Kierkegaard, Brandes, and Nietzsche

“Why you exist, says Nietzsche with Sören Kierkegaard, nobody in the world can tell you in advance; but since you do exist, try to give your existence a meaning by setting up for yourself as lofty and noble a goal as you can.” (George Brandes, Friedrich NietzscheAn Essay On Aristocratic Radicalism 1889)

Existentialist’s like Georg Brandes, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus say there is no God in this world so people have to work things out for themselves. Georg Brandes was aware of both Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. He favored the atheism of Nietzsche over the Christianity of Kierkegaard. Nietzsche was raised in a Protestant vicarage. Kierkegaard was influenced by Hegel and Nietzsche by Schopenhauer. What Kierkegaard called leveling Nietzsche called nihilism. Kierkegaard believed in the problem of repetition, or rebirth, as a new beginning for life while Nietzsche said the new beginning begins with the statement “everything is permissible.”

Brandes was upset that Kierkegaard would seek to free individuals only to make them choose to become Christians in spirit and in truth. He and Nietzsche wanted free personalities who would then listen to a voice within saying, “Become thyself! Be thyself!” But first they asked each individual if he knows if he “Has he a self?” If he doesn’t know then he is not yet aware of having a self. Kierkegaard wanted to get the self before God and said the same thing about knowing your self as did Brandes and Nietzsche.

“When around one everything has become silent, solemn as a clear, starlit night, when the soul comes to be alone in the whole world, then before one there appears, not an extraordinary human being, but the eternal power itself, then the heavens open, and the I chooses itself or, more correctly, receives itself. Then the personality receives the accolade of knighthood that ennobles it for an eternity.” Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or II 1843 p. 177 Hong

Existing before God may seem unendurable to someone, because it is impossible for him to come back to himself, become himself. The biggest danger, that of losing oneself, can pass off in the world as quietly as if it were nothing; every other loss, an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. is bound to be noticed. For every human being is primitively organized as a self, characteristically determined to become himself; and although indeed every such self has sharp edges, that means only that it is to be worked smooth, not ground away, not through fear of man wholly abandon being itself, or even through fear of man simply not dare to be itself in that more essential contingency (which precisely is not to be ground away) in which a person is still himself for himself. Sickness Unto Death, Soren Kierkegaard 1849 p. 62-63

When in sickness I go to a physician, he may find it necessary to prescribe a very painful treatment-there is no self-contradiction in my submitting to it. No, but if on the other hand I suddenly find myself in trouble, an object of persecution, because, because I have gone to that physician: well, then then there is a self-contradiction. The physician has perhaps announced that he can help me with regard to the illness from which I suffer, and perhaps he can really do that-but there is an “aber” [but] that I had not thought of at all. The fact that I get involved with this physician, attach myself to him-that is what makes me an object of persecution; here is the possibility of offense. So also with Christianity. Now the issue is: will you be offended or will you believe. If you will believe, then you push through the possibility of offense and accept Christianity on any terms. So it goes; then forget the understanding; then you say: Whether it is a help or a torment, I want only one thing, I want to belong to Christ, I want to be a Christian. Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity 1850 p. 115 Hong

Kierkegaard wrote about the death of God in his Christian Discourses of 1848. Nietzsche wrote about the same subject in his 1882, 1887 book The Joyful Wisdom aphorism 125. Philosophy and psychology like this short excerpt very much. Nietzsche decided to become Kierkegaard’s eminent pagan and kill God.

Christian Discourses by Soren Kierkegaard 1848.

“Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why! is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea-voyage? Has he emigrated?—the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. “Where is God gone?” he called out. “I mean to tell you! We have killed him,—you and I! We are all his murderers!” The Joyful Wisdom by Nietzsche

This is the test: to become and continue to be a Christian, a suffering with which no other human suffering can be compared in pain and anguish. Yet neither Christianity nor Christ is cruel. No, Christ is himself leniency and love, is love and leniency itself; the cruelty comes from the Christian’s having to live in this world and having to express in the environment of this world what it is to be a Christian-for Christ is not so lenient, that is, so weak, that he wants to take the Christian out of this world. Practice in Christianity, Hong tr p. 196 1850

Both Brandes and Nietzsche place the emphasis for self development on the single individual just as Kierkegaard did. They say “follow yourself.” They want autonomy. Think for yourself they say, but then they both wrote so many books. It’s strange. Kierkegaard did the same thing when he said he wanted to get people alone with God. He also wrote so many books to say this.

The Bible from beginning to end emphasizes strongly the value of self-examination. Was one of its intentions to introduce you to a distinguished stranger; yourself?

Published by kierkegaardschallenge

I found myself becoming interested in the writings of Soren Kierkegaard and can't get my interest to end.

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