Kierkegaard, Søren


Kierkegaard, Søren
(1813-1855)
   A Danish philosopher and man of letters, Kierkegaard is considered the father of existentialism, an important movement in 20th-century European philosophy and culture. Raised by a well-to-do merchant father from whom he inherited a predisposition toward depression, Kierkegaard grew up in Copenhagen and attended the university there, taking degrees in theology and philosophy. His father's wealth freed him from the necessity of earning a living, so he was able to focus entirely on his writing projects. There are few external events of much significance in Kierkegaard's life. The influence of a short-lived engagement to a young woman named Regine Olsen can be discerned in some of his writings about young men and love, as can a mysterious experience that he refers to as "the great earthquake," possibly a moment of insight into his father's religious life, which led Kierkegaard to leave home for a period of time.
   Kierkegaard's literary debut was an essay in literary criticism entitled Afen endnu Levendes Papirer (1838; tr. EarlyPolemic Writings: One Still Living, 1990). He also published his M.A. thesis in philosophy, Om Begrebet Ironie med stadigt Hensyn til Socrates (1841; tr. The Concept of Irony with Constant Reference to Socrates, 1989), a critique of romantic irony, which Kierkegaard considered it irresponsible to indulge in.
   Having broken the engagement to Regine Olsen, Kierkegaard spent a period of time in Berlin that marks the beginning of a 13-year period of immense productivity. Under the pseudonym Victor Eremita he soon published Enten-Eller (1843; tr. Either/Or, 1944), in which he presented his theory of the aesthetic and the ethical spheres of existence. The Kierkegaardian esthete is focused on either sensual or intellectual pleasure and is typified by the immediate or the reflective seducer, while the ethical person is centered on living responsibly as a member of society. But Enten-Eller also adumbrates what Kierkegaard calls the religious stage, which, along with the aesthetic and the ethical, is further discussed in Stadier paa Livets Vei (1845; tr. Stages on Life's Way, 1940). The religious stage is further analyzed in Gjentagelsen (1843; tr. Repetition, 1941), narrated by the pseudonymous Constantin Constantius. At the same time Kierkegaard also published Frygt og Bæven (1843; tr. Fear and Trembling, 1939), in which Abraham's intended sacrifice of his son Isaac is presented as a means of obtaining a kind of faith that is beyond reason and thus paradoxical.
   The paradox of faith is also discussed in Philosophiske Smuler (1844; tr. Philosophical Fragments, 1936), while original sin, the sin inherited from the transgression ofAdam and Eve, is the topic of Begrebet Angest (1844; tr. The Concept of Dread, 1944). Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift (1846; tr. Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 1941), a sequel to Philosophiske Smuler, argues that truth is found in subjectivity because only individuals, not groups ofpeople, are able to gain true religious faith through a consciousness of sin.
   Having been subjected to ridicule by the editor of a Copenhagen satirical magazine, Kierkegaard largely withdrew from human company and intensified his writing. Kjerlighedens Gjerninger (1847; tr. Works ofLove, 1946) emphasizes the idea that the paramount duty of human beings is to follow the will of God, while Sygdommen til Døden (1849; tr. The Sickness unto Death, 1941) catalogues various forms of despair, which are regarded as a consequence of ignoring God's will. Indøvelse i Christendom (1850; tr. Training in Christianity, 1941) suggests that martyrdom is a necessary component of true faith; this idea led Kierkegaard to become increasingly critical of the Danish church. A series of pamphlets with the common title Øieblikket (1855; tr. Kierkegaard's Attack upon "Christendom," 1844) vigorously argued that the church had become lukewarm and given to compromise.
   Synspunktet for min Forfatter-Virksomhed (written in 1848, but published posthumously in 1859; tr. The Point of View for My Work as an Author, 1939) explains that the true purpose of all of Kierkegaard's writings, including the aesthetic ones, was fundamentally religious. Such works as Atten opbyggelige Taler (1843; tr. Eighteen Edifying Discourses, 1943-1946), which like Kjerlighedens Gjerninger was published under the author's own name, further support that assertion.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Kierkegaard, Søren Aabye — (1813–55)    Philosopher.    Kierkegaard was born into a Lutheran family in Copenhagen, Denmark. By normal standards, he did not have a successful life. He was twentyseven before he finished his university course; he broke off his engagement and… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Kierkegaard, Søren Aabye — (1813 55)    A Danish philosopher, considered by many to be the first philosopher of existentialism, Kierkegaard vociferously attacked what seemed to him two false conceptions of Christianity: Hegel s rationalistic dialectic of history and the… …   Christian Philosophy

  • Kierkegaard, Søren (Aabye) — born May 5, 1813, Copenhagen, Den. died Nov. 11, 1855, Copenhagen Danish religious philosopher, regarded as the founder of existentialism. He studied theology at the University of Copenhagen. He is remembered for his critique of systematic… …   Universalium

  • Kierkegaard, Søren (Aabye) — 5 may. 1813, Copenhague,– Dinamarca 11 nov. 1855, Copenhague). Filósofo religioso danés, considerado fundador del existencialismo. Estudió teología en la Universidad de Copenhague. Es recordado por su crítica de la filosofía racional sistemática …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Kierkegaard, Søren Aabye — (1813–1855) Danish philosopher and theologian, generally acknowledged to be the first existentialist . Born to scholarly and pietistic parents, Kierkegaard enrolled at the university of Copenhagen, then much under the influence of Hegel, in 1830 …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Kierkegaard, Soren Aabye — ► (1813 55) Filósofo y teólogo danés. Padre del existencialismo. En 1838 tuvo una profunda experiencia religiosa que le condicionó toda su posterior actividad intelectual. La fe para Kierkegaard no podía ser nunca conformismo ni reposo, sino… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • KIERKEGAARD, SÖREN AABY —    philosophical and religious thinker, born at Copenhagen; lived a quiet, industrious, literary life, and exerted a chief influence on 19th century Dano Norwegian literature; his greatest works are Either Or, and Stadia on Life s Way (1813 1855) …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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  • KIERKEGAARD, Soren Asby — (1813 1855)    Danish Christian philosopher and Father of EXISTENTIALISM. Reared in the atmosphere of HEGELIAN DIALECTICS he opposed HEGEL s work with his own existential dialectics in works such as Either Or (1843). His statement SUBJECTIVITY is …   Concise dictionary of Religion


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