Sören Kierkegaard quotes
Birthdate: 5. May 1813
Date of death: 11. November 1855
Other names: Sören Aabye Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote critical texts on organized religion, Christendom, morality, ethics, psychology, and the philosophy of religion, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and parables. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. He was against literary critics who defined idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, and thought that Swedenborg, Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, Schlegel and Hans Christian Andersen were all "understood" far too quickly by "scholars".Kierkegaard's theological work focuses on Christian ethics, the institution of the Church, the differences between purely objective proofs of Christianity, the infinite qualitative distinction between man and God, and the individual's subjective relationship to the God-Man Jesus the Christ, which came through faith. Much of his work deals with Christian love. He was extremely critical of the practice of Christianity as a state religion, primarily that of the Church of Denmark. His psychological work explored the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with life choices.Kierkegaard's early work was written under the various pseudonyms that he used to present distinctive viewpoints and to interact with each other in complex dialogue. He explored particularly complex problems from different viewpoints, each under a different pseudonym. He wrote many Upbuilding Discourses under his own name and dedicated them to the "single individual" who might want to discover the meaning of his works. Notably, he wrote: "Science and scholarship want to teach that becoming objective is the way. Christianity teaches that the way is to become subjective, to become a subject." While scientists can learn about the world by observation, Kierkegaard emphatically denied that observation could reveal the inner workings of the world of the spirit.Some of Kierkegaard's key ideas include the concept of "subjective and objective truths", the knight of faith, the recollection and repetition dichotomy, angst, the infinite qualitative distinction, faith as a passion, and the three stages on life's way. Kierkegaard wrote in Danish and the reception of his work was initially limited to Scandinavia, but by the turn of the 20th century his writings were translated into French, German, and other major European languages. By the mid-20th century, his thought exerted a substantial influence on philosophy, theology, and Western culture.
Quotes Sören Kierkegaard
„The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.“
Source: Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard
Variant: Life can only be understood going backward, but must be lived going forward.
„People understand me so poorly that they don't even understand my complaint about them not understanding me.“
Variant: People understand me so little that they do not even understand when I complain of being misunderstood.
Source: The Journals of Kierkegaard
Attributed to Kierkegaard in a number of books, the earliest located on Google Books being the 1976 book Jack Kerouac: Prophet of the New Romanticism by Robert A. Hipkiss, p. 83 http://books.google.com/books?id=g_JaAAAAMAAJ&q=%22problem+to+be+solved%22#search_anchor. In the 1948 The Hibbert Journal: Volumes 46-47 the quote is referred to as "the famous Kierkegaardian slogan" on p. 237 http://books.google.com/books?id=UuDRAAAAMAAJ&q=%22the+famous+Kierkegaardian+slogan+life+is+not+a+problem+to+be+solved%22#search_anchor, which may be intended to suggest the phrase is Kierkegaard-esque rather than being something written by Kierkegaard. In reality this seems to be a slightly altered version of the quote "The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved; it is a reality to be experienced" which appeared in the 1928 book The Conquest of Illusion by Jacobus Johannes Leeuw, p. 9 http://books.google.com/books?id=OFdVAAAAMAAJ&q=%22not+a+problem+to+be+solved%22#search_anchor.
„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.
Original: (da) Det er ganske sandt, hvad Philosophien siger, at Livet maa forstaaes baglænds. Men derover glemmer man den anden Sætning, at det maa leves forlænds.
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„The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. - is sure to be noticed.“
Source: The Sickness Unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition for Upbuilding and Awakening
„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.“
On Regine Olsen (2 February 1839)
Context: 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.
As attributed in Journal of Marriage and Family Counseling, Vol. 2 (1976) by American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, p. 33; no earlier incidents have been located.
When you label me, you negate me.
As attributed in Inner Joy (1985) by Kory Bloomfield, p 169
Variant: What labels me, negates me.
„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.“
Søren Kierkegaard, Two Ages: A Literary Review, 1846, Hong 1978/2009, pp. 67–68
1840s, Two Ages: A Literary Review (1846)
Context: 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.
Journals and Papers IIA320
Context: 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.
„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 Point of View of My Work as an Author (1848, 1851, 1859)<!-- Lowrie 1939, 1962 --> p. 153-155
Context: 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.
„Deep within every human being there still lives the anxiety over the possibility of being alone in the world“
Journals VII 1A 363
Context: 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.