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Quotations about Kierkegaard[edit]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Kierkegaard holds that God’s revelation of Himself in time has per se a significance greater than all that Jesus Christ has taught or done. But he also described the life of Jesus Christ on earth as the true pattern for a human life. This view seems to involve a contradiction. A closer examination, however, clears away the contradiction. It is the divinity of Christ which gives Him authority to forgive, to judge, and to require obedience; and it is through His divinity that He can present Himself as a pattern, or rather, through His combined divinity and humanity. Hence Kierkegaard delineates the love which was in Christ Jesus as an ethical ideal for man. We are driven to think that on man’s side, the whole of Christianity is summed up in this one commandment. Follow Him. Kierkegaard’s Discourses of Edification not only precede in time his delineation of specifically Christian teaching, but their content is also logically prior, since it is that of a more universal form of religious experience than the specifically Christian. Perhaps the most profound of these discourses is the one which develops the theme that man’s need of God constitutes the highest perfection. A psychological contrast is here outlined, the difference between the inner and outer self. The outer self is naively convinced of its power to accomplish such and such ends in the external world, and to gain such and such satisfaction. The deeper and inner self knows that it can do absolutely nothing without God. As soon as the deeper self begins to make itself felt, the soul of man becomes the theater of a struggle between the two selves. The outer self, allured by the joys and satisfactions of the outer world, seeks to subdue it to his purposes, relying upon a calculation of probability to bridge the gap between the wish, the desire and the expectation on the one hand, and the things wished, desired and expected on the other. But the inner self points to the uncertainty that attaches to all such calculations, immovably standing by its imperturbable “perhaps”; and it thus prevents the outer self from moving to realize its ambitions. This check constitutes a paralysis of action in the sense in which the outer self understands action, namely as an immediate relationship to the environment; hence the moment of opportunity threatens to be lost. Then the discourse continues: “What sort of an unnatural condition have we here? What does it all mean? When something such transpires in the soul of man, does it not mean that the mind is beginning to give way? Ah, no, it means something quite different; it means that the child is about to be weaned. For a man may be thirty years or more, forty years, and still be a child of advanced age. But how enchantingly beautiful it is to be a child! And so the child lies at the breast of time in the cradle of the finite, and probability sits at the side and sings a lullaby for the child. If the wish fails of fulfillment and the child becomes restless, probability hushes the child and says: Lie still now and sleep a while; I will go out and buy something for you, and next time, then it will be your turn. So the child again lies still and slumbers, and the pain is forgotten, and the child’s cheeks again glow with new dreams of new wishes, although only a little while before it had seemed as if it would be forever impossible to forget the pain. To be sure, if the man had not been a child he could not have forgotten the pain so easily. It would then have become apparent that it was not probability that sat at the side of the cradle, but the deeper self; the cradle would not have been a bed of slumber but a death-bed; and in the dying hour of self-denial the personality would have arisen to eternal life.
    • Lectures on the Religious Thought of Soren Kierkegaard, by Eduard Geismar, translated with an introduction by David F. Swenson 1937 Augsburg Publishing House p. 65-66
  • The briefest description of Soren Kierkegaard’s youth is given in his Journal: ‘I could perhaps reproduce the tragedy of my childhood, the terrifying mysterious explanation of religion which an anxious foreboding played into my hands, which my imagination worked upon, and the scandal which religion aroused in me, all in a novel called “the mysterious family”. It would begin on an entirely idyllic, patriarchal note so that no one would suspect anything until suddenly the word sounded which translated everything into terror.’[Journals IVA 144 editor] Soren Aaby Kierkegaard was born in Copenhagen on 5 May 1813. As a child he was outwardly happy and cheerful, but his happiness concealed and inherited melancholy which only found peace and security in his father’s house. But as he grew older the differences between him and his father could no longer be concealed, and for a time he went to live alone; an unusual event in Copenhagen in those days. Nevertheless his father was the man he loved most and to whom he owed most. Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard (1756-1838) was the son of Jutland peasants. Born in the poorest circumstances he went, when still a child, to Copenhagen, where he amassed an ample fortune. Michael Pedersen was a severe, God-fearing man who dominated his family autocratically, and the idyllic note must have been less apparent than the patriarchal. But he was unusually witty and combined the shrewdness of the peasant with a lively mind and a remarkable dialectical ability, characteristics which his youngest son inherited. In 1786 he sold his draper’s business and devoted himself to the study of theology, and sat at the feet of his friend Bishop J.P. Mynster, the intellectual leader and afterwards the primate of the Danish State Church. But neither Mynster’s friendship nor his study of theology brought him consolation, or an answer to the problems of conscience which success in trade had not dissipated. The origin of this ‘silent despair’ is known from his son’s Journal: ‘How terrible for the man who once as a child, while herding flocks on the heaths of Jutland, suffering greatly, in hunger and in want, stood upon a hill and cursed God-and he was unable to forget it even when he was eighty-two years old.’ [Journals VII 1A 5 editor] The further events which came to strengthen his despair are not known, but that is its source, as it is also the source of Kierkegaard’s ‘inborn dread’. Its importance lies rather in the effect which Kierkegaard’s discovery of his father’s sin produced. His education did little to prepare him for the discovery that the ‘one unshakable support’ had wavered in his faith.
    • Soren Kierkegaard by Theodor Haecker, translated, and with a biographical note by w:Alexander Dru, Oxford University Press, London 1937 Biographical Note
  • We shall consider Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) only as a philosopher, leaving out of account his esthetic and religious activities, which have taken such deep hold on the life of the North.
    • Harald Høffding, in A Brief History of Modern Philosophy Sixth Book: The Philosophy of Romanticism (1912), p. 201
  • I approach the presentation of Kierkegaard with some trepidation. Next to Nietzsche, or rather, prior to Nietzsche, I consider him to be the most important thinker of our post-Kantian age.
  • Dear reader! Kierkegaard might say; pray be so good as to look for my thinking in these pages-not for Nietzsche's, Brath's, or Heidegger's, De Tocqueville's, or anyone else's. And least of all, dear reader, fancy that if you should find that a few others have said, too, what I have said, that makes it true. Oh, least of all suppose that numbers can create some small presumption of the truth of an idea. What I would have you ask, dear reader, is not whether I am in good company: to be candid, I should have much preferred to stand alone, as a matter of principle; and besides I do not like the men whom the kissing Judases insist on lumping me. Rather ask yourself if I am right. And if I am not, then for heaven's sake do not pretend that I am, emphasizing a few points that are reasonable, even if not central to my thought, while glossing over those ideas which you do not like, or which, in retrospect, are plainly wrong, although I chose to take my stand on them. Do not forget, dear reader, that I made a point of taking for my motto (in my Philosophical Scraps): 'Better well hung than ill wed!'
    • Walter Kaufmann Introduction to The Present Age, Soren Kierkegaard, Dru 1940, 1962 p. 18-19
  • "I am glad to write a few words at the author’s request as a Foreword to his book on Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard, as Mr. Croxall tells us, was suspicious of disciples, and would have thought it dreadful if his writings had been elaborated into a philosophy or a system; but he would have rejoiced, I think, that all sorts of people are nowadays reading what he wrote."
  • As a thinker, Soren Kierkegaard was concerned with humanity’s most central existential problems. Therefore, he also sought answers to such important questions as a person’s relation to society and politics and the relation between the sexes. Kierkegaard’s honest and original treatment of these subjects is based on a penetrating knowledge of the presuppositions of the human mind and spirit. Consequently it is of value to become acquainted with what Kierkegaard has to say on these questions, and it is especially pertinent in an age when everything is opened to debate and confusion seems to prevail. Since Kierkegaard in his view of mankind places the main emphasis on the spiritual, his thoughts invariably arouse conflict, insofar as it is material and earthly happiness that people are primarily seeking. But this very controversial aspect of Kierkegaard can be the occasion for a testing and investigating of one’s own philosophy of life. As far as I can make out, it will be Kierkegaard’s wide-ranging, down-to-earth, and consistent thinking to which men must turn in the future in order to cure the rootlessness of the age and in order to find a new point of departure for their own life and for their relation to their fellow human beings.
    • Gregor Malantschuk, in the Preface to his The Controversial Kierkegaard (1980), as translated by Howard V. Hong
  • What has been here charged against Vinet is true in a greater degree in regard to S. Kierkegaard, who, with great talent and powerful one-sidedness, has been with us the advocate of individualism. As his support of individualism forms a remarkable episode in Danish literature, we shall dwell at somewhat greater length on the matter, although the principal consideration has been already discussed in reference to Vinet, so that what follows on it may be regarded as an episode in the present work. As with Vinet, the contrast between individualism and socialism also with Kierkegaard goes back to a higher, — namely, the contrast between individualism and universalism.
    • Dr. Hans Lassen Martensen, in Christian Ethics (1891), p. 217
  • Kierkegaard’s little book The Concept of Anxiety was first published in 1844. We have only to compare Kierkegaard with Spinoza to appreciate how different was the cultural climate of the nineteenth century from that of the seventeenth. Spinoza and Kierkegaard both had broad ethical and religious bases for their thoughts, and both were remarkably gifted with psychological insight and intuition. But whereas Spinoza in his time sought, with considerable success, rational certitude in the form of geometric proofs in his dealing with fear, Kierkegaard wrote in his day, “in the same degree that the excellence of the proof increases, certitude seems to decrease.” He who “has observed the contemporary generation will surely not deny that the incongruity in it and the reason for its anxiety and restlessness is this, that in one direction truth increases in extent, in mass, partly also in abstract clarity, whereas certitude steadily decreases.” Certitude, he believes, was an inner quality of integrity attainable only by the individual who could think, feel, act as a psychological and ethical unity. Kierkegaard emphatically rejected traditional rationalism as artificial. He vehemently argued that Hegel's system, which identified abstract thought with reality, was a way of tricking men into an avoidance of the reality of their human situation. “Away from speculation,” he cried, “away from ‘the system’ and back to reality!” He insisted that thinking cannot be divorced from feeling and willing, that “truth exists for the particular individual only as he himself produces it in action.”
    • Rollo May, in Psychology and the Human Dilemma (1979), 1996 edition, p. 66-67
  • Hegel was the great system-maker. What others viewed as his grand achievement Kierkegaard viewed as his unforgivable crime, the attempt to rationally systematize the whole of existence. The whole of existence cannot be systematized, Kierkegaard insisted, because existence is not yet whole; it is incomplete and in a state of constant development. Hegel attempted to introduce mobility into logic, which, said Kierkegaard, is itself an error in logic. The greatest of Hegel’s errors, however, was his claim that he had established the objective theory of knowledge. Kierkegaard countered with the argument that subjectivity is truth. As he put it, “The objective uncertainty maintained in the most passionate spirit of dedication is truth, the highest truth for one existing.” ... Kierkegaard, it remains to be said, is not a systematic theologian. We know what he thought of systems and system makers, of which Hegel was the prime example. There is hardly a page in his writings that does not prompt from the systematically minded reader a protest against disconnections and apparent contradictions. Like Flannery O'Connor, he shouted to the hard of hearing and drew startling pictures for the almost blind.
  • English-Speaking Peoples are becoming increasingly interested in the writings of Soren Kierkegaard because of three scholarly efforts, particularly. Hollander published “Selections From the Writings of Kierkegaard” in the University of Texas Bulletin-unfortunately now out of print. This was probably the first introduction of the Danish philosopher to English readers. Then in 1936 The Princeton University Press issued David F. Swenson’s translation of Philosophical Fragments, which requires a bit of concentration to read intelligently, but is well worth a student’s attention. And now, in this year The Oxford University Press publishes Dr. Walter Lowrie’s Kierkegaard. References have been made to the Danish philosopher’s work elsewhere, of course. George Brandes, the Jew: Unamuno, the Spanish Catholic and Baron Von Hugel all quote him provocatively. Von Hugel, in his “Mystical Elements of Religion” (E.P. Dutton, 1909) refers to “that most stimulating, profound, tragically non-mystical” religious ascetic and thinker.” Mother Mary Maude, CSM writing in the Living Church, October of this year questions Von Hugel’s “non-mystical” and points out that while Kierkegaard himself disclaimed the title of mystic, his personal experiences, psychologically and intellectually, closely paralleled the classic stages of mystical theology. The Oxford University Press published in 1937 Theodore Haecker’s Essays on Kierkegaard, in which the Scandinavian’s work is described as “poetry, philosophy, psychology and theology”. It is, indeed, all of that and requires strong mental teeth for mastication. As Mother Mary Maude says “he attracts and he repels, but he makes men think; that was his constant aim and object.” How right she is! I still have a headache.
    • Looking at Life, Soren Kierkegaard by Raimundo de Ovice, The San Antonio Express, Saturday Morning, December 10, 1938,
  • Kierkegaard is an Existentialist because he accepts, as fully as Sartre or Camus, the absurdity of the world. But he does not begin with the postulate of the non-existence of God, but with the principle that nothing in the world, nothing available to sense or reason, provides any knowledge or reason to believe in God. While traditional Christian theologians, like St. Thomas Aquinas, saw the world as providing evidence of God's existence, and also thought that rational arguments a priori could establish the existence of God, Kierkegaard does not think that this is the case. But Kierkegaard's conclusion about this could just as easily be derived from Sartre's premises. After all, if the world is absurd, and everything we do is absurd anyway, why not do the most absurd thing imaginable? And what could be more absurd than to believe in God? So why not? The atheists don't have any reason to believe in anything else, or really even to disbelieve in that, so we may as well go for it!
  • Kierkegaard called his philosophy existential - this means: he thought in order to live and did not live in order to think. And in this lies his distinction from professional philosophers, for whom their philosophy is frequently only a "specialty" (as there are all kinds of other specialties: philology, astronomy, mathematics), a specialty that has no relationship and no connection with their life.
    • Lev Shestov, Kierkegaard as a Religious Philosopher, 1938
  • As a thorough Christian — or, as he would have put it, infinitely interested in becoming one — Søren Kierkegaard addressed himself neither to Jews nor to Judaism. But they have overheard him. In part because they could not help it... Jews are well advised to be on the alert for what they can learn not only about him but about themselves also.
    • Rabbi Milton Steinberg, in "Kierkegaard and Judaism" in The Menorah Journal 37:2 (1949)
  • It would be interesting to speculate upon the reputation that Kierkegaard might have attained, and the extent of the influence he might have exerted, if he had written in one of the major European languages, instead of in the tongue of one of the smallest countries in the world. An idealism more powerful and more consistent than that of either Emerson or Carlyle, a democratic individualism as thorough-going as the aristocratic individualism of Nietszche, and presented with an equally passionate intensity, an ethical voluntarism clothed in a literary form as persuasive as that of Schopenhauer's philosophy, and a species of pragmatism more carefully and thoroughly worked out than that of either James or Bergson these qualities must have attracted world-wide attention.
    • David F. Swenson, in "Soren Kierkegaard" in Scandinavian Studies and Notes, Vol. VI, No. 7 (August 1921), p. 40-41
  • First, the individual's self-consciousness must be so far developed, so profoundly stirred, that it confronts the ideal of an absolute good, an eternal telos, which is identical with its own immortality. Otherwise no consciousness of sin in the Christian sense can ever arise. The existence of such an ideal for the individual is not determined by the possession of a more or less adequate intellectual conception of what this good may be, in the sense of logical content, but depends solely on whether the individual acknowledges something which is absolutely the transformation of his personal existence, so that all other ends become by comparison relative. This is existential pathos, which expresses itself, not as esthetic pathos is satisfied to express itself, namely in words, but in deeds, or rather in an inner transformation and direction of the subject's existence with respect to the absolute good. The development of this attitude is tantamount to the development of the personality to its highest potentiality.
    • David F. Swenson, Something About Kierkegaard, Chapter VII Kierkegaard's Treatment of the Doctrine of Sin p. 179, 1941, 1945 Augsburg Publishing House
  • Sir, and beloved Brother in Jesus Christ,— Two months have elapsed since the death of Dr. Soren Kierkegaard, who excited so much agitation in the Church of Denmark, by numerous philosophical works, designed to expose Christianity, published in the course of the last ten years, most of them appearing under assumed names. They treat chiefly of the power of science and art, and of their influence on religion.
    • J. Vahl, in a translation of a Bulletin de Monde Chrétien (23 January1856) in the April 1856 section of Evangelical Christendom : Christian Work and the News of the Churches, p. 127
  • Kierkegaard seeks to un-socialize the individual in order to un-deify society.
    • Merold Westphal, in Kierkegaard’s Critique of Reason and Society (1992), p. 34
  • Kierkegaard was by far the most profound thinker of the last century. Kierkegaard was a saint.
    • Ludwig Wittgenstein, as quoted in "Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard on the ethico-religious" by Roe Fremstedal in Ideas in History Vol. 1 (2006)