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Go to the Index of 120 Philosophers Squared

Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) was a Danish existentialist philosopher of morality, ethics, psychology. What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know. – There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.

Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard, philosopher (1813 – 1855)

Kierkegaard_Regine-Olsen

Kierkegaard’s muse Regine Olsen, who rejected his marriage proposal (1822 – 1904)

Quotations of Kierkegaard from – Wikiquote, EGS, GoodReads, BrainyQuote,


My standpoint is armed neutrality. [The Philosopher Squared stated ideal.]

How absurd men are! People hardly ever make use of the freedoms which they have, for example, freedom of thought; instead they demand freedom of speech as compensation.

It is perhaps the misfortune of my life that I am interested in far too much but not decisively in any one thing; all my interests are not subordinated in one but stand on an equal footing.

Do not deceive yourself! Of all deceivers fear most, yourself!

What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.

If you want to be loathsome to God, just run with the herd.

The self-assured believer is a greater sinner in the eyes of God than the troubled disbeliever.

Believe a woman, you will regret it; believe her not, you will also regret it; believe a woman or believe her not, you will regret it either way; believing a woman or not believing her, you will regret it both ways. … This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy.

Happiness is the greatest hiding place for despair.

My demand of life is this-that it would make it clear whether I was trapped in self-delusion or I loved faithfully, perhaps more faithfully than she [Regine]. How long I must persevere is not known. Even if the age of oracles vanished long ago, there is still one thing of which the simplest and the most profound person must, if he talks about it, talk mysteriously-that is: time. Without a doubt it is the most difficult mystery, just as it is also supposed to be the most profound wisdom, to arrange one’s life as if today were the last day one lives and also the first in a sequence of years.

If you want to love me, then love the people you see; what you do for them, you do for me. If you want to show that your life is intended to serve God, then let it serve people, yet continually with the thought of God.

The unhappy girl would retain the consciousness of it with double bitterness because there was not the slightest thing she could appeal to. She could only be constantly tossed about in a terrible witches’ dance at one moment reproaching herself forgiving him at another reproaching him and then since the relationship would only have been actual in a figurative sense she would constantly have to contend with the doubt that the whole thing might only have been an imagination.

Their lusts are dull and sluggish, their passions sleepy…This is the reason my soul always turns back to the Old Testament and to Shakespeare. I feel that those who speak there are at least human beings: they hate, they love, they murder their enemies, and curse their descendants throughout all generations, they sin.

It is a frightful satire and an epigram on the modern age that the only use it knows for solitude is to make it a punishment, a jail sentence.

The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.

The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.

What labels me, negates me. Once you label me you negate me.

The most common form of despair is not being who you are.

In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, I have one more intimate confidant… My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known — no wonder, then, that I return the love.

When the danger is so great that death has become one’s hope, despair is the disconsolateness of not being able to die.

Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am ironic — if it is pulled out I shall die.

I have only one friend, and that is echo. Why is it my friend? Because I love my sorrow, and echo does not take it away from me. I have only one confidant, and that is the silence of night. Why is it my confidant? Because it remains silent.

One had hard-hearted parents and nixies and trolls to fight, and enchanted princesses to free.

My melancholy is the most faithful sweetheart I have had.

In my great melancholy, I loved life, for I love my melancholy.

My sorrow is my castle.

In every man there is something which to a certain degree prevents him from becoming perfectly transparent to himself; and this may be the case in so high a degree, he may be so inexplicably woven into relationships of life which extend far beyond himself that he almost cannot reveal himself. But he who cannot reveal himself cannot love, and he who cannot love is the most unhappy man of all.

Don’t forget to love yourself.

To have faith is precisely to lose one’s mind so as to win God.

I can imagine him able to bring a girl to the point where he was sure she would sacrifice all then he would leave without a word let a lone a declaration a promise.

Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.

“Most honorable gods, I choose one thing — that I may always have the laughs on my side.”

To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…. And to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one’s self.

If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin.

Leap of faith – yes, but only after reflection

The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have.

Nothing is as heady as the wine of possibility.

…why bother remembering a past that cannot be made into a present?

One became great by expecting the possible, another by expecting the eternal; but he who expected the impossible became the greatest of all.

If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.

Boredom is the root of all evil – the despairing refusal to be oneself.

To be lost in spiritlessness is the most terrible thing of all.

When everything around you is still, as it is in eternity, then eternity asks you and every individual in these millions and millions about only one thing: whether you have lived in despair or not.

The thing is to understand myself: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. That is what I now recognize as the most important thing.

There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.

Every mental act is composed of doubt and belief,
but it is belief that is the positive, it is belief
that sustains thought and holds the world together.

One must not think slightingly of the paradoxical…for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without feeling: a paltry mediocrity.

Take away paradox from the thinker and you have a professor.

A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.

Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined.

God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.

And this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith.

Most people are subjective towards themselves and objective towards everyone else, sometimes frightfully objective-but the task is precisely to be objective to themselves and subjective towards all others.

People understand me so little that they do not even understand when I complain of being misunderstood.

It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand…

It is very important in life to know when your cue comes.

When you were called, did you answer or did you not? Perhaps softly and in a whisper?

For the philosopher, world history is ended, and he mediates. This accounts for the repugnant spectacle that belongs to the order of the day in our age-to see young people who are able to mediate Christianity and paganism, who are able to play games with the titanic forces of history, and who are unable to tell a simple human being what he has to do here in life, nor do they know what they themselves have to do.

I hardly need say that by wanting to win men it is not my intention to form a party, to create secular, sensate togetherness; no, my wish is only to win men, if possible all men (each individual), for Christianity. A request, an urgent request to the reader: I beg you to read aloud, if possible; I will thank everyone who does so; and I will thank again and again everyone who in addition to doing it himself influences others to do it.

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, I walk myself into a state of well-being & walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, & the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.


COMMENTS

Søren Kierkegaard is reported to have had an impact on Denmark’s religious-political community creating some separation of church and state, but that hardly makes him a major philosopher. Also, he seems to have had some impact on Europe’s major philosophers, but even that seems rather modest. He did write some things which are interesting, but so much of his writing is a wandering around in generalized Christian belief system and his supposed nearness to his inner God. That god doesn’t seem to serve him very well, and leaves him in emotional misery most of the time. His only pleasure seems to be in walking the twisting back streets of Copenhagen and having casual conversations with passers-by. My friends say, stressing vineyards produces better wines and stressing philosophers produces better whines, and in Søren’s life that seems true enough.

What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, is a clear statement, and philosophical I suppose, but it is the whine of an adolescent, and not a deep philosophical revelation of a mature thinker we should choose to explore deeply and follow.

He wrote, Do not deceive yourself! Of all deceivers fear most yourself! But that refrain has been around for several millennia, and there is nothing new in his analysis of it. My problem with this is that he then delves endlessly into shallow self-analysis of his relationship with his god. As that is untestable in any meaningful way, and can only be observed in its effects on his external behavior, it can only be assumed to be a failure. It’s a failure because it doesn’t even move him the direction of the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. They at least had the goal of living a tranquil life, and from their writings it seems they usually achieved that, but Kierkegaard only achieves greater personal success with his misery. My melancholy is the most faithful sweetheart I have had. Personal exploration is a fine thing, but what he has shown us is a path to despair, which any sane person would choose to avoid. This analysis may seem harsh, but he was far more harsh, – Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am ironic — if it is pulled out I shall die. This is the exact opposite of reason, unless he wants to die. Since he didn’t commit suicide it appears he didn’t want to die. But, for him voluntary death is impossible, When the danger is so great that death has become one’s hope, despair is the disconsolateness of not being able to die. He is trapped in a cycle of self-referential confusions.

And this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith. It is critical that faith be the prime virtue for the church, because what the whole system is based upon is not personal virtue proven in personal deeds, but a false virtue of submitting to the self-proclaimed authority. Loyalty to the system is proven by submission.

Here lies Kierkegaard’s personal problem: He who cannot reveal himself cannot love, and he who cannot love is the most unhappy man of all. Although he constantly looks into himself, he finds nothing but emptiness and despair. He can not love because he can not reveal himself, and this trait he exposes and is carried to an extreme form by constantly publishing his thoughts under pseudonyms. Søren Kierkegaard was plagued with multiple personalities, and he could never find one he could be comfortable with and love; he paid the price by living in the lonely misery of an unrequited love of himself.