A short life of Kierkegaard


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C. Stephen Evans

We can be selectively deaf, or be so filled with our egotistical desires that we are altogether deaf to our duties. In order to obey we first need to cultivate faith, since obedience to a divine command is nonsense unless we at least believe the command has come from God. To imagine the enormity of the consequences of sin, yet to relish the possibilities of freedom, engenders anxiety.

We need to learn to navigate the treacherous maelstroms of despair, to recognize the self-absorption of demonic states, to veer away from prudence and vanity, and to avoid mere conformity to social mores. We need to cultivate hope, patience, devotion, and above all love.

But we also need to be vigilant about our capacity for self-deception and be prepared to suffer for love and for our ultimate spiritual identity.

Kierkegaard styled himself above all as a religious poet. The religion to which he sought to relate his readers is Christianity. The type of Christianity that underlies his writings is a very serious strain of Lutheran pietism informed by the dour values of sin, guilt, suffering, and individual responsibility. Kierkegaard was immersed in these values in the family home through his father, whose own childhood was lived in the shadow of Herrnhut pietism in Jutland.

For Kierkegaard Christian faith is not a matter of regurgitating church dogma. It is a matter of individual subjective passion, which cannot be mediated by the clergy or by human artefacts. Faith is the most important task to be achieved by a human being, because only on the basis of faith does an individual have a chance to become a true self.

This self is the life-work which God judges for eternity. Anxiety or dread Angest is the presentiment of this terrible responsibility when the individual stands at the threshold of momentous existential choice. Anxiety is a two-sided emotion: on one side is the dread burden of choosing for eternity; on the other side is the exhilaration of freedom in choosing oneself.

But the choice of faith is not made once and for all. It is essential that faith be constantly renewed by means of repeated avowals of faith. This repetition of faith is the way the self relates itself to itself and to the power which constituted it, i. Christian dogma, according to Kierkegaard, embodies paradoxes which are offensive to reason. The central paradox is the assertion that the eternal, infinite, transcendent God simultaneously became incarnated as a temporal, finite, human being Jesus.

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There are two possible attitudes we can adopt to this assertion, viz. What we cannot do, according to Kierkegaard, is believe by virtue of reason. If we choose faith we must suspend our reason in order to believe in something higher than reason. In fact we must believe by virtue of the absurd.

According to Johannes Climacus, faith is a miracle, a gift from God whereby eternal truth enters time in the instant. This Christian conception of the relation between eternal truth and time is distinct from the Socratic notion that eternal truth is always already within us—it just needs to be recovered by means of recollection anamnesis.

Lecture 1: The Life and Work of Kierkegaard as a “Socratic Task”

The condition for realizing eternal truth for the Christian is a gift Gave from God, but its realization is a task Opgave which must be repeatedly performed by the individual believer. Crucial to the miracle of Christian faith is the realization that over against God we are always in the wrong.

That is, we must realize that we are always in sin. This is the condition for faith, and must be given by God. The idea of sin cannot evolve from purely human origins. Rather, it must have been introduced into the world from a transcendent source.

Once we understand that we are in sin, we can understand that there is some being over against which we are always in the wrong. On this basis we can have faith that, by virtue of the absurd, we can ultimately be atoned with this being. The absurdity of atonement requires faith that we believe that for God even the impossible is possible, including the forgiveness of the unforgivable.

Although God can forgive the unforgivable, He cannot force anyone to accept it. Kierkegaard is sometimes regarded as an apolitical thinker, but in fact he intervened stridently in church politics, cultural politics, and in the turbulent social changes of his time. This latter desire gradually left him, but his relation to women remained highly questionable.

A Short Life of Kierkegaard by Walter Lowrie (Paperback, 2013)

While Kierkegaard greatly admired Hegel, he had grave reservations about Hegelianism and its bombastic promises. Hegel would have been the greatest thinker who ever lived, said Kierkegaard, if only he had regarded his system as a thought-experiment. Instead he took himself seriously to have reached the truth, and so rendered himself comical. This authorship snipes simultaneously at German romanticism and contemporary Danish literati with J. Heiberg receiving much acerbic comment. However, it also draws heavily on the work of these authors, especially by taking seriously their framing of philosophical and theological problems.

Classical Greek art, in particular, is taken to be the gold standard by which artistic perfection is to be measured. However, Kierkegaard and the German romantics and German idealists share the view that classical Greek art lacks inwardness or subjective spirit. Modern art, by contrast, while unlikely to match the formal perfection of classical Greek art, contains the potential to explore subjective spirit. One crucial dimension of subjective spirit is freedom, which becomes a distinctive preoccupation of modern art and post-Kantian philosophy.

He uses narrative points of view, pseudonyms, vignettes, character sketches and case studies from life and literature to illustrate how dialectics of moods, emotions and spirit can both disable and enable individual freedom. Moods such as melancholy, boredom and irony can become demonically self-perpetuating, but they also have the potential to lift the individual to a state of self-reflection that amounts to higher order consciousness, thereby enabling the individual to see his or her former existence as what Wittgenstein called a limited whole.

The highest order of consciousness for Kierkegaard is God-consciousness, which enables the individual to see himself or herself as both a sinner and as open to divine grace. So it had little immediate effect as discursive action. Kierkegaard sought to remedy this by provoking an attack on himself in the popular satirical review The Corsair. Kierkegaard succeeded in having himself mercilessly lampooned in this publication, largely on personal grounds rather than in terms of the substance of his writings. The suffering incurred by these attacks sparked Kierkegaard into another highly productive phase of authorship, but this time his focus was the creation of positive Christian discourses rather than satire or parody.

He realized he could no longer indulge himself in the painstakingly erudite and poetically meticulous writing he had practised hitherto. This addressed church politics directly and increasingly shrilly. One was the influence of Hegel, largely through the teachings of H.

Martensen; the other was the popularity of N. Grundtvig, a theologian, educator and poet who composed most of the pieces in the Danish hymn book. Grundtvig emphasized the light, joyous, celebratory and communal aspects of Christianity, whereas Kierkegaard emphasized seriousness, suffering, sin, guilt, and individual isolation. His intervention with respect to Hegelianism also failed, with Martensen succeeding Mynster as Bishop Primate. Hegelianism in the church went on to die of natural causes.

Kierkegaard also provided critical commentary on social change. He feared that the opportunity of achieving genuine selfhood was diminished by the social production of stereotypes. He lived in an age when mass society was emerging from a highly stratified feudal order and was contemptuous of the mediocrity the new social order generated. One symptom of the change was that mass society substitutes detached reflection for engaged passionate commitment.

Yet the latter is crucial for Christian faith and for authentic selfhood according to Kierkegaard. His pamphleteering achieved little immediate impact, but his substantial philosophical, literary, psychological and theological writings have had a lasting effect. Ibsen and Strindberg, together with Friedrich Nietzsche, became central icons of the modernism movement in Berlin in the s. Taking his cue from Brandes, the Swedish literary critic Ola Hansson subsequently promoted this conjunction of writers in Berlin itself.

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Lowrie, W.: A Short Life of Kierkegaard (Paperback and Ebook) | Princeton University Press

Berlin modernism self-consciously sought to use art as a means of political and social change. Many other writers have been inspired by Kierkegaard to tackle fundamental issues in philosophy, politics, theology and psychology. Franz Kafka, Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida have all written extensively in response, to try to sort out the implications for ethics and faith. Kierkegaard was a saint.

This has produced quite a debate about the relevance of Kierkegaard for developing narrative accounts of the self, with notable contributions by Anthony Rudd, John Davenport, John Lippitt and Patrick Stokes. Paul Ricoeur and Judith Butler have also been influenced by Kierkegaard, especially regarding his use of rhetoric and narrative point of view to critique systematic philosophy. It is impossible to give an exhaustive list of the important thinkers who owe an intellectual or existential debt to Kierkegaard.

The diversity of the writers and thinkers mentioned above nevertheless testifies to the breadth and depth of his influence, which continues into the present age. Published against his Will by S. Kierkegaard passed final theological examination - proposed to Regine Olsen, who accepted him broke off his engagement to Regine Olsen - defended his dissertation On the Concept of Irony with constant reference to Socrates Om Begrebet Ironi med stadigt Hensyn til Socrates - trip to Berlin, where he attended lectures by Schelling returned from Berlin Either-Or: A Fragment of Life edited by Victor Eremita Enten-Eller.

Af Johannes Climacus. Udgivet af S. Studier af Forskjellige. Kierkegaard Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift til de philosophiske Smuler. Udgiven af S. Kierkegaard En literair Anmeldelse af S. Kierkegaard Opbyggelige Taler i forskjellig Aand af S. Kierkegaard Kjerlighedens Gjerninger.

Nogle christelige Overveielser i Talers Form, af S. Kierkegaard Christelige Taler, af S. En ligefrem Meddelelse, Rapport til Historien, af S. Kierkegaard Lilien paa Marken og Fuglen under Himlen. Tre gudelige Taler af S.

A short life of Kierkegaard A short life of Kierkegaard
A short life of Kierkegaard A short life of Kierkegaard
A short life of Kierkegaard A short life of Kierkegaard
A short life of Kierkegaard A short life of Kierkegaard
A short life of Kierkegaard A short life of Kierkegaard
A short life of Kierkegaard A short life of Kierkegaard
A short life of Kierkegaard A short life of Kierkegaard
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