Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855) was a Danish Christian philosopher and theologian, considered to be a founder of Existentialist thought and Absurdist traditions. He wrote critical texts on organized religion, Christendom, morality, ethics, psychology and philosophy of religion, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and parables.
- See also:
- 1 Quotes
- 1.1 1830s
- 1.2 1840s
- 1.2.1 The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, 1840s
- 1.2.2 Johannes Climacus (1841)
- 1.2.3 On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates (1841)
- 1.2.4 Either/Or (1843)
- 1.2.5 Upbuilding Discourses (1843-1844)
- 1.2.6 Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses
- 1.2.7 Fear and Trembling (1843)
- 1.2.8 Repetition (1843)
- 1.2.9 Sermon Preached at Trinitatis Kirke, 1844
- 1.2.10 Philosophical Fragments (1844)
- 1.2.11 Prefaces (1844)
- 1.2.12 Writing Sampler (1844)
- 1.2.13 The Concept of Anxiety (1844)
- 1.2.14 Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions (1845)
- 1.2.15 Stages on Life's Way (1845)
- 1.2.16 Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846)
- 1.2.17 Two Ages: A Literary Review (1846)
- 1.2.18 The Book on Adler (1846-1847)
- 1.2.19 Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits (1847)
- 1.2.20 Works of Love (1847)
- 1.2.21 The Point of View for My Work as an Author (1848)
- 1.2.22 Christian Discourses (1848)
- 1.2.23 Two Ethical-Religious Minor Essays (1849)
- 1.2.24 The Sickness unto Death (July 30, 1849)
- 1.2.25 Three Discourses at the Communion on Fridays (1849)
- 1.3 1850s
- 1.3.1 The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, 1850s
- 1.3.2 Practice in Christianity (September 1850)
- 1.3.3 An Upbuilding Discourse December 20, 1850
- 1.3.4 Two Discourses at Friday Communion (August 1851)
- 1.3.5 For Self-Examination (1851)
- 1.3.6 Judge For Yourselves! 1851 (1876)
- 1.3.7 Attack upon Christendom (1855)
- 2 Disputed
- 3 Misattributed
- 4 Quotations about Kierkegaard
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
- Quotes are arranged in chronological order
The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, 1830s
- 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
- 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 Søren Kierkegaard 1A 8, 1834
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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 Søren Kierkegaard 1A75, 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
- 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
- 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)
- There is a contrast of primary significance between Augustine and Pelagius. The former crushes everything in order to rebuild it again. The other addresses himself to man as he is. The first system, therefore, in respect to Christianity, falls into three stages: creation – the fall and a consequent condition of death and impotence; a new creation – whereby man is placed in a position where he can choose; and then, if he chooses – Christianity. The other system addresses itself to man as he is (Christianity fits into the world). From this is seen the significance of the theory of inspiration for the first system; from this also is seen the relationship between the synergistic and the semipelagian conflict. It is the same question, only that the syngeristic struggle has its presupposition in the new creation of the Augustinian system.
- Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, Volume 1 Hong translation 1967 p. 14-15 1 A 101 January 14, 1837
- 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
- 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.
- On Regine Olsen (2 February 1839)
- 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)
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, 1840s
- It belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Det er ganske sandt, hvad Philosophien siger, at Livet maa forstaaes baglænds. Men derover glemmer man den anden Sætning, at det maa leves forlænds.
- It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.
- Journals IV A 164 (1843)
- See Phenomenology: Critical Concepts in Philosophy, by Dermot Moran (2002)
- We live forward, but we understand backward.
- Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
- Death cannot explain itself. The earnestness consists precisely in this, that the observer must explain it to himself.
- Pap VI B 120:13 1845
- 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
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Job endured everything — until his friends came to comfort him, then he grew impatient.
- 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
Johannes Climacus (1841)
Søren Kierkegaard (1841) Johannes Climacus: Or: A Life of Doubt. Republished by Serpent's Tail, 1 aug. 2001
- 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
- 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
- The similarity between Christ and Socrates consists essentially in their dissimilarity. Just as philosophy begins with doubt, so also a life that may be called human begins with irony.
- Socrates did not stop with a philosophical consideration of mankind; he addressed himself to each one individually, wrested everything from him, and sent him away empty-handed.
- p. 173
- The Sophist demonstrates that everything is true and nothing is true.
- p. 205
- The world is rejuvenated, but as Heine so wittily remarked, it was rejuvenated by romanticism to such a degree that it became a baby again.
- p. 304
- Concepts, like individuals, have their histories, and are just as incapable of withstanding the ravages of time as are individuals.
- Irony is a qualification of subjectivity.
- Irony limits, finitizes, and circumscribes and thereby yields truth, actuality, content; it disciplines and punishes and thereby yields balance and consistency.
- 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.
- p. 246-247
- Let others complain that the age is wicked; my complaint is that it is paltry; for it lacks passion. Men’s thoughts are thin and flimsy like lace, they are themselves pitiable like the lacemakers. The thoughts of their hearts are too paltry to be sinful. For a worm it might be regarded as a sin to harbor such thoughts, but not for a being made in the image of God. Their lusts are dull and sluggish, their passions sleepy. They do their duty, these shopkeeping souls, but they clip the coin a trifle, like the Jews; they think that even if the Lord keeps ever so careful a set of books, they may still cheat Him a little. Out upon them! This is the reason my soul always turns back to the Old Testament and to Shakespeare. I feel that those who speak there are at least human beings; they hate, they love, they murder their enemies, and curse their descendants throughout all generations, they sin.
- Swenson, 1959, p. 27
- Old age realizes the dreams of youth: look at Dean Swift; in his youth he built an asylum for the insane, in his old age he was himself an inmate.
- Swenson, 1959, p. 21
- Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.
- Swenson, 1959, p. 28
- Married people pledge love for each other throughout eternity. Well, now, that is easy enough but does not mean very much, for if one is finished with time one is probably finished with eternity. If, instead of saying "throughout eternity," the couple would say, "until Easter, until next May Day," then what they say would make some sense, for then they would be saying something and also something they perhaps could carry out.
- Hong, 1987/2013. p. 296
Upbuilding Discourses (1843-1844)
- 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.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 37
- If one prefers to have little with blessing, to have truth with concern, to suffer instead of exulting over imagined victories, then one presumably will not be disposed to praise the knowledge, as if what it bestows were at all proportionate to the trouble it causes, although one would not therefore deny that through its pain it educates a person, if he is honest enough to want to be educated rather than to be deceived, out of the multiplicity to seek the one, out of abundance to seek the one thing needful, as this is plainly and simply offered precisely according to the need for it.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 128-129
Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses
- 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)
- 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.
- 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
- 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
Fear and Trembling (1843)
- Not merely in the realm of commerce but in the world of ideas as well our age is organizing a regular clearance sale. Everything is to be had at such a bargain that it is questionable whether in the end there is anybody who will want to bid. Every speculative price-fixer who conscientiously directs attention to the significant march of modern philosophy, every Privatdocent, tutor, and student, every crofter and cottar goes further. Perhaps it would be untimely and ill-timed to ask them where they are going.
- An old proverb fetched from the outward and visible world says: "Only the man that works gets the bread." Strangely enough this proverb does not aptly apply in that world to which it expressly belongs. For the outward world is subjected to the law of imperfection, and again and again the experience is repeated that he too who does not work gets the bread, and that he who sleeps gets it more abundantly than the man who works. In the outward world everything is made payable to the bearer, this world is in bondage to the law of indifference, and to him who has the ring, the spirit of the ring is obedient, whether he be Noureddin or Aladdin, and he who has the world's treasure, has it, however he got it.
- Problemata: Preliminary Expectoration
After all, in the poets love has its priests, and sometimes one hears a voice which knows how to defend it; but of faith one hears never a word. Who speaks in honor of this passion? Philosophy goes further. Theology sits rouged at the window and courts its favor, offering to sell her charms to philosophy. it is supposed to be difficult to understand Hegel, but to understand Abraham is a trifle. To go beyond Hegel's is a miracle, but to get beyond Abraham is the easiest thing of all.
- Problemata: Preliminary Expectoration
- 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
- 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?
- Voice: Young Man
- 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
Sermon Preached at Trinitatis Kirke, 1844
- In the Church which was founded at Corinth, St. Paul had special difficulties of the kind I have mentioned. In that flourishing commercial city, which through its shipping and situation, maintained a vital connexion between East and West, numerous crowds of people flocked together from all quarters, different in speech and in culture. As they mingled with the inhabitants, they produced, by contacts and contrasts, new and ever new differences. Even in the Church this differentiation endeavoured to make itself felt in sects and parties; and a kind of pagan wisdom made a special attempt to force itself forward as a teacher of truth. In his first letter to this church, from which the text I read is taken, St. Paul strongly combats this tendency.
- P. 162
- My hearers, this discourse has not wandered out into the world to look for conflict, it has not tried to get the better of anybody, it has not even tried to uphold anybody, as though there was battle without. It has spoken to you; not by way of explaining anything to you, but trying to speak secretly with you about your relationship to that secret wisdom mentioned in our text. Oh that nothing may upset you in respect to this, “neither life nor death nor things present nor things to come nor any other creature” (Romans 8:38) –not this discourse, which, though it may have profited you nothing, yet has striven for what after all is the first and the last, to help you have what the Scripture calls “faith in yourself before God” (Romans 14:22).
- P. 173
Philosophical Fragments (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.
- p. 32
- 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.
- p. 75
- 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?
- p. 76
- Posito I assume and when I say posito, I have the right to assume the unlikely; therefore posito, I assume that Mr. A.A., whose promises supposedly have not weakened him, went to work and wrote the system. Posito, I assume, and when I say posito, I have the right to assume what is more unreasonable than the most unreasonable; therefore; posito, I assume that if Mr. A.A. did not write the system, then Mr. B.B. wrote it-then what? Let us linger for a moment on this thought, with which, of course, we have all been familiar for several years: the thought of the prospect for the hope of the system. Therefore, in order to be very brief, posito, I assume that the system appeared here in Copenhagen, then what? Then one would indeed have to read it, unless Mr. C.C. would instantly be kind and philanthropic enough to promise a summary of the system and also position us in the point of view; then we would again be saved by the promise. If this does not happen, then of course one would have to read it. How troublesome, and who would finally benefit from that?
- Prefaces, Nichol, 1997 p. 39-40
Writing Sampler (1844)
- Translated by Todd Nichol along with Prefaces 1997
- In an age as agitated as ours, it no longer suffices just to be advertised in the newspaper. To be advertised in this way is the same thing as being consigned to oblivion. If one is to be noticed, once must as least appear on the first page under a hand that points to and, as it were, announces or advertises the advertisement.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Writing Sampler, Nichol P. 73
- Therefore create me! You, the most esteemed, cultured public, are in possession of nervus rerum gerendarum [the moving force to accomplish something]. Just a word from you, a promise to purchase what I write, or, if it is possible, so that everything can be in order immediately, a little advance payment – and I am an author; I shall remain one as long as this favor lasts.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Writing Sampler, Nichol P. 75
- When one merely states that one has many subscribers and keeps on saying it, then one gets many; just as when one sheep goes to water, the next one also goes, and when it is continually said of a large flock of sheep that they go hither and yon to water, then the rest must also go, so people believe that it must be the demand of the times, that for the sake of use and custom – they must also subscribe.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Writing Sampler, Nichol P. 89-90
The Concept of Anxiety (1844)
- 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.
- p. 44-45
- 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.
- p. 49
- 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.
- 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.
- p. 61
- 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?
- 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.
- p. 96-97
Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions (1845)
- Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Søren Kierkegaard, June 17, 1844; Hong, 1993.
- 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.
- p. 6 : Preface
- 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!
- p. 48
- 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.
- p. 83
Stages on Life's Way (1845)
- 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
- 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
- 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
Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846)
- 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
- 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
Two Ages: A Literary Review (1846)
- It has often been said that a reformation should begin with each man reforming himself. That, however, is not what actually happened, for the reformation produced a hero who paid God dearly enough for his position as hero. By joining up with him directly people buy cheap, indeed at bargain prices, what he had paid for so dearly; but they do not buy the highest of all things.
- The Present Age, by Søren Kierkegaard, 1846, Dru translation 1962, p. 56-57
- It is not uncommon to hear a man who has become confused about what he should do in a particular situation complain about the unique nature of the situation, thinking that he could easily act if the situation were a great event with only one either/or. This is a mistake and a hallucination of the understanding. There is no such situation. The presence of the crucial either/or depends upon the individual’s own impassioned desire directed toward acting decisively, upon the individual’s own intrinsic competence, and therefore a competent man covets an either/or in every situation because he does not want anything more. But as soon as the individual no longer has essential enthusiasm in his passion but is spoiled by letting his understanding frustrate him every time he is going to act, he never in his life discovers the disjunction. And even if his penetrating, resourceful understanding is adequate for managing an entire household, he still has not had an understanding of his life in advance or in the moment of action, and it cannot be understood afterwords, either, because the action essentially did not take place, and the coherence of his life, became a garrulous continuation or a continued garrulity, a participial or infinitive phrase in which the subject must be understood or, more correctly, cannot be located at all because, as the grammarians say, the meaning does not make it clear for the simple reason that it lacks meaning. The whole thing becomes a flux, a blend of a little resolution and a little situation, a little prudence and a little courage, a little probability and a little faith, a little action and a little incident. Anyone who has made the fraudulent trade of getting abnormally good sense by losing the capacity to will and the passion to act is very inclined to stiffen his spinelessness with various and sundry predeliberations that feel their way ahead and various and sundry postmortem reinterpretations of what happened. Compared to this, an action is a brief something and apparently a poor something, yet it is in fact a definite something. The other is more splendid, but for all that it is a splendid shabbiness.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Two Ages: A Literary Review, 1846, Hong 1978/2009, pp. 67–68
- If I tried to imagine the public as a particular person (for although some better individuals momentarily belong to the public they nevertheless have something concrete about them, which holds them in its grip even if they have not attained the supreme religious attitude), I should perhaps think of one of the Roman emperors, a large well-fed figure, suffering from boredom, looking only for the sensual intoxication of laughter, since the divine gift of wit is not earthly enough. And so for a change he wanders about, indolent rather than bad, but with a negative desire to dominate. Every one who has read the classical authors knows how many things a Caesar could try out in order to kill time. In the same way the public keeps a dog to amuse it. That dog is the sum of the literary world. If there is some one superior to the rest, perhaps even a great man, the dog is set on him and the fun begins. The dog goes for him, snapping and tearing at his coat-tails, allowing itself every possible ill-mannered familiarity – until the public tires, and says it may stop. That is an example of how the public levels. Their betters and superiors in strength are mishandled – and the dog remains a dog which even the public despises. The leveling is therefore done by a third party; a non-existent public leveling with the help of a third party which in its significance is less than nothing, being already more than leveled.
- The Present Age 1846 by Søren Kierkegaard, translated by Alexander Dru 1962, p. 65-66
The Book on Adler (1846-1847)
- Magister Adler was deeply moved by something higher, but now when he wants to express his thoughts in words, wants to communicate, he confuses the subjective with the objective, his altered subjective state with an external event, the dawning of a light upon him with the coming into existence of something new outside him, the falling of the veil from his eyes with his having had a revelation. Subjectively his emotion is carried to the extreme; he wants to select the most powerful expression to describe it and by means of a mental deception grasps the objective qualification: having had a revelation.
- The Book of Adler, by Søren Kierkegaard, Hong 1998 p. 117
- Everyone who knows something about the dangers of reflection and the dangerous walk along the road of reflection also knows that it is dubious when a person, instead of getting out of the tension through resolution and action, becomes productive about his state in tension. Then there is no effort to get out of the state, but reflection fixes the situation for reflection and thereby fixes the man. The more richly thoughts and expressions offer themselves, the more briskly the productivity advances-in the wrong direction-the more dangerous it becomes and the more it hides from the person, concerned that his work, his extremely strenuous work, his very interesting (perhaps also for a third party who has a total view) work, is a work of bogging himself down deeper and deeper. That is, he does not work himself loose but works himself fast and becomes interesting to himself by reflecting on the tension and diverts himself with an utterly piecemeal productivity about detached details, with isolated short articles.
- The Book of Adler, by Søren Kierkegaard, Hong 1998 p. 127
Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits (1847)
- If it is God who gives the spirit of power and strength, then it is also the same God who gives “the spirt of self-control,” and if ignoble cowardice and fear of people are just as detestable in any age, the excess of eager enthusiasm, “zeal without wisdom,” are no less corrupting and at times are fundamentally just as detestable, just as blasphemous.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 323
- People are scarcely aware that it is a slavery they are creating; they forget this in their zeal to make people free by overthrowing dominions. They are scarcely aware that it is slavery; how could it be possible to be a slave in relation to equals?
- Søren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 327
Purity of Heart (1847)
Purity of Heart was translated in 1938 by Douglas V. Steere and was the first part of Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits.
- The two guides call out to a man early and late. And yet, no, for when remorse calls to a man it is always late. The call to find the way again by seeking out God in the confession of sins is always at the eleventh hour. Whether you are young or old, whether you have sinned much or little, whether you have offended much or neglected much, the guilt makes this call come at the eleventh hour. The inner agitation of the heart understands what remorse insists upon, that the eleventh hour has come. For in the sense of time, the old man’s age is the eleventh hour; and the instant of death, the final moment in the eleventh hour. The indolent youth speaks of a long life that lies before him. The indolent old man hopes that his death is still a long way off. But repentance and remorse belong to the eternal in a man.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, 1847 p. 40-41
- 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.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart, 1847 Steere translation p. 196-197
- 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.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, 1847 p. 197-198
Works of Love (1847)
- Works of Love: Some Christian Deliberations in the Form of Discourses [Kjerlighedens Gjerninger. Nogle christelige Overveielser i Talers Form] (1847)
- Quotes from 1995 translation by Howard H. Hong and Edna H. Hong
- How could one speak properly about love if you were forgotten, you God of love, source of all love in heaven and on earth; you who spared nothing but in love gave everything; you who are love, so that one who loves is what he is only by being in you.
- opening prayer, p. 3
- 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. ... We can be deceived by believing what is untrue, but we certainly are also deceived by not believing what is true. ... Which deception is more dangerous?
- p. 5
- Forgetting when God does it in relation to sin, is the opposite of creating, since to create is to bring forth from nothing and to forget is to take back into nothing. What is hidden from my eyes, that I have never seen; but what is hidden behind my back, that I have seen. The one who loves forgives in this way; he forgives, he forgets, he blots out the sin, in love he turns toward the one he forgives; but when he turns toward him, he of course, cannot see what is lying behind his back.
- p. 296
- If you listen carefully, in what most definitely must be called Gospel you yourself will hear also rigorousness. For example, what Jesus says to the centurion from Capernaum, “If we will apply these words to ourselves, we are obliged to say, “Be it done for you as you believe; if you have faith unto salvation, then you will be saved.” (Matthew 8:13) How lenient, how merciful! But is it also certain, then, that I have faith-I surely cannot summarily transfer to myself the fact that the centurion believed, as if I had faith because the centurion had it. Let us suppose that someone asked Christianity, “Is it also certain, then, that I have faith?” Christianity would answer, “Be it done for you as you believe.”
- p. 378
The Point of View for My Work as an Author (1848)
- The Point of View, Lowrie.
- 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.
- 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.
- p. 49
- I have never definitely broken with Christianity nor renounced it. To attack it has never been my thought. No, from the time when there could be any question of the employment of my powers, I was firmly determined to employ them all to defend Christianity, or in any case to present it in its true form.
- The Point of View for My Work as An Author, Soren Kierkegaard, translated by Walter Lowrie 1939, 1962 P. 77
Christian Discourses (1848)
- Sin is man’s destruction. Only the rust of sin can consume the soul-or eternally destroy it. For here indeed is the remarkable thing from which already that simple wise man of olden time derived a proof of the immortality of the soul, that the sickness of the soul (sin) is not like bodily sickness which kills the body. Sin is not a passage-way which a man has to pass through once, for from it one shall flee; sin is not (like suffering) the instant, but an eternal fall from the eternal, hence it is not ‘once’, and it cannot possibly be that its ‘once’ is no time. No, just as between the rich man in hell and Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom there was a yawning gulf fixed, so is there also a yawning distinction between suffering and sin. Let us not confuse it, lest talk about suffering might become less frank-hearted, because it had also sin in mind, and this less frank-hearted talk might be boldly impudent inasmuch as it is talking this way about sin. This precisely is the Christian position, that there is this infinite distinction between evil and evil, as they are confusedly named; this precisely is the Christian characteristic, to talk of temporal sufferings ever more and more frank-heartedly, more triumphantly, more joyfully, because Christianity regarded, sin, and sin only, is destructive.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Christian Discourses, The Joy of it – That We Suffer Only Once But Triumph Eternally. P. 108 Lowrie Translation 1961 Oxford University Press
- A man who but rarely, and then only cursorily, concerns himself with his relationship to God, hardly thinks or dreams that he has so closely to do with God, or that God is so close to him, that there exists a reciprocal relationship between him and God, the stronger a man is, the weaker God is, the weaker a man is, the stronger God is in him. Every one who assumes that a God exists naturally thinks of Him as the strongest, as He eternally is, being the Almighty who creates out of nothing, and for whom all the creation is as nothing; but such a man hardly thinks of the possibility of a reciprocal relationship. And yet for God, the infinitely strongest, there is an obstacle; He has posited it Himself, yea, He has lovingly, with incomprehensible love posited it Himself; for He posited it and posits it every time a man comes into existence, when He in His love makes to be something directly in apposition to Himself. Oh, marvelous omnipotence of love! A man cannot bear that his ‘creations’ should be directly in apposition to Himself, and so he speaks of them in a tone of disparagement as his ‘creations’. But God who creates out of nothing, who almightily takes from nothing and says, ‘Be’, lovingly adjoins, ‘Be something even in apposition to me.’ Marvellous love, even His omnipotence is under the sway of love!
- Søren Kierkegaard, Christian Discourses, 1848 Lowrie 1940, 1961 p. 132
- God’s greatness lies in forgiving, in showing mercy, and in this greatness He is greater than the heart which condemns itself. Behold, this is that greatness of God which we have to speak of especially within the sanctuary; for here we know God differently, more closely – from the other side, if one may say so – that out there, where doubtless He is revealed, is to be known in His works, whereas here He is to be known as He has revealed Himself, as He would be known by Christians. The tokens of God’s greatness can be known in nature everyone can behold with wonder, or rather there is no special token, for the works themselves are the tokens; thus every one can see the rainbow and must wonder when he sees it. But the token of God’s greatness in showing mercy exists only for faith; this token is in fact the Sacrament. God’s greatness in nature is manifest, but God’s greatness in showing mercy is a secret which has to be believed.
- Soren Kierkegaard, Three Discourses at the Communion on Fridays.1 John 3: From Cristian Discourses & The Lilies of the Field & The Birds of the Air, & Discourses at the Communion on Fridays 1848 Translated by Walter Lowrie 1940, 1961 Galaxy Books P. 298-299
Two Ethical-Religious Minor Essays (1849)
- a. Does a Human Being Have the Right to Let Himself Be Put to Death for the Truth? by H.H.
Without Authority, Soren Kierkegaard, Hong 1997 p. 47ff
- These two essays probably will essentially be able to interest only theologians. (Preface)
- He lived year after year. He attended only to himself and to God and this picture-but he did not understand himself.
- p. 57
- He was extremely important to his contemporaries, who wanted nothing more than to see in his the Expected One; they wanted almost to press it upon him and and to force him into the role - but that he then refuses to be that!
- p. 60
- My doubt goes like this: How could the Loving One have the heart to let human beings become so guilty that they got his murder on their consciences?
- p. 63
- I can understand myself in believing, although in addition I can in a relative misunderstanding comprehend the human aspect of this life: but comprehend faith or comprehend Christ, I cannot.
- p. 65
- b. The Difference between a Genius and an Apostle. by H.H.
Of The Difference Between A Genius And An Apostle by Soren Kierkegaard Two Ethical-Religious Minor Essays. May 19, 1849
- What, exactly, have the errors of exegesis and philosophy done in order to confuse Christianity, and how have they confused Christianity? Quite briefly and categorically, they have simply forced back the sphere of paradox-religion into the sphere of aesthetics, and in consequence have succeeded in brings Christian terminology to such a pass that terms which, so long as they remain within their sphere, are qualitative categories, can be put to almost any use as clever expressions.
- Of The Difference Between A Genius And An Apostle, Alexander Dru translation 1962 p. 89
- A genius and an Apostle are qualitatively different, they are definitions which each belong in their own spheres: the sphere of immanence, and the sphere of transcendence.
- P. 90-91
- If God stops a man on the road, and calls him with a revelation and sends him armed with divine authority among men, they say to him; from whom dost thou come? He answers: from God. But now God cannot help his messenger physically like a king, who gives him soldiers or policemen, or his ring or his signature, which is known to all; in short, God cannot help men by providing them with physical certainty that an Apostle is an Apostle-which would, moreover, be nonsense. Even miracles, if the Apostle has that gift, give no physical certainty; for the miracle is the object of faith.
- p. 95
- Between God and man there is and remains an eternal, essential, qualitative difference. The paradoxical relationship (which, quite rightly, cannot be thought, but only believed) appears when God appoints a particular man to divine authority, in relation, be it carefully noted, to that which has entrusted to him.
- P. 99
- Let us suppose that a man believes in eternal life on Christ’s word. In that case he believes without any fuss about being profound and searching and philosophical and racking his brains.
- P. 103
- If the genius is an artist, then he accomplishes his work as art, but neither he nor his work of art has a telos outside him.
- P. 108
The Sickness unto Death (July 30, 1849)
- The Sickness unto Death (1849), as translated by Alastair Hannay (1989), Penguin Classics, ISBN 0-14-044533-1
- 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
- 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
- Out of love, God becomes man. He says: "See, here is what it is to be a human being."
- p. 161
Three Discourses at the Communion on Fridays (1849)
Three Discourses at Friday Communion November 14, 1849 Hong translation 1997 P. 111 (From Without Authority)
- I see again what I thought I saw the first time, when I sent forth the little book that was compared to and in fact could best be compared to “a humble little flower under the cover of the great forest”
- Preface Three Discourses at Friday Communion November 14, 1849 Hong translation 1997 P. 111 (From Without Authority)
The High Priest Hebrews 4:15
- You complain that no one can put himself in your place. I can imagine that it may never have occurred to you, preoccupied day and night with that thought, that you should comfort others: and he, the Comforter, he is the only one of whom it truly holds that no one could put himself in his place-how true if he had complained in that way! He, the Comforter, in whose place no one could put himself, he can put himself completely in your place and in every sufferer’s place. …. There is still one who is able to put himself completely in your place, the Lord Jesus Christ, who ”because he has suffered and himself been tempted is able to help those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).
- Three Discourses at Friday Communion November 14, 1849 Hong translation 1997 P. 119-120
The Tax Collector Luke 18:13
- Let us then in the brief prescribed moments simply consider the tax collector. Throughout all the ages he has been presented as the prototype of an honest and God-fearing churchgoer. Yet is seems to me that he is even more closely related to going to Communion, he who said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Is it not as if he were now going to Communion, he of whom it is said, “He went home to his house justified” – is it not as if he now went home from Communion!
- Three Discourses at Friday Communion November 14, 1849 Hong translation 1997 P. 128
- Self-accusation is the possibility of justification. The tax collector accused himself. There was no one else who accused him. It was not civic justice that seized him by the chest and said, “You are a criminal”: it was not the people whom he perhaps cheated who beat him on the breast and said, “You are a cheater” – but he beat his own breast and said, “God be merciful to me, a sinner. He accused himself, that he was a sinner before God.
- Three Discourses at Friday Communion November 14, 1849 Hong translation 1997 P. 132
The Woman Who Was a Sinner Luke 7:47
- Confession should be only in secret before God, who knows everything anyway, and thus it could remain hidden in one‘s innermost being. But at a dinner – and a woman! A dinner-it is not some hidden, remote place, nor is the lighting dim, nor is the mood like that among graves, nor are the listeners silent or invisibly present.
- Three Discourses at Friday Communion November 14, 1849 Hong translation 1997 P. 139
- She has forgotten speech and language and the restlessness of thoughts, has forgotten what is even greater restlessness, this self, has forgotten herself-she, the lost woman, who is now lost in her Savior, who, lost in him, rests at his feet-like a picture. He speaks about her; he says: Her many sins are forgiven her, because she loved much. Although she is present, it is almost as if she were absent; it is almost as if he changed her into a picture, a parable.
- Three Discourses at Friday Communion November 14, 1849 Hong translation 1997 P. 141
The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, 1850s
- 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.
- 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.
- A white spot is on the horizon. There it is. A terrible storm is brewing. But no one sees the write spot or has any inkling of what it might mean. But no (this would not be the most terrible situation either), no, there is one person who sees it and knows what it means-but he is a passenger. He has no authority on the ship, can take no action. … The fact that in Christendom there is visible on the horizon a white speck which means that a storm is threatening-this I knew; but, alas, I was an am only a passenger.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers XI3 B 109 p 178ff (quoted in Kierkegaard’s Way to the Truth by Gergor Malantschuk 1963 Augsburg Publishing House
Practice in Christianity (September 1850)
- 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.
- p. xii
- 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.
- p. 18-19
- 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.
- p. 34
- 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.
- p. 61-62
- 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.
- p. 115
- 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 a 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.
- 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."
- p. 220
An Upbuilding Discourse December 20, 1850
- The Woman Who Was a Sinner Luke 7:37ff
- Source: Without Authority by Soren Kierkegaard, Hong 1997 P. 145ff
- That a woman is presented as a teacher, as a prototype of piety, cannot amaze anyone who knows that piety or godliness is fundamentally womanliness. … from a woman you learn concern for the one thing needful, from Mary, sister of Lazarus, who sat silent at Christ’s feet with her heart’s choice: the one thing needful. P. 149
- On the whole, there is one thing that is very common; you can find it in each and in everyone, in yourself just as I find it in myself: sin and sins. There is one thing that is very rare: true sorrow over one’s sin, which no doubt is why it is made necessary every holy day to pray in the opening prayer in the church service “that we might learn to sorrow over our sins.” P. 152
- The next thing you can learn from the woman who was a sinner, something she herself understood, is that with regard to finding forgiveness she is able to do nothing at all. P. 155
- There is a comfort that had not yet come into existence while Christ lived, which he therefore could not offer to anyone: the comfort of his death as the Atonement, as the pledge that the sins are forgiven. In this lifetime Christ is for his contemporaries primarily the prototype, even though he is the Savior and even though his life is suffering, so that even in his lifetime he can be said to bear the sins of the world; but the salient point is that he is the prototype. P. 159
Two Discourses at Friday Communion (August 1851)
Two Discourses at the Communion on Fridays by Soren Kierkegaard August 7, 1851 Hong translation 1997 (From Without Authority)
- To one unnamed, whose name will one day be named, is dedicated, with this little work, the entire authorship, as it was from the beginning. (Dedication) P. 163
- An authorship that began with Either/Or and advanced step by step seeks here its decisive place of rest, at the foot of the altar, where the author, personally most aware of his own imperfections and guilt, certainly does not call himself a truth-witness but only a singular kind of poet and thinker who, without authority, has had nothing new to bring but “has wanted once again to read through, if possible in a more inward way, the original test handed down from the fathers” Preface P. 165
- What if the equality between us human being, in which we completely resemble one another, were that none of us really thinks about his being loved? Preface P. 166
But One Who Is Forgiven Little Loves Little Luke 7:47
- There is no one at the Communion table who retains against you even the least of your sins, no one, unless you yourself do it. So cast them away from yourself, and the recollection of them, lest in it your retain them; and cast the recollection of your having cast your sins away, lest in it you retain them. P. 170
- It is love that leniently and mercifully says: I forgive you everything-if you are forgiven only little, then it is because you love only little. Justice severely sets the boundary and says: No further! This is the limit. For you there is no forgiveness, and there is nothing more to be said. P. 172
- I do not know, my listener, what your crime, your guilt, your sins are, but surely we are all more or less of the guilt of loving only little. Take comfort, then, in these words just as I take comfort in them. P. 173-174
- Christ speaks of two debtors, one of whom owed much and the other little, and who both found forgiveness. He asks: Which of these two ought to love more? The answer: The one who has forgiven much. When you love much, you are forgiven much-and when you are forgiven much, you love much. See here the blessed recurrence of salvation in love! P. 176
Love Will Hide a Multitude of Sins 1 Peter 4:8
- Lord Jesus Christ, the birds had nests, the foxes had dens, and you had no place where you could lay your head. You were homeless in the world-yet you yourself were a hiding place, the only place where the sinner could flee. And so even this very day you are a hiding place. When the sinner flees to you, hides himself with you, is hidden in you, he is eternally kept safe, since love hides a multitude of sins. P. 182
- A person can perhaps succeed in hiding his sins from the world, he can perhaps be foolishly happy that he succeeds, or yet, a little more honest, admit that it is a deplorable weakness and cowardliness that he does not have the courage to become open-but a person cannot hide his sins from himself. P. 182
- It is true that in the confessional it is the pastor who preaches; but the true preacher is still the secret-sharer in your inner being. The pastor can preach only in vague generalities; the preacher in your inner being is just the opposite; he speaks simply and solely about you, to you, and within you. P. 183
For Self-Examination (1851)
- My dear reader, read aloud, if possible! If you do so, allow he to thank you for it: if you not only do it yourself, if you also influence others to do it, allow me to thank each one of them, and you again and again! (Preface)
What is Required in Order to Look at Oneself with True Blessing in the Mirror of the Word?
- as translated by Howard Hong (1990)
- The person who is going to preach ought to live in the Christian thoughts and ideas: they ought to be his daily life. If so – this is the view of Christianity – then you, too, will have eloquence enough and precisely that which is needed when you speak extemporaneously without specific preparation. However, it is fallacious eloquence if someone, without otherwise occupying himself with, without living in these thoughts, once in a while sits down and laboriously collects such thoughts, perhaps in the field of literature, and then works them into a well-composed discourse, which is then committed to memory and delivered superbly, with respect both to voice and diction and gestures.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 10
- I assume that Luther has risen from the grave. For several years now he has been living among us but incognito; he has been observing the lives we lead, has been scrutinizing everyone in this regard and me also. I assume that he speaks to me one day and says, “Are you a believer? Do you have faith?” Anyone who knows me as an author will see that I would perhaps be the one who might come off best of all in such and examination, for I have continually said, “I do not have faith” – I have expressed, as does a bird’s alarmed flight before a storm, that there is mischief brewing here, “I do not have faith.” So I should say to Luther, “No, dear Luther, I have at least shown the respect of saying: I do not have faith.” However, I shall not press this, but, just as others call themselves Christians and believers, I, too, shall say, “I am a believer,” for otherwise what I wish to be cleared up will not be cleared up.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 17-18
- I have worked for this restlessness oriented toward inward deepening. But “without authority.” Instead of conceitedly making myself out to be a witness for the truth and causing others rashly to want to be the same, I am an unauthorized poet who influences by means of the ideas.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 21
- Imagine a lover who has received a letter from his beloved – I assume that God’s Word is just as precious to you as this letter is to the lover. I assume that you read and thing you ought to read God’s Word in the same way the lover reads this letter.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 26
- When you are reading God’s Word, it is not the obscure passages that bind you but what you understand, and with that you comply at one. If you understood only one single passage in all of Holy Scripture, well, then you must do that first of all, but you do not first have to sit down and ponder the obscure passages.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 29
- When you read God’s Word, in everything you read, continually to say to yourself: It is I to whom it is speaking - this is earnestness, precisely this is earnestness. Not a single one of those to whom the cause of Christianity in the higher sense has been entrusted forgot to urge this against and again as most crucial, as unconditionally the condition if you are to come to see yourself in the mirror.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 36-37
- Imagine a person who has been and is addicted to a passion. There comes a moment (as it does to everyone, perhaps many times – alas, perhaps many times in vain!), a moment he seems to be brought to a halt: a good resolution is awakening. Imagine that one morning he said to himself (let us suppose him to be a gambler), “I solemnly vow that I will nevermore have anything to do with gambling, never – tonight will be the last time” – ah, my friend, he s lost! I would rather bet on the opposite, however strange that may seem. If there was a gambler who said to himself, “Well, now, you may gamble every blessed day all the rest of your life – but tonight you are going to leave it alone,” and he did – ah, my friend, he is saved for sure! The first gambler’s resolution is a trick by the craving, and the second gambler’s is to fool the craving.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 45
Christ is the Way
- His life from the very beginning is a story of temptation; it is not only one particular period in his life, the forty days, that is the story of temptation – no his whole life is a story of temptation (just as it is also of suffering). Every moment of his life he is tempted – that is, he has this possibility in his power, to take his calling, his task, in vain.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 58-59
- Then he rises from the table and goes out into the Garden of Gethsemane; there he sinks down – oh, that it had happened already! He sinks down, doomed (dodsens) – indeed, was he really any more a dying man (Doende) on the cross than in Gethsemane! If the suffering on the cross was a death agony – ah, this agony in prayer was also a mortal combat; nor was it bloodless, for his sweat fell like drops of blood to the earth.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 63
- That which distinguishes the Christian narrow way from the common human narrow way is the voluntary. Christ was not someone who coveted earthly things but had to be satisfied with poverty – no, he chose poverty.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 67
It Is the Spirit Who Gives Life
- As soon as the discourse is about a holy spirit, about believing in the holy spirit, how many do you think believe in that? Or when the discourse is about an evil spirit that should be renounced: how many do you think believe in such a thing? How can this be? Is it perhaps because the subject becomes too earnest when it is the holy spirit? For I can talk about, believe in, the spirit of the age, the spirit of the world, and the like and do not thereby need to think of anything specific. It is a kind of spirit, but I am not absolutely bound by what I say. And not being bound by what one says is highly prized.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 74
- The life-giving Spirit is the very one who slays you; the first thing the life-giving Spirit say is that you must enter into death, that you must die to – it is this way in order that you many not take Christianity in vain. A life-giving Spirit – that is the invitation; who would not willingly take hold of it! But die first – that is the halt!
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 76-77
- The Spirit brings faith, the faith.
- Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, Hong p. 81
Judge For Yourselves! 1851 (1876)
- as translated by Howard Hong (1990)
- 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.
- Judge for Yourself, p. 96-97 1851
- From the Christian point of view it stands firm that the truly Christian venturing requires probability. p. 101
- To become sober is: to come to oneself in self-knowledge and before God as nothing before him, yet infinitely, unconditionally engaged. P. 104
- If self-knowledge does not lead to knowing oneself before God - well, then there is something to what purely human self-observation says, namely, this self-knowledge leads to a certain emptiness that produces dizziness. Only by being before God can one totally come to oneself in the transparency of soberness. p. 106
- This is approximately the way Christendom relates to the essentially Christian, the unconditioned. After seventeen, eighteen detours and running all around someone finally has his finite existence assured, and then we receive a sermon about Seek first the kingdom of God. Is this sobriety or is this intoxication? p. 112
- This is the truth of the matter. In every human being there is a capacity, the capacity for knowledge. And every person - the most knowing and the most limited - is in his knowledge far beyond what he is in his life or what his life expresses. Yet this misrelation is of little concern to us. On the contrary, we set a high price on knowledge, and everyone strives for this knowledge more and more. "But," says the sensible person, "one must be careful about the direction one's knowing takes. If my knowing turns inward, against me, if I do not take care to prevent this, then knowing is the most intoxicating thing there is, the way to become completely intoxicated, since there then occurs an intoxicating confusion between the knowledge and the knower, so that the knower himself will resemble, will be, that which is known. If your knowing takes such a turn and you yield to it, it will soon end with your tumbling like a drunk man into actuality, plunging yourself recklessly into drunken action without giving the understanding and sagacity the time to take into proper consideration what is prudent, what is advantageous, what will pay. This is why we, the sober ones, warn you, not against knowing or against expanding your knowledge, but against letting your knowledge take an inward direction, for then it is intoxicating." This is thieves' jargon. It says that it is one's knowledge that, by taking the inward direction in this way, intoxicates, rather than that in precisely this way it makes manifest that one is intoxicated, intoxicated in one's attachment to this earthly life, the temporal, the secular, and the selfish. And this is what one fears, fears that one's knowing, turned inward, toward oneself, will expose the intoxication there, will expose that one prefers to remain in this state, will wrench one out of this state and as a result of such a step will make it impossible for one to slip back into that adored state, into intoxication. p. 118
Attack upon Christendom (1855)
- as translated by Walter Lowrie (1944)
- When Christianity came into the world the task was simply to proclaim Christianity. The same is the case wherever Christianity is introduced into a country the religion of which is not Christianity.
- In "Christendom" the situation is a different one. What we have before us is not Christianity but a prodigious illusion, and the people are not pagans but live in the blissful conceit that they are Christians. So if in this situation Christianity is to be introduced, first of all the illusion must be disposed of.
- p. 97
- Is not “Christendom” the most colossal attempt at serving God, not by following Christ, as He required, and suffering for the doctrine, but instead of that, by “building the sepulchers of the prophets and garnishing the tombs of the righteous.”
- p. 121
- It is of this sort of divine service I used the expression that, in comparison with the Christianity of the New Testament, it is playing Christianity. The expression is essentially true and characterizes the thing perfectly. For what does it mean to play, when one reflects how the word must be understood in this connection? It means to imitate, to counterfeit, a danger when there is no danger, and to do it in such a way that the more art is applied to it, the more delusive the pretense is that the danger is present.
- p. 121
- And thus Christianity is played in “Christendom.” Artists in dramatic costumes make their appearance in artistic buildings—there really is no danger at all, anything but that: the teacher is a royal functionary, steadily promoted, making a career—and how he dramatically plays Christianity, in short, he plays comedy. He lectures about renunciation, but he himself is being steadily promoted; he teaches all that about despising worldly titles and rank, but he himself is making a career.
- p. 121
- Christ calls it (O give heed!), He calls it “hypocrisy.” And not only that, but He says (now shudder!), He says that this guilt of hypocrisy is as great, precisely as great a crime as that of killing the prophets. ... This then is the judgment, Christ's judgment upon "Christendom." Shudder; for if you do not, you are implicated in it.
- p. 122
- 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, Søren Kierkegaard, 1854-1855, Walter Lowrie 1944, 1968
- I will not by suppression, or by performing tricks, try to produce the impression that the ordinary Christianity in the land and the Christianity of the New Testament are alike.
- "What Do I Want?"
Quotations about Kierkegaard
- A master and way out of the league that the rest of us play in.
- 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.
- According to Kierkegaard: Since existence “means the making of moral choices, it is perpetual “either-or” and a life of action. One who merely contemplates a truth is apt to become a “traitor like Judas.” An uncommitted person is not person at all. The ideal of suspended judgment is a high road to moral suicide. Man must act for by his choices he makes himself. In its emphasis upon commitment "Existentialism” comes the nearest to new Testament Christianity. Existence, according to Kierkegaard is a state of anxious suspense and only the paradoxical “leap into faith” will give man certitude in God. The opposite of sin is not virtue but faith. Man’s existence, declared Kierkegaard, “is an experience or process of sustained becoming or developing by moral striving and tension. He can never, therefore, be a Christian but only attempt to become one.” Kierkegaard’s slant on man is sometimes aesthetic, at times ethical, but in its final form it is theological, concerned with the problem of being a Christian. As a theologian, he has had a singular influence on Karl Barth, Reinhold Neibuhr, Paul Tillich, Emil Brunner, and other leading Protestant theologians of our times.
- Mrs. Holt Discusses Philosophy of 19th Century Leader The Burlington, North Carolina Daily Times-News Thursday, May 09, 1957 Page 32
- 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)
- Kierkegaard was by far the most profound thinker of the last century. Kierkegaard was a saint.
- For all its critical analysis philosophy has not yet managed to root out its psychopaths. What do we have psychiatric diagnosis for? That grizzler Kierkegaard also belongs in this galere.
- Carl Jung, Personal letter to Arnold K iinzli, 28 February 1943
- History has a way of reducing individuals to flat, two-dimensional portraits. it is the enemy of subjectivity, which is why Stephen Dedalus called it "a nightmare from which I am trying to awake". If we think of Kierkegaard, of Nietzsche, of Hölderlin, we see them standing alone, outside of history. They are spotlighted by their intensity, and the background is all darkness. They intersect history, but are not a part of it. There is something anti-history about such men; they are not subject to time, accident and death, but their intensity is a protest against it. I have elsewhere called such men "Outsiders" because they attempt to stand outside history. which defines humanity on terms of limitation, not of possibility.
- Colin Wilson in Rasputin and the Fall of the Romanovs, p. 13-14 (1964)
- Edifying Discourses, by Søren Kierkegaard, translated by David F. Swenson, 1958
- Kierkegaard at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Kierkegaard at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) of Calvin College
- Søren Kierkegaard Newsletter edited by Gordon D. Marino
- Kierkegaard at the Open Directory Project
- Wabash Center Internet Guide: Søren Kierkegaard
- Online Library Catalog at St. Olaf College; select Kierkegaard Library from the menu to search for books and articles.
- Kierkegaard's Narrative: An existential humanist plot outline
- Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard : Religion, Individuality and Philosophical Method (1989) by Charles L. Creegan ISBN 0-415-00066-1
- Christ of Faith and History
- Links to Online Resources
- "Kierkegaard for Grownups" (2004), by Richard John Neuhaus
- Kierkegaard's Works at Princeton University Press