References

Kierkegaard: The Passionate Individual
From Garth Kimmerling's rich pages with many links to key ideas and people.

D. Anthony Storm's Commentary
A unique collection of notes on Kierkegaard's works and ideas.  See both the Commentaries  and Primer sections.

Søren Kierkegaard Introduction
Informative Danish site with text by Peter P. Rohde

Existentialism: An Introduction
A well produced set of resources by Christopher Scott Wyatt, who emphasizes that his writing "should not be used as a study guide."  I think that he means that one should use all available resources, but always think for yourself!

 

 

 

Søren Kierkegaard

"What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music." [Either/Or, Volume I]

Consider, are the people around you living vibrant, fulfilled, exciting lives?  Or do they shuffle grudgingly through the daily grind looking only for momentary escape?  Do these seem to you unnecessary extremes?  Well, try this experiment.  For the next week or two, count the number of times (and ways) that people around you express the desire to escape the present.  Some examples:

*I hate Mondays!
*I wish this term were over.
*In less than an hour, I'll be out of here!
*Just nine months, four days, and 5 hours to retirement!
*You may suffer now, but in the afterlife you get your reward.
*Friday is coming!
*Let's get drunk.
*How boring.
*200 channels and there is nothing good on!

Am I exaggerating? Or do many people seem anxious to escape their present lives?  This desire to eliminate time seems amazing when one reflects on the short time one has to live.  The best case scenario is that we have thirty thousand mornings to wake up to.  How many of these are met with joy and expectancy?  How many are met with reluctance and dread? By age seventy, the average American has spent nine years of their watching television. 

No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn. 
~ Jim Morrison

Kierkegaard sought to bring philosophy to an intensely personal level.  He criticized the abstraction of European thought (epitomized for him in the philosophy of Hegel) as lacking connectedness to individual lives.  He saw his own time as a period of increasing personal unease, which he called "Angst."  This condition was partly due to the increase individual consciousness.

"The ever increasing intensity of despair depends upon the degree of consciousness or is proportionate to this increase: the greater the degree of consciousness, the more intensive the despair. This is everywhere apparent, most clearly in despair at its maximum and minimum. The devil's despair is the most intensive despair, for the devil is sheer spirit and hence unqualified consciousness and transparency; there is no obscurity in the devil that could serve as a mitigating excuse. Therefore, his despair is the most absolute defiance.." [Works of Love]

Compared to Kierkegaard's 19th century, we in the 21st century are even I want to fly into your sun, Need faith to make me numb, Live like a teenage christ. Im a saint, got a date with suicide.  From "Hard Road Out of Hell" by Marilyn Manson.more educated, more technological, have more leisure and entertainment options.  Yet, observe other drivers on the road.  How many of them can you characterize as happy and fulfilled in that moment?  It seems to me that the stress and wear of daily life is barely tolerable to most people.  The common condition is to hurl forward from task to task (shopping, deadlines, vacation) as if driven or repelled forward by threat of failure and loss.  Anger, frustration, dissatisfaction, and impatience, as well as immediate gratification, intoxication, and vicarious pleasure are constants in our social sphere.  For entertainment we turn to representations of violence (movies, video games, music) and spectacles of personal tragedy (reality television shows, sensational trials and scandals). 

Imagine instead a being who is purely motivated by the pursuit of something valuable and precious for its own sake.  Their commitment to loving the life of their project is so complete, that every moment, every struggle, even hardship, is a step of personal growth.  Such a person is what Kierkegaard calls "the knight of faith."  Such people exist.  Who they are is not obvious to us, for they have no external signs of their value (such as wealth, fame, power, charisma, religious affiliation, etc.)  Understanding how it is possible to become such a being of purpose and commitment -even beyond the constraints of reason and hope- is what Kierkegaard sought to edify in his philosophical works.

"...the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die" [Journals 1835]

Next - learn more about Kierkegaard's Individualismlink to Augustine on faith


 

IQ Home

Aquinas
Aristotle
Augustine
Berkeley
Confucius
Descartes

Douglass

Foucault
Hobbes
Hume
Hypatia
Kant
Kierkegaard
Lao Tzu
Leibniz
Locke
Marx
Mill
Montaigne
Pascal
Plato
Protagoras
Rand
Russell
Schopenhauer
Socrates
Spinoza
Thales

 
2002