It’s too bad Kierkegaard was discovered in the middle of two world wars and the rise of Germany. The war and its effects on civilization overshadowed any positive aspects of Kierkegaard’s writings. Crisis was the new word for the “spirit of the age” and Christianity was blamed as well as praised by the intellectuals of the time.
His writings were used as biographical material for a psychoanalytical description of him as a tortured soul who was abused by his religious surroundings. This was started at early as 1914 when David Swenson wrote his monograph and continued with Walter Lowrie when he wrote his biography about Kierkegaard in 1938.
The following quotes come from several books that discuss the crisis and how it came into being since the time of Descartes and Hegel. Hegel was influenced by the French Revolution and noted how change could be brought about by disruption of the social order.
“Kierkegaard’s spirit and accent are, in fact, those of the twentieth rather than of the nineteenth century. But while the psychological miseen-scene is so similar the denouement is different. Kierkegaard claims to have ridden the rapids of catastrophe and passed beyond them to a more profound and serene ocean of spiritual integrity.
Where the modern spirit, for the most part, as in the case of T. E. Lawrence, finds itself baffled and bogged in despair, Kierkegaard seems to have broken through; where these reach a dead end, he finds a new beginning, where the contemporary consciousness appears to begin and end in conflict, Kierkegaard seems to begin with conflict but to end with co-ordination.”
The terrible crystal: studies in Kierkegaard and modern Christianity, by M. Chaning-Pearce 1941
When a man jumps off a cliff, he doesn’t defy the law of gravitation; he merely illustrates it. Similarly, when a culture or a civilization jumps off a cliff, it doesn’t defy the ontological conditions which sanction it, or the nature of man, or the nature of God, or the nature of man’s destiny under God. It merely illustrates them. In short, at the point of crisis, our reasonings are thrust against the ultimate nature and meaning of things. The religious and metaphysical understanding of man is thus renewed.
From this it will be seen that a culture, or a civilization, which has gone wrong on first principles is fundamentally in dialectical conflict with itself. It is like a many-headed hydra, growing lustily at first and breeding many heads. At length, however, it goes mad through willful opposition of the heads, which tear and rend each other until it has destroyed itself. This action, when thus fatally determined, is a negative clarification of what was implicit from the beginning—of what was “in the nature of the beast.”
Today we see many vicious opposites tearing and rending each other and threatening to destroy what men have known and cherished as the “West.”
The West confronts its own principles deflected upon it violently from the East. This presents to the Western consciousness a perspective that is entirely new, and for which there is no precise historical precedent. The cataclysmic conflict of forces throughout the world is the external evidence of a deep inner cleft within the spirit of modern man.”
The Crisis of Faith, by Hopper, Stanley Romaine 1944
“The crisis toward which the modern world was slowly but surely moving was early diagnosed as a disease of the human mind by some advanced thinkers who dared to take their stand against the spirit of the age” and some of whom fell as victims in a valiant struggle against forces which were as powerfully alive within their own selves as in their surrounding world.
The German poet Goethe, usually given to optimism, grew doubtful and melancholy when he weighed the progressive trends of the early nineteenth century against the chances of human happiness. “Men,” he wrote, “will become more shrewd and clever, but they will not be better or happier. I see a time approaching when God will no longer be pleased with man, when He will have to smash His creation to pieces in order to rejuvenate it.”
And Friedrich Nietzsche was to write half a century later: “Oh thou proud European of the nineteenth century, art thou not mad? Thy knowledge does not complete Nature, it only kills thine own nature. . . . Thou climbest toward heaven on the sunbeams of thy knowledge — but also down toward chaos. Thy manner of going is fatal to thee; the ground slips from under thy feet into the dark unknown; thy life has no stay but spiders’ webs torn assunder by every new stroke of thy knowledge.”
In the interval between these apprehensive warnings of Goethe and Nietzsche, the imposing system of G. F. Hegel’s metaphysical idealism had risen as a final attempt to unify science, philosophy, and religion. But Hegel’s own “dialectical method” was seized upon by the radical “Young’ Hegelians” in Germany and England to destroy their master’s idealistic premises. Taking their cue from Auguste Comte’s positivism, they developed a dialectical “historic materialism” which saw in history no longer any issues involving problems of true and false, right and wrong, good and evil, but merely questions of fact and material force.Even while Hegel was still alive, the inductive method of the natural sciences began to replace the deductive reasoning of the Hegelian system. Comte’s positivism became first a powerful rival of Hegelianism and then its triumphant conqueror.”
“The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset compares contemporary man with a traveler in a motorcar the mechanism of which is a complete mystery to him. Man without God resembles the traveler without an experienced chauffeur: the car races at full speed, but the traveler has lost control. The world moves at full speed toward events over which man is no longer master.”
“Emmanuel Mounier distinguishes between two types of nihilism, one of which is creative and “preliminary,” while the other is destructive and final. Creative nihilism points to the dark abyss of nothingness in order to warn and to rescue; it calls “nothingness” by name in order to reveal and save the splendor of “being” which lies buried in its hidden depths. This is the nihilism of Nietzsche and of Heidegger.
Destructive nihilism, on the other hand, grows out of a frustrated desire to be creative in the attainment of knowledge or in the domination of life and nature. It resembles the primitive reaction of the child taking vengeance on the object or subject which refuses to be subservient to his wishes or whims. The destructive nihilist is possessed by a horrible intoxication, a raving despair which drives him to the demolition of his home, his work, and his self.”
“The Socratic method consists, according to Kierkegaard, in leading the reader to a point where he finds out for himself what the author has been trying to convey to him, without the need of “direct communication.”
To accomplish this, Kierkegaard needed a number of sharply profiled individual characters whose thoughts and actions he could experimentally develop to their extreme possibilities. This is the explanation of the use of the many pseudonyms in Kierkegaard’s works. “With my left hand,” he says, “I gave to the world ‘Either/Or’ (i.e., pseudonymous “indirect communication”), and with my right hand ‘Two Edifying Discourses'” (i.e., “direct communication” over the signature of his own name). In the last analysis, to be a philosopher means for Kierkegaard to understand oneself as a creature of God.” (23)
“Hegel, starting out as a theologian, had in the end denounced all theology. Step by step he had transformed Christian dogmatics into a gnostic theory of knowledge: Redemption was interpreted as the redeeming force of love; the Holy Trinity became “the dialectic of the Absolute Mind”; the God-Man was transformed into a man who had experienced his identity with the Absolute; and the Holy Spirit appeared as the communal spirit of social life.
Was Kierkegaard’s view then unduly gloomy when he saw in Hegel the most ingenious and therefore the most dangerous modern enemy of Christianity?
Kierkegaard himself, on the other hand, had started out as a speculative writer and ended as a theologian who denounced philosophy. He became “a Protestant monk,” a lonely Christian who deeply, in fear and trembling, experienced the agony of Christ on Mount Calvary, almost forgetting its sequel, the gladness of Easter. He took a forceful stand against Hegel’s fatalistic theory of the predetermined evolution of the world spirit. Far from conceiving of Christianity as one phase among others in an evolutionary cosmic process, the Christian dispensation was for him a unique occurrence of absolute and incomparable value and validity. For him, therefore, the individual’s concern was with faith and salvation rather than with the “objectivations of the World Spirit.”
There is ample justification for accepting as essentially correct Kierkegaard’s contention that Hegel’s goal, as revealed in the concluding paragraphs of his Philosophy of History, was the secularization of religion and the divinization of nature and worldly prudence. God must become man, so that the philosopher may become God, or, to use Hegel’s own phraseology, a representation of objective truth, of absolute being, of self-conscious Idea; so that in the end all opposites may be identified and neutralized: God, World, and Man are One Idea.
Against the backdrop of the Kierkegaard-Hegel antithesis, the present condition of Christianity in the world stands out more clearly.
The contemporary philosopher who chooses his stand on the side of atheism and paganism is no longer apologetic about it and therefore perhaps more sincere than Hegel. Kierkegaard had tried desperately to resolve the thought — extension, spirit — nature, soul — body dualisms and antinomies which Descartes had bequeathed from one generation of philosophers to the next.
The Existentialist Revolt by Kurt Reinhardt 1952
“Philosophy concerns itself only with the glory of the Idea mirroring itself in the History of the World. Philosophy escapes from the weary strife of passions that agitate the surface of society into the calm region of contemplation; that which interests it is the recognition of the process of development which the Idea has passed through in realizing itself to the Idea of Freedom, whose reality is the consciousness of Freedom and nothing short of it.
That the History of the World, with all the changing scenes which its annals present, is this process of development and the realization of Spirit, this is the true Theodicies, the justification of God in History. Only this insight can reconcile Spirit with the History of the World viz., that what has happened, and is happening every day, is not only not “without God,” but is essentially His Work. ”
Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of History (p. 476)
The private thinker Job is contrasted with the world-renowned Hegel, and even with the Greek Symposium—i.e., with Plato himself. Does such a contrast have any meaning and has Kierkegaard himself the power to realize it? That is, to accept as the truth, not what was revealed to him by the philosophical thought of the enlightened Hellene, but what was related by a man half-mad from horror and an ignorant man at that—the hero of a narrative from an ancient book? Why is Job’s truth “more convincing” than the truth of Hegel or of Plato? Is it really more convincing?
It was not so easy for Kierkegaard to break with the world-famous philosopher. Kierkegaard exchanged Hegel and the Greek Symposium for the fiery speeches of Job. Can contemporary man reject Socrates and expect to find the truth in Abraham and Job?
Lev Shestov (1866-1938), Kierkegaard & the Existential Philosophy
Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Kafka are the three prophets, each in his own way, of nihilistic absurdity.
By taking “the leap” into faith, Kierkegaard escapes the consequences of dread and despair that the vision of the infinite absurd induces, but the religious solution he advocates precludes the birth of tragedy.
Hailing the death of God, Nietzsche spells out all the metaphysical implications to be drawn from a God-abandoned world. He is our key figure of Promethean defiance, the instigator of the modem revolt. It is he who, at the start of our inquiry, best illustrates the difficulties that attend the modern writer’s effort to derive the tragic vision from nihilistic premises.
In the case of Kafka, the impossibility of either affirming or rejecting life reaches a climax of ambiguity. The absurd is enthroned. Camus, like Sartre, transcends the myth of Sisyphus by showing how man can live in a universe that is without ultimate meaning.
Kierkegaard wrote about Goethe and Hegel in his Concluding Postscript as well as his Journals. He thought an all-encompassing system of religion or philosophy would bring civilization to a standstill. Final causes were ignored by Descartes and modern philosophers followed his strategy. Kierkegaard was for teaching the doctrine of God as the final cause because for him it gave civilization a hope that was worth living for.
Soren Aabye Kierkegaard lived at a time when the proofs of Christianity were debated in universities. Miracles were questioned by philosophers and theologians responded to their questions. Books were written on one side and the other and libraries were filled. Kierkegaard was firmly against the over use of external proofs and advocated the testimony of the inner voice instead.
He wrote over 80 upbuilding-edifying discourses and a few pseudonymous books. The pseudonymous books seem to have gotten all the attention. He wanted to write works that would make people think and build them up rather than tear them down. He reached the goal of the discourses in his 1847 book Works of Love.
Let us follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. Romans 14:19 KJV
But love builds up. 1 Corinthians 8.1
Let all things be done unto edifying. 1 Corinthians 14:26 KJV
There is nothing, nothing at all, that cannot be done or said in such a way that it becomes upbuilding, but whatever it is, if it is upbuilding, then love is present. Thus the admonition, just where love itself admits the difficulty of giving a specific rule, say, “Do everything for upbuilding.” Romans 14:19 It could just as well have said, “Do everything in love,” and it would have said the very same thing. One person can do exactly the opposite-in love-the opposite becomes upbuilding. There is no word in the language that in itself is upbuilding, and there is no word in the language that cannot be said in an upbuilding way and become upbuilding if love is present.
Thus it is so very far from being that case that the upbuilding would be something that is an excellence for a few gifted individuals, similar to brains, literary talent, beauty, and the like (alas, this is just an unloving and divisive error!) that on the contrary it is the very opposite- every human being by his life, by his conduct, by his behavior in everyday affairs, by his association with his peers, by his words, his remarks, should and could build up and would do it if love were really present in him.
Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love 1847, Hong p. p. 212-213
Four Upbuilding Discourses August 31, 1844 (Edifying Discourses)
translated by David F Swenson 1946, Howard V and Edna H Hong 1990
a. To Need God is a Human Being’s Highest Perfection.
b. The Thorn in the Flesh.
c. Against Cowardliness.
You can read the first of Kierkegaard’s four discourses here in Swenson’s translation. I found it interesting.
Kierkegaard has been turning his readers from the external world to the inner beauty of the world of the spirit. The Romantics had deified Nature while the Idealists deified both Reason and the State. Kierkegaard was against this kind of upbuilding of external goods and pushed for the inner goods.
Many good things are talked about in these sacred places. There is talk of the good things of the world, of health, happy times, prosperity, power, good fortune, a glorious fame. And we are warned against them; the person who has them is warned not to rely on them, and the person who does not have them is warned not to set his heart on them.
About faith there is a different kind of talk. It is said to be the highest good, the most beautiful;, the most precious, the most blessed riches of all, not to be compared with anything else, incapable of being replaced. Is it distinguished from the other good things, then, by being the highest but otherwise of the same kind as they are-transient and capricious, bestowed only upon the chosen few, rarely for the whole of life? If this were so, then it certainly would be inexplicable that in these sacred places it is always faith and faith alone that is spoken of, that it is eulogized and celebrated again and again. Soren Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 9-10 – The Expectancy of Faith
He started with faith and moved on to other internal goods, such as, endurance, patience, love, peace, and joy.
He pictured the divided self in Either/Or – A wanted to become a religious individual and so did B but they argued about “how” to become one. The little discourse at the end has Christ telling them to make peace with one another. We first become “at one” with ourselves and then we can made a “decisive resolution”.
We must become reconciled with God so we can be reconciled with ourselves as well as with our neighbors.
When a person turns and faces himself in order to understand himself, he steps, as it were, in the way of that first self, halts that which was turned outward in hankering for and seeking after the surrounding world that is its object, and summons it back from the external. In order to prompt the first self to this withdrawal, the deeper self lets the surrounding world remain what it is-remain dubious.
This is indeed the way it is; the world around us is inconstant and can be changed into the opposite at any moment, and there is not one person who can force this change by his own might or by the conjuration of his wish.
The deeper self now shapes the deceitful flexibility of the surrounding world in such a way that it is no longer attractive to the first self. Then the first self either must proceed to kill the deeper self, to render it forgotten, whereby the whole matter is given up; or it must admit that the deeper self is right, because to want to predicate constancy of something that continually changes is indeed a contradiction, and as soon as one confesses that it changes, it can of course, change in that same moment.
However much that first self shrinks from this, there is no wordsmith so ingenious or no thought-twister so wily that he can invalidate the deeper self’s eternal claim. There is only one way out, and that is to silence the deeper self by letting the roar of inconstancy drown it out.
Soren Kierkegaard, Four Upbuilding Discourses , August 31, 1844 From Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong translation 1990 p. 314
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8
When the first self submits to the deeper self, they are reconciled and walk on together. p. 316
Kierkegaard liked the Epistle of James.
But is one not able, then, to overcome oneself by oneself? This certainly is said at times, but do you suppose that the one who says it has tested and understood himself in what was said: How can I be stronger than myself? I can be stronger than the weakest, and perhaps there lives or has lived someone who might be said to be stronger than all others, but no one was ever stronger than himself. When we speak of overcoming oneself by oneself, by this expression we really mean something external, so that the struggle is unequal.
When, for example, someone who has been tempted by worldly prestige conquers himself so that he no longer reaches out for it; when someone who feared life’s dangers drives out his fears to such an extent that he now longer flees the dangers; when someone who has lost his bold confidence overcomes himself to the point that he stands his ground and does not retreat from the place of decision-then we shall not depreciate this but praise him instead.
But if he will take care not to save his soul in new vanity and drive out the devil with the devil’s help, (Mt 12.24, Mk 3.22-23) then he will definitely admit that in his innermost being he is not able to overcome himself.
But he by no means understands this as if evil had once and for all gained power over him-no, but he is able to do only so much, and this only by extreme effort, in resisting himself, but this, of course, is not overcoming himself. In other words, he creates in his innermost being temptations of glory and temptations of fear and temptations of despondency, of pride and of defiance and of sensuality greater than those he meets in the external world, and this is the very reason he struggled with himself.
Otherwise, he struggles with a fortuitous degree of temptation, and the victory proves nothing with regard to what he would be able to do in a greater temptation. If he is victorious in the temptation with which the surrounding world confronts him, this does not prove that he would be victorious if the temptation were as terrible as he is able to imagine it, but not until it appears that immense does he actually learn to know himself. It now appears that immense to him in his inner being, and this is why he knows himself-something that he perhaps would not come to know in the world-that he is capable of nothing at all. p. 319-320
We need God to overcome ourselves. What does it mean to struggle in prayer?
Before I begin this summary, a quick word is that I’ll probably be putting off any other summaries for Hegel for a while, as my computer’s just broken and I’ve lost most of the notes that I had on the original text, minus this one. I already had finished notes on the master-slave and Unhappy Consciousness, but I feel that before I start ‘re-writing’ notes I should wait until my computer comes back from the shop (it’s being sent on Thursday). With that in mind, here’s to you…
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Inspiration is indeed an object of faith, is qualitatively dialectical, not attainable by means of quantification. Existing is something quite different from knowing.
Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846 Hong p. 29, 298
“When culture and the like have managed to make it so very easy to be a Christian, it is certainly in order that a single individual, according to his poor abilities, seeks to make it difficult, provided, however, that he does not make it more difficult than it is.-But the more culture and knowledge, the more difficult to become a Christian.”
Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846, Hong p. 383
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
the sons of this world are for their own generation wiser than the sons of the light
for ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.
Exodus 3: 1-17 The Holy Bible
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.”
1 Kings 19 The Holy Bible
The two, each with five hundred followers, going up the stream to seek their brother. Seeing him now dressed as a hermit, and all his followers with him, having got knowledge of the miraculous law—strange thoughts engaged their minds—”our brother having submitted thus, we too should also follow him.” Thus the three brothers, with all their band of followers, were brought to hear the lord’s discourse on the comparison of a fire sacrifice: and in the discourse he taught, “How the dark smoke of ignorance arises, whilst confused thoughts, like wood drilled into wood, create the fire. Lust, anger, delusion, these are as fire produced, and these inflame and burn all living things.
Thus the fire of grief and sorrow, once enkindled, ceases not to burn, ever giving rise to birth and death; but whilst this fire of sorrow ceases not, yet are there two kinds of fire, one that burns but has no fuel left. So when the heart of man has once conceived distaste for sin, this distaste removing covetous desire, covetous desire extinguished, there is rescue; if once this rescue has been found, then with it is born sight and knowledge, by which distinguishing the streams of birth and death, and practising pure conduct, all is done that should be done, and hereafter shall be no more life.”
Thus the thousand Bhikshus hearing the world-honored preach, all defects forever done away, their minds found perfect and complete deliverance. Then Buddha for the Kâsyapas’ sakes, and for the benefit of the thousand Bhikshus, having preached, and done all that should be done, himself with purity and wisdom and all the concourse of high qualities excellently adorned, he gave them, as in charity, rules for cleansing sense. The great Rishi, listening to reason, lost all regard for bodily austerities, and, as a man without a guide, was emptied of himself, and learned discipleship.
Bimbisâra Râga Becomes a Disciple, from Life of Buddha
Socrates – GLAUCON
And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: –Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
For many days I had been debating within myself many and diverse things, seeking constantly, and with anxiety, to find out my real self, my best good, and the evil to be avoided, when suddenly one—I know not, but eagerly strive to know, whether it were my-self or another, within me or without— said to me:
Will you, then, be satisfied to know God after the fashion in which you know in what sign the moon will rise to-morrow?
No, that is not enough, for it is by my senses that this is known. Also I know not whether God, or some occult natural cause, might not suddenly change the ordinary course of the moon, and if this should happen, all that I had taken for granted would become false.
R. And do you believe this could happen?
A. I do not. But I seek what I may know, not what I may believe.
R. They need first to be exercised by a salutary encouragement of desire, and an equally wise postponement of its satisfaction. They should, ﬁrst, be shown some things which are not in themselves luminous, but can be seen only by reflected light, such as a garment or a wall, or anything of that sort. After that, something else, which, though not itself luminous, yet glows with more beauty by reﬂection than does the former, as gold or silver or something similar; but not so brightly as to hurt the eye. Next, they should look upon some moderate terrestrial ﬁre, then upon the stars, then the moon, then the glow of dawn, and the growing splendor of sunrise. And whoever accustoms himself to these things, whether in unbroken order, or with some omissions, will come to look upon the sun itself without shrinking and with great delight. The most excellent teachers use some such method as this with those eagerly desirous of Wisdom, who already see, but whose sight is not acute.
R. It is then established that the nature of things cannot exist apart from a living soul?
A sacrament is the sign of a sacred thing (res).” However, a sacred mystery is also called a sacrament, as the sacrament of divinity, so that a sacrament may be the sign of something sacred, and the sacred thing signified; but now we are considering a sacrament as a sign. — So, “A sacrament is the visible form of an invisible grace.”
But a sign, is the thing (res) behind the form which it wears to the senses, which brings by means of itself something else to our minds.
Furthermore, some signs are natural, as smoke which signifies fire; others conventional; and of those which are conventional, some are sacraments, some not.: For every sacrament is a sign, but the converse is not true. A sacrament bears a resemblance to the thing, of which it is a sign.
Sentences by Peter Lombard 1096-1160
Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to [puny] dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature. I readily agree with the foregoing.
The Metalogicon of John of Salisbury 1159 P. 167-168 Translated by Daniel D. McGarry 1955
This Colloquy concerning Things and Words, exposes the preposterous Judgments of some People, who are more ambitious of Names, than they are of the Things themselves ; to be esteemed, than to deserve Esteem. In aiming at Things, it is better to be and to have ; in avoiding Things, it is better to be thought to have them and be without them. It is the worst of Frauds to cheat a Friend.
If Man is a rational Animal, how contrary is it to Reason, that in the Conveniencies, rather than the real Goods of the Body, and in external Things, which Fortune gives and takes away at her Pleasure ; we had rather have the Thing itself than the Name ; and in the real Goods of the Mind, we put more Value upon the Name, than the Thing itself.
Of Words and Things Desiderius Erasmus 1466-1536
Charon detests Christians fighting one with another. An evil Genius brings News to Charon, that all the Earth was up in Arms for War: Ossa, the Goddess Fame in Homer, the Monks and Jesuits, are the Incendiaries.
What can’t a well-dissembled Religion do? when to this there is added Youth, Unexperiencedness, Ambition, a natural Animosity, and a Mind propense to any Thing that offers itself. It is an easy Matter to impose upon such ; it is an easy Matter to overthrow a Waggon, that was inclining to fall before.
Charon by Desiderius Erasmus
The same day that Socrates should drink the poison, one Apollodorus (for to comfort him by such means as he could) came and brought to him a rich robe, of a great valor, that he might have it on his back, at his dying hour. But he refusing the gift, What (saith he) this robe of mine own here, which hath been honest enough for me in my lifetime, will it not be even like hones for me, after I be departed out of this world?
Socrates by Desiderius Erasmus
Ecclesiastes: Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity
To The Reader
Wilt thou not look upon this Labour of mine to be a most bold and almost Herculean attempt, to wage War against the Giant-like Opposition of all the Arts and Sciences? And thus to challenge the stoutest Hunters of Nature? Doubters will knit their enraged brows upon me: the Authority of Masters, the endeavours of the Batchelors of Art, the heat of the Schoolmen, the sedition of the Mechanicks, will be all up in arms against me. All which if I stab at one blow, will it not be a greater work, than Hercules in the accomplishment of all his Labours was ever guilty of?
Shall I not have performed a nobler Task, if with no less danger and labour, I overcome these Monsters of Schools, Universities and Pulpits? For I am not ignorant how bloody a Battle I must fight, or how hazardous and difficult the War will be, being to meet with such an Army of potent Enemies.
The Vanity of Arts and Sciences by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, 1486-1535, Knight, Doctor of both Laws, Judge of the Prerogative Court and Counsellor to Charles the Fifth, Emperour of Germany Published in London 1676
Pantagruel, very well remembering his father’s letter and admonitions, would one day make trial of his knowledge. Thereupon, in all the carrefours, that is, throughout all the four quarters, streets, and corners of the city, he set up conclusions to the number of nine thousand seven hundred sixty and four, in all manner of learning, touching in them the hardest doubts that are in any science. And first of all, in the Fodder Street he held dispute against all the regents or fellows of colleges, artists or masters of arts, and orators, and did so gallantly that he overthrew them and set them all upon their tails. He went afterwards to the Sorbonne, where he maintained argument against all the theologians or divines, for the space of six weeks, from four o’clock in the morning until six in the evening, except an interval of two hours to refresh themselves and take their repast.
Pantagruel, having wholly subdued the land of Dipsody, transported thereunto a colony of Utopians.
as the wise man Solomon saith, Wisdom entereth not into a malicious mind, and that knowledge without conscience is but the ruin of the soul.
Gargantua and Pantagruel François Rabelais 1494-1553
Philosophy cannot and must not give faith, but it must understand itself and know what if offers and take nothing away, least of all trick men out of something by pretending that it is nothing.
Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling 1843 p. 33 Hong
We will shew you further the ground of the genetrix [or matrix], for we see it clearly in begets, this world, in the dominion of the elements : that there is a genetrix, which doth afford so much; and if there be a genetrix, then there must be a centre or circle of life wherein the genetrix hath its dominion: for the nothing doth not move nor stir ; but if there be a stirring, that moveth every life, that must not be a strange [or heterogeneous] thing, because it is in every thing that thing’s own spirit and life, as well in the vegetative and insensitive as in the sensitive living [things].
Threefold Life of Man by Jakob Bohme 1575-1624.
Now we see that the mark standeth in the centre: for God is also an angry zealous or jealous God, and a consuming fire; and in that source [or quality] standeth the abyss of hell. Now the essences are the being which causeth the will: for here you must understand that there are two wills in one being, and they cause two Principles: One is the love and the other is the anger or the source [or property] of wrath.
The Aurora, by Jacob Boehme
As for the disgraces which learning receiveth from politics, they be of this nature: that learning doth soften men’s minds, and makes them more unapt for the honour and exercise of arms; that it doth mar and pervert men’s dispositions for matter of government and policy, in making them too curious and irresolute by variety of reading, or too peremptory or positive by strictness of rules and axioms, or too immoderate and overweening by reason of the greatness of examples, or too incompatible and differing from the times by reason of the dissimilitude of examples; or at least, that it doth divert men’s travails from action and business, and bringeth them to a love of leisure and privateness; and that it doth bring into states a relaxation of discipline, whilst every man is more ready to argue than to obey and execute.
Another error is an impatience of doubt, and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action commonly spoken of by the ancients: the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even. So it is in contemplation: if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning 1561-1626
From the two kinds of axioms above specified, arise the two divisions of philosophy and the sciences, and we will use the commonly adopted terms which approach the nearest to our meaning, in our own sense. Let the investigation of forms, which (in reasoning at least, and after their own laws), are eternal and immutable, constitute metaphysics and let the investigation of the efficient cause of matter, latent process, and latent conformation (which all relate merely to the ordinary course of nature, and not to her fundamental and eternal laws), constitute physics. Parallel to these, let there be two practical divisions; to physics that of mechanics, and to metaphysics that of magic, in the purest sense of the term, as applied to its ample means, and its command over nature.
Francis Bacon, Novum Organum
Sphinx, or Science
They relate that Sphinx was a monster, variously formed, having the face and voice of a virgin, the wings of a bird, and the talons of a griffin. She resided on the top of a mountain, near the city Thebes, and also beset the highways. Her manner was to lie in ambush and seize the travellers, and having them in her power, to propose to them certain dark and perplexed riddles, which it was thought she received from the Muses, and if her wretched captives could not solve and interpret these riddles, she, with great cruelty, fell upon them, in their hesitation and confusion, and tore them to pieces.
This is an elegant, instructive fable, and seems invented to represent science, especially as joined with practice. For science may, without absurdity, be called a monster, being strangely gazed at and admired by the ignorant and unskilful. Her figure and form is various, by reason of the vast variety of subjects that science considers; her voice and countenance are represented female, by reason of her gay appearance and volubility of speech; wings are added, because the sciences and their inventions run and fly about in a moment, for knowledge like light communicated from one torch to another, is presently caught and copiously diffused; sharp and hooked talons are elegantly attributed to her, because the axioms and arguments of science enter the mind, lay hold of it, fix it down, and keep it from moving or slipping away.
Francis Bacon, Wisdom of the Ancients
Orpheus or Philosophy
Even the works of knowledge, though the most excellent among human things, have their periods; for after kingdoms and commonwealths have flourished for a time, disturbances, seditions, and wars, often arise, in the din whereof, first the laws are silent, and not heard; and then men return to their own depraved natures—whence cultivated lands and cities soon become desolate and waste.
And if this disorder continues, learning and philosophy is infallibly torn to pieces; so that only some scattered fragments thereof can afterwards be found up and down, in a few places, like planks after a shipwreck. And barbarous times succeeding, the River Helicon dips under-ground; that is, letters are buried, till things having undergone their due course of changes, learning rises again, and shows its head, though seldom in the same place, but in some other nation.
Frances Bacon, The Wisdom of the Ancients
As soon as my years freed me from the subjection of my Tutors, I wholly gave over the study of Letters, and resolving to seek no other knowledge but what I could finde in my self, or in the great book of the World. I had always an extreme desire to learn to distinguish Truth from Falshood, that I might see cleerly into my actions, and passe this life with assurance.
So I thought the sciences in Books, at least those whose reasons are but probable, and which have no demonstrations, having been compos’d of, and by little and little enlarg’d with, the opinions of divers persons, come not so near the Truth, as those simple reasonings which an understanding Man can naturally make, touching those things which occurr.
The first was, never to receive any thing for true, but what I evidently knew to be so; that’s to say, Carefully to avoid Precipitation and Prevention, and to admit nothing more into my judgment, but what should so clearly and distinctly present it self to my minde, that I could have no reason to doubt of it.
The second, to divide every One of these difficulties, which I was to examine into as many parcels as could be, and, as was requisite the better to resolve them.
The third, to lead my thoughts in order, beginning by the most simple objects, and the easiest to be known; to rise by little and little, as by steps, even to the knowledg of the most mixt; and even supposing an Order among those which naturally doe not precede one the other.
A Discourse on Method by Rene Descartes 1596-1650
To doubt is then a misfortune, but to seek when in doubt is an indispensable duty. So he who doubts and seeks not is at once unfortunate and unfair. If at the same time he is gay and presumptuous, I have no terms in which to describe a creature so extravagant.
The arithmetical machine produces effects which approach nearer to thought than all the actions of animals. But it does nothing which would enable us to attribute will to it, as to the animals.
This internal war of reason against the passions has made a division of those who would have peace into two sects. The first would renounce their passions, and become gods; the others would renounce reason, and become brute beasts. But neither can do so, and reason still remains, to condemn the vileness and injustice of the passions, and to trouble the repose of those who abandon themselves to them; and the passions keep always alive in those who would renounce them.
Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.
All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavour, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.
All the principles of sceptics, stoics, atheists, etc., are true. But their conclusions are false, because the opposite principles are also true.
Two things instruct man about his whole nature; instinct and experience.
Pensees (Thoughts) Blaise Pascal 1623-1662
The knowledge of good and evil is nothing else but the emotions of pleasure or pain, in so far as we are conscious thereof.
An emotion towards a thing, which we know not to exist at the present time, and which we conceive as possible, is more intense, other conditions being equal, than an emotion towards a thing contingent.
Emotion towards a thing contingent, which we know not to exist in the present, is, other conditions being equal, fainter than an emotion towards a thing past.
A true knowledge of good and evil cannot check any emotion by virtue of being true, but only in so far as it is considered as an emotion.
Ethics by Baruch Spinoza 1632-1677
Those who would exclude final causes from the consideration of the naturalist, seem to do it, either because, with Epicurus,, they think the world was produced by atoms and chance, without the intervention of a Deity; and, consequently, that ’tis in vain to seek for such causes: or because, with Descartes, they imagine, that God being omniscient, ’tis rash and presumptuous for men to think they know, or can discover what ends he proposed to himself, in his creatures. The supposition on which the Epicureans have rejected final causes, has been disallowed by the philosophers of almost all other sects; and some have written sufficient confutations of it.
An Inquiry Into the Final Cause of Natural Things, by Robert Boyle 1627-1691
He that at first put together the idea of danger perceived, absence of disorder from fear, sedate consideration of what was justly to be done, and executing that without disturbance, or being deterred by the danger of it, had certainly in his mind that complex idea made up of that combination; and intending it to be nothing else, but what is, nor to have in it any other simple ideas, but what it hath, it could not also but be an adequate idea: and laying this up in his memory, with the name courage annexed to it, to signify to others, and denominate from thence any action he should observe to agree with it, had thereby a standard to measure and denominate actions by, as they agreed to it. This idea thus made, and laid up for a pattern, must necessarily be adequate, being referred to nothing else but itself, nor made by any other original, but the good-liking and will of him that first made this combination. —
First, it is usual for men to make the names of substances stand for things, as supposed to have certain real essences, whereby they are of this or that species; and names standing for nothing but the ideas that are in men’s minds, they must constantly refer their ideas to such real essences, as to their archetypes.
Who is there almost, who would not take it amiss, if it should be doubted, whether he called himself a man, with any other meaning, than as having the real essence of a man And yet if you demand what those real essences are, it is plain men are ignorant, and know them not.
When I am told, that something besides the figure, size, and posture of the solid parts of that body, is its essence, something called substantial form; of that, I confess, I have no idea at all, but only of the sound form, which is far enough from an idea of its real essence, or constitution.
The paper I write on, having the power, in the light (I speak according to the common notion of light) to produce in men the sensation which I call white, it cannot but be the effect of such a power, in something without the mind; since the mind has not the power to produce any such idea in itself, and being meant for nothing else but the effect of such a power, that simple idea is real and adequate; the sensation of white, in my mind, being the effect of that power, which is in the paper to produce it, is perfectly adequate to that power; or else, that power would produce a different idea.
Since the powers or qualities that are observable by us, are not the real essence of that substance, but depend on it, and flow from it, any collection whatsoever of these qualities cannot be the real essence of that thing.
Complex ideas of modes and relations are originals, and archetypes; are not copies, nor made after the pattern of any real existence, to which the mind intends them to be conformable, and exactly quate to answer.
The mind often exercises an active power in making these several combinations: for it being once furnished with simple ideas, it can put them together in several compositions, and so make variety of complex ideas, without examining whether they exist so together in nature. And hence I think it is that these ideas are called notions, as if they had their original and constant existence more in the thoughts of men, than in the reality of things; and to form such “ideas”, it sufficed, that the mind puts the parts of them together, and that they were consistent in the understanding, without considering whether they had any real being: though I do not deny, but several of them might be taken from observation, and the existence of several simple ideas so combined, as they are put together in the understanding.
John Locke 1632-1704, And Essay Concerning Humane Understanding Book 2 1689
Words being voluntary signs, they cannot be voluntary signs imposed by him on things he knows not. That would be to make them signs of nothing, sounds without signification. A man cannot make his words the signs either of qualities in things, or of conceptions in the mind of another, whereof he has none in his own. Till he has some ideas of his own, he cannot suppose them to correspond with the conceptions of another man; nor can he use any signs for them: for thus they would be the signs of he knows not what, which is in truth to be the signs of nothing. But when he represents to himself other men’s ideas by some of his own, if he consent to give them the same names that other men do, it is still to his own ideas; to ideas that he has, and not to ideas that he has not.
An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding Book III by John Locke
With the help of dice Descartes made heaven and earth; but he could not set his dice in motion, nor start the action of his centrifugal force without the help of rotation. Newton discovered the law of gravitation; but gravitation alone would soon reduce the universe to a motionless mass; he was compelled to add a projectile force to account for the elliptical course of the celestial bodies; let Newton show us the hand that launched the planets in the tangent of their orbits.
Life is the totality of the objective rational being; and speculation is the totality of the subjective rational being. One is not possible without the other. Life, as an active surrendering to a mechanism, is not possible without the activity and freedom (otherwise speculation) which surrenders itself; though the latter may not arise to the clear consciousness of every individual; and speculation is not possible without the life from which it abstracts. Both life and speculation are determinable only through each other. Life is most properly not-philosophising; and philosophising is most properly not-life.
“First, if you can, celestial Guide! disclose
From what fair fountain mortal life arose,
Whence the fine nerve to move and feel assign’d,
Contractile fibre, and ethereal mind:
“How Love and Sympathy the bosom warm,
Allure with pleasure, and with pain alarm,
With soft affections weave the social plan,
And charm the listening Savage into Man.”
God the First cause!—in this terrene abode
Young Nature lisps, she is the child of God.
From embryon births her changeful forms improve,
Grow, as they live, and strengthen as they move.
“Ere Time began, from flaming Chaos hurl’d
Rose the bright spheres, which form the circling world;
Earths from each sun with quick explosions burst,
And second planets issued from the first.
Then, whilst the sea at their coeval birth,
Surge over surge, involv’d the shoreless earth;
Nurs’d by warm sun-beams in primeval caves
Organic Life began beneath the waves.
First Heat from chemic dissolution springs,
And gives to matter its eccentric wings;
With strong Repulsion parts the exploding mass,
Melts into lymph, or kindles into gas.
Attraction next, as earth or air subsides,
The ponderous atoms from the light divides,
Approaching parts with quick embrace combines,
Swells into spheres, and lengthens into lines.
Last, as fine goads the gluten-threads excite,
Cords grapple cords, and webs with webs unite;
And quick Contraction with ethereal flame
Lights into life the fibre-woven frame.—
Hence without parent by spontaneous birth
Rise the first specks of animated earth;
From Nature’s womb the plant or insect swims,
And buds or breathes, with microscopic limbs. …
The Temple of Nature by Erasmus Darwin 1731-1802
Philosophy is pedagogical in the widest significance of this word, for the immediate practical life. Because this science has to teach us to comprehend the whole man, it shows from the highest grounds how men should be cultured, in order to make permanent in them moral and religious sentiments, and gradually to universalize these sentiments.
The Religious Significance of the Science of Knowledge, Johann Fichte 1798
We (Goethe and Herder) had not lived together long in this manner when he confided to me that he meant to be competitor for the prize which was offered at Berlin, for the best treatise on the origin of language. His work was already nearly completed, and, as he wrote a very neat hand, he could soon communicate to me, in parts, a legible manuscript. I had never reflected on such subjects, for I was yet too deeply involved in the midst of things to have thought about their beginning and end. The question, too, seemed to me in some measure and idle one; for if God had created man as man, language was just as innate in him as walking erect; he must have just as well perceived that he could sing with his throat, and modify the tones in various ways with tongue, palate, and lips, as he must have remarked that he could walk and take hold of things. If man was of divine origin, so was also language itself: and if man, considered in the circle of nature was a natural being, language was likewise natural. These two things, like soul and body, I could never separate.
Silberschlag, with a realism crude yet somewhat fantastically devised, had declared himself for the divine origin, that is, that God had played the schoolmaster to the first men. Herder’s treatise went to show that man as man could and must have attained to language by his own powers. I read the treatise with much pleasure, and it was of special aid in strengthening my mind; only I did not stand high enough either in knowledge or thought to form a solid judgment upon it. But one was received just like the other; there was scolding and blaming, whether one agreed with him conditionally or unconditionally. The fat surgeon (Lobstein) had less patience than I; he humorously declined the communication of this prize-essay, and affirmed that he was not prepared to meditate on such abstract topics. He urged us in preference to a game of ombre, which we commonly played together in the evening.
The Autobiography of Goethe Volume 2 P. 349-350 1811
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Romans 7 The Holy Bible
Reason is spirit, when its certainty of being all reality has been raised to the level of truth, and reason is consciously aware of itself as its own world, and of the world itself.
Spirit constructs not merely one world, but a twofold world, divided and self-opposed. The equilibrium of the whole is not the unity which abides by itself, nor its inwardly secured tranquility, but rests on the alienation of its opposite. The whole is like each articular moment, a self-estranged reality. The sphere of spirit at that stage breaks up into two regions. The one is the real world, its self-estrangement, the other is constructed and set up in the eigher of pure consciousness, and is exalted above the first. The spirit of this world is spiritual essence permeated by self-consciousness which knows itself to be directly present as a self-existent particular, and has that essence as its objective reality over against itself.
The noble type of consciousness finds itself in the judgment related to state-power, in the sence that this power is indeed not a self as yet but at first is universal substance, in which this form of mind feels its own essential nature to exist, is conscious of its own purpose and absolute content. By taking up a positive relation to this substance, it assumes a negative attitude towards its own speach purposes, its particular content and individual existence, and lets them disappear. This type of mind is the heroism of Service.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 1770-1831 The Phenomenolgy of Spirit Vol 2 1807
The divine Spirit must immanently permeate the secular; thus is wisdom concretely in the secular, and its title to itself determined. That concrete indwelling is, however, constituted by the forms of morality referred to—the morality of marriage as opposed to- the sanctity of the unmarried state, the morality of the activity of property and gain as opposed to the holiness of poverty and indolence, the morality of obedience to the law of the State as opposed to the sanctity of obedience devoid of right and duty, the bondage of conscience. With the need of law and morality, and the insight into the free nature of spirit, appears’ the struggle between these and the religion of unfreedom.
It is of no avail that the laws and the ordinances of the state have been brought up to the standard of rational organization, if the principle of unfreedom in religion is not given up. The two are incompatible with each other; it is a foolish notion to wish to assign separate provinces to the State and religion, with the opinion that their difference will exercise a peaceful inﬂuence on them and prevent contradiction and strife.
Principles of lawful freedom can only be abstract and superﬁcial, and the state institutions derived from them must of themselves be untenable if the wisdom which gave birth to those principles understands religion so poorly as not to know that the principles of the reason of reality have their ﬁnal and highest guarantee in the religious conscience in the assumption under consciousness of the absolute truth.
If, no matter how it happens—a priori, so to speak—a legislation which had the principles of reason for its foundation came into contradiction with the popular religion based on principles of spiritual servitude, the test and actualization of the legislation lies with the individuals of the government as such, and the entire administration branching out through all classes, and it were only an abstract empty notion that it were possible that the individuals would act only according to the sense or the letter of the laws, and not according to the spirit of their religion, in which their innermost conscience and highest obligation lie.
Friedrich Hegel, Hegel on the State (From the Philosophy of the Spirit)
That a child who has a strict father must stay at home is something one must submit to, because the father is indeed the stronger. But the first self is certainly no child, and that deeper self, after all, is himself, and yet it seems stricter than the strictest father, tolerating no wheedling, speaking candidly or not speaking at all. Then there is danger afoot-both of them, both the first self and the deeper self, notice it, and the latter sits there as concerned as the experienced pilot, while a secret council is held on whether it is best to throw the pilot overboard since he is creating a contrary wind.
That, however, does not happen, but what is the outcome? The first self cannot move from the spot, and yet, yet it is clear that the moment of joy is in a hurry, that fortune is already in flight. Therefore people do indeed say that if one does not make use of the moment at once, it is soon too late. And who is to blame? Who else but the deeper self? But even this scream does not help. What kind of unnatural condition is this? What does it all mean? When such a thing occurs in a person’s soul, does it not mean that he is beginning to lose his mind?
No, it means something altogether different; it means that the child must be weaned. One can be thirty years old and more, forty years old, and still be a child, yet one can die as an aged child. One snuggles at the cradle of finitude, and probability sits by the cradle and sings to the child. If the wish is not fulfilled and the child becomes restless, then probability calms him and says: Just lie still and sleep, and I shall go out and buy something for you, and next time it will be your turn. So the child goes to sleep again and the pain is forgotten, and the child glows again in the dream of new wishes, although he thought it would be impossible to forget the pain. Of course, if he had not been a child, he surely would not have forgotten the pain so easily, and it would have become apparent that it was not probability that had sat beside the cradle, but it was the deeper self that had sat beside him at the deathbed in self-denial’s hour of death, when it itself rose from the dead to an eternity. When the first self submits to the deeper self, they are reconciled and walk on together.
Soren Kierkegaard, 1813-1855 Four Upbuilding Discourses 1844 from Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses 1843-1844 Hong p. 315-316
Sin, however, is not subject for psychological concern, and only by submitting to the service of a misplaced brilliance could it be dealt with psychologically. When sin is brought into esthetics, the mood becomes either light-minded or melancholy, for the category in which sin lies is that of contradiction, and this is either comic or tragic…. If sin is dealt with in psychology, the mood becomes that of persistent observation, like the fearlessness of a secret agent, but not that of the victorious flight of earnestness out of sin. The mood of psychology is that of a discovering anxiety, and in its anxiety psychology portrays sin, while again and again it is in anxiety over the portrayal that it itself brings forth. Whenever sin is spoken of as a disease, an abnormality, a poison, or a disharmony, the concept is false.
The demonic has been viewed medically-therapeutically. And it goes without saying with power and with pills and then with enemas! Now the pharmacist and the physician would get together. The patient would be isolated to prevent others from becoming afraid. In a courageous age, we dare not tell a patient that he is about to die, we dare not call the pastor lest he die from shock, and we dare not tell the patient that a few days ago a man died from the same disease. The patient would be isolated. Sympathy would inquire about his condition. The physician would promise to issue a report as soon as possible, along with a tabulated statistical survey in order to determine the average. And when one has arrived at the average, everything is explained. The medical-therapeutic view regards the phenomenon as purely physical and somatic, and as physicians often do, takes a pinch of snuff and says: It is a serious case.
Soren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety 1844 P. 14-15, 121-122 Nichol
The mere accumulation of unconnected observations of details, devoid of generalization of ideas, may doubtlessly have tended to create and foster the deeply-rooted prejudice, that the study of the exact sciences must necessarily chill the feelings, and diminish the nobler enjoyments attendant upon a contemplation of nature. Those who still cherish such erroneous views in the present age, and amid the progress of public opinion, and the advancement of all branches of knowledge, fail in duly appreciating the value of every enlargement of the sphere of intellect, and the importance of the detail of isolated facts in leading us on to general results.
The fear of sacrificing the free enjoyment of nature, under the influence of scientific reasoning, is often associated with an apprehension that every mind may not be capable of grasping the truths of the philosophy of nature. It is certainly true that in the midst of the universal fluctuation of phenomena and vital forces — in that inextricable net-work of organisms by turns developed and destroyed — each step that we make in the more intimate knowledge of nature leads us to the entrance of new labyrinths; but the excitement produced by a presentiment of discovery, the vague intuition of the mysteries to be unfolded, and the multiplicity of the paths before us, all tend to stimulate the exercise of thought in every stage of knowledge.
The discovery of each separate law of nature leads to the establishment of some other more general law, or at least indicates to the intelligent observer its existence. Nature, as a celebrated physiologist has defined it, and as the word was interpreted by the Greeks and Romans, is “that which is ever growing and ever unfolding itself in new forms.”
Cosmos: A Sketch of the Physical Description of the Universe, Vol. 1 by Alexander Humboldt 1851
‘Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’ ‘In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!’
Hard Times by Charles Dickens 19812-1870 (1854)
One of the first acts of the French Revolution was to attack the Church; and amongst all the passions born of the Revolution the first to be excited and the last to be allayed were the passions hostile to religion. Even when the enthusiasm for liberty had vanished, and tranquillity had been purchased at the price of servitude, the nation still revolted against religious authority. Napoleon, who had succeeded in subduing the liberal spirit of the French Revolution, made vain efforts to restrain its antichristian spirit; and even in our own time we have seen men who thought to atone for their servility towards the meanest agents of political power by insolence towards God, and who whilst they abandoned all that was most free, most noble, and most lofty in the doctrines of the Revolution, flattered themselves that they still remained true to its spirit by remaining irreligious.
The State of Society in France Before the Revolution of 1789 by Alexis de Tocqueville 1859
It is quite incredible that a man should through mere accident abnormally resemble certain apes in no less than seven of his muscles, if there had been no genetic connection between them. On the other hand, if man is descended from some ape-like creature, no valid reason can be assigned why certain muscles should not suddenly reappear after an interval of many thousand generations, in the same manner as with horses, asses, and mules, dark-coloured stripes suddenly reappear on the legs, and shoulders, after an interval of hundreds, or more probably of thousands of generations.
As Horne Tooke, one of the founders of the noble science of philology, observes, language is an art, like brewing or baking; but writing would have been a better simile. It certainly is not a true instinct, for every language has to be learnt. It differs, however, widely from all ordinary arts, for man has an instinctive tendency to speak, as we see in the babble of our young children; whilst no child has an instinctive tendency to brew, bake, or write. Moreover, no philologist now supposes that any language has been deliberately invented; it has been slowly and unconsciously developed by many steps.
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man 1871
My dear reader, if you do not have the time and opportunity to take a dozen years of your life to travel around the world to see everything a world traveler is acquainted with, if you do not have the capability and qualifications from years of practice in a foreign language to penetrate to the differences in national characteristics as these become apparent to the research scholar, if you are not bent upon discovering a new astronomical system that will displace both the Copernican and the Ptolemaic-then marry; and if you have time for the first, the capability for the second, the idea for the last, then marry also. Even if you did not manage to see the whole globe or to speak in many tongues or to know all about the heavens, you will not regret it, for marriage is and remains the most important voyage of discovery a human being undertakes; compared with a married man’s knowledge of life, any other knowledge of it is superficial, for he and he alone has properly immersed himself in life.
— Søren Kierkegaard, Judge Vilhelm, Stages on Life’s Way, Hong p. 89
In order to be sure of our reckoning, and to exhibit to the understanding just what we understand the Grand Man to comprehend, let us try to properly define. We hold the term to mean the aggregate humanity; mankind as a unit, in nature, power, and destiny. The first seal to such a unit is a common origin—natural consanguinity—one-ness of blood. The second seal is a one-ness of spiritual energy, that prompts every individual of the race to press onward in the endeavor for fuller personal realizations in life. The third seal is a unity of destiny, that assures true social alliance, fullest opportunity and clear competence for all.
The first is like a motionless sea, sure to become putrid if left thus to stagnate. The second makes a common motor or stimulus of action, which, although engendering painful turbulence of particles and seeming destruction, tends to work the whole body pure and good in constant use. The third is the inexhaustible fount or ocean, competent to satisfy all thirst, allay all the fevers of life, and amply to refresh forevermore.
The Grand Man by Theron Gray 1874
Anarchy, as basic root or seed-form of all government, must have a productive root in itself; else no higher form could be derived from it. … Divine Providence raises up some master mind and prompts it to seize upon the elements, and shape and direct human forces to human ends. Thus, out of anarchy arises government—human conditions needing, and human power . effecting it. And the form is by necessity that of monarchy, because of the general inexperience and helplessness. ….
But as progress, of whatever nature, involves a fall from primitive excellence into the devious methods or antitheses of self-assertion or subjective formation under the guise of transgression, monarchy is sure to lapse from its first estate of rightly disposed patriarchalism—service to human needs everywhere—into a system of self-serving and human oppression.
Thus under the rule of absolute authority perverted to self-service rather than devoted to public service, man is pressed forward into the conscious possession of personal powers and rights which will make himself an intelligent factor in government, and lead him to establish institutions that will in some measure respond to, and represent, the forces of a common personality or manhood. And so this conception and experience of the rights and interests of man, as man, begotten of monarchy as that was begotten of anarchy, projects new institutional forms better suited to advancing human conditions. Constitutional government comes thus into play…
Thus we see that inevitable strife between man and institutions—the conflict between freedom and authority—born of the practical duplicity everywhere bred and active under duarchal order, presses man to the assertion of his full magisterial rights, and so opens directly into triarchy, as the institutional degree befitting highest manhood and promising the fruition of man’s hopes by actually making him master of the situation.
The law of universal freedom and power as basic to “a people’s government,” carries with it a demand for a composing or associating law by which these numerous factors shall be harmoniously related. But neither the one nor the other could by possibility become actual experience at first.
Full scientific consistency in institutions must give consistency and permanence of order; hence the reign of science in government cannot be consummated till growth or development shall have passed through all its forms and come to adequate fruition.
Science in Government by Theron Gray 1876
Science has resolved all matter to force, and force to potentiality; and, as we know that potentiality is only a relation of principles in the order of nature, we know that force is only a relation ; its annihilation being the creation of the potential relation. … Self, or personality, consists, either of ever-existing principles, or of only unstable phenomena subject to creation and annihilation—there is no middle ground. .
The Unification of Science by Alfred Arnold 1881
The possibility of offense is present at every moment confirming at every moment the chasmic abyss between the single individual and the God-man over which faith and faith alone reaches. The possibility of offense is the stumbling block for all, whether they choose to believe or they are offended. Therefore the communication begins with a repulsion.
Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, 1850 Hong p.139
New Struggles.—After Buddha was dead people showed his shadow for centuries afterwards in a cave,—an immense frightful shadow. God is dead: but as the human race is constituted, there will perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which people will show his shadow,—And we—we have still to overcome his shadow!
The Madman.—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! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction?—for even Gods putrefy! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him!
How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife,—who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it? There never was a greater event,—and on account of it, all who are born after us belong to a higher history than any history hitherto!”—
Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. “I come too early,” he then said, “I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is travelling,—it has not yet reached men’s ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the furthest star,—and yet they have done it!“—It is further stated that the madman made his way into different churches on the same day, and there intoned his Requiem aeternam deo. When led out and called to account, he always gave the reply: “What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs and monuments of God?”
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Joyful Wisdom (The Gay Science) 1882
“And what doeth the saint in the forest?” asked Zarathustra.
The saint answered: “I make hymns and sing them; and in making hymns I laugh and weep and mumble: thus do I praise God.
With singing, weeping, laughing, and mumbling do I praise the God who is my God. But what dost thou bring us as a gift?”
When Zarathustra had heard these words, he bowed to the saint and said: “What should I have to give thee! Let me rather hurry hence lest I take aught away from thee!”—And thus they parted from one another, the old man and Zarathustra, laughing like schoolboys.
When Zarathustra was alone, however, he said to his heart: “Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest hath not yet heard of it, that GOD IS DEAD!”
Friedrich Nietzsche Thus Spake Zarathustra – 1883-1885
The scientific conception of the universe is too often appealed to even by men of some metaphysical insight as if it were an infallible canon.
From the limited data of sense-experience Science is perpetually soaring only to impale herself on the horns of dilemmas.
Does science in any way point to process as the ground of process?
A Universal Telos The Presupposition of All Inquiry, by William Boulting 1884
But the pantheism with which modern science is charged with being in alliance is materialistic. The only God that it owns is impersonal Law, pervading the universe, ecessitating all beings, events, and phenomena, inevitable and inexorable. This Law exists only in the multiform universe which it produces, sustains, and governs, and with which it is identical in such a sense that God and the Universe, the Whole, are mutually convertible terms. In the totality there is no self-consciousness. Consequently prayer and communion with God cannot be. The only self-consciousness in the universe .is that of individual beings sufficiently developed to possess it. God himself is an agnostic. He knows not himself nor anything else. You and I know just as much of him as we know of the universe.
Is Pantheism The Legitimate Outcome of Modern Science? by Andrew Peabody 1885
Kierkegaard noticed the multiplicity in the new sciences of philosophy, sociology, psychology and this unified field created by the thinkers past and present. He wondered about the existing individual in relation to the many.
The task is to practice one’s relation to one’s absolute end or goal so that one continually has it within while continuing in the relative objective of existence.
The existing person who has his absolute orientation toward the absolute end or goal and comprehends the task of practicing the relation may be a councilor of justice, may be one of the other councilors, and yet he is not like the other councilors, but when one sees him he is exactly like the others.
Perhaps he gains the whole world, but he is not like one who craves that. Perhaps he becomes king, but every time he places the crown on his head and every time he extends his scepter, resignation first inspects to see if he, existing, is expressing the absolute respect for the absolute end or goal-and the crown dwindles into insignificance, even if he wears it regally.
When resignation is convinced that the individual has the absolute orientation toward the absolute end or goal, everything is changed, and the roots are cut. He lives in the finite, but he does not have his life in it. His life, like the life of another, has the diverse predicates of a human existence, but he is within them like the person who walks in a stranger’s borrowed clothes. He is a stranger in the world of finitude, but he does not define his difference from worldliness by foreign dress; he is incognito, but his incognito consists in looking just like everyone else.
Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846 Hong p. 408-410
True inwardness does not demand any sign at all in externals.
In the practice of the absolute distinction, the passion of the infinite is present, but it wants to be inwardness without jealousy, without envy, without mistrust. It does not want continually to standout marked as something striking in existence, whereby it simply loses, just as when God’s invisible image is made visible.
It does not want to disturb the finite, but neither does it want to mediate. In the midst of the finite and finitude’s multiple occasions for the existing person to forget the absolute distinction, it only wants to be the absolute inwardness for him, and as for the rest, he can be counselor or justice.
But the maximum of the task is to be able simultaneously to relate oneself absolutely to the absolute end or goal and relatively to the relative ends, or at all times to have the absolute end or goal with oneself.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846 Hong p. 414-415
Here is a quote from his 1851 book, For Self-Examination.
If in observing the present state of the world and life in general, from a Christian point of view one had to say (and from a Christian point of view with complete justification): It is a disease. And if I were a physician and someone asked me “What do you think should be done?” I would answer, “The first thing, the unconditional condition for anything to be done, consequently the very first thing that must be done is: create silence, bring about silence; God’s Word cannot be heard, and if in order to be heard in the hullabaloo it must be shouted deafeningly with noisy instruments, then it is not God’s Word; create silence!
Ah, everything is noisy; and just as strong drink is said to stir the blood, so everything in our day, even the most insignificant project, even the most empty communication, is designed merely to jolt the senses and to stir up the masses, the crowd, the public, noise!
And man, this clever fellow, seems to have become sleepless in order to invent ever new instruments to increase noise, to spread noise and insignificance with the greatest possible haste and on the greatest possible scale. Yes, everything is soon turned upside-down: communication is indeed soon brought to its lowest point in regard to meaning, and simultaneously the means of communication are indeed brought to their highest with regard to speedy and overall circulation; for what is publicized with such hot haste and, on the other hand, what has greater circulation than—rubbish! Oh, create silence!”
Soren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination 1851 p. 47-48 Hong 1990
I want to give thanks to Governance, who in such multitudinous ways has encouraged my endeavor, has encouraged it over four and one-quarter years without perhaps a single day’s interruption of effort, has granted me much more than I had ever expected, even though I can truly testify that I staked my life to the utmost of my capacity, more than I at least had expected, even if to others the accomplishment seems to be a complicated triviality. So, with fervent thanks to Governance, I do not find it unsettling that I cannot quite be said to have achieved anything or, what is of less importance, attained anything in the outer world. I find it ironically in order that the honorarium, at least, in virtue of the production and of my equivocal authorship, has been rather Socratic.
Concluding Postscript 1846 p. 628 Hong
Now, is it true that modern science, assiduously testing such phenomenal existence, following it up in all its intricate relations with rigorous precision, that genuine objective science, has actually arrived at the same ancient pantheistic conclusion? Does it, in all verity, likewise teach us that the things and events of this world are but transient manifestations of one and the same transcendent and eternal Force, Energy, Power, or whatever name may be given to the inferred cause and substratum of all apparent existence?
Is Pantheism The Legitimate Outcome of Modern Science? by Edmund Montgomery 1885 (two more articles follow in the text)
Imitation may be the sincerest flattery, but it is, of all, the most irritating: and a cynic, as you are good enough to call me, feels this especially. For a cynic is the one preacher, remember, that never wants to make converts. His aim is to outrage, not to convince: to create enemies, not to conquer them. The peculiar charm that his creed has for him, is his own peculiarity in holding it. He is an acid that can only fizz with an alkali, and he therefore hates in others what he most admires in himself.
The new republic: or, Culture, faith, and philosophy in an English country house, by William Hurrell Mallock 1849-1923 (1908)
“Philosophy (Hegel) seeks speculatively to confuse the ethical for the single individual with the world-historical task for the human race. The ethical is the highest task assigned to every human being.”
Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unsientific Postscript 1846 Hong p. 151
There is a direct road from “Knowledge is power”–and Bacon’s other statement that the purpose of knowledge is to furnish man with new inventions and gadgets–to Descartes’ more explicity polemical statement in the Discourse that he intended to replace the old “theoretical” philosophy by a practical kind, so that men might make ourselves the “masters and owners of nature”. That road leads on to Marx’s well-known declaration: hitherto philosophy has been concerned with interpreting the world, but matters is to change it.
This assault upon philosophy’s theoretical character is the historical road of philosophy’s suicide. And that assault arises from the world’s being seem ore and more as mere raw material for human activity. Once the world is no longer regarded as Creation, there cannot be “theoria” in the full meaning of the word. The loss of theoria mans eo ipso to the loss of freedom of philosophy: philosophy then becomes function withing society, solely practical, and it must of course justify its existencew and role among the functions of society: and finally, in spite of its name, it appears as form of work or even of “labor”.
Leisure The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper 1952, 1963 p. 91
Because of the jumbling together of the idea of the state, of sociality, of community, and of society, God can no longer catch hold of the single individual. Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846 Hong p. 543-545
When Father died, Sibbern said to me, “Now you will never get your theological degree,” and then I did get it. If Father had lived, I would never have gotten it. —
When I broke the engagement, Peter said to me, “Now you are lost.” And yet it is clear that if I have indeed amounted to something, I did it through that step. Journals VIA8
The power which is given to a man (in possibility) is altogether dialectical, and the only true expression for a true understanding of himself in possibility is precisely that he has the power to destroy himself, because even though he be stronger than the entire world, he nevertheless is not stronger than himself. Journals VA16
When the first self submits to the deeper self, they are reconciled and walk on together. But even if the first self and the deeper self have been reconciled in this way and the shared mind has been diverted away from the external, this is still only the condition of coming to know himself. But if he is actually to know himself, there are new struggles and new dangers. Four Upbuilding Discourses 1844, Hong’s Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 316-317
The Idea is often before the Existence.
John Locke An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, Volume 2
The transition from possibility to actuality is a change. Journals IV47
The same thing has happened in the world of the sciences as in the world of commerce. First one traded in kind, then money was invented; today in the sciences all transactions are in paper money, which nobody cares about except the professors. Journals IV A6
Goethe’s comment on Hamlet gives a striking picture of the genius: He is an acorn planted in a flower pot. So too the genius: a superabundance without the strength to bear it. journals IVA460 1842
If Christianity could become naturalised in the world, then every child need not be baptised, since the child who is born of Christian parents would already be a Christian by birth. The consciousness of sin is and continues to be the conditio sine qua non for all Christianity, and if one could somehow be released from this, he could not be a Christian. Journals VA10 1844
It does not read in the Gospel, as sagacious talk would say, “you or we are to know the tree by its fruits,” but it reads “the tree is to be known by its fruits.” This interpretation is that you who read these words of the Gospel, you are the tree. The Gospel does not need to add what the prophet Nathan added to his parable, “You are the man,” since it already contained in the form of the statement and in its being a word of the Gospel. Works of Love 1850 Hong p. 14
Let us for a moment look at nature. With what infinite love nature or God in nature encompasses all the diverse things that have life and existence! Just recollect what you yourself have so often delighted in looking at, recollect the beauty of the meadow! There is no difference in the love, no, none-yet what a difference in the flowers! Works of Love, 1847 Hong p. 269-270
The ethical and the ethical-religious have nothing to do with the comparative. … All comparison delays, and that is why mediocrity likes it so much and, if possible, traps everyone in it by its despicable friendship among mediocrities. A person who blames others, that they have corrupted him, is talking nonsense and only informs against himself. But the person who is silent blames no one but himself and affronts no one by his effort, because it is his triumphant conviction that here is and can and shall be in every human being this co-knowledge with the ideal, which requires everything and comforts only in annihilation before God. Concluding Uscientific Postscript, 1846, Hong p. 549-550
“My own interest in Kierkegaard dates from the early years of my life as a graduate student in philosophy here at the University of Minnesota. In the spring of 1901 I stumbled upon Unscientific Postscript in Danish. I made up my mind that this was the philosopher for me. I read the critical and fundamentally unsympathetic accounts of his thought by Brandes and by Hoffding. In spite of their adverse judgment I came to the conclusion that here was a thinker of the very first rank.
Thomas Huxley, having accepted the task of presenting a lecture on a scientific topic to a group of cultured people, asked an older friend, one more experienced in such matters, how much he might reasonably suppose the audience to know, “Absolutely nothing.” was the sage reply, and this maxim became the principle of Huxley’s successful career as a popular lecturer. How much more then when a lecturer is addressing an American audience on Soren Kierkegaard, a man who wrote in what is a provincial dialect, for want of enough Danes to speak it, and wrote intellectual greatness is such as not readily to lend itself to a quick and superficial assimilation.”
David F Swenson’s Introduction to Eduard Geismar’s Lectures on the Religious Thought of Soren Kierkegaard, 1937
Either, “the first” contains promise for the future, is the forward thrust, the endless impulse. Or, “the first” does not impel the individual; the power which is in the first does not become the impelling power but the repelling power, it becomes that which thrusts away. Thus – for the sake of making a little philosophical flourish, not with the pen but with thought-God only once became flesh, and it would be vain to expect this to be repeated.
Soren Kierkegaard, Either – Or II 1843, p. 40-41 Lowrie Translation 1944, 1959, 1972
When I began as an author of Either/Or, I no doubt had a far more profound impression of the terror of Christianity than any clergyman in the country. I had a fear and trembling such as perhaps no one else had. Not that I therefore wanted to relinquish Christianity. No, I had another interpretation of it. For one thing I had in fact learned very early that there are men who seem to be selected for suffering, and, for another thing, I was conscious of having sinned much and therefore supposed that Christianity had to appear to me in the form of this terror. But how cruel and false of you, I thought, if you use it to terrify others, perhaps upset every so many happy, loving lives that may very well be truly Christian.
It was as alien as it could possibly be to my nature to want to terrify others, and therefore I both sadly and perhaps also a bit proudly found my joy in comforting others and in being gentleness itself to them-hiding the terror in my own interior being.
So my idea was to give my contemporaries (whether or not they themselves would want to understand) a hint in humorous form (in order to achieve a lighter tone) that a much greater pressure was needed-but then no more; I aimed to keep my heavy burden to myself, as my cross. I have often taken exception to anyone who was a sinner in the strictest sense and then promptly got busy terrifying others. Here is where Concluding Postscript comes in.
Soren Kierkegaard, Journal and Papers, VI 6444 (Pap. X1 A541) (1849) (Either/Or Part II, Hong, p. 451-452)
Kierkegaard does not deny the fruitfulness or validity of abstract thinking (science, logic, and so on), but he does deny any superstition which pretends that abstract theorizing is a sufficient concluding argument for human existence. He holds it to be unforgivable pride or stupidity to think that the impersonal abstraction can answer the vital problems of human, everyday life.
Logical theorems, mathematical symbols, physical-statistical laws can never become patters of human existence. To be human means to be concrete, to be this person here and now in this particular and decisive moment, face to face with this particular challenge.
C Svere Norborg, David F. Swenson, scholar, teacher, friend. P. 20-21 Minneapolis, The University of Minnesota, 1940
either effect and cause or cause and effect
is history prophecy in reverse?
Connecticut College gets $225K for Kierkegaard project
Soren Kierkegaard has only recently achieved recognition on a world-wide scale. He is more properly our contemporary, one born before his time.
Christian thought, from Erasmus to Berdyaev 1962
English speaking people are becoming increasingly interested in the writings of Soren Kierkegaard because of three scholarly efforts particularly. Lee M. Hollander, David F. Swenson (Philosophical Fragments) and Walter Lowrie. References have been made to the Danish philosopher’s work elsewhere by Georg Brandes, Unamuno, the Spanish Catholic, Mother Mary Maud writing in the The Living Church, October of this year points out that while Soren Kierkegaard disclaims the title of mystic, his personal experiences, psychologically and intellectually, closely paralleled the classic stages of mystical theology.
San Antonio Express Sunday Morning, December 10, 1938
We don’t need revised men, revamped men, re-conditioned men: we need new men. The Bible tells us the truth, that man’s nature has been affected by sin that nothing short of a radical operation will effect a cure. Madame Perkins tells the story of F. D. Roosevelt, that once over a weekend he took home with him some book by Soren Kierkegaard, a crabbed but honest Christian Philosopher. F.D.R. turned up Monday morning with what to him was a brand new idea which he had learned from Kierkegaard. “Now I know whats the matter with people,” he said, “They’re bad!” The odd thing about that was that F.D.R. was an Episcopalian and at his own church he must often have joined in the General Confession: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and the is no health in us.” No wonder Jesus said: “Ye must be born again!”
The Stilwell Democrat, Thursday October 8, 1953 Page 2 Column 5 Wanted New Men! By Dr. Foreman
Nineteenth-century theology worked on the general assumption that relatedness to the world is its primary task and on the specific assumption that there is a possibility for general acceptance of the Christian faith. The result was that the theologians, when they came to work on their proper task in and for the Church, were more interested in the Christian faith than in the Christian message. In terms of content they were more interested in man’s relationship to God than in God’s dealings with man, or, to quote the well-known term of Melanchthon, more in the beneficia Christi than in Christ Himself.
This emphasis informed their interpretation of the Bible, their positive or critical attitude toward the early dogmas, and the confessions of the Reformation. It informed their research in, and their exposition of, church history and finally their own formulation of the Christian faith. The interest of these theologians focused on the believing man in his past and in his present, in his confrontation and association with Jesus Christ.
Theological discussion with the contemporary world centered around the existence of the believing man, and in philosophy of religion particularly around the possibility of this existence. The prevailing interest in this direction would not necessarily have been erroneous had it been a matter of shift in tone and emphasis for serious and pertinent reasons. The Bible speaks emphatically of the commerce of the believing Israelite and the believing Christian with God and therefore of the believing man as such. How else could it testify on behalf of Him who was very God and very man?
The theologians should not have hesitated so long to appeal to Luther, especially the early Luther, and to the early Melanchthon! And how much assistance and guidance could they have received had they paid any attention to Kierkegaard! There is no reason why the attempt of Christian anthropocentrism should not be made, indeed ought not to be made. There is certainly a place for legitimate Christian thinking starting from below and moving up, from man who is taken hold of by God to God who takes hold of man. Let us interpret this attempt by the 19th-century theologians in its best light!
The Humanity of God, 1956 – Karl Barth 1886-1868
If it really were axiomatic that God could never contravene our conscience and our reason – if we could be sure that he must share our moral judgments – would not God become superfluous as far as ethics is concerned? A mere redundancy? If God is really to make a moral difference in our lives, Kierkegaard insists, we must admit that he might go against our reason and our conscience, and that he should still be obeyed.
Walter Kaufmann 1962, Introduction to The Present Age by Soren Kierkegaard 1846
If one aims to elevate a whole period, one must really know it. That is why the proclaimers of Christianity who begin right off with orthodoxy actually do not have much influence and only on a few. For Christianity goes way back. One has to begin with paganism. For example, I begin with Either/Or. In that way I have managed to get the age to go along with me without ever dreaming where it is going or where we now are. But men have become aware of the issues. They cannot get rid of me just because they went along with Either/Or so happily. Now they may want to abandon me, they could put me to death, but it is of no use, they have me for good. If one begins immediately with Christianity, they say: this is nothing for us — and put themselves immediately on guard.
But as it says in my last discourse, my whole huge literary work has just one idea, and that is: to wound from behind.
Praise be to God in heaven — I say no more; anything else a man adds is rubbish.
The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard, VIII 1 A 548
Kierkegaard was interested in choice and decision, especially in relation to the Christian religion.
First comes life, then later, or sooner (but afterwards), comes theory; not conversely: theory first, then life. First art, the work of art, then theory, and similarly in all circumstances. That is, life first, then theory. Then usually there comes a third too: an attempt toward creating life with the aid of theory, or the fantasy of having with the help of theory the same life that went before, indeed even of having it in intensified form. This comes last, it is the parody (as everything ends in parody), and so the process ends-and then there must be new life again. Now take Christianity. It came in as life, sheer heroism which risked everything for the faith.
Soren Kierkegaard’s Journals Hannay p. 537-53
Some early reviews of Soren Kierkegaard. He liked to walk around the city of Copenhagen during the day and then retire to his home where he would read and write. He spoke to anyone and everyone he saw, making no distinction between them.
(1852) There is a man whom it is impossible to omit in any account of Denmark, but whose place it might be more difficult to fix; I mean Soren Kierkegaard. But as his works have, at all events for the most part, a religious tendency, he may find a place among the theologians. He is a philosophical Christian writer, evermore dwelling, one might almost say harping about the human heart. There is no Danish writer more earnest than he, yet there is no one in whose way stand more things to prevent him from becoming popular. He writes at times with an unearthly beauty, but too often with an exaggerated display of logic that disgusts the public. ….
Kierkegaard’s habits of life are singular enough to lend a (perhaps false) interest to his proceedings. He goes into no company, and sees nobody in his own house, which answers all the ends of an invisible dwelling; I could never learn that any one had been inside of it. Yet his one great study is human nature; no one knows more people than he. The fact is he walks about town all day, and generally in some person’s company; only in the evening does he write and read. When walking he is very communicative, and at the same time manages to draw everything out of his companion that is likely to be profitable to himself.
Sixteen months in the Danish isles By Andrew Hamilton 1852 p. 268-270
Kierkegaard noticed that there was a sameness in all people. This is how he put it in Either/Or. Yet not all people are the same because of their differing points of view.
Every human being, no matter how slightly gifted he is, however subordinate his position in life may be, has a natural need to formulate a life-view, a conception of the meaning of life and of its purpose. The person who lives aesthetically also does that, and the popular expression heard in all ages and from various stages is this: One must enjoy life. There are, of course, many variations of this, depending on differences in the conceptions of enjoyment, but all are agreed that we are to enjoy life. But the person who says that he wants to enjoy life always posits a condition that either lies outside the individual or is within the individual in such a way that it is not there by virtue of the individual himself. I beg you to keep rather fixed the phrases of this last sentence, for they have been carefully chosen.
Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or II 1843, Hong p. 179-180
George Brandes introduced Soren Kierkegaard to Europe with his 1879 book about him. He used Kierkegaard often in his writings.
As Soren Kierkegaard represents an individual fragment of the history of Danish culture, so does Ferdinand Lassalle personify a period of modern and political economy. Ferdinand Lassalle by Georg Brandes 1881 Preface
Dr George Brandes, the great intellectual colossus of Scandinavia cannot believe in a personal God because such a conception is illogical. To this Prof. J. P. Kristensen-Randers, of the Ollerup people’s high school, makes the remark that some men have believed in a living personal God though they were supposed to be fairly well equipped intellectually, and of such men he mentions V. Rydberg, S. Kierkegaard, Kant, Newton, and Socrates.
Warren sheaf newspaper (Warren, Marshall County, Minn.), August 07, 1902, Image 6
Letter from Georg Brandes to Nietzsche Copenhagen Jan. 11, 1888
There is one Scandinavian writer whose works would interest you, if only they were translated: Soren Kierkegaard; he lived from 1813-1855, and is in my opinion one of the profoundest psychologists that have ever existed. A little book I wrote about him (translated, Leipzig, 1879) gives no adequate idea of his genius, as it is a sort of polemical pamphlet written to counteract his influence.
Friedrich Nietzsche, by George Brandes; From An Essay on Aristocratic Radicalism 1889, [translated from the Danish by A.G. Chater].by Brandes, Georg Morris Cohen, 1842-1927. Published 1914 P. 69
(1898) There are two types of the artistic soul. There is the one which needs many varying experiences and constantly changing models, and which instantly gives a poetic form to every fresh incident. There is the other which requires amazingly few outside elements to fertilise it, and for which a single life circumstance, inscribed with sufficient force, can furnish a whole wealth of ever-changing thought and modes of expression. Soren Kierkegaard among writers, and Max Klinger among painters, are both great examples of the latter type. To which did Shakespeare belong?
William Shakespeare; a critical study, by George Brandes. 1898 p. 195
Notwithstanding the fact that during the last quarter of a century, we have devoted considerable attention to the literatures of the North, the thinker and man of letters whose name stands at the head of the present article is but little known to the English speaking world. The Norwegians, Ibsen and Bjornson, have exerted a very real power on our intellectual life, and for Bjornson we have cherished even a kind of affection. But Kierkegaard, the writer who holds the indispensable key to the intellectual life of Scandinavia, to whom Denmark in particular looks up as her most original man of genius in the nineteenth century, we have wholly overlooked. There is little excuse for ignoring him on the part of those who are versed in the northern tongues; for he at present looms very large on the literary and philosophical horizon in Scandinavia; and there are sever excellent books on his life and work, both in Danish and Swedish.
Within recent years, moreover, the Danes have produced a monumental edition of Kierkegaard’s complete works, which is at present being followed up by the publication of manuscript materials supplemental to the Efterladte Papiere, edited by H.P. Barfod and H. Gottsched in eight volumes between 1869 and 1881.
But to become acquainted with Kierkegaard one no longer needs to read Danish; his works are now virtually all to be had in German and in an edition which is a delight to the eye; and the literature on Kierkegaard both in German and French is growing rapidly. But all this literature, with the exception of Dr Brandes’ brilliant monograph, deals mainly with Kierkegaard as a philosopher and a theologian; in this present paper I propose to restrict myself to his claims as a man of letters.
The Modern Language Review, Volume IX 1914 Cambridge Soren Kierkegaard, by J. G. Robertson p. 500-501
(1887) Otto Pfleiderer (1839-1908) was a German Protestant theologian who wrote The Philosophy of Religion on the Basis of its History in 2 volumes in 1887. His sources include Practice in Christianity (Soren Kierkegaard, 1850) which had been translated into German by that time as well as the writings of Hans Brochner (1820-1875), who wrote “On Soren Kierkegaard’s Activity as Religious Author” December 1, 1855. Brochner’s writings are preserved in Thomas H. Croxall’s book, Glimpses and impressions of Kierkegaard published 1959. This reading is taken from Chapter II — The Half-Kantian and Neo-Kantian Philosophy of Religion p. 161ff
(1889) This article came from “The Concise Dictionary of Religious Knowledge and Gazetteer” By Talbot Wilson Chambers, and Frank Hugh Foster 1889 p. 473-474. This was a book of over one thousand pages of reference material about Christianity. The article is by C.H.A. Bjerregaard who wrote a short biography about Soren Kierkegaard. Rev. Talbot Wilson Chambers (1819 – 1896) was a Presbyterian minister from Pennsylvania. Samuel Macauley Jackson (1851-1912) Frank Hugh Foster (1851-1935) was a minister of a Congregational church in Massachusetts.
(1894) The same number contains a short sketch of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish moralist and author. This remarkable man was born at Copenhagen in 1818. He and his brother (late Bishop of Aalborg) were the sons of a peasant who had made his fortune in the wool trade, and then retired to Copenhagen, where he led a quiet, austere life, bringing up his two sons according to his own theories, and entertaining the few friends he still saw with his views on morality and religion. During the whole of Kierkegaard’s life he remained strongly influenced by his father’s ways of thought, and many of his writings, treating of religion and morality, might easily be delivered as sermons, and this, although he was extremely severe on the faults, not to say vices, of the Danish clergy, whose conduct and life he stingingly contrasts with that of their master, Jesus Christ. Not only the clergy but the whole of the Danish society of his day feared the writer of these powerful diatribes, and for a time at least he enjoyed no credit in his own country. Soren Kierkegaard lost his father at the age of twenty-seven.
He had not at that time written anything, but he was known and respected as a severe Doctor of Divinity, and great was the surprise of his friends to hear of his engagement to a charming though somewhat commonplace young girl. The whole history of their strange betrothal is told in the most remarkable of his works, ‘Guilty or Not Guilty,’ an extraordinary psychical study, and which contains all the author’s theories on marriage, theories which he repeated in many of his other works. His own romance ended sadly, and he lived and died a bachelor, spending his last days in a hospital, and this although he had once declared that marriage was and would always remain the most perfect state.
Review of Reviews and World’s Work Volume IX Jan-Jun 1894 p. 36 by Shaw, Albert, 1857-1947
Kierkegaard contrasts the “official” Christianity with the real teaching of Christ. He insisted upon individuality as the basis of all true religious faith, the intimate relation that should exist between the individual and God, a relation that requires complete renunciation of the world, with suffering as a necessary accompaniment.
Universal Cyclopaedia and Atlas, Volume 6, Charles Kendall Adams, Rossiter Johnson D. Appleton, 1902
One early writer asked in 1903 if someone could translate a shorter work of Kierkegaard’s and put it in the public domain.
(1909) “We live forward, we understand backward, said a Danish writer; and to understand life by concepts is to arrest its movement, cutting it up into bits as if with scissors, and, immobilizing these in our logical herbarium where, comparing them as dried specimens, we can ascertain which of them statically includes or excludes which other. This treatment supposes life to have already accomplished itself, for the concepts, being so many views taken after the fact, are retrospective and post mortem. Nevertheless we can draw conclusions from them and project them into the future. We cannot learn from them how life made itself go, or how it will make itself go; but, on the supposition that its ways of making itself go are unchanging, we can calculate what positions of imagined arrest it will exhibit hereafter under given conditions.” William James, A Pluralistic Universe, 1909, p. 244
(1912) We take up the study of four eminent thinkers-William James, Fechner, Wundt, and Kierkegaard. Knox explains that while James was led on from psychology to philosophy, it was precisely his psychological insight that enabled him to discern personal sources of the big philosophical antithesis. He was not deterred by a priori distinctions between logic and psychology, by the assumption that our aim is purely impersonal and objective, but held that personal vision and practical makeshifts determine metaphysical theory. He challenged the intellectualist axiom that the parallel lines of knowing and doing must never meet. This makes his Principles of Psychology as valuable a handbook of ethics as it is of logic. Thus was early laid in psychology the foundations for the coming pragmatism. And so, conversely, James invites us to treat our moral and religious aspirations as methodologically on a par with scientific categories.
As with James so with Fechner. Angell points out in the case of the German a curious tendency towards practical mysticism. From the physicist comes forth the philosopher, and the laboratory has given place to the oracle. Believing that the reality of the world must accord with what is reasonable, Fechner saw clearly that this reality could not be deduced by dialectics, but that it must be worked out as one works out final questions in physics, namely by generalization and by analogy. In other words the purpose of Fechner was an inductive metaphysics or “Metaphysik von Unten.” Now James, who twenty-five years ago gave his official opinion that the proper psychological outcome of Fechner’s work was “just nothing,” has made the amende honorable in a generously sympathetic essay in the Pluralistic Universe.
Meumann’s account of the life work of Wilhelm Wundt is noteworthy for two features, its arraignment of German officialdom for its neglect of a great thinker and its praise of American psychologists for spreading the fame of the master. The former fact is explained as due to Wundt’s south German independence of bureaucracy, the latter as due to his endeavors to make his work both scientific and practical. To Americans brought up on the old introspective “mental philosophy” the new experimental psychology was a welcome relief. In place of the old static view of the mind came the doctrine of development; in place of the study of the normal adult was offered animal, and child, and race psychology. So what Fechner had started at Leipsic, Wundt enlarged and America spread.
James’s pragmatism and Fechner’s mysticism had a similar two-fold aspect. Both were scientific and both sought truth under the analogy of the self. So was it with the system of Kierkegaard as his compatriot Hoeffding shows. The Danish thinker’s philosophy had a double quality, being both personal and scientific. While subjectivity is the avenue of truth, the world in which we live is a world of scientific approximation. And James’s pluralism is matched by the statement that the personal world represents not a world, but a plurality of worlds resulting from different points of view of personalities.
Here arise four chief types: there is the aesthete who draws a tangent to the circle of life along the line of passing pleasures; there is again the ironist who, knowing how to distinguish the interior from the exterior, strives to shelter his inner life against the changes of the moment; these is next the moralist who enters into positive relations with other men and endeavors to fulfill his duty; there is finally the humorist who, being sadly affected by the contrast of finite and infinite, is forced to look upon life as more or less of a joke. All this reminds one of James’s “types of thinking” from the man who “carves out” order to him who considers the universe a vast “grab-bag.”
Between the American and the Dane there is, then, final agreement in respect to the doctrine of discontinuity, the old idealistic continuity being supplanted by the view that both the psychic and the cosmic life proceed by leaps, Natura per sultum.
Historical Contributions by Woodbridge Riley, Vassar College
Psychological Bulletin. v. 12:no. 1-12 (1915) p. 10-12
(1912) A very remarkable personality was Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) He was born in Copenhagen, and after the customary education, he stood, in 1840, the required examination for entrance into the ministry, but he never was a recognized pastor nor filled any church office. But he was very active with his pen, and has a secure place among the religious writers of his time and country. In preaching he was a free lance; wherever he was offered or could make an opportunity, he preached earnestly to all who would hear him. His writings and personal influence were profoundly felt in the religious life of the North and extended beyond his own country.
A History of Preaching, v. 2 Edwin Charles Dargan, 1852-1930 Published 1912 P. 428
The Germans translated Kierkegaard early. Here is a review of their translation of The Concept of Anxiety and Practice in Christianity in 1913 (Kierkegaard’s centenary).
(1915) Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855) An eminent Danish philosopher and theological writer was never ordained, he remained in Copenhagen until his death. He was one of the most original of Danish writers and thinkers and eventually exerted a strong influence on the literature and religious trend of his country, not only by the power of his reasoning, but through the force and brilliancy of his style. He taught that Christianity is the rule and conduct of life and based his philosophy on faith and knowledge.
New International Encyclopedia, Volume 13 Dodd, Mead, 1915 p. 222-223
2013 was the 200th year after the birth of Soren Kierkegaard. Here are several different reviews of his life which began March 5, 1813 and ended November 11, 1855.
David F. Swenson was born in Sweden October 29, 1876 and moved to America in 1882. He taught at the University of Minnesota and became a full professor of philosophy in 1917. His goal was to make the writings of Soren Kierkegaard known to the English reading public. He and his wife, Lillian Marvin Swenson, translated many of Kierkegaard’s works into English before David died in 1940. Lillian continued David’s work with another Kierkegaard scholar, Walter Lowrie. You can find a list of the Swenson’s translations by following this link and of Walter Lowrie here.
Swenson wrote an early work about Soren Kierkegaard in 1915. This is a short introduction to it. You can read the whole article, The Anti-Intellectualism of Soren Kierkegaard, here.
Later, Swenson published a short biography about Kierkegaard in 1921. You can read the whole biography, Soren Kierkegaard, here. And listen to the beginning below.
“We must remember,” says Kierkegaard (Begrebet Ironi, p. 322 – The Concept of Irony), “that Tieck and the entire Romantic School entered, or believed they entered, into relations with a period in which men were, so to speak, petrified, in final, unalterable social conditions. Everything was perfected and completed, in a sort of divine Chinese perfection, which left no reasonable longing unsatisfied, no reasonable wish unfulfilled. The glorious principles and maxims of ‘use and wont’ were the objects of a pious worship; everything, including the absolute itself, was absolute; men refrained from polygamy; they wore peaked hats; nothing was without its significance.
Each man felt, with the precise degree of dignity that corresponded to his position, what he effected, the exact importance to himself and to the whole, of his unwearied endeavour. There was no frivolous indifference to punctuality in those days; all ungodliness of that kind tried to insinuate itself in vain. Everything pursued its tranquil, ordered course; even the suitor went soberly about his business; he knew that he was going on a lawful errand, was taking a most serious step. Everything went by clockwork.
Men waxed enthusiastic over the beauties of nature on Midsummer Day; were overwhelmed by the thought of their sins on the great fast-days; fell in love when they were twenty, went to bed at ten o’clock. They married and devoted themselves to domestic and civic duties; they brought up families; in the prime of their manhood notice was taken in high places of their honourable and successful efforts; they lived on terms of intimacy with the pastor, under whose eye they did the many generous deeds which they knew he would recount in a voice trembling with emotion when the day came for him to preach their funeral sermon. They were friends in the genuine sense of the word, ein wirklicher Freund, wie man wirklicher Kanzleirat war.”
Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature, by Georg Brandes, a series of lectures originally given in Danish at the University of Copenhagen (published 1871–1890 under the title ‘Hovedströmninger i det 19 de aarhundredes litteratur’; translated into German, 1894–1896 under the title ‘Hauptströmungen der Literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts’; and into English, 1901–1905).
Kierkegaard is listened to today because the world is confronted with demons of the irrational forces which they hoped to cope with rationally. He taught that “Christianity is the perfection of the really human.” He offered new hope to those who have despaired of past efforts to attain perfection through traditional channels. His influence has shown no signs of receding as the Cold War continues.
Greater Dead than Alive, by Curtis Daniel MacDougall 1963 p. 76-77
If I tried to imagine the public as a particular person (for although some better individuals momentarily belong to the public they nevertheless have something concrete about them, which holds them in its grip even if they have not attained the supreme religious attitude), I should perhaps think of one of the Roman emperors, a large well-fed figure, suffering from boredom, looking only for the sensual intoxication of laughter, since the divine gift of wit is not earthly enough. And so for a change he wanders about, indolent rather than bad, but with a negative desire to dominate.
Every one who has read the classical authors knows how many things a Caesar could try out in order to kill time. In the same way the public keeps a dog to amuse it. That dog is the sum of the literary world. If there is some one superior to the rest, perhaps even a great man, the dog is set on him and the fun begins. The dog goes for him, snapping and tearing at his coat-tails, allowing itself every possible ill-mannered familiarity – until the public tires, and says it may stop. That is an example of how the public levels. Their betters and superiors in strength are mishandled – and the dog remains a dog which even the public despises. The leveling is therefore done by a third party; a non-existent public leveling with the help of a third party which in its significance is less than nothing, being already more than leveled.
The Present Age 1846 by Soren Kierkegaard, translated by Alexander Dru 1962, p. 65-66
More and more people renounce the quiet and modest tasks of life, that are so important and pleasing to God, in order to achieve something greater; in order to think over the relationships of life in a higher relationship till in the end the whole generation has become a representation, who represent…it is difficult to say who; and who think about these relationships…for whose sake it is not easy to discover.
The real moment in time and the real situation being simultaneous with real people, each of whom is something; that is what helps to sustain the individual. But the existence of a public produces neither a situation nor simultaneity. The individual reader of the Press is not the public, and even though little by little a number of individuals or even all of them should read it, the simultaneity is lacking. Years might be spent gathering the public together, and still it would not be there. This abstraction, which the individuals so illogically form, quite rightly repulses the individual instead of coming to his help. The man who has no opinion of an event at the actual moment accepts the opinion of the majority, or, if he is quarrelsome, of the minority. But it must be remembered that both majority and minority are real people, and that is why the individual is assisted by adhering to them. A public, on the contrary, is an abstraction.
Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age, (1846) Dru translation 1962 p. 44, 61
Either a race or an individual.
For Kierkegaard, man is essentially an individual, not a member of a species or race; and ethical and religious truth is known through individual existence and decision-through subjectivity, not objectivity. Systems of thought and a dialectic such as Hegel’s are matters merely of thought, which cannot comprise individual existence and decision. Such systems leave out, said Kierkegaard, the unique and essential “spermatic point, the individual, ethically and religiously conceived, and existentially accentuated.” Similarly in the works of the American author Henry David Thoureau, writing at the same time as Kierkegaard, there is an emphasis on the solitary individual as the bearer of ethical responsibility, who, when he is right, carries the preponderant ethical weight against the state, government, and a united public opinion, when they are wrong. The solitary individual with right on his side is always “a majority of one.”
Ethics, the study of moral values, by Mortimer J. Adler and Seymour Cain. Pref. by William Ernest Hocking. 1962 252
Kierkegaard, Communication, and Virtue: Authorship as Edification Mark A. Tietjen, Indiana University Press, Jun 12, 2013 p. 46-47
Kierkegaard as Essential Author
Kierkegaard begins the introduction to The Book on Adler by describing the “present age” as one of movement where “many people’s lives go in in such a way that they have premises for living, but do not arrive at any conclusion”. If a person of this age becomes an author, and even if this person “possess extraordinary talents, exceptional knowledge ,” Kierkegaard concludes, “he is not an author, even though he produces”. Premise authors are deficient in several related ways: their world-view is impoverished, if not absent altogether, their lives lack ethical definition (or an ethical position), their authorial production is riddled with uncertainty and doubt, and, consequently, they are a burden on the reader.
“A world-view, a life-view, is the only true conclusion to every production.” A worldview is a coherent construal of one’s place in the world that situates one’s identity and sense of purpose. It includes convictions about one’s ethical position-the ideals and values from which and toward which one orients one’s existence-one’s cares and interests, activities, and in the case of authors, their production. A worldview is ‘conclusive” not by virtue of some extraordinary awareness of how life will play out or by a complete understanding of one’s relation to the ideals of that worldview. It is conclusive by being decisive for the individual. It involves the possession of an existential relation to the ethical (and possibly religious) truths that Johannes would call “inwardness.” And in these things a worldview includes critical-interpretive resources for interacting with the ideas and prejudices of an age. Thus the essential author “has a definite life and world-view that he follows, and in it he is ahead of the particular production, just as the whole is always ahead of the parts.” The essential author does not weigh down one’s contemporaries because of a lack of self-knowledge: “The essential author … definitely knows who he is, what he wants; from first to last he takes care to understand himself in his life-view. As such, the essential author’s production derives not out of need but instead as “a consciously undertaken ethical task.”
By contrast, an incomplete, impoverished worldview can lead to the endless collection of more “premises,” the giving of oneself to the trendy ideas and commitments of the day: “The premise authors are at your service in every way with ever new tasks, proposals, hints, suggestions, indications, projects-in short, with everything that by merely being a beginning stimulates impatience because it does not seem to contain any demand for perseverance, which is always necessary if there is to be any question of arriving at a conclusion. Like one of Kierkegaard’s aesthetes from Either/Or I, the premise author never commits finally to a conception of the world that will anchor life and consequently an authorial production. …
If we begin to consider Kierkegaard in light of these categories, he seems to fit the profile of the essential author.
Quotes from Book of Adler by Soren Kierkegaard edited and translated by Howard V and Edna H Hong 1998 pages 7-14
Also by Mark A. Tietjen Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians InterVarsity Press, Mar 24, 2016
Johann Georg Hamann, (1730-1788), is of course known to students of German literature as the enigmatic figure in the background of the Sturm and Drang, that movement of the spirit and of letters which preceded, and precipitated, the Romantic movement in German life and literature. He is also known to students of philosophy as a marginal figure in the life of Immanuel Kant, whose contemporary and fellow-citizen and fiend he was in Konigsberg. In more recent theological writing he has become the object of a certain amount of interest as one of the few writers who had a marked influence on Kierkegaard. In fact it would, I believe, be possible to detect in the writings of Hamann, in embryonic or sibylline form at least, almost all the major concerns of Kierkegaard. The connections between the two will be apparent to any student of Kierkegaard.
J G Hamann 1730 1788 A Study In Christian Existence by Ronald Gregor Smith
Just as nature was given us to open our eyes, so history was given to us to open our ears. To dissect a body and an event into its primary elements means attempting to detect God’s invisible being, His eternal power and Godhead. Whoever does not believe Moses and the prophets always becomes, like Buffon writing on the history of creation and Montesquieu on the history of the Roman Empire, a poet against his knowledge and intention.
If a young sparrow shall not fall to the earth without our God, no monument from ancient times has been lost to us which we should lament. Should not His providence extend to writings since He himself became a writer, and since the Spirit of God was at such pains to record the value of the first forbidden books, which a pious zeal on behalf of our religion sacrificed to the fire? We admire Pompey’s destroying the writings of his enemy Sertorius, as a wise and noble action; why not admire Our Lord’s allowing the writings of Celcus to perish?
Hamann, Socratic Memorabilla, translated by James O’Flaherty 1967
Johann Goethe’s ideas about Christianity
Sunday, March 11, 1832. P. 421-
This evening for an hour with Goethe, talking of various interesting subjects. I had bought an English Bible, in which I found, to my great regret, that the apocryphal books were not contained. They had been rejected, because they were not considered genuine and of divine origin. I greatly missed the noble Tobias, that model of a pious life the Wisdom of Solomon, and Jesus Sirach, — all writings of such high mental and moral elevation, that few others equal them. I spoke to Goethe of my regret at the very narrow view by which some of the writings of the Old Testament are looked upon as immediately proceeding from God ; while others, equally excellent, are not so. As if there could be anything noble and great which did not proceed from God, and which was not a fruit of his influence.
“I am thoroughly of your opinion,” returned Goethe. “Still, there are two points of view from which biblical subjects may be contemplated. There is the point of view of a sort of primitive religion, of pure nature and reason, which is of divine origin. This will always be the same, and will last and prevail as long as divinely endowed beings exist. It is, however, only for the elect, and is far too high and noble to become universal. Then there is the point of view of the Church, which is of a more human nature. This is defective and subject to change but it will last, in a state of perpetual change, as long as there are weak human beings. The light of unclouded divine revelation is far too pure and brilliant to be suitable and supportable to poor weak man. But the Church steps in as a useful mediator, to soften and to moderate, by which all are helped, and many are benefited. Through the belief that the Christian Church, as the successor of Christ, can remove the burden of human sin, it is a very great power. To maintain themselves in this power and in this importance, and thus to secure the ecclesiastical edifice, is the chief aim of the Christian priesthood.
“This priesthood, therefore, does not so much ask whether this or that book in the Bible greatly enlightens the mind, and contains doctrines of high morality and noble human nature. It rather looks upon the books of Moses, with reference to the fell of man and the origin of a necessity for a Redeemer; it searches the prophets for repeated allusions to Him, the Expected One, and regards, in the Gospels, His actual earthly appearance, and His death upon the cross, as the atonement for our human sins. You see, therefore, that for such purposes, and weighed in such a balance, neither the noble Tobias, nor the Wisdom of Solomon, nor the sayings of Sirach, can have much weight. Still, with reference to things in the Bible, the question whether they are genuine or spurious is odd enough. What is genuine but that which is truly excellent, which stands in harmony with the purest nature and reason, and which even now ministers to our highest development! What is spurious but the absurd and the hollow, which brings no fruit — at least, no good fruit! If the authenticity of a biblical book is to be decided by the question, — whether something true throughout has been handed down to us, we might on some points doubt the authenticity of the Gospels, since those of Mark and Luke were not written from immediate presence and experience, but, according to oral tradition, long afterwards; and the last, by the disciple John, was not written till he was of a very advanced age. Nevertheless, I look upon all the four Gospels as thoroughly genuine; for there is in them the reflection of a greatness which emanated from the person of Jesus, and which was of as divine a kind as ever was seen upon earth. If I am asked whether it is in my nature to pay Him devout reverence, I say — certainly! I bow before Him as the divine manifestation of the highest principle of morality. If I am asked whether it is in my nature to revere the Sun, I again say — certainly! For he is likewise a manifestation of the highest Being, and indeed the most powerful which we children of earth are allowed to behold. I adore in him the light and the productive power of God by which we all live, move, and have our being — we, and all the plants and animals with us. But if I am asked — whether I am inclined to bow before a thumb-bone of the apostle Peter or Paul, I say — Spare me, and stand off with your absurdities!” “Quench not the spirit” says the Apostle. There are many absurdities in the propositions of the Church; nevertheless, rule it will, and so it must have a narrow-minded multitude, which bows its head and likes to be ruled. The high and richly-endowed clergy dread nothing more than the enlightenment of the lower orders. They withheld the Bible from them as long as it was possible. Besides, what can a poor member of the Christian Church think of the princely magnificence of a richly-endowed bishop, when he sees in the Gospels the poverty and indigence of Christ, who, with his disciples, travelled humbly on foot, whilst the princely bishop rattles along in his carriage drawn by six horses!
“We scarcely know,” continued Goethe, what we owe to Luther, and the Reformation in general. We are freed from the fetters of spiritual narrowmindedness; we have, in consequence of our increasing culture, become capable of turning back to the fountain head, and of comprehending Christianity in its purity. We have, again, the courage to stand with firm feet upon God’s earth, and to feel ourselves in our divinely-endowed human nature. Let mental culture go on advancing, let the natural sciences go on gaining in depth and breadth, and the human mind expand as it may, it will never go beyond the elevation and moral culture of Christianity as it glistens and shines forth in the Gospel!
“But the better we Protestants advance in our noble development, so much the more rapidly will the Catholics follow us. As soon as they feel themselves caught up by the ever-extending enlightenment of the time, they must go on, do what they will, till at last the point is reached where all is but one.
“The mischievous sectarianism of the Protestants will also cease, and with it the hatred and hostile feeling between father and son, sister and brother; for as soon as the pure doctrine and love of Christ are comprehended in their true nature, and have become a vital principle, we shall feel ourselves as human beings, great and free, and not attach especial importance to a degree more or less in the outward forms of religion. Besides, we shall all gradually advance from a Christianity of words and faith, to a Christianity of feeling and action.”
The conversation turned upon the great men who had lived before Christ, among the Chinese, the Indians, the Persians, and the Greeks; and it was remarked, that the divine power had been as operative in them as in some of the great Jews of the Old Testament. We then came to the question how far God influenced the great natures of the present world in which we live?
“To hear people speak,” said Goethe, ”one would almost believe that they were of opinion that God had withdrawn into silence since those old times, and that man was now placed quite upon his own feet, and had to see how he could get on without God, and his daily invisible breath. In religious and moral matters, a divine influence is indeed still allowed, but in matters of science and art it is believed that they are merely earthy, and nothing but the product of human powers.
“Let anyone only try, with human will and human power, to produce something which may be compared with the creations that bear the names of Mozart, Raphael, or Shakespeare. I know very well that these three noble beings are not the only ones, and that in every province of art innumerable excellent geniuses have operated, who have produced things as perfectly good as those just mentioned. But if they were as great as those, they rose above ordinary human nature, and in the same proportion were as divinely endowed as they.
“And after all what does it all come to? God did not retire to rest after the well-known six days of creation, but, on the contrary, is constantly active as on the first. It would have been for Him a poor occupation to compose this heavy world out of simple elements, and to keep it rolling in the sunbeams from year to year, if he had not had the plan of founding a nursery for a world of spirits upon this material basis. So he is now constantly active in higher natures to attract the lower ones.”
Goethe was silent. But I cherished his great and good words in my heart.
Conversations of Goethe with Eckermann and Soret by Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1749-1832; Eckermann, Johann Peter, 1792-1854; Soret, Frédéric Jacob, 1795-1865; Oxenford, John, 1812-1877, tr Published 1850 London, Smith, Elder
In Defense of Women 1918 by Henry Louise Mencken 1880-1956
His view of the transformation of values.