tongue of slander betrays the abundance of the heart-all these roads lead away, far away, and thought does not even dare to follow them.
    • p. 285
  • He must increase-who is this “he”? In the sense in which we have used the word, everyone can identify him with another name; this is how change occurs here on earth; one increases and another decreases, and today it is I and tomorrow you. But one who in humble self-denial and with genuine joy saw another increase-his mind will be turned into a new joy, and this new joy of his will surely be full. … An old saying states that everyone would rather see the rising sun than the setting sun. Why everyone? Do you suppose this includes someone whose sun it is that is setting? Yes, for he, too, ardently desires to rejoice just as the bridegroom’s friend does when he stands and hears the bridegroom’s voice.
    • p. 289

Four Upbuilding Discourses August 31, 1844[edit]

  • this little book […] seeks that single individual whom I with joy and gratitude call my reader, in order to pay him a visit, indeed, to stay with him, because one goes to the person one loves, makes one’s home with him, and remains with him if this is allowed.
    • p. 295
To Need God Is a Human Being's Highest Perfection[edit]
  • “A person needs only a little in order to live and needs that little only a little while”-this is a high minded proverb that is worthy of being received and understood as it wants to be understood; it is too earnest to want to be admired as a beautiful expression or an elegant locution. As such it is thoughtlessly used at times: one calls it out to the needy person, perhaps in order to console him in passing, perhaps also just to have something to say; one says it to oneself, even on a lucky day, since the human heart is very deceitful, is all too eager to take high-mindedness in vain and is proud of needing only a little-while using much. One says it to oneself on a day of need, and hurries ahead to welcome oneself admiringly at the goal-when one has accomplished something glorious-but one is as little served thereby as the proverb is.
    • p. 297
  • To be contented with the grace of God! The grace of God is indeed the most glorious of all. We certainly shall not dispute about that, since basically this is every human being’s deepest and most blessed conviction. But very seldom does he think about it and ultimately, if he really wants to be honest, yet without being quite clear himself about what he is doing, he applies to this idea that old proverb: Too little and too much spoil everything. If he were to think the thought in its eternal validity, it would promptly aim a fatal blow at all his worldly thinking, aspiring, and pursuing, turn everything upside down, and this he cannot long endure. Then he relapses to the low level of the worldly, to his ordinary conversation and way of thinking.
    • p. 300
  • With respect to the earthly, one needs little, and to the degree that one needs less, the more perfect one is. A pagan who knew how to speak only of the earthly has said that the deity is blessed because he needs nothing, and next to him the wise man, because he needs little. In a human beings relationship to God, it is inverted: the more he needs God, the more deeply he comprehends that he is in need of God, and then the more he in his need presses forward to God, the more perfect he is. […]it is the saddest thing of all if a human being goes through life without discovering that he needs God.
    • p. 303
  • We do not deny that wanting in all earnestness to understand what a person does not yet understand earnestly enough-if he wants to seek his own way to this consciousness and not leave it to God, who knows best how to alarm all self-confidence out of a person and keep him, when he is about to sink into his own nothingness, from maintaining by himself the diver’s connection with the earthly-we do not deny that wanting in all earnestness to understand this makes life difficult. Let us just admit it without thereby becoming so discouraged or cowardly that we want to sleep our way to what others have had to work for; let us not take it in vain when the believer enthusiastically declares that all his suffering is only brief and short, that the yoke of self-denial is beneficial, that the cross of sufferings ennobles a person more than anything else, and let us hope to God that someday we shall come so far that we, too, are able to speak enthusiastically. Let us not demand this too early, lest the believer’s zealous words discourage us because this does not occur immediately.
    • p. 305
  • To external observation, many may well be the most glorious creation, but all his glory is still only in the external and for the external: does not the eye aim its arrow outward every time passion and desire tighten the bowstring, does not the hand grasp outward, is not his arm stretched out, and is not his ingenuity all-conquering!
    • p. 308
  • But if he nevertheless is unwilling to be an instrument of war in the service of inexplicable drives, indeed, in the service of the world, because the world itself, the object of his craving, stimulates the drive; if he nevertheless does not want to be like a stringed instrument in the hands of inexplicable moods or, rather, in the hands of the world, because the movement of the soul is in accord with the way the world plucks its strings; if he does not want to be like a mirror in which he intercepts the world or, rather, the world reflects itself; if he does not want this, if he himself, even before the eye aims at something to make a conquest, wants to capture the eye so that it may belong to him and not he to the eye; if he grasps the hand before it grasps for the external, so that it may belong to him and not he to the hand; if he wants this so earnestly that he is not afraid of tearing out the eye, cutting off the hand, shutting the window of the senses if necessary-well, then everything is changed: the power is taken away from him, and the glory. He struggles not with the world but with himself.
    • p. 308-309
  • Did not Moses go as the Lord’s envoy to the wicked people in order to free them from themselves, from their servile mentality, and from their servile condition under the tyrant’s yoke? Compared with what are called the works of Moses, what is the deed of even the greatest hero; what are demolishing mountains and filling rivers compared with having darkness fall upon all Egypt? But these were really only Moses’ so-called works, because he was capable of nothing at all and the work was the Lord’s. See the difference here. Moses-he is not making decisions and formulating plans while the council of the commonsensical listens attentively because the leader is the wisest-Moses is capable of nothing at all.
    • p. 311
  • If this view, that to need God is man’s highest perfection, makes life more difficult, it does this only because it wants to view man according to his perfection and bring him to view himself in this way, because in and through this view man learns to know himself. And for the person who does not know himself, his life is, in the deeper sense; indeed a delusion. But such a delusion is rarely due to a person’s not discovering the capabilities entrusted to him, to his not trying to develop them as much as possible in conformity with his given situation.
    • p. 312
  • The more profound self-knowledge begins with what someone who is unwilling to understand it might call a shocking delusion: instead of becoming the master, to become one in need; instead of being capable of all things, to be capable of nothing at all. Ah, how difficult it is at this point not to fall into dreams again and to dream that one is doing this by one’s own power.
    • p. 314
  • When a person turns and faces himself in order to understand himself, he steps, as it were, in the way of that first self, halts that which was turned outward in hankering for and seeking after the surrounding world that is its object, and summons it back from the external. In order to prompt the first self to this withdrawal, the deeper self lets the surrounding world remain what it is-remain dubious. This is indeed the way it is; the world around us is inconstant and can be changed into the opposite at any moment, and there is not one person who can force this change by his own might or by the conjuration of his wish. The deeper self now shapes the deceitful flexibility of the surrounding world in such a way that it is no longer attractive to the first self. Then the first self either must proceed to kill the deeper self, to render it forgotten, whereby the whole matter is given up; or it must admit that the deeper self is right, because to want to predicate constancy of something that continually changes is indeed a contradiction, and as soon as one confesses that it changes, it can of course, change in that same moment. However much that first self shrinks from this, there is no wordsmith so ingenious or no thought-twister so wily that he can invalidate the deeper self’s eternal claim. There is only one way out, and that is to silence the deeper self by letting the roar of inconstancy drown it out.
    • p. 314
  • There is danger afoot-both of them, both the first self and the deeper self, notice it, and the latter sits there as concerned as the experienced pilot, while a secret council is held on whether it is best to throw the pilot overboard since he is creating a contrary wind. That, however, does not happen, but what is the outcome? The first self cannot move from the spot, and yet, yet it is clear that the moment of joy is in a hurry, that fortune is already in flight. Therefore people do indeed say that if one does not make use of the moment at once, it is soon too late. And who is to blame? Who else but the deeper self? But even this scream does not help. What kind of unnatural condition is this? What does it all mean?
    • p. 316
  • When the first self submits to the deeper self, they are reconciled and walk on together.
    • p. 316
  • In the external world, he is capable of nothing; but in the internal world, is he not capable of anything there, either? If a capability is actually to be a capability, it must have opposition, because if it has no opposition, then it is either all-powerful or something imaginary. But if he is supposed to have opposition, from whence is it supposed to come? In the internal world the opposition can only come from himself. Then he struggles with himself in the internal world, not as previously, where the deeper self struggled with the first self to prevent it from being occupied with the external. If a person does not discover this conflict, his understanding is faulty and consequently his life is imperfect; but if he does discover it, then he will once again understand that he himself is capable of nothing at all. Every time a person properly comprehends this brief and pithy truth, that he himself is capable of nothing at all, then he knows himself.
    • p. 318-319
  • We sometimes speak of learning to know God from the history of past ages; we take out the chronicles and read and read. Well, that may be all right, but how much time it takes, and how dubious the outcome frequently is, how close at hand the misunderstanding that lies in the sensate person’s marveling over what is ingenious! But someone who is conscious that he is capable of nothing at all has every day and every moment the desired and irrefragable opportunity to experience that God lives. If he does not experience it often enough, he knows very well why that is. It is precisely because his understanding is faulty and he believes himself capable of something.
    • p. 322
  • If a person whose life has been tried in some crucial difficulty has a friend and sometime later he is unable to retain the past clearly, if anxiety creates confusion, and if accusing thoughts assail him with all their might as he works his way back, then he may go to his friend and say, “My soul is sick so that nothing will become clear to me, but I confided everything to you; you remember it, so please explain the past to me again.” But if a person has no friend, he presumably goes to God if under other circumstances he has confided something to him, if in the hour of decision he called God as witness when no one understood him. And the one who went to his friend perhaps was not understood at times, perhaps was filled with self-loathing, which is even more oppressive, upon discovering that the one to whom he had confided his troubles had not understood him at all, even though he had listened, had not sensed what was making him anxious, but had only an inquisitive interest in his unusual encounter with life. But this would never happen with God; who would dare to venture to think this of God, even if he is cowardly enough to prefer to forget God-until he stands face-to-face with the judge, who passes judgment on him but not on the one who truly has God as a witness, because where God is the judge, there is indeed no judge if God is the witness. It by no means follows that a person’s life becomes easy because he learns to know God in this way. On the contrary, it can become very hard; it may become more difficult than the contemptible easiness of sensate human life, but in this difficulty life also acquires ever deeper and deeper meaning.
    • p. 324
  • We are not saying that knowing God or almost sinking into a dreaming admiration and a visionary contemplation of God is the only glorious thing to do; God does not let himself be taken in vain in this way. Just as knowing oneself in one’s own nothingness is the condition for knowing God, so knowing God is the condition for sanctification of a human being by God’s assistance and according to his intention. Wherever God is in truth, there he is always creating. He does not want a person to be spiritually soft and to bathe in the contemplation of his glory, but in becoming known by a person he wants to create in him a new human being.
    • p. 325
The Thorn in the Flesh[edit]
  • Since the importance of Holy Scripture is to be an interpreter of the divine to mankind, since its claim is to want to teach the believer everything from the beginning, it follows of itself that its language has shaped the discourse of the God-fearing about the divine, that its words and expressions resound again and again in the holy places, in every more solemn discourse about the divine, whether the speaker seeks to interpret the scriptural text by letting the text speak for itself or is using the scriptural expression in all its brevity as the clear and complete interpretation of the much he has said. But also in everyday and secular speech we sometimes hear a scriptural expression that has wandered from the sacred out into the world … One such biblical expression frequently encountered where least expected and at times put to a most inappropriate use is the phrase just read: the thorn in the flesh.
    • p. 327
  • Has God ever made a covenant with a person regarding the external? p. 330
  • We must warn here against wanting to play the hero, against wanting to be a warrior at one’s own expense, against wanting to be one’s own teacher who determines the degree of suffering and calculates the advantages. We must warn that no one is tried in a self-made conflict but is only cultivated in a new vanity so that the last becomes worse than the first. But then we are also reminded that suffering is a component and no one enters the kingdom of heaven without suffering. Just to be reminded of it is instructive, lest the distress of spiritual trial come upon one as unexpectedly as a thief in the night, as birth pangs to one who had no presentiment of giving birth.
    • p. 331
  • Let everyone test himself. With regard to what he has experienced, let him be true to himself, but let no one forget that blessedness of the spirit and suffering of the spirit are not something external of which one can honestly and truly say: The circumstances of my life did not provide me the opportunity to experience this. In the world of the spirit, there is neither sport nor spook; there luck and chance do not make one person a king, another a beggar, one person as beautiful as an Oriental queen, another more wretched than Lazarus. In the world of the spirit, the only one who is shut out is the one who shuts himself out; in the world of the spirit, all are invited and therefore what is said about it can be said safely and undauntedly; if it pertains to one single individual it pertains to all. Why, then, this curiosity about what God has given every human being the opportunity to experience, indeed, has been made so available that it even may be said: He must have understood it.
    • p. 335
  • If faith acquired a probability, then everything would be destroyed and faith would be confused, since this would show that it had not performed the preliminary task and therefore has allowed itself to be confounded with thoughtlessness, which comes most easily to the animal.
    • p. 339
  • Bold confidence is a difficult matter, because it is not exactly synonymous with mental weakness. One may very well stop with it and need not go further by even wishing to judge God, that is, if in other respects bold confidence is bold confidence in the judgment, which certainly requires that God’s judgment penetrate the thought and heart, that is, if it is bold confidence in God’s mercy and these words are not a feigned pious expression of one’s own thoughtlessness, which does not trust God but is consoled by having ceased to sorrow long ago. If no human being is capable of acquitting himself he is capable of one thing-of indicting himself so terribly that he cannot acquit himself but learns to need mercy. With regard to this, it is difficult for one person to understand another, because the earnest person always lays the stress on himself.
    • p. 340
  • An old, time-honored, and trustworthy devotional book declares that God deals with a human being as the hunter deals with game: he chases it weary, then he gives it a little time to catch its breath and gather new strength, and then the chase begins again. Woe to the person who wants to build up without knowing the terror; indeed, he does not know what he himself wants! But the person who knows that the terror is there also knows that the relapse is a sign that anxiety’s chase begins again, or if there is no relapse, then there nevertheless is anxiety about it when anxiety borrows the strength of the future. When the past is allowed to remain what it is, the past, when a person leaves it by stepping onto the good path and does not look back too often, he himself is changed little by little, and the past is imperceptibly changed at the same time, and eventually they do not, so to speak, suit each other. The past fades away into a less definite form, becomes a recollection, and the recollection becomes less and less terrifying. Finally the past becomes almost alien to him; he does not comprehend how he could possibly have gone astray in that way, and he hears recollection’s account of it just as the traveler hears a legend in a distant land. But the relapse teaches one to understand how it was possible; indeed, anxiety about the relapse, when it awakens suddenly, even though there is only a moment left, knows how to use it to make everything present, not as a recollection but as something future.
    • p. 344-345
  • We have been speaking about the thorn in the flesh; we have tried to explain the expression in a general sense, that is, in the general sense in which, by pertaining to one single individual, it pertains to all. We have not been particularly concerned about ferreting out what Paul may have particularly had in mind with this expression, and we have desired least of all to ask about it in the sense that someone might ask whether Paul was tall or short, handsome, and the like. We are especially unwilling to suggest the possible accidental something, the possible insignificant something, that may be the single individual’s thorn in the flesh.
    • p. 346
Against Cowardliness[edit]
  • If it is really so that there is something in life that has or can have such power over a person that it little by little makes him forget everything that is noble and sacred and makes him a slave in the service of the world, of the moment; if it is really so that time has or can gain such power over a person that while it adds days to his life it also every passing day measures the greater distance of his life from the divine, until he, trapped in everydayness and habit, becomes alienated from the eternal and the original; if experience has taught us that this has also happened to someone who once had a strong sense of the presence of the eternal-then it certainly would be beneficial to recommend every means against this and desirable that the recommending be done in an earnest but also winsome way. God be praised, there are many means, just as the dangers are many, and every one of these means is trustworthy and tested. One such means is resolution or coming to a resolution, because resolution joins a person with the eternal, brings the eternal into time for him, jars him out of the drowsiness of uniformity, breaks the spell of habit, cuts off the tedious bickering of troublesome thoughts, and pronounces a benediction upon even the weakest beginning, when it is indeed a beginning. Resolution is a waking up to the eternal …
    • p. 347
  • let the theater keep what belongs to the theater and the juggling heroes: pretentious words, bold gestures, and the applause of an appraising crowd.
    • p. 348
  • It is humble to admit that the struggle, even through no fault of one’s own, drags out so that every day has its evening, and because of one’s fault drags out in such a way that twilight sometimes falls on defeat. It is humble to admit that even the progress through life of the most honest contender is difficult, that even the person who walks his way with firm steps nevertheless does not walk with a hero’s pace, indeed, that when the evening of life cools the contender after the long day there still is no opportunity for fanfare, since even the person who came closest to the goal does not arrive with the qualifications or the disposition for the rigors of a victory celebration but, weary and worn, desires a grave in which to rest and a blessed departure from here in peace.
    • p. 351
  • Pride and cowardliness are one and the same because what is spoken under the name pride is ordinarily cowardliness. False pride conjures a high conception of one’s own worth. The proud person always wants to do the right thing, the great thing, and he is actually struggling not with people but with God, because he wants to do it with his own power; he does not want to sneak out of something, what he wants is to set the task as high as possible and then to finish it by himself, satisfied with his own consciousness and his own approval. The proud person must concentrate all his thought in order to see the right; he must will it, because he is too proud to admit that people could be in the right in opposition to him, even if no one could convince him of that.
    • p. 354
  • Cowardliness is the most pleasant of all passions; it is not noisy and strident, but quiet and suggestive and yet lustful, it attracts all the passions to itself, since in its association with them it is extremely engaging, knows how to maintain a friendship with them, and buries itself deep in the soul like somnolent vapor of stagnant water, which pestiferous breezes and deceptive phantoms rise, while the vapor still remains. What cowardliness fears most is the making of a resolution, because a resolution always disperses the vapor for a moment. The power cowardliness prefers to conspire with is time, because neither time nor cowardliness finds that there is any reason to hurry.
    • p. 356-357
  • God does not give a spirit of cowardliness but a spirit of power and of love and of self-control, such as is necessary in order to know what is the good, what is truly great and noble, what significance it has for him and in relation to him; in order to love the good with the unselfish love that desires only to be an unworthy servant, which is always love’s delight, and the opposite of it is a violation that pollutes love for him by making it profitable; and in order to maintain constancy, lest everything become unfruitful without the self-control that tempers the effort and the decision of resolution. This acknowledgment, this assent of resolution, is the first dedication. Alas, how rarely a person experiences this in such a way that even merely in the moment of dedication he renounces all dreams and fancies, every mirage that wants to inflate him and cause him to be amazed at himself, and instead receives the power to envision it as it is, the power to embrace it with self-denying love, the power to make the pact of self-control with it! How rarely a person experiences this in such a way that even merely in the hour of dedication he has the power to hold to the good, which seemingly wants to destroy him, the love not to shrink from it, the self-control not to falsify himself.
    • p. 360
  • If the resolution is not the beginning and the beginning the resolution, then the final account can never be rendered, because in a certain sense there is none. If there is no resolution there will be no tower, however imaginary or however really splendid the estimate was! The good resolution is to will to do everything in one’s power, so serve it to the utmost of one’s capability.
    • p. 361
  • Every human being should not just learn by rote but learn very particularly, that he is nothing-which some learn by recognizing that what they are capable of is as good as nothing, others by recognizing that what they are not capable of is as good as nothing but is sufficient to make all their capability essentially nothing. The extensive enterprise can often be dazzling enough, especially when it is not only glorious and lauded by men but beneficial for many, and yet it is only a mirage; the resolution is not the good resolution until the person gives himself and everything up to the good, all his weaknesses, and leaves it up to God. The mirage is due to a person’s becoming a worthy servant in his own eyes, an important instrument, but this is not the good resolution. The good resolution is satisfied with being the unworthy servant. Therefore every person is to test himself.
    • p. 368
  • Cowardliness prevents a person from acknowledging the good that he does do.
    • p. 369
  • When one suffers misjudgment it is easy for one to become more self-important; he does not judge others but he wants his deeds to judge others and in a crafty way. He wants to build up a larger balance with God. He is not content with being an unworthy servant; he wants to be a little more than that.
    • p. 372
  • Is it not a good deed to restrain the arm of someone who wants to commit a misdeed, and is it not also a good deed to restrain the judgment of someone who wants to misjudge and cannot judge otherwise if acknowledgment of the good does not prevent it? Much wrong can be done to a person, but perhaps the worst is to come with belated repentance over a rash, unjust judgment that one nevertheless has oneself helped to occasion. As you can see, if this happens, if a person goes astray in this way by doing the good, he can thank himself and cowardliness, because God gives a spirit of power of love, and of self-control. […] Do not do the good ashamedly and with downcast eyes, as if you were walking a forbidden road, acknowledge it even though you are ashamed because you always feel your own imperfection and lower your eyes before God. Venture it in trust in God. Let each one acknowledge the good, renewed in his resolution, never led astray by any jugglery that it is more difficult to serve the good when one is misjudged. How would it help for it to be more difficult if it was also less true or for it to be more difficult for many if it was easier for him?
    • p. 374-375
One Who Prays Aright Struggles in Prayer and Is Victorious-in That God Is Victorious[edit]
  • A random word collects a crowd; the easily bought victory makes them enthusiastic, but the more profound explanation puts them off, and if the price is what it must be in relation to the highest, then mockery gives the signal for retreat and gives the retreat the appearance of a glorious victory. Does not mockery always gain the highest at a bargain price! And yet how despicable to want to think that the price of the highest and most sacred, just like the price of temporal things, should be determined by an accident, by the scarcity or the abundance of the commodity in the country. On the other hand, how upbuilding it is to consider that this is not the case and that someone who fancies that he has bought the highest at a low price is simply mistaken, since the price is always the same. How sure and cheerful and resolute the soul becomes in the thought that no price is too high when that which one is buying is the highest.
    • p. 378-379
  • Without fail, the good has its reward, but if the “reward-hungry” sensate person wanted to do the good for that reason, would he ever put it into practice? No, the soul must make a resolution in renunciation of all calculating, all sagacity and probability; it must will the good because it is good, and then it will certainly perceive that it has its reward; it must continue in duty because it is duty, the then it will thereby really feel the security; it must will to be reconciled with its opponent out of the unreckoning impulse of the heart, and then the good fight of reconciliation will also win for him the affection of the vanquished.
    • p. 380
  • If one person makes comprehensible to another something that is to his advantage in the temporal sense and the latter acts accordingly, then the former may be said to have brought it about. If, however, a person tries to make comprehensible to another his eternal well-being, this does not help straightaway in the same manner, inasmuch as the second still has not grasped the eternal on the basis of what the first said. If, however, he makes the eternal resolution and in it grasps the eternal, then he owes no one anything, not the speaker either.
    • p. 382
  • A person can wrong another human being with his prayer, and prayer in this manner is a terrible weapon between man and man, perhaps the most pernicious. The strong man is warned not to misuse his power against the weak, but the weak man is also warned not to misuse the power of prayer against the strong. It may well be that a tyrant who misused his power, a deceiver who misused his shrewdness, never perpetrated as atrocious a wrong as the one who cowardly and slyly prayed in the wrong place, prayed in order to advance his will, flung himself in to the weakness of prayer, into imploring misery, in order to shatter another person.
    • p. 384
  • If the child sees its mother distressed, it never thinks of tracing the distress back to God as the cause, or that there might be an ambiguity of distress and accordingly that the distress might come from God for the very purpose of drawing the person to God. The child, however, immediately thinks of evil people.
    • p. 385
  • What is the issue of the struggle? That God is goodness? Not at all. That God is love? Not at all. No, it is a matter of making oneself clear to God, of truly explaining to him what is beneficial for the one who is praying, of truly impressing it upon his mind, of truly gaining his consent to the wish. And the struggle is well intentioned toward God, because it is about truly being able to be happy in God, truly being able to give him thanks, truly being able to witness to his honor, truly being able to be assured that all fatherliness lives in heaven, about being truly being able to love him-as people do indeed say when they designate the ultimate, to love as much as one loves God. And the struggler is open toward God, because he dares to testify to himself that he is not a child, does not fragment his soul so that he wishes for one thing this minute and something else the next, so that when the fulfillment arrives he has thoughtlessly forgotten the wish-no, there is only the one. He dares to testify to himself that he is straining all his understanding to become sufficiently foresighted to spy the remotest hint of the fulfillment, that he is straining every thought to conjure forth from the most insignificant event anything it could be hiding, that he welcomes with thanksgiving any hint and invites it to stay. If he catches himself becoming lukewarm and falling away from God, he is not slow to repent and is quick to struggle again in prayer.
    • p. 388-389
  • Faith reads the understanding only as a dark saying; humanly speaking, it does not have the explanation, only in a certain deranged sense, so that, humanly speaking, it is the most foolish business arrangement ever made in the world. But this is the way it is supposed to be, and God in heaven is still unembarrassed; he is not selling out, whatever human beings do. And he is indeed unchanging, as the understanding says in order to mock the troubled one who cries out to God; but see, its mockery recoils on itself, because God truly is unchanged. He has not become a friend of cowardliness and softness; he has not become so debilitated over the years that he cannot distinguish between mine and thine and everything runs together before him; he is himself still the first inventor of language and the only one who holds the blessing in his hands; he is unchanged, even though he would not be able to satisfy the demands of the times! So it is with faith-humanly speaking, it is the most foolish and, humanly speaking, the most difficult business arrangement.
    • p. 395-396
  • Then the Comforter comes with the explanation; then he makes everything new, strips the sufferer of his mourning apparel and gives him a new heart and an assured spirit. It may, however, take time.
    • p. 396
  • The struggle goes on for an explanation, and prayer is the means by which the explanation will correspond to the way he prays about it. One person struggles with all his might against the explanation that would make himself guilty-no, it was all dispensation providence, all from God in order to test, to purify, to try the lover. Another struggles in order that the explanation may explain his guilt to him, so that the passage of freedom will not seem an illusion, but that the chasmic separation of guilt may make the blessedness of reconciliation all the more inward. One person asks that the explanation will unite him to the race and that the explanation will lie in the fate common to all, which is meaningful for the whole, another that the explanation will consider him outside the relation of others in order to select him for solitary pain, but also for solitary election.
    • p. 397
  • imagine a child sitting and drawing with a pencil, drawing whatever occurs to a child, whatever a child recklessly and disconnectedly dashes off; but behind the child stands an invisible artist who guides his hand so that the drawing that is about to become disordered submits to the law of beauty, so that the line that is about to go astray is called back within the boundary of beauty-imagine the child’s amazement! Or imagine that child puts his drawing aside in the evening, but while he sleeps a friendly hand finishes the jumbled and poorly begun sketch-imagine a child’s wonder when he sees his drawing again in the morning! So also with a person; let us never forget that even the more mature person always retains some of the child’s lack of judgment, especially if the prayer is to assist the explanation, not as the essential but as the means.
    • p. 398-399
  • Alas, the debt someone incurs at the gambling table, by throwing dice, in a game of cards, is called a debt of honor; I suppose that because it is meaningless in itself we have to give it an impressive name and then hurry to be rid of it. The debt to God is not a debt of honor like that, but it is, nevertheless, an honor to be in debt to God. It is an honor not to owe fortune anything, but to owe God everything; not to owe fate anything, but to owe providence everything; not to owe caprice anything, but to owe a fatherliness everything.-In this way, he who prays aright struggles in prayer and is victorious in that God is victorious.
    • p. 400

Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions (1845)[edit]

  • Just as a person should not seek his peace through another human being and should not build upon sand, so it also holds true that he should not rely on any other person’s work to convince him that he’s a sinner, but rather to remind him of his own responsibility before God if he does not discover it by himself-any other understanding is diversion. It is only a jest if I would pass judgment on you, but it is a serious matter if you forget that God will pass the judgment. So what is sought is given. God is near enough, but no one without purity can see God, and sin is impurity, and therefore no one can become aware of God without becoming a sinner. The first is a beckoning word, and the gaze of the soul is toward the heights where the goal is, but other words that provide the beginning are immediately heard, and these are depressing words. And yet this is the way it is for the person who wants to understand sin.
    • Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Hong p. 28
  • Honesty is difficult. It is easier to hide in the crowed and to drown one’s own guilt in that of the human race, easier to hide from oneself than to become open in honesty before God. This honesty is certainly not a perpetual enumerating, but neither is it the signing of a name on a piece of white paper, a signed confession to an empty generality; and a confessor is not a co-signatory in the human race’s enormous account book. But without honesty there is no repentance. Repentance is nauseated by the empty generality, but it is not a pretty arithmetician in the service of the faintheartedness-rather an earnest observer before God. To repent of a generality without substance is a contradiction, akin to inviting the most profound passion to dine on superficiality, but to tie one’s repentance to a particular is to repent of one’s own responsibility and not before God, and to vitiate the intention is self-love in depression. If it so easy to repent: to love and to feel one’s wretchedness ever more deeply, to love while the punishment is being suffered, to love and not want to falsify the punishment as divine dispensation, to love and not want to hide secret resentment as if one suffered an injustice, to love and not want to stop seeking the sacred source of this pain!
    • Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Hong p. 34-35
  • It is not the purpose of the discourse, even if it could do so, to terrify by means of harrowing descriptions, to evoke horror, to which only the serious speaker, when he speaks with authority, can give the sure effect of earnestness and prevent the intrusion of despondency and low spirits, aye, even of disgust, into the impression. Oh, but are those married people alone separated between whom a divorce was effected, between whom the uniting wedding pact became a curse; are they alone unworthy of the marriage state who made a wretched beginning by regarding the pact as a worldly agreement for earthly gain, and ended as they began; or for whom the wedding union became not a salvation but a snare that stimulated the craving of the senses; is he only a bad husband who in cowardice and lack of manliness courted adoringly a woman’s beauty, who then slavishly ruled in a cowardly spirit over a slave, to whose beauty he was himself a slave in jealousy, until he ended with the ingratitude of a dastard, because the years had taken youth and beauty away from her to whom he was wedded?
    • 'Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Swenson Translation (1941) p. 55-56
  • How does a person learn earnestness? Is it having an earnest person dictate something to him so that he can learn it? Not at all. If you have not yourself learned in this way from an earnest man, then imagine how it goes. See, the learner concerns himself (without concern there is no learner) about some object with his whole soul, and in this way the certainty of death becomes an object of concern. Now the concerned person turns to the teacher of earnestness, and thus death is indeed not a monster except for the imagination. The learner now wants this or that; he wants to do it thus and so and under these assumptions-“And it is bound to succeed, is it not so?” But the earnest person answers nothing at all, and finally he says, yet without mockery but with the calmness of earnestness, “Yes, it is possible!” The learner already becomes a little impatient; he suggests a new plan, changes the assumptions, and concludes his speech in a still more urgent way. But the earnest person is silent, looks calmly at him, and finally says, “Yes, it is possible!” Now the learner becomes passionate; he resorts to pleas or, if he is so equipped, to clever locutions-indeed, he perhaps even insults the earnest person and becomes totally confused himself and everything around him seems to be confusion. But when with these weapons and in this condition he charges at the earnest person, he has to endure his unaltered calm gaze and put up with his silence, because the earnest person merely looks at him and finally says, “Yes it is possible.” This is the way it is with death. The certainty is the unchanging, and the uncertainty is the brief statement: It is possible. Every condition that wants to make the certainty of death into a conditional certainty for the wisher, every agreement that wants to make the certainty of death into a conditional certainty for the person making up his mind, every arrangement that wants to condition the certainty of death as to time and hour for the one who is acting, every condition, every agreement, every arrangement runs aground on this statement: and all passionateness and all cleverness and all defiance are rendered powerless by this statement-until the learner sees the error of his ways. But the earnestness lies just in this, and it was to this that certainty and uncertainty wanted to help the learner. The certainty is allowed to leave open the question of what it can be, like a universal caption over life, instead of being the endorsement of the particular and the daily by usage, as happens with the help of uncertainty-then earnestness is not learned.
    • Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Hong p. 94-95

Stages On Life's Way (1845)[edit]

  • Such works are mirrors: when an ape looks in, no apostle can look out. Lichtenberg
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 8
  • One person talks day in and day out in general assemblies and always about what the times demand, yet not repetitiously in a Cato-like, tedious way, but always interestingly and intriguingly he follows the moment and never says the same thing; at parties, too, he imposes himself and doles out his fund of eloquence, at times with full even measure, at times heaped up, and always to applause; at least once a week there is something about him in the newspaper; also at night he bestows his favors, on his wife, that is, by talking even in his sleep about the demands of the times as if he were at the general assembly. Another person is silent before he speaks and goes so far that he does not speak at all; they live the same length of time-and here the question of the result is raised: Who has more to recollect?
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 11
  • The ultimate in the reflective relationship between memory and recollections is to use memory against recollection. For opposite reasons, two people could wish not to see again a place that reminds them of an event. The one has no inkling at all that there is something called recollection but merely fears the memory. Out of sight, out of mind, he thinks; if only he does not see, then he has forgotten. Precisely because the other wants to recollect, he does not want to see. He uses memory only against unpleasant recollections. .... Strictly speaking, a fellowship of recollection does not exist.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 13-14
  • ...our Lord satisfies the stomach before the eye, but fantasy does just the opposite.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 23
  • I am saying that erotic love is comic to a third party-more I do not say.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 33
  • Our young friend [The Young Man] has spoken very much and very strangely …. his speech is just as dubious as he himself is. If I had foreknowledge of his speech as he demands to have of erotic love, then I would have forbidden him to speak.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 47
  • If a beginner may allow himself an observation, then I will say that the reason it seems to me to be so wonderful is that everything revolves around little things that the divine element in marriage nevertheless transforms by a miracle into something significant for the believer. Then, too, all the little things have the remarkable characteristic that nothing can be evaluated in advance, nothing worked out in a rough plan: but while the understanding stands still and the imagination is on a wild-goose chase and calculation calculates wrongly and sagacity-despairs, the married life goes along and is transformed from glory to glory, the insignificant becomes more and more significant by a miracle-for the believer. But a believer one must be, and a married man who is not a believer is a tiresome character, a real household pest. …. Ordinarily we speak only of a married man’s unfaithfulness, but what is just as bad is a married man’s lack of faith. Faith is all that is required, and faith compensates for everything. Just let understanding and sagacity and sophistication reckon, figure out, and describe how a married man ought to be: there is only one attribute that makes him lovable, and that is faith, absolute faith in marriage. Just let experience in life try to define exactly what is required of a married man’s faithfulness; there is only one faithfulness, one honesty that is truly lovable and hides everything in itself, and that is the honesty toward God and his wife and his married estate in refusing to deny the miracle.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 90-91
  • In paganism there was a god for erotic love and none for marriage; in Christianity there is, if I may say so, a god for marriage and none for erotic love. Marriage is, namely, a higher expression for erotic love.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 100
  • I do not know if cunning can ever be untied with the erotic, but this I do know, that when one is struggling with God and with oneself whether to dare to follow the beckoning of love, whether to dare to reach for the desire that is in the eye’s delight and the heart’s craving, then one is protected against this kind of going astray.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 202
  • The more one suffers, the more sense, I believe, one gains for the comic. Only by the most profound suffering does one gain real competence in the comic, which with a word magically transforms the rational creature called man into a Fratze [caricature]. This competence is like a policeman’s self-assurance when he abruptly grips his club and does not tolerate any talk or blocking of traffic. The victim protests, he objects, he insists on being respected as a citizen, he demands a hearing-immediately there is a second rap from the club, and that means: Please move on! Don’t stand there! In other words, to want to stand there to protest, to demand a hearing, is just a poor pathetic wretch’s attempt to really amount to something, but the comic turns the fellow around, just as the policeman who gets him turned around in a hurry and, by seeing him from behind, with the help of his club makes him comic. Yet this sense of the comic has to be acquired so painfully that one cannot quite wish to have it. But the sense of the comic presses in on me particularly every time my suffering brings me in contact with other people.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 245-246
  • “Where exactly do you suffer?” the physician asks the patient. “Alas, dear doctor, everywhere,” he answers. “But how are you suffering?” continues the physician, “so that I can diagnose the illness.” No one asks me this, nor do I need it. I know very well how I suffer-I suffer sympathetically. This is exactly the suffering that is able to shake me deeply. Even though I am depressingly and sincerely convinced that I am good for nothing, as soon as there is danger I really have the strength of a lion. When I suffer autopathetically, I am able to stake all my will, and depressed as I am and depressingly brought up, the appalling finds me all the more prepared for what is even more appalling. But when I suffer sympathetically, I have to use all my power, all my ingenuity, in the service of the appalling to reproduce the other’s pain, and that exhausts me. When I myself suffer, my understanding thinks of grounds for comfort, but when I suffer sympathetically, I dare not believe a single one of them, for I cannot, of course, know the other one so accurately as I can know whether the presuppositions are present that are the condition for its effectiveness. When I suffer autopathetically, I know where I am; I place signs along the road of suffering so that I can have something to hold to, but when I suffer sympathetically I go astray, for I cannot really know where the other one actually is, and at every moment I must start all over again, prepared at the next moment to be able to think an even more appalling possibility, the dreadfulness of which I must endure in order not to shirk anything.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 265-266
  • What similarity is there between her sorrow and mine, what solidarity is there between guilt and innocence, what kinship is there between repentance and an esthetic sorrow over life, when that which awakens repentance is that which awakens her sorrow? I can sorrow in my way; if she must sorrow, she must also do in on her own account. A girl may submit to a man in many things, but not in the ethical; and it is unethical for her and for me to sorrow jointly in this way. Taking this path, how will she ever come to sorrow religiously when she must leave undecided an ethical issue such as my behavior toward her, when it is indeed over its result that she wishes to sorrow. Would that I might be a woman for half a year so that I could learn how she is dissimilar to man. I fully realize that there are examples of women who have conducted themselves in this way. Psychologically I have them right at hand, but in my opinion they are all wasted individualities. My view of life is meaningless if I must personally experience that one individual is being squandered upon another, and squandered she is if it goes this way. As soon as she begins to venture along the narrow way to a religious movement, she is lost to me. A woman can have passion as strong or perhaps stronger than a man, but contradiction in passion is not a task for her, such as the task of simultaneously giving up and preserving the wish. If she works purely religiously to give up the wish, she is transformed; if the moment for its fulfillment ever did come, she would no longer understand it. The religious movement of infinity may not be natural to her individuality. Her pride may not be sufficiently energetic to save her in an intensification of temporality. If she had been thoroughly proud, this would have happened, humanly speaking. This, too, may be why the religious does not take effect with the turning of the infinite. The religious eternity very likely does not become the eternal decision but a spacing out of the temporal. So eternity has paused at her side, consoled her, just as in Homer the god or the goddess hurries to the aid of the hero. She believed it was the decision of eternity, she believed it was her death, she believed all was lost, but see, because she was not so much awakened to this eternal decision as weary from futile wishing and weary of the futile act of renunciation, she gently slumbered on into eternity; then time passed, and she woke up and belonged to life once again. Thus there was even a possibility of a new alliance, a new falling in love. This was indeed what I wanted; then she is really free.
    • Stages on Life's Way, p. 301-303
  • If I were to say, “I took that crucial step [breaking his engagement to Regine Olsen] because I felt bound, because I had to have my freedom, inasmuch as the lustfulness of my desire embraces a world and cannot be satisfied with one girl,” then the chorus would reply, “That makes sense! Good luck, you enlightened man!” But if I were to say, “She was the only one I have loved; if I had not been sure of that when I left her, I would never have dared to leave her,” then the answer would be, “Away to the loony bin with him!” If I were to say, “I was tired of her,” then the chorus would answer, “Now you’re talking! That is understandable!” But if I were to say, “Then I cannot understand it, for one certainly does not dare to break a relationship of duty because one is tired of it,” then they would say, “He is crazy.” If I were to say (in the words of my most recent interpretation), “I repent of it, I would like to undo it, but I cannot do it-no, I cannot do it, my pride does not permit it-no, I cannot do it”-then the verdict would be, “He is just like everyone else and like the heroes in French poetry.” But were I to declare that nothing, nothing would so satisfy my pride as to dare to undo it, that nothing, nothing would so allay the cold fire of revenge that demands amends, then the response would be: “He is delirious, do not listen to him; away to the loony bin with him.” Mundus vult decipi [The world wants to be deceived]; my relationship to the environment that I must call my world can hardly be more definitely expressed. In fact, I believe that in a wider sense it is the best that can be said about the world. Thus speculators should not cudgel their brains trying to fathom what the times demand, for it has been essentially that same since time immemorial: to be tricked and bamboozled. If one just says something silly and drinks dus with humanity en masse, then one comes to be, like Per Degn, loved and esteemed by the whole congregation. It is not any different now, and anyone who with visible signs of deep concern strikes an attitude of brooding in public over how to find out what it is the times demand has already, when all is said and done, discovered it. In this respect, anyone can serve the age, whether it is to be understood as a whole nation, the human race as a whole, all the future generations, or a little circle of contemporaries. I serve the participants by being a scoundrel. There is no doubt that I satisfy their demand. In fact, I myself also benefit from it and in a certain sense find this outside appraisal really desirable. To be a model of virtue, a bright normative human being, is, for one thing, very embarrassing-and also very dubious. But, on the other hand, I am not being persecuted, either. This, too, is desirable, lest I should draw wrong conclusions and think well of myself because I am persecuted in the world. With regard to people, I have never hesitated to follow my guardian spirit in yielding to a certain elemental modesty about the good and a somewhat gloomy distrust of myself-in other words, to deceive in such a way that I perhaps am always a little better than I seem. I have never been able to understand it in any other way than that every human being is essentially assigned himself and that outside of this either there is an authorization such as an apostle’s, the dialectical nature of which I cannot grasp, although out of respect for what is handed down to me as sacred I refrain from drawing any conclusions from my nonunderstanding-or there is maundering. It is quite true that a person who cannot shave himself can set up shop as a barber and serve others according to their needs, but in the world of the spirit this is meaningless.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 339-341
  • Did Adam dare to recollect Eden; did he dare, when he saw thistles and thorns at his feet, did he dare to say to Eve: No! It was not like this in Eden. In Eden, oh, do you recollect? Did Adam dare to do this?
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 350
  • “What is honor?” says Falstaff. “Can it put on a leg? No. Can it put on an arm? No. Ergo, it is a fancy, a word, a painted escutcheon.” No, this “ergo” was fooling, for if honor can do none of these things if one wins it, it can do the opposite if it is lost, it can take off a leg and an arm-indeed, it can maltreat a person worse than is done in Russia and can send one to Siberia. When it can do that, it is not something we imagine. Go to the battlefield and look at the fallen, go to the disabled-soldiers’ hospital and look at the wounded-you will never find a dead or wounded man as maltreated as one with whom honor has finished. Thus, understanding comes inside the iron bars. Where, then, is the field of honor? It is wherever a man falls with honor. But the person who, rather than sneaking through life with honor, preferred to lose his honor and give it to God, he, too, falls on the field of honor. If there is a new heaven and a new earth to expect, then there is also a new honor. Even if I fall where no one dreams that a field of honor can be, even if I am buried in the graveyard of the dishonorable, if there nevertheless is one single individual who, passing by my grave perhaps thinking other thoughts, suddenly stops and delivers this funeral oration to me, “How did this person come to lie here? Can one then lie without disgrace among the dishonored-and he certainly lies here with honor”-then I ask no more.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 353
  • What a toil and trouble is my life! My existence is nothing but vain efforts; I cannot come back to myself. Whether that will ever happen in the world of time, I do not know. And if I become free so that I can integrate myself again, I may have trouble separating the alien parts of me that I nevertheless do not really want to separate. If I become free, there will still be an anxiety in my inclosed reserve that she [Regine] has been changed. So it is with a mussel that lies on the seashore; it opens its shell searching for food; a child sticks a twig in between so that it cannot close up. Finally the child gets tired of it and wants to pull out the twig, but a sliver remains. And the mussel closes up, but deep inside it suffers again and cannot get the sliver out. No one can see that there is a sliver, for of course the mussel has closed up, but that it is there the mussel knows.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 388
  • What is expressed here about the lack of a result in the religious, I can also say in this way: the negative is higher than the positive. How lucky to be an obscure author when one imaginatively constructs with such thoughts. An esteemed author would be in an awkward situation, for by reason of his esteem the positive people probably would quickly perceive that he had arrived at a positive result, and his positive esteem would become even greater. Positives or, to use the definite article even more definitely in order to show what I mean, the positives have a positive infinity. Quite correct, a positive is finished, and once one has heard it, one is also quickly finished. Here is result in overabundance. If one seeks enlightenment from the master Hegel, about what a positive affinity means, one learns a great deal; one takes the trouble, and one does understand him. The only thing a latecomer perhaps does not understand is how a living human being or a human being during his lifetime becomes such a being that he can be calmed and reassured in this positive affinity, which usually is reserved for the deity and eternity and the deceased. As far as that goes, I cannot understand anything else than that a result is missing here, which the negatives, who are not finished, might en passant very eagerly look forward to see whether or not, long after the system is finished, astrology might succeed in finding on those distant planets higher beings who would be able to use it. The rest must be left up to the higher beings, but it is up to us human beings to be careful not to become all too positive, for this would really mean being fooled by life. Life is perfidious and has many charms and spells with which it tries to capture the adventurer, and the person who is captured, yet, the person who is captured-well, what is made out of him is not exactly some higher being.
    • Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 443-444

Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846)[edit]

  • Philosophical Fragments was only supposed to clothe the issue in historical costume. The issue was the difficulty. Without wanting to affront anyone, I am of the opinion that not every young graduate in theology would have been capable of presenting the issue with even the same dialectical rhythm with which it is done in the pamphlet. I am also of the opinion that not every young graduate in theology, after reading the pamphlet would be able to set it aside and then on his own to present the issue with just the same dialectical clarity with which it is elucidated in the pamphlet. P. 10
  • If naked dialectical deliberation shows that there is no approximation, that wanting to quantify oneself into faith along this path is a misunderstanding, a delusion, that wanting to concern oneself with such deliberations is a temptation for the believer, a temptation that he, keeping himself in the passion of faith, must resist with all his strength, lest it end with his succeeding in changing faith into something else, into another kind of certainty, in substituting probabilities and guarantees, which were rejected when he, himself beginning, made the qualitative transition of the leap from unbeliever to believer-if this is so, then everyone who, not entirely unfamiliar with learned scientificity and not bereft of willingness to learn, has understood it this way must also have felt his hard-pressed position when he in admiration learned to think meanly of his own insignificance in the face of those distinguished by learning and acumen and deserved renown, so that, seeking the fault in himself, he time and again returned to them, and when in despondency he had to admit that he himself was in the right. Dialectical intrepidity is not easily acquired, and the feeling of one’s abandonment (although one believes oneself to be in the right), admiration’s taking leave of those reliable teachers, is its distinctive mark.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 11-12
  • The inquiring subject must be in one of two situations: either he must in faith be convinced of the truth of Christianity and his own relation to it, in which case all the rest cannot possibly be of infinite interest, since faith is precisely the infinite interest in Christianity and any other interest easily becomes a temptation; or he is not in a relationship of faith but is objectively in a relationship of observation and as such is not infinitely interested in deciding the question.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 21
  • whoever believes that there is a God and also a providence has an easier time (in preserving the faith), an easier time in definitely gaining the faith (and not an illusion) in an imperfect world, where passion is kept vigilant, than in an absolutely perfect world. In such a world, faith is indeed inconceivable. If all the angels united, they would still be able to produce only an approximation, because in historical knowledge an approximation is the only certainty-but also too little on which to build an eternal happiness.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 29-30
  • Suppose that someone wanted to communicate the following conviction: truth is inwardness; objectively there is no truth, but the approximation of the truth. Suppose he had enough zeal and enthusiasm to get it said, because when people heard it they would be saved. Suppose he proclaimed this truth to all people. … The main point was to become understood, and the inwardness of the understanding would indeed be that the single individual would understand this by himself. Now he has even gone so far as to obtain barkers, and a barker of inwardness is a creature worth seeing. Actually to communicate such a conviction would require art and self-control; enough self-control to comprehend inwardly that the God-relationship of the individual human being is the main point, the meddling busyness of a third person is a lack of inwardness.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 77
  • I am indeed the one who continually says that between the simple person’s and the wise person’s knowledge of the simple there is only the ludicrous little difference-that the simple person knows it, and the wise person knows that he knows it or knows that he does not know it. But nevertheless something else does follow: Would it not be best to hold back a little on world history if this is how it stands with one’s knowledge of the simple? … This is the way I have tried to understand myself, and even if the understanding is slight and its yield poor, I have in compensation resolved to act with all my passion on the basis of what I have understood. Perhaps, when all is said and done, it is a more healthful diet to understand little but possess this with passion’s unlimited soundness in the setting of the infinite that to know much and to possess nothing because I myself have fantastically become a fantastical-subjective-objective something. I have considered it demeaning if I were to be more ashamed before human beings and their judgment than before the god and his judgment, cowardly in ignobly to inquire more about what shame before human beings might tempt me to do than what shame before the god would bid. And who are those people, anyway, the ones I am supposed to fear-a few geniuses, perhaps, some literary critics, and whoever is seen on the highways and by-ways? Or were there no human beings alive before 1845? Or what are those people compared with the god; what is the refreshment of their busy clangor compared with the deliciousness of that solitary wellspring that is in every human being, that wellspring in which the god resides, that wellspring in the profound silence when all is quiet! And compared with eternity, what else than a brief moment is the hour and a half of time I have to live with human beings? Will they perhaps pursue me in all eternity? … God’s judgment is the final one, is the only one; his co-knowledge is inescapable since it is woven into the weaves through the faintest movement of my consciousness, its most secret association with itself. His presence is an eternal contemporaneity-and I should have dared to be ashamed of him!
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. p. 183
  • If the problem is to calculate where there is more truth, whether on the side of the person who only objectively seeks the true God and the approximating truth of the God-idea or on the side of the person who is infinitely concerned that he in truth relate himself to God with the infinite passion of need-then there can be no doubt about the answer for anyone who is not totally botched by scholarship and science. If someone who lives in the midst of Christianity enters, with knowledge of the true idea of God, the house of the true God, and prays, but prays in untruth, and if someone who lives in an idolatrous land but prays with all the passion of infinity, although his eyes are resting upon the image of an idol-where, then, is there more truth? One can pray in truth to God although he is worshiping an idol; another can pray in untruth to the true God and is therefore in truth worshiping an idol. ... Let us take Socrates. These days everyone is dabbling in a few proofs or demonstrations-one has many, another fewer. But Socrates! He poses the question objectively, problematically; if there is an immortality. So, compared with one of the modern thinkers with the three demonstrations, was he a doubter? Not at all. He stakes his whole life on this “if”; he dares to die, and with the passion of the infinite he has so ordered his whole life that it might be acceptable-if there is an immortality. Is there any better demonstration for the immortality of the soul? But those who have the three demonstrations do not order their lives accordingly. If there is an immortality, it must be nauseated by their way of living-is there any better counterdemonstration to the three demonstrations? The “fragment” of uncertainty helped Socrates, because he himself helped with the passion of infinity.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 201-202
  • Here is such a definition of truth: An objective uncertainty, held fast through appropriation with the most passionate inwardness, is the truth, the highest truth there is for an existing person. At the point where the road swings off (and where that is cannot be stated objectively, since it is precisely subjectivity), objective knowledge is suspended. Objectively he then has only uncertainty, but this is precisely what intensifies the infinite passion of inwardness, and truth is precisely the daring venture of choosing the objective uncertainty with the passion of the infinite. I observe nature in order to find God, and I do indeed see omnipotence and wisdom, but I also see much that troubles and disturbs. The sum total of this is an objective uncertainty, but the inwardness is so very great, precisely because it grasps this objective uncertainty with all the passion of the infinite. In a mathematical proposition, for example, the objectivity is given, but therefore its truth is also an indifferent truth.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 203-204
  • Suppose that Christianity does not at all want to be understood; suppose that, in order to express this and to prevent anyone, misguided, from taking the road of objectivity, it has proclaimed itself to be the paradox. Suppose that it wants to be only for existing persons and essentially for persons existing in inwardness, in the inwardness of faith, which cannot be expressed more definitely than this: it is the absurd, adhered to firmly with the passion of the infinite. Suppose that Christianity does not want to be understood and that the maximum of any eventual understanding is to understand that it cannot be understood. Suppose that it so decisively accentuates existing that the single individual becomes a sinner, Christianity the paradox, and existence the time of decision. Suppose that speculating is a temptation, the most precarious of all. Suppose that the speculator is not the prodigal son but a naughty child who refuses to stay where existing human being belong, in the children’s nursery and the education room of existence where one becomes adult only though inwardness in existing, but who instead wants to enter God’s council, continually screaming that, from the point of view of the eternal, the divine, the theocentric, there is no paradox. Suppose that the speculative thinker is the restless resident who, although it is obvious that he is a renter, yet in view of the abstract truth that, eternally and divinely perceived, all property is in common, wants to be the owner, so that there is nothing to do except to send for a police officer, who would presumably say, just as the subpoena servers say to Gert Westphaler: We are sorry to have to come on this errand.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 214
  • If the speculative thinker explains the paradox in such a way that he cancels it and now consciously knows that it is canceled, that consequently the paradox is not the essential relation of eternal essential truth to an existing person in the extremities of existence, but only an accidental relative relation to limited minds-then there is an essential difference between the speculative thinker and the simple person, whereby all existence is fundamentally confused. God is insulted by obtaining a group of hangers-on, a support staff of good minds, and humankind is vexed because there is not an equal relationship with God for all human beings. The religious formula set forth above for the difference between the simple person’s knowledge and the simple wise person’s knowledge of the simple, that the difference is a meaningless trifle, that the wise person knows that he knows or knows that he does not know what the simple person knows-speculation does not respect the formula at all. Nor does it respect the equality implicit in the difference between the wise person and the simple person-that they know the same thing.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 227
  • It would indeed also be strange if an insignificant person like me were to succeed in what not even Christianity has succeeded-bringing the speculative thinker into passion. And if that should happen, well, then my fragment of philosophy would suddenly take on a significance of which I had scarcely ever dreamed. But the person who is neither cold nor hot is an abomination and God is no more served by dud individualities than a rifleman is served by a rifle that in the moment of decision clicks instead of firing. If Pilate had not asked objectively what truth is, he would never have let Christ be crucified. If he had asked the question subjectively, then the passion of inwardness regarding what he in truth had to do about the decision facing him would have prevented him from doing an injustice.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 229-230
  • Abstraction does not care about whether a particular existing human being is immortal, and just that is the difficulty. It is disinterested, but the difficulty of existence is the existing person’s interest, and the existing person is infinitely interested in existing. Thus abstract thinking helps me with my immortality by killing me as a particular existing individual and then making me immortal and therefore helps somewhat as in Holberg the doctor took the patient’s life with his medicine, but drove out the fever. Therefore, when one considers an abstract thinker who is unwilling to make clear to himself and to admit the relation his abstract thinking has to his being an existing person, he makes a comic impression, even if he is ever so distinguished, because he is about to cease to be a human being. Whereas an actual human being, composed of the infinite and the finite and infinitely interested in existing, has his actuality precisely in holding these together, such an abstract thinker is a double creature, a fantastic creature who lives in the pure being of abstraction, and an at times pitiful professorial figure which that abstract creature sets down just as one sets down a cane.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 302
  • When the Levite on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem passed by the unfortunate man who had been assaulted by robbers, it perhaps occurred to him when he was still a little distance from the unfortunate man that it would indeed be beautiful to help the sufferer. He may even have already thought of how rewarding such a good deed is in itself; he perhaps was riding more slowly because he was immersed in thought; but as he came closer, the difficulties became apparent, and he rode past. Now he probably rode fast in order to get ways quickly, away from the thought of the riskiness of the road, away from the thought of the possible nearness of the robbers, and ways from the thought of how easily the victim could confuse him with the robbers who had left him lying there. Consequently he did not act. But suppose that along the way repentance brought him back; suppose that he quickly turned around, fearing neither robbers nor other difficulties, fearing only to arrive too late. Suppose that he did come too late, inasmuch as the compassionate Samaritan had already had the sufferer brought to the inn-had he, then, not acted? Assuredly, and yet he did not act in the external world. Let us take the religious action. To have faith in God-does that mean to think about how glorious it must be to have faith, to think about what peace and security faith can give? Not at all. Even to wish, where the interest, the subject’s interest, is far more evident, is not to have faith, is not to act. The individual’s relation to the thought-action is still continually only a possibility that he can give up.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 339-340
  • There is a story about the inhabitants of Mols, that upon seeing a tree leaning over the water and prompted by the thought that the tree was thirsty, they resolved to help it. To that end, the first Molbo grabbed the tree, the next one grabbed his legs, and in this way, with the common purpose of helping the tree, they formed a chain-all on the presupposition that the first one would hold fast, because the first one was the presupposition. But what happens? Suddenly he lets go in order to spit on his hands so he can get an even better grip-and what then? Then all the Molboer fall into the water-and why? Because the presupposition was abandoned. To speculate within a presupposition in such a way that finally one also speculates the presupposition is exactly the same feat as to think, within a hypothetical “if”, something so evident that it acquires the power to transform into actuality the hypothesis within which it has its power. In so-called Christian speculative thought, what other presupposition can there be at all than that Christianity is the very opposite of speculative thought, that it is the miraculous, the absurd, with the requirement that the individual is to exist in it and is not to waste time on speculatively understanding. If there is speculative thinking within this presupposition, then the speculative thought will instead have as its task a concentration on the impossibility of speculatively understanding Christianity, something that was described earlier as the task of the simple wise person.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 378
  • A person can be both good and evil, just as it is quite simply said that a human being has a disposition to both good and evil, but one cannot simultaneously become both good and evil. Esthetically, the poet has been required not to depict these abstract models of virtue or diabolical characters but to do as Goethe does, whose characters are both good and evil. And why is this a legitimate requirement? Because we want the poet to depict human beings as they are, and every human being is both good and evil, and because the poet’s medium is the medium of imagination, is being but not becoming, at most is becoming in a very foreshortened perspective. But take the individual out of this medium of imagination, out of this being, and place him in existence-then ethics immediately confronts him with its requirement, whether he now deigns to become, and then he becomes-either good or evil. In the earnest moment of self-contemplation, in the sacred moment of confession, the individual removes himself from the process of becoming and in the realm of being inspects how he is. Alas, the result unfortunately is that he is both good and evil, but as soon as he is again in the process of becoming he becomes either good or evil.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 420-421
  • There is nothing so new in Christianity that it may not appear to have been in the world before, and yet everything is new. Now, if someone uses the name of Christianity and Christ’s name, but the categories are anything but Christian, is this, then Christianity? The mark of Christianity is the paradox, the absolute paradox. As soon as a so called speculative cancels the paradox and makes this qualification into an element, all the spheres are confused.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 539-540
  • An orthodox thunders against the egotism of atheists, “who do not want to enter into God’s kingdom like little children but want to be something.” Here the category is correct, but now he is going to make his discourse weightier and appeals to that Bible passage [Matthew 18:2], literally understood, about being a little child (literally understood). Can one blame the atheist for assuming His Reverence to be a bit lunatic, quite literally understood? The difficult discourse with which the orthodox began has become balderdash, because for a little child it is not at all difficult, and for an adult it is impossible. In a certain sense, to be something and to want to be something is the condition (the negative condition) for entering the kingdom of heaven as a little child-if it is supposed to be difficult-otherwise it is no wonder that one remains outside when one has become forty years old. So, then, the atheist perhaps wants to mock Christianity, and yet there is no one who makes it more ludicrous as the orthodox.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 596
  • Since we are accustomed to being Christians and being called Christians as a matter of course, the dubious situation has also developed in which life-views that are far lower than Christianity are introduced within Christianity and have pleased people (the Christians) more, which is natural, since Christianity is the most difficult, and then they are praised as higher discoveries that transcend plain and simple Christianity.
    • Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 588

Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing (1847)[edit]

  • each rebel against God, in the last instance, is himself reduced to despair. Despair is the limit -- There and no further!" Despair is the limit. Here are met the cowardly timorous ill-temper of self-love, and the proud defiant presumption of the mind -- here they are met in equal impotence.
    • Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart, p. 61
  • A man enters upon his life, hoping that all will go well for him and with good wishes for others. He steps out into the world’s multiplicity, like one that comes from the country into the great noisy city, into the multiplicity where men engrossed in affairs hurry past one another, where each looks out for what belongs to him in the vast "back and forth," where everything is in passing, where it is as though at each instant one saw what he had learned borne out in practice, and in the same instant saw it refuted, without any cessation in the unrest of work, in multiplicity -- that all too vast a school of experience. For here one can experience everything possible, or that everything is possible, even what the inexperienced man would least believe, that the Good sits highest at the dinner table and crime next highest, or crime highest and the Good next highest -- in good company with each other. So this man stands there. He has in himself a susceptibility for the disease of double-mindedness. His feeling is purely immediate, his knowledge only strengthened through contemplation, his will not mature. Swiftly, alas, swiftly he is infected -- one more victim. This is nothing new, but an old story. As it has happened to him, so it has happened with the double-minded ones who have gone before him -- this in passing he now gives as his own excuse, for he has received the consecration of excuses.
    • Steere, p. 118-119
  • Yet what He is still unable to say after the passage of eighteen triumphant centuries, He said in His own age, eighteen centuries ago, in the very moment when all was lost. Eternally understood, He said, "It is finished." "It is finished." He said that just when the mass of the people, and the priests, and the Roman soldiers, Herod and Pilate, and the idle ones on the street, the crowd in the gateway, and the newspaper reporters (if there were any such at that time) in short, when all the powers of the moment, however different their sentiments might have been, were agreed upon this view of the matter: that all was lost, hopelessly lost. "It is finished," He said, nailed to the cross as He was, at the very time when His Mother stood there -- as if nailed to the cross, when His disciples’ eyes were as if nailed to the cross by horror at this sight. Hence Motherhood and faithfulness submitted to the moment’s view of the matter, that all was lost. Oh, then let us by this most horrible thing, which once took place (and that it happened only once is not to the world’s credit, but rather that the crucified one is eternally and essentially different from every other man) let us learn wisdom in the lesser relationships. Let us never deceive youth by foolish talk about the matter of accomplishing. Let us never make them busy in the service of the moment, instead of in patience willing something eternal. Let us not make them quick to judge what they perhaps do not understand, instead of willing something eternal and being content with little for themselves! Let us rightly consider that a generation is not on that account superior because it understands that a previous generation acted wrongly, if in the present moment they themselves do not understand how to discriminate between the momentary and the eternal aspect of the thing at hand.
    • Steere, p. 138-139
  • "The comfort of temporal existence is a precarious affair. It lets the wound grow together, although it is not yet healed, and yet the physician knows that the cure depends upon keeping the wound open." In the wish, the wound is kept open, in order that the Eternal may heal it. If the wound grows together, the wish is wiped out and then eternity cannot heal, then temporal existence has in truth bungled the illness. And so let us speak of the wish and thereby of the sufferings; let us properly linger over this, convinced that one may learn more profoundly and more reliably what the highest is by considering suffering than by observing achievements, where so much that is distracting is present.
  • There are wishes that die in being born; there are wishes that are forgotten like our yesterdays; there are wishes that one outgrows, and later can scarcely recall; there are wishes that one learns to give up, and how good it was to have given them up; there are wishes from which one dies. away, which one hides away, just as a departed one is hidden away in glorified memory. Those are the wishes to which an active person is exposed. They may be more or less dangerous diseases. Their cure may be accomplished by the extinction of the individual wish. Yet there is also a wish that dies slowly, a wish that remains with the real sufferer even in the pain of his loss, and that only dies when he dies. For wishes concern particular objects, and a great number of objects, but the, wish applies essentially to the whole life.
  • Yet sad as it is with the wish, how joyful it is with hope! For there is a hope that is born and dies; a short-lived hope, that tomorrow is forgotten; a childish hope, that old age does not recognize; a hope that one dies away from. But then -- in death, in death’s decision, a hope is born, that does not die in being born because it is born in death. By this hope the sufferer, under the pain of the wish, is committed to the Good. So it is with the hope in which the sufferer, as though from afar off, reaches out toward the Eternal.
  • With faith it is still more joyful. For there is a faith that disappoints and vanishes; a faith that is lost and is repented of; there is a faith, which, when it droops is like death. But then -- in death, in death’s decision a faith is won that does not disappoint, that is not repented of, that does not die; it seizes the Eternal and holds fast to it. By this faith, under the pain of the wish, the sufferer is committed to the Good. So it is with faith in which the sufferer draws the Eternal nearer to himself.
  • But with love it is most joyous of all. For there is a love, that blazes up and is forgotten; there is a love that unites and divides -- a love until death. But then -- in death, in death’s decision, there is born a love that does not flame up, that is not equivocal, that is not -- until death, but beyond death, a love that endures. In this love under the pain of the wish, the sufferer is committed to the Good. Oh, you sufferer, whoever you may be, will you then with doubleness of mind seek the relief that temporal existence can give, the relief that permits you to forget your suffering (yes, so you think) but rather that allows you to forget the Eternal! Will you in doubleness of mind despair, because all is lost (yes, so you think) yet with the Eternal all is to be won! Will you in doubleness of mind despair? Have you considered what it is to despair? Alas, it is to deny that God is love! Think that over properly, one who despairs abandons himself (yes, so you think); nay, he abandons God! Oh, weary not your soul with that which is passing and with momentary relief. Grieve not your spirit with forms of comfort which this world affords. Do not in suicidal fashion murder the wish; but rather win the highest by hope, by faith, by love -- as the mightiest of all are able to do: commit yourself to the Good!
    • Purity of Heart, Steere p. 149-151
  • What is eternity’s accounting other than that the voice of conscience is forever installed with its eternal right to be the exclusive voice? What is it other than that throughout eternity an infinite stillness reigns wherein the conscience may talk with the individual about what he, as an individual, of what he has done of Good or of evil, and about the fact that during his life he did not wish to be an individual? What is it other than that within eternity there is infinite space so that each person, as an individual, is apart with his conscience? For in eternity there is no mob pressure, no crowd, no hiding place in the crowd, as little as there are riots or street fights! Here in the temporal order conscience is prepared to make each person into an individual. But here in the temporal order, in the unrest, in the noise, in the pressure of the mob, in the crowd, in the primeval forest of evasion, alas, it is true, the calamity still happens, that someone completely stifles the voice of his conscience -- his conscience, for he can never rid himself of it. It continues to belong to him, or more accurately, he continues to belong to it.
    • Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart, (First part of Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits) Steere, P. 186
  • And now the means that you use. What means do you use in order to carry out your occupation? Are the means as important to you as the end, wholly as important? Otherwise it is impossible for you to will only one thing, for in that case the irresponsible, the frivolous, the self-seeking, and the heterogeneous means would flow in between in confusing and corrupting fashion. Eternally speaking, there is only one means and there is only one end: the means and the end are one and the same thing. There is only one end: the genuine Good; and only one means: this, to be willing only to use those means which genuinely are good -- but the genuine Good is precisely the end. In time and on earth one distinguishes between the two and considers that the end is more important than the means. One thinks that the end is the main thing and demands of one who is striving that he reach the end. He need not be so particular about the means. Yet this is not so, and to gain an end in this fashion is an unholy act of impatience. In the judgment of eternity the relation between the end and the means is rather the reverse of this.
    • Steere, p. 201-202

Works of Love (1847)[edit]

Works of Love: Some Christian Deliberations in the Form of Discourses [Kjerlighedens Gjerninger. Nogle christelige Overveielser i Talers Form] (1847)
  • Every human being can come to know everything about love, just as every human being can come to know that he, like every human being, is loved by God. Some find this thought adequate for the longest life others find this thought so insignificant ... Works of Love Hong 1995 Princeton University Press p. 364
  • Which is more difficult, to awaken one who sleeps or to awaken one who, awake, dreams that he is awake?
  • If it were so, as conceited sagacity, proud of not being deceived, thinks, that we should believe nothing that we cannot see with our physical eyes, then we first and foremost ought to give up believing in love. If we were to do so and do it out of fear lest we be deceived, would we not then be deceived? We can, of course, be deceived in many ways. We can be deceived by believing what is untrue, but we certainly are also deceived by not believing what is true. We can be deceived by appearances, but we certainly are also deceived by the sagacious appearance, by the flattering conceit that considers itself absolutely secure against being deceived. Which deception is more dangerous? Whose recovery is more doubtful, that of the one who does not see, or that of the person who sees and yet does not see? What is more difficult—to awaken someone who is sleeping or to awaken someone who, awake, is dreaming that he is awake? Works of Love, Hong 5
  • If anyone thinks he is a Christian and yet is indifferent toward being that, he is not one at all. When Christ says (Matthew 10:17), “Beware of people,” I wonder if by this is not also meant: Beware of being tricked out of the highest by people, by continual comparison, by habit and by externals.
    • Works of Love, Hong P. 27
  • The intoxication of self-feeling is the most intense, and the height of this intoxication is most admired. Love and friendship are the very height of self-feeling, the I intoxicated in the other-I. The more securely the two I's come together to become one I, the more this united I selfishly cuts itself off from all others.
  • Spiritual love, on the other hand, takes away from myself all natural determinants and all self-love. Therefore love for my neighbor cannot make me one with the neighbor in a united self. Love to one's neighbor is love between two individual beings, each eternally qualified as spirit.
  • Worldly wisdom thinks that love is a relationship between man and man. Christianity teaches that love is a relationship between: man-God-man, that is, that God is the middle term.
  • When it is the duty to love the men we see, then one must first and foremost give up all fanciful and extravagant ideas about a dream world where the object of love is to be sought and found; that is, one must become sober, win actuality and truth by finding and continuing in the world of actuality as the task assigned to one.
  • It is human self-renunciation when a man denies himself and the world opens up to him. But it is Christian self-renunciation when he denies himself and, because the world precisely for this shuts itself up to him, he must as one thrust out by the world seek God's confidence. The double-danger lies precisely in meeting opposition there where he had expected to find support, and he has to turn about twice; whereas the merely human self-resignation turns once.
  • Only one deception is possible in the infinite sense, self-deception.
  • When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world — no matter how imperfect — becomes rich and beautiful, it consists solely of opportunities for love.
  • Is it an excellence in your love that it can love only the extraordinary, the rare? If it were love’s merit to love the extraordinary, then God would be — if I dare say so — perplexed, for to Him the extraordinary does not exist at all. The merit of being able to love only the extraordinary is therefore more like an accusation, not against the extraordinary nor against love, but against the love which can love only the extraordinary. Perfection in the object is not perfection in the love. Erotic love is determined by the object; friendship is determined by the object; only love of one’s neighbor is determined by love. Therefore genuine love is recognizable by this, that its object is without any of the more definite qualifications of difference, which means that this love is recognizable only by love.
  • If anyone is unwilling to learn from Christianity to love himself in the right way, he cannot love the neighbor either. He can perhaps hold together with another or a few other persons, “through thick and thin,” as it is called, but this is by no means loving the neighbor. To love yourself in the right way and to love the neighbor correspond perfectly to one another, fundamentally they are one and the same thing. When the Law’s as yourself has wrested from you the self-love that Christianity sadly enough must presuppose to be in every human being, then you have actually learned to love yourself. The Law is therefore: you shall love yourself in the same way as you love your neighbor when you love him as yourself. Whoever has any knowledge of people will certainly admit that just as he has often wished to be able to move them to relinquish self-love, he has also had to wish that it were possible to teach them to love themselves. When the bustler wastes his time and powers in the service of the futile, inconsequential pursuits, is that not because he has not learned rightly to love himself? When the light-minded person throws himself almost like a nonentity into the folly of the moment and makes nothing of it, is this not because he does not know how to love himself rightly? When the depressed person desires to be rid of life, indeed of himself, is this not because he is unwilling to learn earnestly and rigorously to love himself? When someone surrenders to despair because the world or another person has faithlessly left him betrayed, what then is his fault (his innocent suffering is not referred to here) except not loving himself in the right way? When someone self-tormentingly thinks to do God a service by torturing himself, what is his sin except not willing to love himself in the right way? And if, alas, a person presumptuously lays violent hands upon himself, is not his sin precisely this, that he does not rightly love himself in the sense in which a person ought to love himself? Oh, there is a lot of talk in the world about treachery, and faithlessness, and, God help us, it is unfortunately all too true, but still let us never because of this forget that the most dangerous traitor of all is the one every person has within himself. This treachery whether it consists in selfishly loving oneself or consists in selfishly not willing to love oneself in the right way – this treachery is admittedly a secret. No cry is raised as it usually is in the case of treachery and faithlessness. But is it not therefore all the more important that Christianity’s doctrine should be brought to mind again and again, that a person shall love his neighbor as himself, that is, as he ought to love himself? … You shall love – this, then is the word of the royal Law.
    • Works of Love, Hong p. 22-24
  • To bring about similarity among people in the world, to apportion to people, if possible equally, the conditions of temporality, is indeed something that preoccupies worldliness to a high degree. But even what we may call the well-intentioned worldly effort in this regard never comes to an understanding with Christianity. Well-intentioned worldliness remains piously, if you will, convinced that there must be one temporal condition, one earthly dissimilarity – found by means of calculations and surveys or in whatever other way – that is equality. If this condition become the only one for all people, then similarity would have been brought about. For one thing, however, this cannot be accomplished, and, for another, the similarity of all by having in common the same temporal dissimilarity is still by no means Christian equality. Worldly similarity, if possible, is not Christian equality. Moreover, to bring about worldly similarity perfectly is an impossibility. Well-intentioned worldliness actually admits this itself. It rejoices when it succeeds in making temporal conditions the same for more and more people, but it acknowledges itself that its struggle is a pious wish, that it has taken on a prodigious task, that its prospects are remote-if it rightly understood itself, it will perceive that this will never be accomplished in temporality, that even if this struggle is continued for centuries, it will never attain the goal. Christianity, by contrast, aided by the shortcut of eternity, is immediately at the goal: it allows all dissimilarities to stand but teaches the equality of eternity. It teaches that everyone is to lift himself up above earthly dissimilarity. Notice carefully how equably it speaks. It does not say that it is the lowly person who is to lift himself up while the powerful person should perhaps climb down from his loftiness-ah, no, that kind of talk is not equable; and the similarity that is brought about by the powerful person’s climbing down and the lowly person climbing up is not Christian equality-it is worldly similarity. No, even if it is the one who stands at the very top, even if it is the king, he is to lift himself up above the difference of loftiness, and the beggar is to lift himself up above the difference of lowliness. Christianity allows all the dissimilarities of earthly life to stand, but this equality in lifting oneself up above the dissimilarities of earthly life is contained in the love commandment, in loving the neighbor. Because this is so, because the lowly person fully as much as the prominent and the powerful, because everyone in his different way can lose his soul by not Christianly willing to lift himself up above the dissimilarity of earthly life, and, alas, because it happens to both and in the most varied ways-therefore, willing to love the neighbor is often exposed to double, indeed, to multiple danger. Everyone who in despair has clung to one or another of the dissimilarities of earthly life so that he centers his life in it, not in God, also demands that everyone who belongs to the same dissimilarity must hold together with him-not in the good (because the good forms no alliance, does not unite two nor hundreds nor all people in an alliance), but in an ungodly alliance against the universally human. The one in despair calls it treason to want to have fellowship with others, with all people. On the other hand, these other people are in turn differentiated by way of other temporal dissimilarities and perhaps misunderstand it if someone not having their dissimilarity wants to side with them. Strangely enough, in connection with the dissimilarities of earthly life, through misunderstanding there are conflict and agreement simultaneously-one person wants to do away with one dissimilarity, but he wants another put in its place. Dissimilarity, as the word signifies, can mean the very different, the entirely different; but everyone who struggles against dissimilarity in such a way that he wants one specific dissimilarity removed and another put in its place is, of course, fighting for dissimilarity. Whoever then will love the neighbor, whoever thus does not concern himself with removing this or that dissimilarity, or with eliminating all of them in a worldly way, but devoutly concerns himself with permeating his dissimilarity with the sanctifying thought of Christian equality-that person easily becomes like someone who does not fit into earthly life here, not even in so-called Christendom; he is easily exposed to attacks from all sides; he easily becomes like a lost sheep among ravenous wolves. Everywhere he looks he naturally sees the dissimilarities (as stated, no human being is pure humanity, but the Christian lifts himself up above the dissimilarities); and those who in a worldly way have clung firmly to a temporal dissimilarity, whatever it may be, are like ravenous wolves. May your patience in reading correspond to my diligence and time in writing.
    • Works of Love, Hong p. 71-73
  • "Is changingness indeed a stronger power than changelessness, and who is the stronger, the one who says, “If you will not love me, then I will hate you,” or the one who says, “If you hate me, I will still continue to love you”?" "The one who loves presupposes that love is in the other person’s heart and by this very presupposition builds up love in him – from the ground up, provided, of course, that in love he presupposes its presence in the ground." "There is nothing, no ‘thus and so,’ that can unconditionally be said to demonstrate unconditionally the presence of love or to demonstrate unconditionally its absence..." "Thus even giving to charity, visiting the widow, and clothing the naked do not truly demonstrate or make known a person’s love, inasmuch as one can do works of love in an unloving way, yes, even in a self-loving way." "The self-deceived person may even think he is able to console others who became victims of perfidious deception, but what insanity when someone who himself has lost the eternal wants to heal the person who is extremely sick unto death!" "Just as the quiet lake originates deep down in hidden springs no eye has seen, so also does a person’s love originate even more deeply in God’s love." ... So a human being’s love originates mysteriously in God’s love." Every human being by his life, by his conduct, by his behavior in everyday affairs, by his association with his peers, by his words, his remarks, should and could build up and would do it if love were really present in him." "Only the unloving person fancies that he should build up by controlling the other; the one who loves presupposes continually that love is present and in just that way he builds up." "The one who loves builds up by controlling himself." "It is God, the Creator, who must implant love in each human being, he who himself is Love. Thus it is specifically unloving and not at all upbuilding if someone arrogantly deludes himself into believing that he wants and is able to create love in another person." "Truly, love is to be known by its fruit, but still it does not follow from this that you are to take it upon yourself to be the expert knower. " "If it is usually difficult to begin without presuppositions, it is truly most difficult of all to begin to build up with the presupposition that love is present and to end with the same presupposition." Works of Love Hong 1995 Princeton University Press p. 34, 216-217, 13-14, 7-10, 213-217, 15, 218

The Sickness unto Death (1849)[edit]

As translated by Alastair Hannay (1989), Penguin Classics ISBN 0-14-044533-1

Part One: The Sickness unto Death is Despair[edit]

  • And when the hourglass has run out, the hourglass of temporality, when the noise of secular life has grown silent and its restless or ineffectual activism has come to an end, when everything around you is still, as it is in eternity, then eternity asks you and every individual in these millions and millions about only one thing: whether you have lived in despair or not.
  • Someone in despair despairs over something. So, for a moment, it seems, but only for a moment. That same instant the true despair shows itself, or despair in its true guise. In despairing over something he was really despairing over himself, and he wants now to be rid of himself. (p. 49)
  • A person in despair wants despairingly to be himself. But surely if he wants despairingly to be himself, he cannot want to be rid of himself. Yes, or so it seems. But closer observation reveals the contradiction to be still the same. The self which, in his despair, he wants to be is a self he is not (indeed, to want to be the self he truly is, is the very opposite of despair). (p. 50)
  • When whatever causes person to despair occurs, it is immediately evident that he has been in despair his whole life. (p. 54)
  • He who says without pretence that he despairs is, after all, a little nearer, a dialectical step nearer being cured than all those who are not regarded and who do not regard themselves as being in despair. (p. 56)
  • What feelings, understanding and will a person has depends in the last resort upon what imagination he has — how he represents himself to himself, that is, upon imagination. (pp. 60 - 61)
  • The world has generally no understanding of what is truly horrifying. The despair that not only does not cause any inconvenience in life, but makes life convenient and comfortable, is naturally enough in no way regarded as despair. That this is the worldly view is evident, among all things, from nearly all the proverbs, which are nothing but rules of prudence. (p. 64)
  • If I have ventured wrongly, very well, life then helps me with its penalty. But if I haven't ventured at all, who helps me then? (pp. 64 - 65)
  • What we call worldliness simply consists of such people who, if one may so express it, pawn themselves to the world. (p. 65)
  • What characterizes despair is just this — that it is ignorant of being despair. (p. 75)
  • What afflicts the adult is not so much the illusion of hope as, no doubt among other things, the grotesque illusion of looking down from some supposedly higher vantage-point, free from illusion, upon the illusions of the young. (p. 89)
  • In spiritual terms the human being does not arrive over the years and as a matter of course at anything. No idea could be more directly opposed to spirit. (p. 90)
  • Purely philosophically it could be a subtle question whether it is possible both to be in despair and to be quite clear what one despairs of. (p. 92)
  • The initial expression of defiance is precisely despair over one's weakness. (p. 97)
  • Far from the self succeeding increasingly in being itself, it becomes increasingly obvious that it is a hypothetical self. (p. 100)

Part Two: Despair Is Sin[edit]

Sin is in itself separation from the good, but despair over sin is separation a second time.
  • This fact, that the opposite of sin is by no means virtue, has been overlooked. The latter is partly a pagan view, which is content with a merely human standard, and which for that very reason does not know what sin is, that all sin is before God. No, the opposite of sin is faith. (pp. 114 - 115)
  • How extraordinarily stupid it is to defend Christianity, how little knowledge of humanity it betrays, how it connives if only unconsciously with offence by making Christianity out to be some miserable object that in the end must be rescued by a defence. It is therefore certain and true that the person who first thought of defending Christianity is de facto a Judas No. 2; he too betrays with a kiss, except his treason is that of stupidity. To defend something is always to discredit it. (p. 119)
  • If sin is ignorance, then sin does not really exist, for sin is precisely consciousness; if sin is ignorance of what is right, and one then does what is wrong because one does not know what is right, then no sin has occurred. (p. 121)
  • What a dangerous objection it would be against Christianity, therefore, if paganism had a definition of sin which Christianity had to acknowledge was correct. (p. 122)
  • People think the world needs a republic, and they think it needs a new social order, and a new religion, but it never occurs to anyone that what the world really needs, confused as it is by much learning, is a new Socrates. (p. 124)
  • No human being is able to say, of his own and by himself, what sin is, for sin is the very thing he is in. All his talk about sin is at bottom a glossing over sin, an excuse, a sinful extenuation. (p. 127)
  • If the whole of Christianity hangs on this, on its having to be believed, not comprehended, on its either having to be believed or one's having to be offended by it, is it then so commendable to want to comprehend? (p. 131)
  • Sin is in itself separation from the good, but despair over sin is separation a second time. (p. 142)
  • The dread of sin can sometimes in effect drive a person into sin through dread. (p. 145)
  • Sin, however common to all, does not gather men together into a common concept, into an association or partnership (no more than out in the graveyard the multitude of the dead form a society), but splits people up into individuals and fastens hold of every individual as a sinner. (p. 153)
  • Out of love, God becomes man. He says: "See, here is what it is to be a human being." (p. 161)

Practice in Christianity (1850)[edit]

  • Editor’s Preface In this book, originating in the year 1848, the requirement for being a Christian is forced up by the pseudonymous author to the supreme ideality. Yet the requirement should indeed be stated, presented, and heard. From the Christian point of view, there ought to be no scaling down of the requirement, nor suppression of it-instead of a personal admission and confession. The requirement should be heard-and I understand what is said as spoken to me alone-so that I might learn not only to resort to grace but to resort to it in relation to the use of grace. S.K
    • Practice in Christianity p. xii p. 8
  • Accept the invitation so that the inviter may save you from what is so hard and dangerous to be saved from, so that, saved, you may be with him who is the Savior of all, of innocence also. For even if it were possible that utterly pure innocence was to be found somewhere, why should it not also need a Savior who could keep it safe from evil! –The invitation stands at the crossroad, there where the way of sin turns more deeply into sin. Come here, all you who are lost and gone astray, whatever your error and sin, be it to human eyes more excusable and yet perhaps more terrible, or be it to human eyes more terrible and yet perhaps more excusable, be it disclosed here on earth or be it hidden and yet known in heaven-and even if you found forgiveness on earth but no peace within, or found no forgiveness because you did not seek it, or because you sought it in vain: oh, turn around and come here, here is rest! The invitation stands at the crossroad, there where the way of sin turns off for the last time and disappears from view in-perdition. Oh, turn around, turn around, come here; do not shrink from the difficulty of retreat, no matter how hard it is; do not be afraid of the laborious pace of conversion, however toilsomely it leads to salvation, whereas sin leads onward with winged speed, with mounting haste-or leads downward so easily, so indescribably easily, indeed, as easily as when the horse, completely relieved of pulling, cannot, not even with all its strength, stop the wagon, which runs it into the abyss. Do not despair over every relapse, which the God of patience has the patience to forgive and under which a sinner certainly should have the patience to humble himself. No, fear nothing and do not despair; he who says “Come here” is with you on the way; from him there is help and forgiveness on the way of conversion that leads to him, and with him is rest.
    • Practice in Christianity p. 18-19
  • Since Christ is the absolute it is easy to see that in relation to him there is only one situation-the situation of contemporaneity. Christ is revealed only to faith. … The qualification that is lacking-which is the qualification of truth (as inwardness) and of all religiousness is-for you. The past is not actuality-for me. Only the contemporary is actuality for me. That with which you are living simultaneously is actuality-for you. Thus, every human being is able to become contemporary only with the time in which he is living-and then with one more, with Christ’s life upon earth, for Christ’s life upon earth, the sacred history, stands alone by itself, outside history. History you can read and hear about as about the past; here you can if it so pleases you, judge by the outcome. But Christ’s life on earth is not a past; it did not wait at the time, eighteen hundred years ago, and does not wait now for the assistance of the outcome. A historical Christianity is nonsense and un-Christian muddled thinking, because whatever true Christians there are in any generation are contemporary with Christ, have nothing to do with Christians in past generations but everything to do with the contemporary Christ. Christ’s life on earth has an eternal contemporaneity. … If you cannot prevail upon yourself to become a Christian in the situation of contemporaneity with him, or if he cannot move you to draw you to himself in the situation of contemporaneity, then you will never become a Christian.
    • Practice in Christianity, Soren Kierkegaard, 1850 Hong p. 64
  • Lord Jesus Christ, our foolish minds are weak; they are more than willing to be drawn-and there is so much that wants to draw us to itself. There is pleasure with its seductive power, the multiplicity with its bewildering distractions, the moment with its infatuating importance and the conceited laboriousness of busyness and the careless time-wasting of light-mindedness and the gloomy brooding of heavy-mindedness-all this will draw us away from ourselves to itself in order to deceive us. But you, who are truth, only you, our Savior and Redeemer, can truly draw to person to yourself, which you have promised to do-that you will draw all to yourself. Then may God grant that by repenting we may come to ourselves, so that you, according to your Word, can draw us to yourself-from on high, but through lowliness and abasement.
    • Practice in Christianity, Soren Kierkegaard, 1850 Hong, 1991, p. 157
  • "In hidden inwardness all are Christians; who would dare deny this? Anyone who would take it upon himself to deny it surely runs the risk of wanting to play the knower of hearts. So no one can deny it. That everyone is Christian in hidden inwardness is in this way a secretiveness that is almost locked up, so to speak, behind a jammed lock: it is impossible to find out whether all these thousands upon thousands actually are Christians, for they all are that, so it is said, in hidden inwardness. And not only for the Church but for everybody it holds true that one does not pass judgment on hidden and secret things, because one is unable to judge. Should it not, however, be possible to break this secretiveness and have a little disclosure without becoming guilty of being a knower of hearts? Yes, indeed! How so? In this way, that someone quite simply on his own responsibility takes it upon himself to confess Christ in the midst of Christendom. He does not judge a single person, far from it, but many will disclose themselves by the way they judge him. He does not claim to be a better Christian than others, no, far from it; on the contrary, to the others he makes the admission that they undoubtedly are better Christians than he, they who keep it hidden out of religious fear of winning honor and esteem, whereas he, poor simpleton that he is, on his own behalf is so afraid that it might prove to be shadowboxing with such an extreme Christianity, and therefore he holds to the old Christianity of confessing Christ. Therefore he does not inform against any of the others, that they are not Christians; far from it, he informs only against himself, that he is such a poor simpleton. Nevertheless the thoughts of many hearts would be disclosed by how they judge this poor simpleton, this imperfect Christian."
    • Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, Hong p. 220

The Point of View of My Work as an Author (1848, 1851, 1859)[edit]

I have attacked no one as not being a Christian, I have condemned no one.
  • 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 what Christianity is, my imperfection as a Christian I myself fully recognize — but I know what Christianity is. And to get this properly recognized must be, I should think, to every man’s interest, whether he be a Christian or not, whether his intention is to accept Christianity or to reject it. But I have attacked no one as not being a Christian, I have condemned no one. Indeed, the pseudonym Johannes Climacus, who sets the problem ‘about becoming a Christian’, does exactly the opposite: he denies that he is a Christian and concedes this claim to the others — the remotest possible remove, surely, from condemning others! And I myself have from the first clearly asserted, again and again repeated, that I am ‘without authority’. My tactics were, by God’s aid, to employ every means to make it clear what the requirement of Christianity truly is — even though not one single person should be induced to enter into it, and though I myself might have to give up being a Christian (in which case I should have felt obliged to make open admission of the fact). On the other hand, my tactics were these: instead of giving the impression, in however small a degree, that there are such difficulties about Christianity that an apology for it is needed if men are to be persuaded to enter into it, rather to represent it as a thing so infinitely lofty, as in truth it is, that the apology belongs in another place, is required, that is to say, of us for the fact that we venture to call ourselves Christians, or it transforms itself into a contrite confession that we have God to thank if we merely assume to regard ourselves as a Christian. But neither must this ever be forgotten: Christianity is just as lenient as it is austere, just as lenient, that is to say, infinitely lenient. When the infinite requirement is heard and upheld, heard and upheld in all its infinitude, then grace is offered, or rather grace offers itself, and to it the individual, each for himself, as I also do, can flee for refuge.
    • p. 153-155


  • Leap of faith.
    • This phrase is thought by many to have been coined by Kierkegaard, but analysis of his works in Danish indicate that he does not use a phrase which would translate into English as "leap of faith" anywhere in his writings, but there are instances where he writes of a "leap" in a context where the concept denoted by the term could easily be construed:
And how does God's existence emerge from the proof? Does it follow straightway, without any breach of continuity? Or do we have an analogy to the behavior of the little Cartesian dolls? As soon as I let go of the doll it stands on its head. As soon as I let it go, I must therefore let it go. So also with the proof. As long as I keep my hold on the proof, i.e., continue to demonstrate, the existence does not come out, if for no other reason that that I am engaged in proving it; but when I let the proof go, the existence is there. But this act of letting go is surely also something; it is indeed a contribution of mine. Must not this also be taken into account, this little moment, brief as it may be, it need not be long, for it is a leap.
Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, which emerges when the spirit wants to posit the synthesis and freedom looks down into possibility, laying hold of finiteness to support itself. Freedom succumbs in this dizziness. Further than this, psychology cannot and will not go. In that very moment everything is changed, and freedom, when it again rises, sees that it is guilty. Between these two moments lies the leap, which no science has explained and which no science will explain.
What if, rather than speaking or dreaming of an absolute beginning, we speak of a leap?
  • Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.
    • Attributed to Kierkegaard in a number of books, the earliest located on Google Books being the 1976 book Jack Kerouac: Prophet of the New Romanticism by Robert A. Hipkiss, p. 83. In the 1948 The Hibbert Journal: Volumes 46-47 the quote is referred to as "the famous Kierkegaardian slogan" on p. 237, which may be intended to suggest the phrase is Kierkegaard-esque rather than being something written by Kierkegaard. In reality this seems to be a slightly altered version of the quote "The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved; it is a reality to be experienced" which appeared in the 1928 book The Conquest of Illusion by Jacobus Johannes Leeuw, p. 9.

Quotations about Kierkegaard[edit]

Kierkegaard was by far the most profound thinker of the last century. Kierkegaard was a saint. ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
Alphabetized by author
  • Kierkegaard, Soren (1813-1855), the greatest philosophical writer that Scandinavia has produced was born at Copenhagen, May 5, 1813, and was the seventh child of a respectable Jutland hosier. He was a very serious and precocious boy, weak in health, morbid in character. Of his mother, singularly enough, he has said no word in his copious autobiographical remains, although he was in his twenty-second year when she died; she had been his father’s servant. Kierkegaard became a student at the university of Copenhagen, and took up theology as a profession, but never became a priest. He lived in great retirement, deeply oppressed with melancholy and physical suffering, and was at first very little known to his contemporaries. In 1838 he published his first volume, Papers of a Still Living Man, a very poor attempt to characterize Hans Andersen. Two years later he took his degree, with a treatise On Irony, which contains the germs of his later speculations. In 1840 he engaged himself to a young lady, and shortly after broke off the engagement, an extraordinary step for which he has given many extraordinary reasons. It was not until 1842 that he began the composition of his greatest work, Enten-Eller (“Either-Or”), on which his reputation mainly rests; this appeared in 1843, and was immediately followed by a rapid succession of philosophical works, which formed at once an epoch in the history of Danish literature. From 1849 to 1854, however, he was silent as an author. In the last-mentioned year he published a polemical tract against Bishop Martensen, and the short remainder of his life was spent in a feverish agitation against the theology and practice of the state church. But his health, which had always been miserable, was growing worse and worse. In October 1855 he took up his abode in one of the chief hospitals of Copenhagen where he died, on the 11th of November, at the age of forty-two. His life has been written with great skill and brilliance by Dr Georg Brandes (1877). Kierkegaard published about thirty distinct books during his life-time, and left at his death about an equal amount of MS.; a competent analysis of these multifarious labours is given in Brande’s admirable biography.
  • Kierkegaard, Soren Aaby (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, the seventh child of a Jutland hosier, was born in Copenhagen on the 5th of May 1813. As a boy he was delicate precocious and morbid in temperament. He studies theology at the university of Copenhagen, where he graduated in 1840 with a treatise On Irony. For two years he travelled in Germany, and in 1842 settled finally in Copenhagen, where he died on the 11th of November 1855. He had lived in studious retirement, subject to physical suffering and depression. His first volume, Papers of a Still Living Man (1838), a characterization of Hans Andersen, was a failure, and he was for some time unnoticed. In 1843 he published Euten-Eller (Either-or) (4th edition 1878), a work on which his reputation mainly rests; it is a discussion of the ethical and aesthetic ideas of life. In his last years he carried on a feverish agitation against the theology and practice of the state church, on the ground that religion is for the individual soul, and is to be separated absolutely from the state and the world. In general his philosophy was a reaction against the speculative thinkers-Steffens (q.v.), Niels Treschow (1751-1833) and Frederik Christian Sibbern (1785-1872); it was based on the absolute dualism of Faith and Knowledge. His chief follower was Rasmus Neilsen (1809-1884) and he was opposed by Georg Brandes, who wrote a brilliant account of his life and works. As a dialectician he has been described as little inferior to Plato, and his influence on the literature of Denmark is considerable both in style and in matter. To him Ibsen owed his character Brand in the drama of that name. See his posthumous autobiographical sketch, Syns punktetfor min Forfattevirksomhed (“Standpoint of my Literary Work”); Georg Brandes, Soren Kierkegaard (Copenhagen, 1877; A. Barthold, Noten zu K.’s Lebensgeschichte (Halle, 1879) and S. K.'s Personlichkeit in ihrer Verwirklichung der Ideale (Gutersloh, 1886); F. Petersen, S. K.’s Christendomsforkyndelae (Christiania, 1877). For Kierkegaard’s relation to recent Danish thought see Hoffding’s Archiv fur Geschichte der Philosophie (1888), vol ii
  • The fundamental and decisive element in Soren Kierkegaard’s personality is found by George Brandes in his combined reverence and scorn; by H. Hoffding (more in accordance with the fact that he was his father’s son) in his melancholy; by O. P. Monrad, his latest biographer, in emotion or passion. Certainly the emotional factor-as it forms the decisive element in personal characteristic generally-best suggests the distinctive features of Kierkegaard’s personality. In his published writings and in his journals we are in touch with a nature of unwonted intensity, with and inner life at white heat. This is seen his abnormal sensitiveness; he was touched to the quick by things that others might have ignored or easily forgotten. Again, while he was admittedly the most original mind that Denmark ever produced, his thought seldom operated in cool dialectic, but was in its nature ‘existential,’ expressive of his whole personality; with amazing imaginative fertility he constructs, not chains of reasoning, but ‘experiments in psychology’ i.e. persons and situations depicting a real, living experience. Similarly, religion was for him, not a group of doctrines requiring merely to be believed, defended, or systematized, but a fact making a tremendous demand upon life; the joy of salvation was to be won in the most intense appropriation of the truth and the most impassioned submission to its claim.
    • Soren Kierkegaard Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, Volume VII, James Hastings, John Alexander Selbie, Louis Herbert Gray, published by T. & T. Clark, 1915 p. 696-700 Google books
  • The year after (1837) appeared my romance, Only a Fiddler, a spiritual blossom sprung out of the terrible struggle that went on in me between my poet nature and my hard surroundings. Yet it was a step in advance. I understood myself and the world better, but I was ready to give up expecting to receive any kind of true recognition of that which God had bestowed upon me. In another world it might be cleared up — that was my faith. If The Improvisatore was a real improvisatore, Only a Fiddler was then to be understood as struggle and suffering: this production was carefully wrought, and, looked at from without, it was conceived and executed with the greatest simplicity. The opposition that had stirred in me against injustice, folly, and the stupidity and hardness of the public, found vent in the characters of Naomi, Ladislaus, and the godfather in Hollow Lane.
  • This book also made its way at home, but no word of thanks or encouragement was heard; the critics only granted that I was very fortunate in trusting to my instinct, — an expression applied to animals, but in the human world, in the world of poetry, it is called genius; for me instinct was good enough. There was a constant depreciation of all that was good in me. A single person of distinction told me once that I was treated very hardly and unjustly, but nobody stepped forward to denounce it. The novel Only a Fiddler made a strong impression for a short time on one of our country's young and highly gifted men, Soren Kierkegaard. Meeting him in the street, he told me that he would write a review of my book, and that I should be more satisfied with that than I had been with the earlier, because, he said, they had misunderstood me! A long time elapsed, then he read the book again, and the first good impression of it was effaced. I must almost believe that the more seriously he examined the story, the more faults he found; and when the critique appeared, it did not please me at all. It came out as a whole book, the first, I believe, that Kierkegaard has written; and because of the Hegelian heaviness in the expression, it was very difficult to read, and people said in fun that only Kierkegaard and Andersen had read it through. I learned from it that I was no poet, but a poetical figure that had escaped from my group, in which my place would be taken by some future poet or be used by him as a figure in a poem, and that thus my supplement would be created! Since that time I have had a better understanding with this author, who has always met me with kindness and discernment.
  • Kierkegaard (kyer-ke-gord), Soren Aaby, b. at Copenhagen, May 5,1813 ; d. at the same place, Nov. 11,1855, 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.
    • C.H.A Bjerregaard , in an article for The Concise Dictionary of Religious Knowledge and Gazetteer (1891) edited by Talbot Wilson Chambers and Frank Hugh Foster, p. 473
  • But more positively in the service of the truth has Soren Kierkegaard worked. I feel my inability to give a correct idea of the rich authorship of this champion of Christianity, who has found a better conductor to the truth than the philosophers of our time. Having long lost sight of his writings, it is with distrust I attempt to give a sketch of them. The intelligent classes in Denmark and Norway having long and painfully felt the deficiency of the established religion to satisfy their spiritual wants, they were looking in vain for a word that would solve the problems of life. Then sounded a voice through Europe-“The spirit of the times rules the world,” and “To think is to be.” “Yes, this must be the truth,” was echoed from thousands of hearts; “the great Hegel has said it.” All rejoiced: “Broken for ever is the chain of the church-the schools of science are the right churches, the thought is the true Messias. That man who dares to contradict this, has no right to be called a man, he is only a brute.” Even from the pulpits these new dogmas were taught and explained, and the Word interpreted according to them. But they were not long to remain in the uninterrupted enjoyment of this. While all appeared glad and happy, at once a flood of writings fell on the public-“Either, or,”-”Fear and Tremor,”-“The Reiteration,”-“The Idea of Dread,”-“The Proviso,”-“Philosophic Crumbs,”-“States of Life,”:-“Postscript to Philosophical Crumbs,” and some others. With great erudition, psychological acuteness, remarkable dialectical and logical power,-with almost unequalled command of language, together with a great amount of Christian experience,-they uncover the dark recesses of the human heart, and throw light therein from the Holy Word. Following the philosophers of our time, step by step, they show the psychological consequences of the new doctrines; and after having, in this way, shown what Christianity is not, in his book entitled “Works of Love,” he explains what it really is.
  • Kierkegaard had declared that it was only to the consciousness of sin that Christianity was not horror or madness. For me it was sometimes both. I concluded there from that I had no consciousness of sin, and found this idea confirmed when I looked into my own heart. For however violently at this period I reproached myself and condemned my failings, they were always in my eyes weaknesses that ought to be combatted, or defects that could be remedied, never sins that necessitated forgiveness, and for the obtaining of this forgiveness, a Saviour. That God had died for me as my Saviour, — I could not understand what it meant; it was an idea that conveyed nothing to me. And I wondered whether the inhabitants of another planet would be able to understand how on the Earth that which was contrary to all reason was considered the highest truth.
    • George Brandes, in Reminiscences of My Childhood and Youth (September 1906), p. 108
  • Kierkegaard expressed himself without reserve on the significance his writings may have had for certain persons. His old uncle, M. Kierkegaard the merchant, had a son a few years younger than Soren Kierkegaard. This son was a cripple, paralyzed all down one side, and completely deformed in body, but intellectually very talented. He read his cousin’s Soren Kierkegaard’s writings with great interest, visited Kierkegaard from time to time in his home, and received much spiritual uplift from these visits. I [Hans Brochner] once spoke to Kierkegaard about him, and told him how greatly the lad had been impressed by one of Kierkegaard’s works, namely the discourse for a Confession-Service in Edifying Discourses in Different Vein. (In it Kierkegaard speaks of a man who, through bodily infirmity, is prevented from fulfilling an outward task. Beautifully and uplifting it is said how such a man still retains his ordinary ethical task unimpaired, and that his life’s work merely takes on a special form-see Purity of Heart p. 133) Kierkegaard said, ‘Yes, for him the passage is a blessing’; and that was indeed true. It had the power to give this sorely tried man strength to overcome the thought that his life was useless and wasted, and to make him feel that he really was the equal of those more fortunately endowed by Nature. It was precisely Kierkegaard’s lively ability to make him feel like this that made him go away from the above-mentioned conversations with Kierkegaard with renewed strength.
    • Glimpses and Impressions of Kierkegaard, Thomas H. Croxall, James Nisbet & Co 1959 p. 34-35 from Hans Brochner’s Recollections of Kierkegaard first published by Georg Brandes in 1877.
  • A man who thinks deeply and daringly in a small country becomes, of necessity, a martyr. It is only the conformist who is tolerated; the non-conformist is ridiculed or persecuted. Therefore the one philosopher whom Denmark has produced, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), suffered the penalty of his greatness. He called himself “the martyr of laughter”; because the comic paper, The Corsair, made a butt of him, heaping upon him malicious ridicule. And, as everyone knows, against a witticism there is no defense possible. An epigram may kill a whole philosophy in a dozen volumes. The purpose of Soren Kierkegaard was to gain a new and more rational basis for Christianity, whereby it might re-conquer the heartfelt allegiance of the educated classes. He wars, in a long series of brilliant books against the official orthodoxy as represented by the state church and its clergy. His contemporary, Bishop Martensen (1808-1884), the well-known author of “Christian Ethics” and “Church Dogmatics,” upon whom the duty of their defense rested, held aloof from the controversy, possibly because he felt that he was, neither in profundity of thought nor brilliancy of dialectics, a match for Kierkegaard. Nor was the quondam disciple and adherent of Kierkegaard, Professor Rasmus Nielsen, who after a fashion continued his work, in any way compared with him. His attempts to reconcile religion and science reminds one of a tight-rope performance,- a tour de force in ingenious reasoning-a clever balancing in perilous altitudes with imminent danger of a somersault into space. The utter untenability of his position has been demonstrated with great logical cogency by Dr. Brandes. Among the most remarkable books of Kierkegaard (which, as far as I know, have been translated into German) are “Either-Or,” and “Stages on the Path of Life.

Imitating a practice which has been extensively developed in America and England, a German publishing house has begun the publication of a series of Philosophical Classics, being monographs on the life and work of the leading philosophers of all times. The series, which is edited by Prof. Richard Falckenberg, of Erlangen, begins with the three volumes before us, and will be supplemented by the following: “Galileo,” by Dr. Natorp, of Marburg; “Bayle,” by Dr. Eucken, of Jena; “Hume,” by Dr. Riehl, of Kiel; “Kant,” by Dr.Paulsen, of Berlin; “Rousseau,” by Dr. Hoffding, of Copenhagen;

From its cheapness and promised solidity the series will doubtless be a valuable acquisition to the popular literature of the history of philosophy, and although some of the subjects have been much overworked, there are several concerning which it would be difficult to find the same information in other places. This is notably the case with the three initial volumes of the series-“Fechner,” “Hobbes,” and “Kierkegaard.” these three philosophers receive here excellent treatment at the hands of recognized authorities, who have, in addition suggestive material of their own to offer.

The personality of S. Kierkegaard, although a commanding figure in Danish life and thought, is little known outside the boundaries of his native country, and, if we except the accidental acquaintanceship made by superficial students of Danish literature, even this knowledge is shared only by men of kindred spirit, whose aspirations run in the same channel. Of that great movement which has now for a quarter of a century been slowly gathering irresistible force, and whose aim is to reach a juster and more practical conception of the laws regulating human conduct, and particularly to harmonize the traditions touching this matter with the reasoned thought of the present, Kierkegaard was one of the greatest forerunners and most powerful exponents. The importance and power of Kierkegaard, like that of Socrates (he was the Socrates of Copenhagen), lies mainly in his personality. The mainspring of his entire thought and action was his colossal hypochondria, his distinctest patrimony, stamping every lineament of his life. his subjectivism in philosophy, his individualism in ethics and in religion are its logical issues, and in it, too, we find the full psychological explanation of the scheme of philosophy which he elaborated. His works are numerous and bear mainly upon the burning ethical problems of existence. They have all an intensely practical bearing, and, in style, the incisive forcefulness which comes from straightforward and honest effort. His prose, direct, homey, and vivid, jointed to great persuasive power, wealth of metaphor, satire and invective, stands unrivaled in Danish literature. If he is not more widely known it is mainly because of his singular excellence in this regard. For although some of his work has been translated into German, like Carlyle and Emerson, he must be read in his native language to be adequately appreciated-and students of Danish are few.

As to his philosophy, its fundamental features are determined by the predominantly religious cast and effort of his thought, which studied psychology and ethics merely as a propaedeutics of a mode of life. His interests were never purely theoretical or scientific, but ethical, educational, and salvational. It is the main and only proper aim of thought, he contends, to discover the methods by which man is best fitted to lead a moral life in this world. He attempted this by first seeking a method of life for himself and afterwards establishing its validity for others. He regarded it as his duty “to raise difficulties” in the world of thought, which has, by the way, always been the philosophical method, and to exhibit the breaches between the logical consequences of ideas and the practical compromises which the world, by the exigencies of historical evolution, has been forced to make. He was bent upon unmasking the illusions and deceptions which man had thus imposed upon himself. His criterion of truth was absolute subjective clearness on all points – a view which had its roots in his intense and supersaturated egoism-and, this clearness reached, the courageous and honest adoption of the alternative presented as the upshot of such investigations. Either-Or, was his motto, the title of one of his most important works, and the name by which his unique figure was known even to the gamins in the streets of Copenhagen.

This same feature leads to an important characteristic of his general scheme of thought, which he has termed the leap or saltus-the cold plunge of resolution, the mental acrobatic feat which precedes all momentous decisions and which, in his view, marked even the growing action of nature. He knew nothing of evolution, and did not even permit its most natural and primitive intimates to affect his system. There was no continuity for him either in the natural or in the mental world-all went by breaches, ruptures, solutions of unity. He had absolutely no sense for the organic, nor even for the determinative aspects of existence. Things leapt into existence, they became not. By such magical somersaults the world grew; by such its institutions were born, and by them man, too, was destined to carve out his salvation. In the same in-deterministic fashion Christianity was catapulted into existence, and, having existed, illogically enough was foreordained to continue ever after as it originally was, unmodified by history or circumstances, and admitting of no compromise with the world or worldliness.

Kierkegaard’s battle for the rehabilitation of primitive Christianity in its purest, rigidest, and most unadulterated form, was the crowning achievement of his life. It brought him into conflict with the ruling church, which he repudiated as a dishonest and hypocritical compromise with the worldly spirit of the times, and subjected him to not a little annoyance in the way of petty persecutions, which were rendered more easily by sundry grotesque features of his thought and personality. He was a standing figure in the comic journals of Copenhagen,-a distinction which he resented bitterly, - and having been once maliciously of a discrepancy in the longitude of his trousers’ legs, gravely refuted the charge in his diary. But these were mere wrinkles on the anatomy of his greatness. His ideality, moral earnestness, his great literary power and puissant manliness, render him a gigantic figure in Denmark, and certainly one of uncommon stature in the race. For as a religious thinker, even by the world’s standard, he will stand high, although as a philosopher his position is not so lofty; and it is not the least of Prof. Harald Hoffding’s merits in this appreciation of his life to have pointed out frankly the obvious inconsistencies in his doctrine.

  • The briefest description of Soren Kierkegaard’s youth is given in his Journal: ‘I could perhaps reproduce the tragedy of my childhood, the terrifying mysterious explanation of religion which an anxious foreboding played into my hands, which my imagination worked upon, and the scandal which religion aroused in me, all in a novel called “the mysterious family”. It would begin on an entirely idyllic, patriarchal note so that no one would suspect anything until suddenly the word sounded which translated everything into terror.’[Journals IVA 144 editor] Soren Aaby Kierkegaard was born in Copenhagen on 5 May 1813. As a child he was outwardly happy and cheerful, but his happiness concealed and inherited melancholy which only found peace and security in his father’s house. But as he grew older the differences between him and his father could no longer be concealed, and for a time he went to live alone; an unusual event in Copenhagen in those days. Nevertheless his father was the man he loved most and to whom he owed most. Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard (1756-1838) was the son of Jutland peasants. Born in the poorest circumstances he went, when still a child, to Copenhagen, where he amassed an ample fortune. Michael Pedersen was a severe, God-fearing man who dominated his family autocratically, and the idyllic note must have been less apparent than the patriarchal. But he was unusually witty and combined the shrewdness of the peasant with a lively mind and a remarkable dialectical ability, characteristics which his youngest son inherited. In 1786 he sold his draper’s business and devoted himself to the study of theology, and sat at the feet of his friend Bishop J.P. Mynster, the intellectual leader and afterwards the primate of the Danish State Church. But neither Mynster’s friendship nor his study of theology brought him consolation, or an answer to the problems of conscience which success in trade had not dissipated. The origin of this ‘silent despair’ is known from his son’s Journal: ‘How terrible for the man who once as a child, while herding flocks on the heaths of Jutland, suffering greatly, in hunger and in want, stood upon a hill and cursed God-and he was unable to forget it even when he was eighty-two years old.’ [Journals VII 1A 5 editor] The further events which came to strengthen his despair are not known, but that is its source, as it is also the source of Kierkegaard’s ‘inborn dread’. Its importance lies rather in the effect which Kierkegaard’s discovery of his father’s sin produced. His education did little to prepare him for the discovery that the ‘one unshakable support’ had wavered in his faith.
    • Soren Kierkegaard by Theodor Haecker, translated, and with a biographical note by w:Alexander Dru, Oxford University Press, London 1937 Biographical Note
  • We shall consider Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) only as a philosopher, leaving out of account his esthetic and religious activities, which have taken such deep hold on the life of the North.
    • Harald Høffding, in A Brief History of Modern Philosophy Sixth Book: The Philosophy of Romanticism (1912), p. 201
  • I approach the presentation of Kierkegaard with some trepidation. Next to Nietzsche, or rather, prior to Nietzsche, I consider him to be the most important thinker of our post-Kantian age.
  • Dear reader! Kierkegaard might say; pray be so good as to look for my thinking in these pages-not for Nietzsche's, Brath's, or Heidegger's, De Tocqueville's, or anyone else's. And least of all, dear reader, fancy that if you should find that a few others have said, too, what I have said, that makes it true. Oh, least of all suppose that numbers can create some small presumption of the truth of an idea. What I would have you ask, dear reader, is not whether I am in good company: to be candid, I should have much preferred to stand alone, as a matter of principle; and besides I do not like the men whom the kissing Judases insist on lumping me. Rather ask yourself if I am right. And if I am not, then for heaven's sake do not pretend that I am, emphasizing a few points that are reasonable, even if not central to my thought, while glossing over those ideas which you do not like, or which, in retrospect, are plainly wrong, although I chose to take my stand on them. Do not forget, dear reader, that I made a point of taking for my motto (in my Philosophical Scraps): 'Better well hung than ill wed!'
    • Walter Kaufmann Introduction to The Present Age, Soren Kierkegaard, Dru 1940, 1962 p. 18-19
  • "I am glad to write a few words at the author’s request as a Foreword to his book on Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard, as Mr. Croxall tells us, was suspicious of disciples, and would have thought it dreadful if his writings had been elaborated into a philosophy or a system; but he would have rejoiced, I think, that all sorts of people are nowadays reading what he wrote."
  • As a thinker, Soren Kierkegaard was concerned with humanity’s most central existential problems. Therefore, he also sought answers to such important questions as a person’s relation to society and politics and the relation between the sexes. Kierkegaard’s honest and original treatment of these subjects is based on a penetrating knowledge of the presuppositions of the human mind and spirit. Consequently it is of value to become acquainted with what Kierkegaard has to say on these questions, and it is especially pertinent in an age when everything is opened to debate and confusion seems to prevail. Since Kierkegaard in his view of mankind places the main emphasis on the spiritual, his thoughts invariably arouse conflict, insofar as it is material and earthly happiness that people are primarily seeking. But this very controversial aspect of Kierkegaard can be the occasion for a testing and investigating of one’s own philosophy of life. As far as I can make out, it will be Kierkegaard’s wide-ranging, down-to-earth, and consistent thinking to which men must turn in the future in order to cure the rootlessness of the age and in order to find a new point of departure for their own life and for their relation to their fellow human beings.
    • Gregor Malantschuk, in the Preface to his The Controversial Kierkegaard (1980), as translated by Howard V. Hong
  • What has been here charged against Vinet is true in a greater degree in regard to S. Kierkegaard, who, with great talent and powerful one-sidedness, has been with us the advocate of individualism. As his support of individualism forms a remarkable episode in Danish literature, we shall dwell at somewhat greater length on the matter, although the principal consideration has been already discussed in reference to Vinet, so that what follows on it may be regarded as an episode in the present work. As with Vinet, the contrast between individualism and socialism also with Kierkegaard goes back to a higher, — namely, the contrast between individualism and universalism.
    • Dr. Hans Lassen Martensen, in Christian Ethics (1891), p. 217
  • Kierkegaard’s little book The Concept of Anxiety was first published in 1844. We have only to compare Kierkegaard with Spinoza to appreciate how different was the cultural climate of the nineteenth century from that of the seventeenth. Spinoza and Kierkegaard both had broad ethical and religious bases for their thoughts, and both were remarkably gifted with psychological insight and intuition. But whereas Spinoza in his time sought, with considerable success, rational certitude in the form of geometric proofs in his dealing with fear, Kierkegaard wrote in his day, “in the same degree that the excellence of the proof increases, certitude seems to decrease.” He who “has observed the contemporary generation will surely not deny that the incongruity in it and the reason for its anxiety and restlessness is this, that in one direction truth increases in extent, in mass, partly also in abstract clarity, whereas certitude steadily decreases.” Certitude, he believes, was an inner quality of integrity attainable only by the individual who could think, feel, act as a psychological and ethical unity. Kierkegaard emphatically rejected traditional rationalism as artificial. He vehemently argued that Hegel's system, which identified abstract thought with reality, was a way of tricking men into an avoidance of the reality of their human situation. “Away from speculation,” he cried, “away from ‘the system’ and back to reality!” He insisted that thinking cannot be divorced from feeling and willing, that “truth exists for the particular individual only as he himself produces it in action.”
    • Rollo May, in Psychology and the Human Dilemma (1979), 1996 edition, p. 66-67
  • Hegel was the great system-maker. What others viewed as his grand achievement Kierkegaard viewed as his unforgivable crime, the attempt to rationally systematize the whole of existence. The whole of existence cannot be systematized, Kierkegaard insisted, because existence is not yet whole; it is incomplete and in a state of constant development. Hegel attempted to introduce mobility into logic, which, said Kierkegaard, is itself an error in logic. The greatest of Hegel’s errors, however, was his claim that he had established the objective theory of knowledge. Kierkegaard countered with the argument that subjectivity is truth. As he put it, “The objective uncertainty maintained in the most passionate spirit of dedication is truth, the highest truth for one existing.” ... Kierkegaard, it remains to be said, is not a systematic theologian. We know what he thought of systems and system makers, of which Hegel was the prime example. There is hardly a page in his writings that does not prompt from the systematically minded reader a protest against disconnections and apparent contradictions. Like Flannery O'Connor, he shouted to the hard of hearing and drew startling pictures for the almost blind.
  • English-Speaking Peoples are becoming increasingly interested in the writings of Soren Kierkegaard because of three scholarly efforts, particularly. Hollander published “Selections From the Writings of Kierkegaard” in the University of Texas Bulletin-unfortunately now out of print. This was probably the first introduction of the Danish philosopher to English readers. Then in 1936 The Princeton University Press issued David F. Swenson’s translation of Philosophical Fragments, which requires a bit of concentration to read intelligently, but is well worth a student’s attention. And now, in this year The Oxford University Press publishes Dr. Walter Lowrie’s Kierkegaard. References have been made to the Danish philosopher’s work elsewhere, of course. George Brandes, the Jew: Unamuno, the Spanish Catholic and Baron Von Hugel all quote him provocatively. Von Hugel, in his “Mystical Elements of Religion” (E.P. Dutton, 1909) refers to “that most stimulating, profound, tragically non-mystical” religious ascetic and thinker.” Mother Mary Maude, CSM writing in the Living Church, October of this year questions Von Hugel’s “non-mystical” and points out that while Kierkegaard himself disclaimed the title of mystic, his personal experiences, psychologically and intellectually, closely paralleled the classic stages of mystical theology. The Oxford University Press published in 1937 Theodore Haecker’s Essays on Kierkegaard, in which the Scandinavian’s work is described as “poetry, philosophy, psychology and theology”. It is, indeed, all of that and requires strong mental teeth for mastication. As Mother Mary Maude says “he attracts and he repels, but he makes men think; that was his constant aim and object.” How right she is! I still have a headache.
    • Looking at Life, Soren Kierkegaard by Raimundo de Ovice, The San Antonio Express, Saturday Morning, December 10, 1938,
  • Kierkegaard is an Existentialist because he accepts, as fully as Sartre or Camus, the absurdity of the world. But he does not begin with the postulate of the non-existence of God, but with the principle that nothing in the world, nothing available to sense or reason, provides any knowledge or reason to believe in God. While traditional Christian theologians, like St. Thomas Aquinas, saw the world as providing evidence of God's existence, and also thought that rational arguments a priori could establish the existence of God, Kierkegaard does not think that this is the case. But Kierkegaard's conclusion about this could just as easily be derived from Sartre's premises. After all, if the world is absurd, and everything we do is absurd anyway, why not do the most absurd thing imaginable? And what could be more absurd than to believe in God? So why not? The atheists don't have any reason to believe in anything else, or really even to disbelieve in that, so we may as well go for it!
  • Kierkegaard called his philosophy existential - this means: he thought in order to live and did not live in order to think. And in this lies his distinction from professional philosophers, for whom their philosophy is frequently only a "specialty" (as there are all kinds of other specialties: philology, astronomy, mathematics), a specialty that has no relationship and no connection with their life.
    • Lev Shestov, Kierkegaard as a Religious Philosopher, 1938
  • As a thorough Christian — or, as he would have put it, infinitely interested in becoming one — Søren Kierkegaard addressed himself neither to Jews nor to Judaism. But they have overheard him. In part because they could not help it... Jews are well advised to be on the alert for what they can learn not only about him but about themselves also.
    • Rabbi Milton Steinberg, in "Kierkegaard and Judaism" in The Menorah Journal 37:2 (1949)
  • It would be interesting to speculate upon the reputation that Kierkegaard might have attained, and the extent of the influence he might have exerted, if he had written in one of the major European languages, instead of in the tongue of one of the smallest countries in the world. An idealism more powerful and more consistent than that of either Emerson or Carlyle, a democratic individualism as thorough-going as the aristocratic individualism of Nietszche, and presented with an equally passionate intensity, an ethical voluntarism clothed in a literary form as persuasive as that of Schopenhauer's philosophy, and a species of pragmatism more carefully and thoroughly worked out than that of either James or Bergson these qualities must have attracted world-wide attention.
    • David F. Swenson, in "Soren Kierkegaard" in Scandinavian Studies and Notes, Vol. VI, No. 7 (August 1921), p. 40-41
  • First, the individual's self-consciousness must be so far developed, so profoundly stirred, that it confronts the ideal of an absolute good, an eternal telos, which is identical with its own immortality. Otherwise no consciousness of sin in the Christian sense can ever arise. The existence of such an ideal for the individual is not determined by the possession of a more or less adequate intellectual conception of what this good may be, in the sense of logical content, but depends solely on whether the individual acknowledges something which is absolutely the transformation of his personal existence, so that all other ends become by comparison relative. This is existential pathos, which expresses itself, not as esthetic pathos is satisfied to express itself, namely in words, but in deeds, or rather in an inner transformation and direction of the subject's existence with respect to the absolute good. The development of this attitude is tantamount to the development of the personality to its highest potentiality.
    • David F. Swenson, Something About Kierkegaard, Chapter VII Kierkegaard's Treatment of the Doctrine of Sin p. 179, 1941, 1945 Augsburg Publishing House
  • Sir, and beloved Brother in Jesus Christ,— Two months have elapsed since the death of Dr. Soren Kierkegaard, who excited so much agitation in the Church of Denmark, by numerous philosophical works, designed to expose Christianity, published in the course of the last ten years, most of them appearing under assumed names. They treat chiefly of the power of science and art, and of their influence on religion.
    • J. Vahl, in a translation of a Bulletin de Monde Chrétien (23 January1856) in the April 1856 section of Evangelical Christendom : Christian Work and the News of the Churches, p. 127
  • Kierkegaard seeks to un-socialize the individual in order to un-deify society.
    • Merold Westphal, in Kierkegaard’s Critique of Reason and Society (1992), p. 34
  • Kierkegaard was by far the most profound thinker of the last century. Kierkegaard was a saint.
    • Ludwig Wittgenstein, as quoted in "Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard on the ethico-religious" by Roe Fremstedal in Ideas in History Vol. 1 (2006)

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