Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Existentialism

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Overview

1.        In addition to my numerous   other acquaintances I have   still one more intimate friend -- my melancholy. In the   midst of pleasure, in the midst of work, he beckons to me, calls me aside, even though I remain present bodily. My melancholy is the most faithful sweetheart I have -- no wonder that I return the love!   (Diapsalmata)

2.        To be a Christian has become a matter of no importance whatever, a mummery, something one is anyway, or something one acquires more   readily than a trick.

3.        But precisely this is the misfortune, and has been the misfortune, in Christendom that Christ is neither the one nor the other -- neither the one he was when living on earth, nor he who will return in glory, but rather one about whom we have learned to know something in an inadmissible way from history -- that he was somebody or other of great account. In an inadmissible and unlawful way we have learned to know him; whereas to believe in him is the only permissible mode of approach. (Preparation for a Christian Life)

4.        [E]very misunderstanding of ... Christianity may at once be recognized by its transforming it into a doctrine, transferring it to the sphere of the intellectual.

5.        Let others complain that the times are wicked. I complain that they are paltry; for they are without passion. The thoughts of men are thin and frail like lace, and they themselves are feeble like girl lace-makers. The thoughts of their hearts are too puny to be sinful. For a worm it might conceivably be regarded a sin to harbor thoughts such as theirs, not for a man who is formed in the image of God.  ... Fye upon them! (Diapsalmata)

6.        I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something he will die for he isn't fit to live.

7.        [O]ne cannot "know" anything at all about "Christ"; for he is the paradox, the object of faith, and exists only for faith. But all historic information is communication of "knowledge." Therefore one cannot learn anything about Christ from history. For whether now one learn little or much about him, it will not represent what he was in reality. Hence one learns something else about him than what is strictly true, and therefore learns nothing about him, or gets to know something wrong about him; that is, one is deceived.  History makes Christ look different from what he looked in truth, and thus one learns much from history about -- Christ? No, not about Christ; because about him nothing can be "known," he can only be believed. (Preparation for a Christian Life)

8.        Let me first ask another question: is any more absurd contradiction thinkable than wishing to PROVE (no matter, for the present, whether one wishes to do so from history, or from whatever else in the wide world one wishes to prove it) that a certain person is God?  To maintain that a certain person is God -- that is, professes to be God -- is indeed a stumbling block in the purest sense. But what is the nature of a stumbling block? It is an assertion which is at variance with all (human) reason. Now think of proving that! But to prove something is to render it reasonable and real. Is it possible, then, to render reasonable and real what is at variance with all reason?  Scarcely; unless one wishes to contradict one's self. One can prove only that it is at variance with all reason. The proofs for the divinity of Christ given in Scripture, such as the miracles and his resurrection from the grave exist, too, only for faith; that is, they are no "proofs," for they are not meant to prove that all this agrees with reason but, on the contrary, are meant to prove that it is at variance with reason and therefore a matter of faith. (Preparation for a Christian Life)

9.        But precisely this is the  misfortune, and has been the  misfortune, in Christendom  that Christ is neither the one  nor the other -- neither the  one he was when living on earth, nor he who will return  in glory, but rather one about  whom we have learned to  know something in an  inadmissible way from  history -- that he was  somebody or other of great account. In an inadmissible and unlawful way we have learned to know him; whereas to believe in him is the only permissible mode of approach. (Preparation for a Christian Life)

His Starting
Point: What
Am I to Do?

1.         Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be   lived forwards.

2.        The thing is to understand myself, to see what God   really wishes me to do; the thing is to find the truth for   me, to find the idea. for which I can live and die. (209)

3.        Had I not honoured her above myself, as my future wife, had I not been prouder of her honour than of mine, then I should have remained silent and have fulfilled her desire and mine, and have been married to her -- there are so many marriages that conceal their little tale. That I did not want; in that way she would have become my concubine; I would have rather murdered her. (212)

4.        I was so deeplv shaken that I understood perfectly well that I could not possibly succeed in striking the comforting and secure via media in which most people pass their lives: I had either to cast myself into perdition and sensuality, or to choose the religious absolutely as the only thing -- either the world in a measure that would be dreadful, or the cloister.

Existence and
Reality

1.        It is impossible to exist without passion, unless we   understand the word ' exist' in the loose sense of a   so-called existence. (214)

2.        The difficulty that inheres in existence, with which the   existing individual is confronted, is one that never really comes to expression in the language of abstract thought, much less receives an explanation. (214)

3.        Abstract thought ... ignores the concrete and the   temporal, the existential process, the predicament of the existing individual arising from his being a synthesis of the temporal and the eternal situated in existence. (215)

4.        I have searched with resignation for the principle of my life.... What did I find?  Not my Self, which was what I was looking for (thinking of my soul, if I may so express it, as shut in a box with a spring-lock which external circumstances, by  pressing upon the lock, were to open).

The Nature of Choice

1.        The real action is not the external act, but an internal  decision in which the individual puts an end to the mere possibility and identifies himself with the content of his thought, in order to exist in it. (219)

2.        Kant held that man was his own law (autonomy), i.e.,  bound himself under the law which he gave himself. In a  deeper sense that means to  say: lawlessness or  experimentation. It is no harder than the thwacks which Sancho Panza applied to his own bottom. ...  There [must be] some third and compelling factor which is not the individual himself. (220)

3.        Not only is the law which I give myself ... not a law; but there is a law which is given to me by one higher than I. (220)

4.        That the man who chooses good and evil chooses good is indeed true, but this becomes evident only afterwards; for the aesthetical is not the evil but neutrality. (221)

5.        It is not so much a question choosing the right as of the energy, the earnestness, the pathos with which one chooses, Thereby the personality announces its inner infinity, and thereby, in turn, the personality is consolidated. (221 )

6.        If a man is sometimes in the right, sometimes in the wrong, to a certain degree in the right, to a certain degree in the wrong; who then is to decide this except man; but in deciding it may be not be to a certain degree in the right, to a certain degree in the wrong. (223)

7.        Only by an infinite relationship to God [can] doubt be calmed, only by an infinitely free relationship to God [can] anxiety be transformed into joy. [A man] is in an infinite relationship to God when he recognizes that God is always in the right ... that he himself is always in the  wrong. (223)

8.        If I am ca,pable of grasping God objectively, I do not  believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. (224)

9.        An objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation process of the  most passionate inwardness  is the truth, the highest truth attainable for an existing individual. (224)

Teleological
Suspension
of the Ethical:
Orthodoxy
Issues: the Age

1.        For I should very much like to know how one could bring Abraham's act into relation with the universal, and whether it is possible to discover any connection between what Abraham did and the universal ... except the fact that he transgressed it. It was not for the sake of saving a people, not to maintain the idea of the state, that Abraham did this. ...  Abraham's whole action stands in no relation to the universal, is a purely private undertaking. {225)

2.        Faith is precisely the paradox that the single individual as the single individual is higher than the universal, is justified before it, not as inferior to it but as superior ... that the single individual as the single individual stands in absolute relation to the absolute. (Fear and Trembling)

3.        Well, then, everything being assumed in order with respect to the scriptures -- what follows? Has anyone who previously did not have faith been brought a single step nearer to its acquisition? ... On the contrary, in this objectivity one tends to lose that infinite personal interestedness in passion which is the condition of faith. (231)

4.        It is a self contradiction and therefore comical, to be infinitely interested in that which in its maximum still always remains an approximation. If in spite of this, passion is nevertheless imported, we get fanaticism. ... The fault is not in the infinitely interested passion, but in the fact that its object has become an approximation object. (231)

5.        In every case where the object of knowledge is the very inwardness of the subjectivity of the individual, it is necessary for the individual to be in a corresponding condition. (232)

6.        Our age reminds one vividly of the dissolution of the Greek city-state: everything goes on as usual, and yet there is no longer anyone who believes in it. (234)

7.        Passion is the real thing ... and the age in which we live is wretched, because it is without passion. (234)

8.        Moreover, the poor opinion in which dreams are held nowadays, is also connected with the intellectualism which really only values the conscious, while in simpler ages people piously believed that the unconscious life in man was the more important as well as the profounder. (234)

9.        Mankind en masse gives itself up to evil ... nowadays it happens en masse. That is why people flock together, in order that natural and animal hysteria should get hold of them, in order to feel themselves stimulated, inflamed, and ausser sich. (234)