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Søren Kierkegaard, 1813-1855

kierke.jpg (7141 bytes)Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard, progenitor of modern existentialism, was born at Copenhagen, where he read theology (in which he graduated in 1840 but without taking orders), philosophy and literature. Obsessed by some mysterious guilt of his father's, he broke off, after much heart-searching, his engagement to Regine Olsen. Such deliberate, significant choosing of one's future self became the basis of his philosophizing.

It is something that has to be lived through and experienced, purely speculative systems of thought such as Hegel's being irrelevant to existence-making choices, because existence on account of its multiplicity can never be incorporated into a system. For Hegel's synthesis, Kierkegaard substituted the disjunction Either/Or (1843), the basis of choice. In Philosophical Fragments (1844) and especially in Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846), Kierkegaard attacked all philosophical system building and formulated the thesis that subjectivity is truth. He also attacked organized dogmatic Christianity in nine issues of his journal, The Instant, because it failed to make sufficiently clear the absolute moral isolation of the individual, the necessity for really choosing Christ, instead of just adhering to prescribed dogma and ritual.

Pseudonymous works include: Fear and Trembling (1843), Repetition (1843), The Concept of Anxiety (1844), Stages on Life's Way (1845), Two Minor Ethical-Religious Essays (1847) and The Crisis (1848). Works written under his own name include: Two Upbuilding Discourses (1843, 1844), Three Upbuilding Discourses (1843, 1844), Four Upbuilding Discourses (1843, 1844), Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions (1845), Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits (1847), Christian Discourses (1848), and The Lily of the Field, The Bird of the Air (1849).

The present age is one of understanding, of reflection, devoid of passion, an age which flies into enthusiasm for a moment only to decline back into indolence.

Not even a suicide does away with himself out of desperation, he considers the act so long and so deliberately, that he kills himself with thinking--one could barely call it suicide since it is thinking which takes his life. He does not kill himself with deliberation but rather kills himself because of deliberation. Therefore, one can not really prosecute this generation, for its art, its understanding, its virtuosity and good sense lies in reaching a judgement or a decision, not in taking action.

Resources
D. Anthony Storm's Website on Kierkegaard
International Kierkegaard Information
Kierkegaard as Existentialist
Kierkegaard biography (short)

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