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Søren Kierkegaard
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Søren Kierkegaard

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813 - November 11, 1855), a 19th century Danish philosopher, has achieved general recognition as the father of existentialism though some new research shows this may be a more difficult connection than previously thought.[1] Philosophically, he bridged the gap that existed between Hegelian philosophy and what was to become Existentialism. Kierkegaard strongly rejected both the Hegelian philosophy of his time, and what he saw as the empty formalities of the Danish church. Much of his work deals with religious problems such as the nature of faith, the institution of the Christian church, and Christian ethics and theology.

Kierkegaard's work sometimes resists interpretation, since he wrote most of his early work under various pseudonyms, and often these pseudo-authors will comment on the works of the earlier pseudo-authors.

Table of contents
1 Life
2 Philosophy
3 Bibliography
4 External links


Søren Kierkegaard was born to an affluent family in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. His father, Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard, was a strongly religious man. Convinced that he had earned God's wrath, he believed that none of his children would live to the age of 34 (Christ's age at crucifixion). The sins necessitating this punishment, he believed, included cursing the name of God in his youth, and possibly impregnating Kierkegaard's mother out of wedlock. In fact, his predictions were realized for all but two of his seven children. So strong was his father's conviction that Søren himself was surprised when he survived his 34th year.

This early introduction to the notion of sin, and its connection from father and son, laid the foundation for much of Kierkegaard's work (particularly Fear and Trembling). Kierkegaard's mother, Anne Sørensdatter Lund Kierkegaard, is not directly referred to in his books, although she too affected his later writings.

Despite his father's occasional religious melancholy, Kierkegaard and his father shared a close bond. Kierkegaard learned to explore the realm of his imagination through a series of exercises and games they played together.

Another important aspect of Kierkegaard's life that is generally considered to have had a major influence on his work, was his broken engagement to Regine Olsen. Kierkegaard's motive for ending the engagement remains mysterious. It is generally believed that the two were deeply in love -- perhaps even after she married Johan Frederik Schlegel (1817-1896), a prominent civil servant (not to be confused with the German philosopher Friedrich von Schlegel, 1772-1829). For the most part, their contact was limited to chance meetings on the streets of Copenhagen. Some years later, however, Kierkegaard went so far as to ask Regine's husband for permission to speak with her, but was refused. Soon afterward, the couple left the country, Schlegel having been appointed Governor in the Danish West Indies. By the time Regine returned, Kierkegaard was dead. Regine Schlegel lived until 1904, and upon her death she was buried near Kierkegaard in the Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen.

Notes: Kierkergaard does not mean "church garden", nor "churchyard"; rather, it means (in this instance) "church farm" - that is, a farm that is connected to the church. Kierkegaard (kirkegård in modern Danish) can also mean "graveyard".



Most emphatically in Sickness Unto Death but also in Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard argues that humans are made up of three parts: the finite, the infinite, and the "relationship of the two to itself." The finite (sense, body, knowledge) and the infinite (paradox and the capacity to believe) always exist in a state of tension. That tension, as it is aware of itself, is the "self." When the self is lost, either to insensibility or exuberance, the person is in a state of despair. Notably, despair does not have to be agony. It is, instead, the loss of self. In Either/Or, Kierkegaard has two epistolary novels in two volumes. The first letter writer is an aesthete whose wildness of belief and imagination lead him to a meaningless life and a life of egoistic despair. The second volume's author is a judge who lives his life by strict Christian laws. Because he works entirely upon received law and never uses belief or soulfulness, he lives a life of ethical despair. Only the aesthetic and ethical wed together are the "religious" life. In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard argues that the choice of Abraham to obey the private, anti-ethical, religious commandment of God to sacrifice his son is the perfect act of self. If Abraham were to blithely obey, his actions would have no meaning. It is only when he acts with fear and trembling that he demonstrates a full awareness and the actions of the self, as opposed to the actions of either the finite or infinite portions of humanity.


Two Upbuilding Discourses
Fear and Trembling
Three Upbuilding Discourses
Four Upbuilding Discourses (1843)
Two Upbuilding Discourses (1844)
Three Upbuilding Discourses (1844)
Philosophical Fragments
The Concept of Anxiety
Four Upbuilding Discourses (1844)
Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions
Stages On Life's Way
Concluding Unscientific Postscript
A Litterary Anouncement
Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits
Works of Love
Christian Discourses
The Crisis and a Crisis in the Live of an Actress
The Lilys on the Fields and the Brids under the Heavens
Two Ethico-religious Small Treatises
The Sickness Unto Death
The Highpriest - The Publican - The Woman, which was a Sinner
Practise in Christianity
An Upbuilding Discourse (1850)
Two Upbuilding Discourses at Friday Eucharist
For Selfjudgment. My Contemporaries Recommended
Judge yourself
Bladartikler fra Tiden foer Forfatterskabet
Of the Papers of One still Living
On the Concept of Irony
''Bladartikel der staaer i Forhold til Forfatterskabet
''On my Work as an Author
''Point of View for my Work as an Author
''Late Polemical Writings
''The Moment

See also: philosophy of religion.

External links

This article is part of the Influential Western Philosophers series
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