The following quotes from Kierkegaard come from different sources; due to time constraints I can’t fix all the incomplete citations.
If one wishes to strip people of their illusions in order to lead them to something more true, here as always you [the esthete] are “at your service in every way.” On the whole you are tireless in tracking down illusions in order to smash them to pieces. You talk so sensibly, with such experience, that anyone who does not know you better must believe that you are a steady man. But you have by no means arrived at what is true. You stopped with destroying the illusion, and since you did it in every conceivable direction, you actually have worked your way into a new illusion-that one can stop with this. Yes, my friend, you are living in an illusion, and you are achieving nothing. Here I have spoken the word that has always had such a strange effect on you. Achieve-“So who is achieving something? That is precisely one of the most dangerous illusions. I do not busy myself in the world at all; I amuse myself the best I can, and I am particularly amused by those people who believe that they are achieving, and is it not indescribably funny that a person believes that? I refuse to burden my life with such grandiose pretensions.”
Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or Part II, Hong, p. 78-79
“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.” Kierkegaard Journal, Aug 1, 1835.
“The reason I cannot really say that I positively enjoy nature is that I do not quite realize what it is that I enjoy. A work of art, on the other hand, I can grasp. I can — if I may put it this way — find that Archimedian point, and as soon as I have found it, everything is readily clear for me. Then I am able to pursue this one main idea and see how all the details serve to illuminate it.” Journals of Soren Kierkegaard, 1A 8 1834
For as only one thing is necessary, and as the theme of the talk is the willing of only one thing: hence the consciousness before God of one’s eternal responsibility to be an individual is that one thing necessary. Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, 1847 p. 197-198
If a man were to stand on one leg or, in a droll dancing posture, swing his hat, and in this pose recite something true, his few listeners would fall into two classes, and he would not have many, since most of them would probably abandon him. The one class would say: How can what he says be true when he gesticulates that way? The other class would say: Well, it makes no difference whether he performs an entrechat or stands on his head or turns somersaults; what he says is true, and I will appropriate and let him go. So it is also with the imaginary construction. If what is said is earnestness to the writer, he keeps the earnestness essentially to himself. If the recipient interprets it as earnestness, he does it essentially by himself, and precisely this is the earnestness. Even in elementary education one distinguishes between “learning by rote.” The being-in-between of the imaginary construction encourages the inwardness of the two away from each other in inwardness. This form won my complete approval, and I believed I had also found that in it the pseudonymous authors continually aimed at existing and in this way sustained an indirect polemic against speculative thought. If a person knows everything but knows it by rote, the form of the imaginary construction is a good exploratory means; in this form, one even tells him what he knows, but he does not recognize it.
Concluding Unscientific Discourse to Philosophical Fragments, Vol. I, Hong p. 264
I shall suggest in a few words the danger that faces a person in the moment of despair, the reef on which he can be stranded and utterly shipwrecked. The Bible says: For what would it profit a person if he gained the whole world but damaged his own soul; what would he have in return? Scripture does not state the antithesis to this, but it is implicit in the sentence. The antitheses would read something like this: What damage would there be to a person if he lost the whole world and yet did not damage his soul; what would he need in return? There are expressions that in themselves seem simple and yet fill the soul with a strange anxiety, because they almost become more obscure the more one thinks about them. In the religious sphere, the phrase “sin against the Holy Spirit” is such an expression. I do not know whether theologians are able to give a definite explanation of it, but then I am only a layman. But the phrase “to damage one’s soul” is an esthetic expression, and the person who thinks he has an ethical life-view must also think he is able to explain it. We often hear the words used, and yet anyone who wants to understand them must have experienced the deep movements of his soul-indeed, he must have despaired, for it is actually the movements of despair that are described here: one the one side the whole world, on the other side one’s own soul. You will readily perceive, if we pursue this expression, that we arrive at the same abstract definition of “soul” at which we arrived earlier in the definition of the word “self” in the psychological consideration of wishing, without, however, wanting to become someone else. In other words, if I can gain the whole world and yet damage my soul, the phrase “the whole world” must include all the finite things that I possess in my immediacy. Then my soul proves to be indifferent to these things. If I can lose the whole world without damaging my soul, the phrase “the whole world” again includes all the finite qualifications that I possess in my immediacy, and yet if my soul is undamaged it is consequently indifferent toward them. I can lose my wealth, my honor in the eyes of others, my intellectual capacity; and yet not damage my soul: I can gain it all and yet be damaged. What, then, is my soul? What is this innermost being of mine that is undismayed by this loss and suffers damage by this gain?
Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 220-221
The immediacy of falling in love recognizes but one immediacy that is ebenburtig (of equal standing), and this is a religious immediacy; falling in love is too virginal to recognize any confidant other than God. But the religious is a new immediacy, has reflection in between-otherwise, paganism would actually be religious and Christianity not. That the religious is a new immediacy every person easily understands who is satisfied with following the honest path of ordinary common sense. And although I imagine I have but few readers, I confess nevertheless that I do imagine my readers to be among these, since I am far from wanting to instruct the admired ones, who make systematic discoveries a la Niels Klim, who have left their good skin in order to put on the “real appearance.”
Stages on Life’s Way, p. 161-162
God creates out of nothing, but here, if I dare say so, he does more-he dresses an instinct in all the beauty of erotic love so that the lovers see only the beauty and are unaware of the instinct.
Stages on Life’s Way, p. 122-123
I am well aware that as a human being I am very far from being a paradigm; if anything, I am a sample human being. With a fair degree of accuracy, I give the temperature of every mood and passion, and when I am generating my own inwardness, I understand these words: homo sum, nil humani a me alienum puto [I am a human being, I hold that nothing human is alien to me]. But humanly no one can model himself on me, and historically I am even less a prototype for any human being. If anything, I am someone who could be needed in a crisis, as a guinea pig that life uses to feel its way. A person half as reflective as I would be able to be of significance for many people, but precisely because I am altogether reflective I have none at all. As soon as I am outside my religious understanding, I feel as an insect with which children are playing must feel, because life seems to have dealt with me so unmercifully; as soon as I am inside my religious understanding, I understand that precisely this has absolute meaning for me. Hence, that which in one case is a dreadful jest is in another sense the most profound earnestness. Earnestness is basically not something simple, a simplex, but is a compositum [compound], for true earnestness is the unity of jest and earnestness.
Stages on Life’s Way, p. 365 Hong
He [Goethe] expressly laments that the age and he as a part of it have become depressed by reading English authors-Young, for example. Well, why not? If one is so constituted, one can become depressed by listening to a sermon, if it really has substance, as Young has, but Young is far from depressing.
Stages on Life’s Way, Hong p. 150-151
Are passions, then, the pagans of the soul? Reason alone baptized? (Edward Young) (Title page – Either/Or Part I, Swenson)
The great passions are hermits, and to transport them to the desert is to hand over to them their proper domain. Chateaubriand
Title page – Either/Or Part II, Swenson and Hong
if the ethical – that is, social morality- is the highest … then no categories are needed other than the Greek philosophical categories.
Fear and Trembling, p. 55
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.
Journal entry, Gilleleie (1 August 1835) Journals 1A; this is considered to be one of the earliest statements of existentialist thought.
But it never occurred to him to want to be a philosopher, or dedicate himself to Speculation; he was still too fickle for that. True, he was not drawn now to one thing and now to another – thinking was and remained his passion – but he still lacked the self-discipline required for acquiring a deeper coherence. Both the significant and the insignificant attracted him equally as points of departure for his pursuits; the result was not of great consequence – only the movements of thought as such interested him. Sometimes he noticed that he reached one and the same conclusion from quite different starting points, but this did not in any deeper sense engage his attention. His delight was always just to be pressing on; wherever he suspected a labyrinth, he had to find the way. Once he had started, nothing could bring him to a halt. If he found the going difficult and became tired of it before he ought, he would adopt a very simple remedy – he would shut himself up in his room, make everything as festive as possible, and then say loudly and clearly: I will do it. He had learned from his father that one can do what one wills, and his father’s life had not discredited this theory. Experiencing this had given Johannes indescribable pride; that there could be something one could not do when one willed it was unbearable to him. But his pride did not in the least indicate weakness of will, for when he had uttered these energetic words he was ready for anything; he then had a still higher goal – to penetrate the intricacies of the problem by force of will. This again was an adventure that inspired him. Indeed his life was in this way always adventurous. He needed no woods and wanderings for his adventures, but only what he possessed – a little room with one window.
Johannes Climacus p. 22-23
You friendly genii, who protect all innocent love, to you I commit all endowments of my mind and soul; guard the questing thoughts that they may be found worthy of the subject; fashion my soul into a harmonious instrument, let the soft breezes of eloquence blow over it, send the refreshment and blessings of fruitful moods! You righteous spirits, who guard the boundaries in the realms of the beautiful, watch over me, that I do not in a moment of unclarified enthusiasm and a blind zeal to exalt Don Juan above all, do it wrong, disparage it, make it something other than what it is, which is the highest! You powerful spirits, you who know and understand the hearts of men, stand my me that I may catch the reader, not in the net of passion, nor by the artfulness of eloquence, but by the eternal truth of conviction.
Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 85-86
Every human being is spirit and truth is the self-activity of appropriation.
Concluding Postscript p. 242
The meaning lies in the appropriation. Hence the book’s joyous giving of itself. Here there are no worldly “mine” and “thine” that separate and prohibit appropriating what is the neighbor’s. Admiration is in part really envy and thus a misunderstanding; and criticism, for all its justification, is in part really opposition and thus a misunderstanding; and recognition in a mirror is only a fleeting acquaintance and thus a misunderstanding-but to see correctly and not want to forget what the mirror is incapable of effecting, that is the appropriation, and the appropriation is the reader’s even greater, is his triumphant giving of himself.
Three Discourses On Imagined Occasions, Soren Kierkegaard, June 17, 1844, Hong 1993 Preface p. 6
Take a book, the poorest one written, but read it with the passion that it is the only book you will read-ultimately you will read everything out of it, that is, as much as there was in yourself, and you could never get more out of reading, even if you read the best of books.
Stages on Life’s Way, 1845 p. 363-364
In Stages on Life’s Way (p. 342) it says: “It is spirit to ask about two things. (1) Is what is being said possible? (2) Am I able to do it? It is to lack spirit to ask about two things: (1) Did it actually happen? (2) Has my neighbor done it; has he actually done it? In asking with regard to my own actuality, I am asking about its possibility, except that this possibility is not esthetically and intellectually disinterested but is a thought-actuality that is related to my own personal actuality-namely that I am able to carry it out. The how of the truth is precisely the truth.
Concluding Postscript p. 322-323
People know everything, and in order not to stop with that, they know also that they are not to do the least of what they know, because with the aid of external knowledge they are in seventh heaven, and if one must begin to do it, one will become a poor, wretched existing individual who stumbles again and again and progresses very slowly from year to year.
Soren Kierkegaard,Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Vol I, Hong pages 254-256
Seeing marriages every day makes one rarely perceive the greatness in marriage, especially since everything is done to belittle it.
Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 59
Where is the boundary for the single individual in his concrete existence between what is lack of will and what is lack of ability; what is indolence and earthly selfishness and what is the limitation of finitude? For an existing person, when is the period of preparation over, when this question will not arise again in all its initial, troubled severity; when is the time in existence that is indeed a preparation? Let all the dialecticians convene-they will not be able to decide this for a particular individual in concreto.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 490
If someone were to expound that godliness is to belong to childhood in the temporal sense and thus dwindle and die with the years as childhood does, is to be a happy frame of mind that cannot be preserved but only recollected; if someone were to expound that repentance as a weakness of old age accompanies the decline of one’s powers, when the senses are dulled, when sleep no longer strengthens but increases lethargy-this would be ungodliness and foolishness.
Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong P. 12
The only person I actually manage to learn anything from is a long way from being in my service. Yet we have a secret understanding. He knows everything; he is perhaps the most dependable of all. Fortunately he hates me. If possible, he will torture me-indeed, that I understand. He never says anything directly, never mentions any names, but he tells me such strange stories. At first, I did not understand him at all, but now I know that he is talking about her but using fictitious names. He believes I have sufficient imagination to understand every illusion, and this I do, but I also have enough sense to pass it off as nothing. Yet I must count on his being malevolent.
Stages on Life’s Way p. 218-219
When in sickness I go to a physician, he may find it necessary to prescribe a very painful treatment-there is no self-contradiction in my submitting to it. No, but if on the other hand I suddenly find myself in trouble, an object of persecution, because, because I have gone to that physician: well, then then there is a self-contradiction. The physician has perhaps announced that he can help me with regard to the illness from which I suffer, and perhaps he can really do that-but there is an “aber” [but] that I had not thought of at all. The fact that I get involved with this physician, attach myself to him-that is what makes me an object of persecution; here is the possibility of offense. So also with Christianity. Now the issue is: will you be offended or will you believe. If you will believe, then you push through the possibility of offense and accept Christianity on any terms. So it goes; then forget the understanding; then you say: Whether it is a help or a torment, I want only one thing, I want to belong to Christ, I want to be a Christian.
Practice in Christianity, Hong p. 115
In the New Testament sense, to be a Christian is, in an upward sense, as different from being a man as, in a downward sense, to be a man is different from being a beast. A Christian in the sense of the New Testament, although he stands suffering in the midst of life’s reality, has yet become completely a stranger to this life; in the words of the Scripture and also of the Collects (which still are read-O bloody satire!-by the sort of priests we now have, and in the ears of the sort of Christians that now live) he is a stranger and a pilgrim-just think, for example of the late Bishop Mynster intoning, “We are strangers and pilgrims in this world”! A Christian in the New Testament sense is literally a stranger and a pilgrim, he feels himself a stranger, and everyone involuntarily feels that this man is a stranger to him.
Attack Upon Christianity, The Instant, No. 7, Soren Kierkegaard, 1854-1855, Walter Lowrie 1944, 1968
The actuality of action is so often confused with all sorts of ideas, intentions, preliminaries to resolutions, preludes of mood, etc. that there is very seldom any action at all.
Concluding Postscript p. 330
The religious does not dare to ignore what occupies other people’s lives so very much, what continually comes up again every day in conversations, in social intercourse, in books, in the modification of the entire life view, unless the Sunday performances in church are supposed to be a kind of indulgence in which with morose devoutness for one hour a person buys permission to laugh freely all week long. … it shows far greater respect for the religious to demand that it be installed in its rights in everyday life rather than affectedly to hold it off at a Sunday distance.
Concluding Postscript p. 513
The result of an education by novels and romances can be two-fold. Either the individual sinks deeper and deeper into illusion, or he emerges from it and loses faith in the illusion, but gains a belief in mystification. In the illusion the individual is hidden from himself; in mystification, he is hidden from others, but both cases are results of a romantic training.
Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 248
It occurs to me that artists go forward by going backward, something which I have nothing against intrinsically when it is a reproduced retreat — as is the case with the better artists. But it does not seem right that they stop with the historical themes already given and, so to speak, think that only these are suitable for poetic treatment, because these particular themes, which intrinsically are no more poetic than others, are now again animated and inspirited by a great poetic nature. In this case the artists advance by marching on the spot. — Why are modern heroes and the like not just as poetic? Is it because there is so much emphasis on clothing the content in order that the formal aspect can be all the more finished?
Kierkegaard Journals and papers 1A 86 September 29, 1835
The art of recollecting is not easy, because in the moment of preparation it can become something different, whereas memory merely fluctuates between remembering correctly and remembering incorrectly. For example, what is homesickness? It is something remembered that is recollected. Homesickness is prompted simply by one’s being absent. The art would be to be able to feel homesickness even though one is at home. This takes proficiency in illusion. To go on living in an illusion in which there is continual dawning, never daybreak, or to reflect oneself out of all illusion is not as difficult as to reflect oneself into an illusion, plus being able to let it work on oneself with the full force of illusion even though one is fully aware. To conjure up the past for oneself is not as difficult as to conjure away the present for the sake of recollection. This is the essential art of recollection and is reflection to the second power.
Stages on Life’s Way, 1845, Hong p. 13
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.
Stages on Life’s Way, 1845, Hong p. 384
There was a time, and not so long ago, when one could score a success also here with a bit of irony, which compensated for all other deficiencies and helped one get through the world rather respectably, gave one the appearance of being cultured, of having a perspective on life, an understanding of the world, and to the initiated marked one as a member of an extensive intellectual freemasonry. Occasionally we still meet a representative of that vanished age who has preserved that subtle, sententious, equivocally divulging smile, that air of an intellectual courtier with which he has made his fortune in his youth and upon which he had built his whole future in the hope that he had overcome the world. Ah, but it was an illusion! His watchful eye looks in vain for a kindred soul, and if his days of glory were not still a fresh memory for a few, his facial expression would be a riddle to the contemporary age, in which he lives as a stranger and foreigner. Our age demands more; it demands, if not lofty pathos then at least loud pathos, if not speculation then at least conclusions, if not truth then at least persuasion, if not integrity then at least protestations of integrity, if not feeling then at least verbosity of feelings. Therefore it also coins a totally different kind of privileged faces. It will not allow the mouth to be defiantly compressed or the upper lip to quiver mischievously; it demands that the mouth be open, for how, indeed, could one imagine a true and genuine patriot who is not delivering speeches; how could one visualize a profound thinker’s dogmatic face without a mouth able to swallow the whole world; how could one picture a virtuoso on the cornucopia of the living world without a gaping mouth? It does not permit one to stand still and to concentrate; to walk slowly is already suspicious; and how could one even put up with anything like that in the stirring period in which we live, in this momentous age, which all agree is pregnant with the extraordinary? It hates isolation; indeed, how could it tolerate a person’s having the daft idea of going through life alone-this age that hand in hand and arm in arm (just like itinerant journeymen and soldiers) lives for the idea of community.
The Concept of Irony with continual reference to Socrates p. 246-247
One person talks day in and day out in general assemblies and always about what the times demand, yet not repetitiously in a Cato-like, tedious way, but always interestingly and intriguingly he follows the moment and never says the same thing; at parties, too, he imposes himself and doles out his fund of eloquence, at times with full even measure, at times heaped up, and always to applause; at least once a week there is something about him in the newspaper; also at night he bestows his favors, on his wife, that is, by talking even in his sleep about the demands of the times as if he were at the general assembly. Another person is silent before he speaks and goes so far that he does not speak at all; they live the same length of time-and here the question of the result is raised: Who has more to recollect?
Stages on Life’s Way, 1845 Hong p. 11
The veritably great is common property for everybody, a peasant goes to Tribler’s Widow, or to a ballad seller in Halmtorvet, and reads it half aloud to himself at the at the very time Goethe is composing a Faust. And indeed this folk-book merits attention, for it has what one appreciates above all as an honorable quality in wine, it has bouquet, it is an excellent bottling from the Middle Ages, and as one opens it, it bubbles forth so spicy, so sparkling, so characteristically fragrant, that one is quite strangely affected.
Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 89-90
When David would rightly savor his power and glory, he took a census of the people; in our age, on the other hand, one might say that the people, in order to feel their importance in comparison with a higher power, count themselves.
Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 139
Each being is assigned only to himself, and the one who takes care to remain here has a solid foundation to walk on that will not shame him. If he then deliberates with himself about what he will, how far he wills, if by virtue of this deliberation he begins slowly and silently, his earnestness will not be put to shame. If, on the other hand, it pleases a man to wax serious in thought of what he will do for others, this demonstrates that basically he is a fool whose life is and remains a jest despite looks and gestures and powerful eloquence and careful theatrical postures, the existence of which means nothing except insofar as with the assistance of irony there can be a little amusement out of it.
Prefaces p. 42-43 (1844)
You have surely noticed among schoolboys, that the one that is regarded by all as the boldest is the one who has no fear of his father, who dares to say to the others, “Do you think I am afraid of him?” On the other hand, if they sense that one of their number is actually and literally afraid of his father, they will readily ridicule him a little. Alas, in men’s fear-ridden rushing together into a crowd (for why indeed does a man rush into a crowd except because he is afraid!) there, too, it is a mark of boldness not to be afraid, not even of God. And if someone notes that there is an individual outside the crowd who is really and truly afraid — not of the crowd, but of God, he is sure to be the target of some ridicule. The ridicule is usually glossed over somewhat and it is said: a man should love God.Yes, to be sure, God knows that man’s highest consolation is that God is love and that man is permitted to love Him. But let us not become too forward, and foolishly, yes, blasphemously, dismiss the tradition of our fathers, established by God Himself: that really and truly a man should fear God. This fear is known to the man who is himself conscious of being an individual, and thereby is conscious of his eternal responsibility before God.
Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart, 1847 Steere translation p. 196-197
The self-deceived person may even think he is able to console others who became victims of perfidious deception, but what insanity when someone who himself has lost the eternal wants to heal the person who is extremely sick unto death!
Works of Love, Hong p. 7
While the preceding argument has tried in every possible manner, conceivable and inconceivable, to have it recognized that Mozart’s Don Juan takes the highest place among all classical works, it has made practically no attempt to prove that this work is really a classic; for the suggestions found here and there, precisely as being only suggestions, show that they are not intended to furnish proof, but only to afford an opportunity for enlightenment. This procedure may seem more than peculiar. The proof that Don Juan is a classic work is in the strictest sense a problem for thought; while, on the contrary, the other attempt, with regard to the exact sphere of thought, is quite irrelevant. The movement of thought is satisfied with having it recognized that Don Juan is a classic, and that every classic production is equally perfect; to desire to do more than that is for thought a thing of evil. In this way the preceding argument involves itself in a self-contradiction and easily dissolves into nothing. This is, however, quite correct, and such a self-contradiction is deeply rooted in human nature. My admiration, my sympathy, my piety, the child in me, the woman in me, demanded more than thought could give. My thought found repose, rested happy in its knowledge; then I came to it and begged it yet once more to set itself in motion, to venture the utmost. I knew very well that it was in vain; but since I am accustomed to living on good terms with my thought, it did not refuse me. However, its efforts accomplish nothing; incited by me it constantly transcended itself, and constantly fell back into itself. It constantly sought a foothold, but could not find it; constantly sought bottom, but could neither swim nor wade. It was something both to laugh at and to weep over. Hence, I did both, and I was very thankful that it had not refused me this service. And although I know perfectly well that it will accomplish nothing, I am still as likely to ask it once more to play the same game, which is to me an inexhaustible source of delight. Any reader who finds the game tiresome is, of course, naturally not of my kind; for him the game has no significance, and it is true here as elsewhere, that like-minded children make the best play-fellows.
Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 56-57
The Moral: As soon as it has come to the point that the crowd is to judge what is truth, it will not be long before decisions are made with fists.
Writing Sampler, Nichol p. 90
Irony is a qualification of subjectivity. (On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, 1841)
Irony limits, finitizes, and circumscribes and thereby yields truth, actuality, content; it disciplines and punishes and thereby yields balance and consistency. (On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, 1841)
“When the world commences its drastic ordeal, when the storms of life crush youth’s exuberant expectancy, when existence, which seemed so affectionate and gentle, changes into a pitiless proprietor who demands everything back, everything that it gave in such a way that it can take it back-then the believer most likely looks at himself and his life with sadness and pain, but he still says, “There is an expectancy that the whole world cannot take from me; it is the expectancy of faith, and this is victory. I am not deceived, since I did not believe that the world would keep the promise it seemed to be making to me, my expectancy was not in the world but in God.”
Two Upbuilding Discourses (16 May 1843) in The Expectancy of Faith From Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses. p. 23-24
For whoever has what he has from the God himself clearly has it at first hand; and he who does not have it from the God himself is not a disciple. Let us assume that it is otherwise, that the contemporary generation of disciples had received the condition from the God, and that the subsequent generations were to receive it from these contemporaries — what would follow?
Philosophical Fragments, Swensen p. 76
When the understanding stands still, it behooves one to have the courage and the heart to believe the wondrous and, continually strengthened by this vision, to return to actuality and not just sit still and want to fathom it.
Stages on Life’s Way, Hong p. 122
What kind of authority is it that dares to thrust itself between me and my bride, the bride I myself have chosen and who has chosen me. And this authority will command her to be faithful to me-does she need, then, a command-and what if she would be faithful to me only because a third party, whom she loved more than me, commanded it! And it orders me to be faithful to her-do I need to be ordered, I who belong to her with my whole soul! And this authority determines our relation to each other; it says that I am to order and she to obey; but what if I do not want to order, what if I feel too inferior for that? No, her I will obey; for me her hint is my command but I will not submit to an alien authority.
Either/Or Part II p. 53
The state really does not need to penalize bachelors; life itself punishes the person who deserves to be punished, for the person who does not make a resolution is a poor wretch of whom it must be said in the sad sense: He does not come under judgment. I do not speak this way because I am envious of those who do not will to marry; I am too happy to envy anyone, but I am zealous for life. I return to what I said before, that resolution is a person’s highest ideality. I shall now attempt to develop how the resolution most formative of the individuality must be constituted, and I rejoice in thinking that marriage is precisely so constituted, which, as stated, I assume for the time being to be a synthesis of falling in love and resolution.
Stages on Life’s Way, Hong p. 109
Who is to blame but her and the third factor, from whence no one knows, which moved me with its stimulus and transformed me? After all, what I have done is praised in others.-Or is becoming a poet my compensation? I reject all compensation, I demand my rights-that is, my honor. I did not ask to become one, I will not buy it at this price. – Or if I am guilty, then I certainly should be able to repent of my guilt and make it good again. Tell me how. On top of that, must I perhaps repent that the world plays with me as a child plays with a beetle?-Or is it perhaps best to forget the whole thing? Forget-indeed, I shall have ceased to be if I forget it. Or what kind of life would it be if along with my beloved I have lost honor and pride and lost them in such a way that no one knows how it happened, for which reason I can never retrieve them again? Shall I allow myself to be shoved out in this manner? Why, then, was I shoved in?
For the environment it is not difficult to think of Clavigo as a deceiver; for it has never loved him, and so there is no paradox; … Nor is it difficult for the environment to erase every memory of him, and hence it demands that Marie shall do the same. Her pride breaks forth in hate, the environment fans the flames, she finds a vent for her passion in strong words and powerful energetic resolutions, and intoxicates herself with these. The environment rejoices. It does not perceive, what she will hardly acknowledge herself, that the next moment she is weak and faint; it does not notice the anxious misgiving that seizes her, as to whether the strength she has in certain moments is an illusion. This she carefully conceals and will admit to no one. The environment continues the theorizing exercises with vigor, but begins to wish signs of practical results. They do not appear. The environment continues to inflame her; her words reveal an inward strength, and yet the suspicion grows that all is not well. It becomes impatient, and ventures upon extreme measures, it drives the spur of ridicule into her side to incite her.
Either/Or Part 1, Swenson p. 180
Knowledge can in part be set aside, and one can then go further in order to collect new; the natural scientist can set aside insects and flowers and then go further, but if the existing person sets aside the decision in existence, it is eo ipso lost, and he is changed.
Papers VI B 66 1845
It is usually thought to be very clever to say that Faust finally becomes a Don Juan, but this means very little, since the real question is in what sense he becomes one. Faust is a daemonic figure like a Don Juan, but higher. The sensuous first becomes significant in him only after he has lost the entire preceding world, but the consciousness of this loss is not erased, it is constantly present, and he seeks therefore in the sensuous not so much enjoyment as a diversion of mind. His doubting soul finds nothing in which it can rest, and now he reaches after love, not because he believes in it, but because it has a present element in which there is rest for a moment, and a striving which distracts and diverts his attention from the nothingness of doubt. Hence his enjoyment does not have the cheerful serenity which distinguishes a Don Juan. His countenance is not wreathed in smiles, his brow is not unclouded, and happiness is not his companion; the young women do not dance into his embrace, but he frightens them to him. What he seeks is not merely the pleasure of the sensuous, but what he desires is the immediacy of the spirit. As the shades of the underworld, when they got hold of a living being, sucked his blood, and lived as long as this blood warmed and nourished them, so Faust seeks an immediate life by which he can be renewed and strengthened. And where can this be found better than in a young woman, and how can he absorb it more perfectly than in the embrace of love? As the Middle Ages tell of sorcerers who understood how to prepare an elixir for the renewal of youth, and used the heart of an innocent child for that purpose, so is this the strengthening potion his starved soul needs, the only thing which is able to satisfy him for a moment. His sick soul needs what I might call a young heart’s first green shoots; and with what else shall I compare an innocent feminine soul’s first youth? If I were to call it a blossom, I should say too little, for it is more, it is a flowering: the soundness of hope and faith and trust shoots forth and blossoms in rich variety, and soft impulses move the delicate shoots, and dreams shade their fruitfulness. Thus it affects a Faust, it beckons to his restless soul like a peaceful isle in the quiet sea. That it is transient no one knows better than Faust; he does not believe in it any more than he believes in anything else; but that it exists, of that he convinces himself in the embrace of love. Only the fullness of innocence and childlikeness can for a moment refresh him. 204-205
Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 204-205
In the external, patience is some third element that must be added, and, humanly speaking, it would be better if it were not needed; some days it is needed more, some days less, all according to fortune, whose debtor a person becomes, even though he gained ever so little, because only when he wants to gain patience does he become one’s debtor.
Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 168
“he fixed his definition thus: reflection is the possibility of the relation, consciousness is the relation, the first form of which is contradiction. He soon noted that, as a result, the categories of reflection are always dichotomous. For example ideality and reality, soul and body, to recognize – the true, to will – the good, to love – the beautiful, God and the world, and so on, these are categories of reflection. In reflection, these touch each other in such a way that a relation becomes possible. The categories of consciousness, on the other hand, are trichotomous, as language itself indicates, for when I say I am conscious of this, I mention a trinity. Consciousness is mind and spirit, and the remarkable thing is that when in the world of mind or spirit one is divided, it always becomes three and never two. Consciousness, therefore, presupposes reflection. If this were not true it would be impossible to explain doubt. True, language seems to contest this, since in most languages, as far as he knew, the word ‘doubt’ is etymologically related to the word ‘two’. Yet in his opinion this only indicated the presupposition of doubt, especially because it was clear to him that as soon as I, as spirit, become two, I am eo ipso three. If there were nothing but dichotomies, doubt would not exist, for the possibility of doubt lies precisely in that third which places the two in relation to each other. One cannot therefore say that reflection produces doubt, unless one expressed oneself backwards; one must say that doubt presupposes reflection, though not in a temporal sense. Doubt arises through a relation between two, but for this to take place the two must exist, although doubt, as a higher expression, comes before rather than afterwards.”
Johannes Climacus (1841) p. 80-81
Man is a synthesis of psyche and body, but he is also a synthesis of the temporal and the eternal. In the former, the two factors are psyche and body, and spirit is the third, yet in such a way that one can speak of a synthesis only when the spirit is posited. The latter synthesis has only two factors, the temporal and the eternal. Where is the third factor? And if there is no third factor, there really is no synthesis, for a synthesis that is a contradiction cannot be completed as a synthesis without a third factor, because the fact that the synthesis is a contradiction asserts that it is not. What, then, is the temporal?
The Concept of Anxiety p. 85
Anxiety and nothing always correspond to each other. As soon as the actuality of freedom and of spirit is posited, anxiety is canceled. But what then does the nothing of anxiety signify more particularly in paganism. This is fate. Fate is a relation to spirit as external. It is the relation between spirit and something else that is not spirit and to which fate nevertheless stands in a spiritual relation. Fate may also signify exactly the opposite, because it is the unity of necessity and accidental. … A necessity that is not conscious of itself is eo ipso the accidental in relation to the next moment. Fate, then, is the nothing of anxiety.
The Concept of Anxiety p. 96-97
In all the flat, lethargic, dull moments, when the sensate dominates a person, to him Christianity is a madness because it is incommensurate with any finite wherefore. But then what good is it? Answer: Be quiet, it is the absolute. And that is how it must be presented, consequently as, that is, it must appear as madness to the sensate person. And therefore it is true, so true, and also in another sense so true when the sensible person in the situation of contemporaneity (see II A) censoriously says of Christ, “He is literally nothing”-quite so, for he is the absolute. Christianity is an absolute. Christianity came into the world as the absolute, not, humanly speaking, for comfort; on the contrary, it continually speaks about how the Christian must suffer or about how a person in order to become and remain a Christian must endure sufferings that he consequently can avoid simply by refraining from becoming a Christian.
Practice in Christianity, Hong P. 61-62
… anxiety is a reflection, and in this respect is essentially different than sorrow. Anxiety is the organ by which the subject appropriates sorrow and assimilates it. Anxiety is the energy of the movement by which sorrow bores its way into one’s heart. But the movement is not swift like the thrust of a dart, it is successive; it is not once for all, but it is constantly continuing. As a passionate, erotic glance desires its object, so anxiety looks upon sorrow to desire it. As the quiet, incorruptible glance of love is preoccupied with the beloved object, so anxiety occupies itself with sorrow. But anxiety has another element in it which makes it cling even more strongly to its object, for it both loves it and fears it. Anxiety has a two-fold function. Partly it is the detective instinct which constantly touches, and by means of this probing, discovers sorrow, as it goes round about the sorrow. Or anxiety is sudden, posits the whole sorrow in the present moment, yet so that this present moment instantly dissolves in succession. Anxiety is in this sense a truly tragic category, and the old saying: quem deus vult perdere, primum dementat, (whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes insane) in truth rightly applies here. That anxiety is determined by reflection is shown by our use of words; for I always say: to be anxious about something, by which I separate the anxiety from that about which I am anxious, and I can never use anxiety in an objective sense; whereas, on the contrary, when I say “my sorrow,” it can just as well express that which I sorrow over, as my sorrow over it. In addition, anxiety always involves a reflection upon time, for I cannot be anxious about the present, but only about the future; but the past and the future, so resisting one another that the present vanishes, are reflective determinations.
Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 152-153
One sticks one’s finger into the soil to tell by the smell in what land one is: I stick my finger in existence — it smells of nothing. Where am I? Who am I? How came I here? What is this thing called the world? What does this world mean? Who is it that has lured me into the world? Why was I not consulted, why not made acquainted with its manners and customs instead of throwing me into the ranks, as if I had been bought by a kidnapper, a dealer in souls? How did I obtain an interest in this big enterprise they call reality? Why should I have an interest in it? Is it not a voluntary concern? And if I am to be compelled to take part in it, where is the director? I should like to make a remark to him. Is there no director? Whither shall I turn with my complaint?
Repetition (1843), Voice: Young Man
Suppose she really has made a decision, suppose she insists on being offended, wants it to be in the open, wants to despair and to have a distinctive form of desperation. Good God! Only not this, everything else, only not this! Cursed be wealth and earthly tinsel and being or seeming to be somebody important in the eyes of the world! Would that I were a workhouse inmate, a poor wretch of a man, then the misrelation would be something else again. True enough, in the eyes of the world I am a scoundrel. In the eyes of the world-what are the eyes of the world but blindness, and what is the world’s verdict? I have not found ten men who are capable of judging rigorously. Or am I not honored and esteemed as before, do I not enjoy more recognition than before, and in the eyes of the world is this not the necessary qualification, the justification for being a scoundrel, or at least for having an extraordinary natural talent for becoming one? Let it choose between an abandoned girl who bows her innocent head in sorrow and seeks a hiding place in the country so that she can grieve-and an actor in the theater of life, a brazen fellow who keeps his head up and defies everybody with proud eyes-the world’s choice is soon made. A man is given a lifelong fine for an accidental injury, but I, I have no verdict pronounced on me. Condemned! I incite people against me, and they shout, “Bravo!”; I wait for them to kill me, and they carry me in triumph. I tremble, I doubt whether I have the strength and courage to bear the world’s verdict, whether I do not owe it to myself to place myself in a better light, but I do not falter, and I pull the cord of the shower-and the world’s judgment is utterly favorable. But, merciful God, do not let this happen, do not let it happen. I despair. I wrestle with you, I rush out there, I win her once again, I give up everything in order to challenge with gold all the splendor of the manor house, I have a wedding, and I shoot myself on the wedding day. But I must go out there; I must see what he wants out there. Alas, I do not dare to ask anything, not for anything. It is easy enough to take the vow of silence when one would rather not have anything more to do with the world, but to have to be silent when one is as concerned as this!
Stages on Life’s Way, Hong p. 256
I vow: as soon as possible to realize a plan envisaged for thirty years, to publish a logical system, as soon as possible to fulfill my promise, made ten years ago, of an esthetic system; furthermore, I promise an ethical and dogmatic system, and finally the system. As soon as this has appeared, generations to come will not even need to learn to write, because there will be nothing more to write; but only to read-the system.
Prefaces, Nichol, 1997 p. 14
… the true eternity does not lie behind either/or, but before it … to bring forth this true eternity requires a determination of will … A religiously developed person makes a practice of referring everything to God, of permeating and saturating every finite relation with the thought of God, and thereby consecrating and ennobling it. … When around one everything has become silent, solemn as a clear, starlit night, when the soul comes to be alone in the whole world, then before one there appears, not an extraordinary human being, but the eternal power itself, then the heavens open, and the I chooses itself or, more correctly, receives itself. Then the personality receives the accolade of knighthood that ennobles it for an eternity. … It is an earnest and significant moment when a person links himself to an eternal power for an eternity, when he accepts himself as the one whose remembrance time will never erase, when in an eternal and unerring sense he becomes conscious of himself as the person he is. And yet one can refrain from doing it! … The crux of the matter, then, is the energy by which I become ethically conscious, or, more correctly, I cannot become ethically conscious without energy. Therefore, I cannot become ethically conscious without becoming conscious of my eternal being. This is the true demonstration of the immortality of the soul. It is fully developed, of course, only when the task is congruent with the duty, but that to which I am duty-bound for an eternity is an eternal task. … The knight will have the power to concentrate the conclusion of all his thinking into one act of consciousness. If he lacks this focus, his soul is dissipated in multiplicity from the beginning, and he will never find the time to make the movement; he will continually be running errands in life and will never enter into eternity, for in the very moment he approaches it, he will suddenly discover something and therefore must go back. In the next moment he thinks, it will be possible, and this is quite true, but with such observations one will never come to make the movement but with their help will sink deeper and deeper into the mire. … wishing to be in the wrong is an expression of an infinite relationship, and wanting to be in the right, or finding it painful to be in the wrong, is an expression of a finite relationship! Hence, it is upbuilding always to be in the wrong-because only the infinite builds up; the finite does not!
Either/Or I Swenson p. 37-38, Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 21-22, 43, 177, 206-207, 270, Fear and Trembling p. 43, Repetition p. 137, Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 348
” No human being can give an eternal resolution to another or take it from him; If someone objects to that then one might just as well be silent if there is no probability of winning others, he thereby has merely shown that although his life very likely thrived and prospered in probability and everyone of his undertakings in the service of probability went forward, he has never really ventured and consequently has never had or given himself the opportunity to consider that probability is an illusion, but to venture the truth is what gives human life and the human situation pith and meaning, to venture is the fountainhead of inspiration, whereas probability is the sworn enemy of enthusiasm, the mirage whereby the sensate person drags out time and keeps the eternal away, whereby he cheats God, himself, and his generation: cheats God of the honor, himself of liberating annihilation, and his generation of the equality of conditions.”
Four Upbuilding Discourses (31 August 1844) in Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 382
Ordinarily we speak only of a married man’s unfaithfulness, but what is just as bad is a married man’s lack of faith. Faith is all that is required, and faith compensated for everything. Just let understanding and sagacity and sophistication reckon, figure out, and describe how a married man ought to be: there is only one attribute that makes him loveable, and that is faith, absolute faith in marriage. Just let experience in life try to define exactly what is required of a married man’s faithfulness; there is only one faithfulness, one honesty that is truly loveable and hides everything in itself, and that is the honesty toward God and his wife and his married estate in refusing to deny the miracle.
Stages On Life’s Way, 1845, Hong p. 90-91
Deep within every human being there still lives the anxiety over the possibility of being alone in the world, forgotten by God, overlooked among the millions and millions in this enormous household. One keeps this anxiety at a distance by looking at the many round about who are related to him as kin and friends, but the anxiety is still there, nevertheless, and one hardly dares think of how he would feel if all this were taken away.
Journals VII 1A 363
Death induces the sensual person to say: Let us eat and drink, because tomorrow we shall die – but this is sensuality’s cowardly lust for life, that contemptible order of things where one lives in order to eat and drink instead of eating and drinking in order to live.
Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Hong p. 83
In the life of the individual when love awakens it is older than everything else, because when it exists it seems as if it has existed for a long time; it presupposes itself back into the distant past until all searching ends in the inexplicable origin. Whereas all beginnings are ordinarily said to be difficult, this does not hold true of love’s beginning. Its happy awakening is unacquainted with work, and there is no advance preparation. Even if love can give birth to pain, it is not brought forth in pain; lightly, jubilantly, it bursts forth in its enigmatic coming into existence. What a wonderful beginning. But the life of freedom requires a beginning, and here a beginning is a resolution, and the resolution has its work and its pain-thus the beginning has its difficulty. The one making the resolution has, of course, not finished, because in that case he would have experienced that of which the resolution is the beginning. But if no resolution is made, the same thing can happen to such a person as sometimes happens to a speaker who only when he has finished speaking knows how he should have spoken: only when he has lived, only then does he know how he should have lived (what a sorry yield from life!) and how he should have made the beginning with the good resolution-what a bitter wisdom now that a whole life lies between the beginning and the one who is dying.
Three Discourses On Imagined Occasions, Hong 1993, p. 47
“Christianity cannot be poured into a child. No one begins with being Christian; each one becomes that in the fullness of time-if one becomes that. A strict Christian upbringing in Christianity’s decisive categories is a very venturesome undertaking, because Christianity makes men whose strength is in their weakness: but if a child is cowed into Christianity in its totally earnest form, it ordinarily makes a very unhappy youth. The rare exception is a sort of luck.”
Concluding Unscientific Postscript Vol 1, p. 591
If a person is unwilling to make a decisive resolution, if he wants to cheat God of the heart’s daring venture in which a person ventures way out and loses sight of all shrewdness and probability, indeed, takes leave of his senses or at least all his worldly mode of thinking, if instead of beginning with one step he almost craftily seeks to find out something, to have the infinite certainty changed into a finite certainty, then this discourse will not be able to benefit him. There is an upside-downness that wants to reap before it sows; there is a cowardliness that wants to have certainty before it begins. There is a hypersensitivity so copious in words that it continually shrinks from acting; but what would it avail a person if, double-minded and fork-tongued he wanted to dupe God, trap him in probability, but refused to understand the improbable, that one must lose everything in order to gain everything, and understand it so honestly that, in the most crucial moment, when his soul is already shuddering at the risk, he does not again leap to his own aid with the explanation that he has not yet fully made a resolution but merely wanted to feel his way. Therefore, all discussion of struggling with God in prayer, of the actual loss (since if pain of annihilation is not actually suffered, then the sufferer is not yet out upon the deep, and his scream is not the scream of danger but in the face of danger) and the figurative victory cannot have the purpose of persuading anyone or of converting the situation into a task for secular appraisal and changing God’s gift of grace to the venture into temporal small change for the timorous. It really would not help a person if the speaker, by his oratorical artistry, led him to jump into a half hour’s resolution, by the ardor of conviction started a fire in him so that he would blaze in a momentary good intention without being able to sustain a resolution or to nourish an intention as soon as the speaker stopped talking.
Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, One Who Prays Aright Struggles In Prayer and is Victorious-In That God is Victorious p. 380-381
Since reflection does not dare to set foot in the holy place of love and on the consecrated ground of immediacy, what direction shall it then take until it arrives at the resolution? Reflection turns toward the relation between falling in love and actuality. For the lover, the most certain of all things is that he is in love, and no meddlesome thoughts, no stockbrokers run back and forth between falling in love and a so-called ideal-that is a forbidden road. Nor does reflection inquire whether he should marry; he does not forget Socrates. But to marry is to enter an actuality in relation to a given actuality; to marry involves an extraordinary concretion. This concretion is the task of reflection. But is it perhaps so concrete (defined in terms of time, place, surroundings, the stroke of the clock, seventeen relationships, etc.) that no reflection can penetrate it? If this is assumed, one has thereby also assumed that, on the whole, no resolution is possible. A resolution is still always an ideality; I have the resolution before I begin to act in virtue of this resolution. But how, then, have I come to the resolution? A resolution is always reflective; if this is disregarded, then language is confused and resolution is identified with an immediate impulse, and any statement about resolution is no more an advancement than a journey in which one drives all night but takes the wrong road and in the morning arrives at the same place from which he departed. In a perfectly ideal reflection the resolution has ideally emptied actuality, and the conclusion of this ideal reflection, which is something more than the summa summarum [sum total] and enfin [finally], is precisely the resolution: the resolution is the ideality brought about through a perfectly ideal reflection, which is the action’s required working capital.
Stages On Life’s Way, 1845, Hong p. 160
the world and Christianity have completely opposite conceptions. The world says of the apostles, of the Apostle Peter as their spokesman, “He is drunk,”-and the Apostle Peter admonishes, “Become sober.” Consequently the secular mentality considers Christianity to be drunkenness, and Christianity considers the secular mentality to be drunkenness. “Do become reasonable, come to your senses, try to become sober”-thus does the secular mentality taunt the Christian. And the Christian says to the secular mentality, “Do become reasonable, come to your senses, become sober.” The difference between secularity and Christianity is not that one has one view and the other another-no, the difference is always that they have the very opposite views, that what one calls good the other calls evil, what the one calls love the other calls selfishness, what the one calls piety the other calls impiety, What the one calls being drunk the other calls being sober. it is precisely the drunken man, the apostle, who finds it necessary to bring home to the sober (I assume) world the admonition: “Become sober!” This very admonition may, as intended, most severely wound the callous secular mentality, which as a rule cannot be wounded very easily or disconcerted. Soren Kierkegaard,
Judge for Yourself, p. 96-97 1851
Freedom’s possibility is not the ability to choose the good or the evil. The possibility is to be able. In a logical system, it is convenient to say that possibility passes over into actuality. However, in actuality it is not so convenient, and an intermediate term is required. The intermediate term is anxiety, but it no more explains the qualitative leap than it can justify it ethically. Anxiety is neither a category of necessity nor a category of freedom; it is entangled freedom, where freedom is not free in itself but entangled, not by necessity, but in itself.
The Concept of Anxiety p. 49 (1844)
Once in his early youth a man allowed himself to be so far carried away in an overwrought irresponsible state as to visit a prostitute. It is all forgotten. Now he wants to get married. Then anxiety stirs. He is tortured day and night with the thought that he might possibly be a father, that somewhere in the world there could be a created being who owed his life to him. He cannot share his secret with anyone; he does not even have any reliable knowledge of the fact. –For this reason the incident must have involved a prostitute and taken place in the wantonness of youth; had it been a little infatuated or an actual seduction, it would be hard to imagine that he could know nothing about it, but now this this very ignorance is the basis of his agitated torment. On the other hand, precisely because of the rashness of the whole affair, his misgivings do not really start until he actually falls in love.
Journal and Papers 5622 (Papers IV A 65) n.d. 1843
In order to eliminate misunderstandings, the main point is that marriage is a τέλος, yet not for nature’s striving so that we touch on the meaning of the τέλος in the mysteries, but for the individuality. But if it is a τέλος, it is not something immediate but an act of freedom, and belonging under freedom as it does, the task is actualized only through a resolution. Erotic love or falling in love is altogether immediate; marriage is a resolution; yet falling in love must be taken up into marriage or into the resolution; to will to marry-that is the most immediate of all immediacies must also be the freest resolution, that which is so inexplicable in its immediacy that it must be attributed to a deity must also come about by virtue of deliberation, and such exhaustive deliberation that from it a resolution results. Furthermore, the one must not follow the other; the resolution must not come slinking along behind but must occur simultaneously; both parts must be present in the moment of decision. If deliberation has not exhausted thought, then I make no resolution; I act either on inspiration or on the basis of a whim.
Stages On Life’s Way, 1845, Hong p. 101-102
There are three existence-spheres: the esthetic, the ethical, the religious. The metaphysical is abstraction, and there is no human being who exists metaphysically. The metaphysical, the ontological, is, but it does not exist, for when it exists it does so in the esthetic in the ethical, in the religious, and when it is, it is the abstraction from or a something prior to the esthetic, the ethical, the religious. The esthetic sphere is only a transition sphere, and therefore its highest expression is repentance as a negative action. The esthetic sphere is the sphere of immediacy, the ethical the sphere of requirement (and this requirement is so infinite that the individual always goes bankrupt), the religious the sphere of fulfillment, but, please not, not a fulfillment such as when one fills an alms box or a sack with gold, for repentance has specifically created a boundless space, and as a consequence the religious contradiction: simultaneously to be out on 70,000 fathoms of water and yet be joyful. Just as the ethical sphere is a passageway-which one nevertheless does not pass through once and for all-just as repentance is its expression, so repentance is the most dialectical. No wonder, then, that one fear it, for if one gives it a finger it takes the whole hand. Just as Jehovah in the Old Testament visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the latest generations, so repentance goes backward, continually presupposing the object of its investigation. In repentance there is the impulse of the motion, and therefore everything is reversed. This impulse signifies precisely the difference between the esthetic and the religious as the difference between the external and the internal.
Stages On Life’s Way, 1845, Hong p. 476-477
A person can be both good and evil, just as it is quite simply said that a human being has a disposition to both good and evil, but one cannot simultaneously become both good and evil. Esthetically, the poet has been required not to depict these abstract models of virtue or diabolical characters but to do as Goethe does, whose characters are both good and evil. And why is this a legitimate requirement? Because we want the poet to depict human beings as they are, and every human being is both good and evil, and because the poet’s medium is the medium of imagination, is being but not becoming, at most is becoming in a very foreshortened perspective. But take the individual out of this medium of imagination, out of this being, and place him in existence-then ethics immediately confronts him with its requirement, whether he now deigns to become, and then he becomes-either good or evil. In the earnest moment of self-contemplation, in the sacred moment of confession, the individual removes himself from the process of becoming and in the realm of being inspects how he is. Alas, the result unfortunately is that he is both good and evil, but as soon as he is again in the process of becoming he becomes either good or evil.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript P. 420-421
Writing is not speaking; sitting at a desk and copying what is said is only baneful toil in comparison with stepping forth in an assembly, looking at a great throng who all are inspired by the same thing and for the same thing, having the stillness enter in like the prayer before battle, having the word break forth like the thunder of combat, being oneself transported by the silence that is the silence of attention, hearing the whisper that is the whisper of approval, sensing the stentoriousness of the Amen of conviction.
Prefaces, Todd W. Nichol, 1997, Princeton University Press p. 27
The author qua author is thereby also in the fortunate position of owing no one anything. I am referring to critics, reviewers, intermediaries, appraisers, etc., who in the literary world are just like the tailors, who in civil life “create the man”-they set the fashion of the author, the point of view of the reader. With their help and art, a book amounts to something. But then it is with these benefactors as, according to Baggesen, with the tailors: “In turn they slay people with bills for the creation.” One comes to owe them everything, yet without even being able to pay off this debt with a new book, because the importance of the new book, if it comes to have any, will in turn be due to the art and help of these benefactors.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 5-6
To write a book is the easiest of all things in our time, if, as is customary one takes ten older works on the same subject and out of them puts together an eleventh on the same subject. In this way one gains the honor of being an author just as easily as one gains, according to Holberg’s advice, the rank of being a practiced physician and the possession of his fellow citizens’ money, trust, and esteem by getting a new black suit and writing on one’s door: “John Doe Physician.”
Prefaces, Todd W. Nichol, 1997, Princeton University Press p. 35
It is now about four years since the idea came to me of wanting to try may hand as an author. I remember it very clearly. It was on a Sunday; yes, correct, it was a Sunday afternoon. As usual, I was sitting outside the café in Frederiksberg Gardens, that wonderful garden with for the child was the enchanted land where the king live with the queen, that lovely garden which for the youth was a pleasant diversion in the happy gaiety of the populace, that friendly garden which for the adult is so cozy in its wistful elevation above the world and what belongs to the world, that garden where even the envied glory of royalty is what it indeed is out there-a queen’s recollection of her late lord. There as usual I sat and smoked my cigar. Regrettably, the only similarity I have been able to detect between the beginning of my fragment of philosophic endeavor and the miraculous beginning of that poetic hero is that it was a public place. Otherwise there is no similarity at all, and although I am the author of Fragments, I am so insignificant that I am an outsider in literature. I have not even added to subscription literature, nor can it truthfully be said that I have a significant place in it. I have been a student for half a score years. Although I was never lazy, all my activity was nevertheless only like a splendid inactivity, a kind of occupation I still much prefer and for which perhaps I have a little genius. I read a great deal, spent the rest of the day loafing or thinking, or thinking and loafing, but nothing came of it. The productive sprout in me went for everyday use and was consumed in its first gleaming.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript P. 185
What Goethe has somewhere said about Hamlet, that in relation to his body his soul was an acorn planted in a flower-pot, which at least breaks the container, is also true of Margaret’s love. Faust is too great for her, and her love must finally break her soul in pieces. And the moment for this soon comes, for Faust doubtless feels that she cannot remain in this immediacy; he does not carry her up in the higher realms of the spirit; for it is from these he flees; he desires her sensually-and abandons her. … It might seem that it would be more difficult for reflection to be set in motion in Margaret; that which really tends to stop it is the feeling that she was absolutely nothing. And yet there lies in this a tremendous dialectical elasticity. If she were able to hold the thought fast that she was, in the strictest sense of the word, absolutely nothing, then reflection would be excluded, and then she would not have been deceived; for when you are nothing, then there is no relation, and where there is no relation, there can be no talk of a deception. So far she is at peace. However, this thought cannot be held fast, but instantly changes into its opposite. That she was nothing is merely an expression for the fact that all the finite differences of love are negatived, and is therefore the exact expression for the absolute validity of her love, wherein again lies her absolute justification. His conduct is then not merely a deception, but an absolute deception, because her love was absolute. And herein she will again be unable to find rest; for since he has been her all, she will not even be able to hold this thought fast except through him; but she cannot think it through him, because he was a deceiver. As her environment becomes more and more alien to her, the inner movement begins. She has not merely loved Faust with all her soul, but he was her vital force, through him she came into being. This has the effect, while her soul is not less moved than Elvira’s, of making the individual moods less violent. She is on the way to developing a fundamental emotional tone, and the individual mood is like a bubble rising from the deep without strength to maintain itself, which is not so much replaced by a new bubble as it is dissolved in the general mood that she is nothing. This fundamental mood is again a state of mind that is felt, that does not receive expression in any particular outbreak; it is inexpressible, and the attempt that each particular mood makes to give life to it, to raise it up, is in vain. The total mood is therefore constantly present as an undertone of impotence and faintness. The individual mood gives it expression, but it does not soothe, it does not ease, it is-to use an expression of my Swedish Elvira which is certainly very apt, though a man will scarcely feel its full import-like a false sigh which disappoints, and not like a genuine sigh, which is strengthening and beneficial. Nor is the individual mood full-toned and energetic, since her expression is too heavily encumbered.
Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 208-211
When it is stated in Genesis that God said to Adam, “Only from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you must not eat,” it follows as a matter of course that Adam really has not understood this word, for how could he understand the difference between good and evil when this distinction would follow as a consequence of the enjoyment of the fruit. When it is assumed that the prohibition awakens the desire one acquires knowledge instead of ignorance, and in that case Adam must have had knowledge of freedom, because the desire was to use it. The explanation is therefore subsequent. The prohibition induces in him anxiety, for the prohibition awakens in him freedom’s possibility. What passed by innocence as the nothing of anxiety has now entered into Adam, and here again it is a nothing-the anxious possibility of being able. He has no conception of what he is able to do; otherwise-and this it what usually happens-that which comes later, the difference between good and evil, would have to be presupposed. Only the possibility of being able is present as a higher form of ignorance, as a higher expression of anxiety, because in a higher sense it both is and is not, because in a higher sense he both loves it and flees from it. The Concept of Anxiety p. 44-45
The Christian doctrine of sin is nothing but insolent disrespect of man, accusation upon accusation; it is the suit which the divine as prosecutor permits itself to prefer against man. Can any human being comprehend this Christian teaching? By no means; this too is Christian, that is, an offense. It must be believed. Comprehension is man’s circumference in relation to the human; but to believe is man’s relation to the divine. How then does Christianity explain the incomprehensible? Quite consistently, just as incomprehensibly by its being revealed. (The Sickness Unto Death, Hannay p. 128)
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)
“Human justice is very prolix, and yet at times quite mediocre; divine justice is more concise and needs no information from the prosecution, no legal papers, no interrogation of witnesses, but makes the guilty one his own informer and helps him with eternity’s memory.” (Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Against Cowardliness p. 351)
I felt a real Christian satisfaction in the fact that, if there were no other, there was one man who (several years before existence set the race another lesson to learn) made a practical effort on a small scale to learn the lesson of loving one’s neighbor and alas! Got at the same time a frightful insight into what an illusion Christendom is, and (a little later, to be sure) an insight also into what a situation the simpler classes suffered themselves to be seduced by paltry-newspaper writers, whose struggle or fight for equality (since it is in the service of a lie) cannot lead to any other result but to prompt the privileged classes in self-defence to stand proudly aloof from the common man, and to make the common man insolent in his forwardness.
The Point of View, Lowrie p. 49
As do all who suffer from fixed ideas, it has a strong tendency to see espionage and persecution everywhere, and just as rheumatic people feel drafts everywhere, so does it sense pressure everywhere, the misuse of power, and knows how to explain in a satisfying way the feeble signs of life in the public spirit not on the basis that its strength is merely symptomatic and imaginary but on the basis that it is cowed by governments, somewhat as the Busybody explains that he accomplishes nothing during the day, not on the basis that he is fussy and fidgety but on the basis of the many affairs that burst in on him. ** Stages on Life’s Way, Hong p. 466 (1845)
Only the person himself understands that he is guilty. The person who does not understand it this way still misunderstands; and the person who does understand it will find the harsh or gentle or quickly sympathizing explanation, according to what he has deserved. … And you, my listener, you of course know that earnestness is to be alone before the Holy One, whether it is the world’s applause that is shut out or whether it is the world’s accusation that withdraws. Did the woman who was a sinner feel her guilt more deeply when the scribes were accusing her than when there was no accuser anymore and she stood alone before the Lord! But you also realize that the most dangerously deceived person is the one who is self-deceived, that the most dangerous condition is that of the one who is deceived by much knowledge, and, furthermore, that it is a lamentable weakness to have one’s consolation in another’s light-mindedness, but it is also a lamentable weakness to have one’s terror from another’s heavy-mindedness. Leave it solely to God-after all, he knows best how to take care of everything for one who becomes alone by seeking him.
Three Discourses On Imagined Occasions, Soren Kierkegaard, June 17, 1844, Hong 1993, p. 35-36
The consciousness of sin definitely belongs to the consciousness of the forgiveness of sin. (Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 524)
Dogmatics must be designed in this way. Above all, every science must vigorously lay hold of its own beginning and not live in complicated relations with other sciences. If dogmatics begins by wanting to explain sinfulness or by wanting to prove its actuality, no dogmatics will come out of it, but the entire existence of dogmatics will become problematic and vague. The Concept of Anxiety Note p. 58
Anxiety may be compared with dizziness. He whose eye happens to look down into the yawning abyss becomes dizzy. But what is the reason for this? It is just as much in his own eye as in the abyss, for suppose he had not looked down. Hence, anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, which emerges when the spirit wants to posit the synthesis and freedom looks down into its own possibility, laying hold of finiteness to support itself. Freedom succumbs to dizziness. Further than this, psychology cannot and will not go. In that very moment everything is changed, and freedom, when it again rises, sees that it is guilty. Between these two moments lies the leap, which no science has explained and which no science can explain. He who becomes guilty in anxiety becomes as ambiguously guilty as it is possible to become. Vigilius Haufniensis, The Concept of Anxiety p. 61
Every human being is tried this way in the active service of expectancy. Now comes the fulfillment and relieves him, but soon he is again placed on reconnaissance for expectancy; then he is again relieved, but as long as there is any future for him, he has not yet finished his service. And while human life goes on this way in very diverse expectancy, expecting very different things according to different times and occasions and in different frames of mind, all life is again one nightwatch of expectancy.
Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses: “Patience in Expectancy” (1844)
The question is asked in ignorance, by one who does not even know what can have led him to ask it.
Philosophical Fragments (1844) (Preface)
And how does the God’s existence emerge from the proof? Does it follow straightway, without any breach of continuity? Or have we not here an analogy to the behavior of the little Cartesian dolls? As soon as I let go of the doll it stands on its head. As soon as I let it go — I must therefore let it go. So also with the proof. As long as I keep my hold on the proof, i.e., continue to demonstrate, the existence does not come out, if for no other reason than that I am engaged in proving it; but when I let the proof go, the existence is there. But this act of letting go is surely also something; it is indeed a contribution of mine. Must not this also be taken into the account, this little moment, brief as it may be — it need not be long, for it is a leap. However brief this moment, if only an instantaneous now, this “now” must be included in the reckoning. Philosophical Fragments, Swenson, p. 32
How often do we have an urge to go beyond the historical consciousness, a longing, a homesickness for the primeval forest that lies behind us, and does not this longing acquire a double significance when it joins to itself the conception of another being whose home is also in that region? Therefore, every marriage, even one that is entered into after sober consideration, has an urge, at least in particular moments, to imagine such a foreground. And how beautiful it is that the God who is spirit also loves the earthly love. That there is much lying among married people on this score, I readily admit to you, and that your observations along this line have frequently amused me, but the truth in it ought not to be forgotten. Perhaps someone thinks it is better to have complete authority in the choice of “one’s life-partner,” but such an expression as that betrays an extreme narrowness of mind and foolish self-importance of understanding and has no intimation that in its genius romantic love is free and that precisely this genius constitutes its greatness.
Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 20-21
Now just as the historical gives occasion for the contemporary to become a disciple, but only it must be noted through receiving the condition from the God himself, since otherwise we speak Socratically, so the testimony of contemporaries gives occasion for each successor to become a disciple, but only it must be noted through receiving the condition from the God himself. Philosophical Fragments, Swenson, p. 75
The person who wishes also seeks, but his seeking is in the dark, not so much in regard to the object of the wish as in regard to his not knowing whether he is getting closer to it or further away. Among the many goods there is one that is the highest, that is not defined by its relation to the other goods, because it is the highest, and yet the person wishing does not have a definite idea of it, because it is the highest as the unknown-and this good is God. The other goods have names and designations, but where the wish draws its deepest breath, where this unknown seems to manifest itself, there is wonder, and wonder is immediacy’s sense of God and is the beginning of all deeper understanding. The seeking of the wishing person is in the dark not so much in regard to the object, because this is indeed the unknown, as in regard to whether he is getting closer to it or further away-now he is startled and the expression of his wonder is worship. Wonder is an ambivalent state of mind containing both fear and blessedness. Worship therefore is simultaneously a mixture of fear and blessedness. Even the most purified, reasonable worship is blessedness in fear and trembling, trust in mortal danger, bold confidence in the consciousness of sin. Even the most purified and reasonable worship of God has the fragility of wonder, and the magnitude of the God-relation is not directly determined by the magnitude of power and of wisdom and of deed; the most powerful person is the most powerless; the most devout person sighs out of deepest distress; the most mighty is the one who rightly folds his hands.
Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions p. 18
Woe to the person who wants to be excused from suffering! That apostolic expression does not indicate only the forsakenness, the suffering of separation, which is even more terrible than the separation of death, since, death only separates a person from the temporal and therefore is a release, whereas this separation shuts him out from the eternal and therefore is an imprisonment that again leaves the spirit sighing in the fragile earthen vessel, in the cramped space, in the status of an alien, because the home of the spirit is in the eternal and the infinite. Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844 p. 337 (Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses)
The eternal fears no future, hopes for no future, but love possesses everything without ceasing, and there is no shadow of variation. As soon as he returns to himself, he understands this no more. He understands what bitter experiences have only all too unforgettably inculcated, the self-accusation, if the past has the kind of claim upon his soul that no repentance can entirely redeem, no trusting in God can entirely wipe out, but only God himself in the inexpressible silence of beatitude. The more of the past a person’s soul can still keep when he is left to himself, the more profound he is.
Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844 p. 338 (Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses)
To God, world history is the royal stage where he, not accidentally but essentially, is the only spectator, because he is the only one who can be that. Admission to this theater is not open to any existing spirit. If he fancies himself a spectator there, he has simply forgetting that he himself is supposed to be the actor in that little theater and is to leave it to that royal spectator and poet how he wants to use him in that royal drama, The Drama of Dramas. This applies to the living, and only they can be told how they ought to live; and only by understanding this for oneself can one be lead to reconstruct a dead person’s life, if it must be done at all and if there is time for it. But it is indeed upsidedown, instead of learning by living one’s own life, to have the dead live again, then to go on wanting to learn from the dead, whom one regards as never having lived, how one ought-indeed, it is unbelievable how upside-down it is-to live-if one is already dead. Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 158
Alas, time comes and time goes, it subtracts little by little; then it deprives a person of a good, the loss of which he indeed feels, and his pain is great. Alas, and he does not discover that long ago it has already taken away from him the most important thing of all-the capacity to make a resolution-and it has made him so familiar with this condition that there is no consternation over it, the last thing that could help gain new power for renewed resolution!
Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Hong p. 48
The more one suffers, the more, I believe, has one a sense for the comic. It is only by the deepest suffering that one acquires true authority in the use of the comic, an authority which by one word transforms as by magic the reasonable creature one calls man into a caricature.
Stages on Life’s Way (1845) Variant translation: The more one suffers, the more, I believe, one has a sense of the comic. It is only by the deepest suffering that one acquires the authority in the art of the comic.
It doesn’t occur to me at this moment to say more; another time, perhaps tomorrow, I may have more to say, but “always the same thing and about the same,” for only gypsies, robber gangs and swindlers follow the adage that where a person has once been he is never to go again.
Stages on Life’s Way (1845)
Above all do not forget your duty to love yourself. (Letter to Hans Peter, Kierkegaard’s cousin, 1848)
To be a teacher does not mean simply to affirm that such a thing is so, or to deliver a lecture, etc. No, to be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner. Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner, put yourself in his place so that you may understand what he understands and the way he understands it.
The Point of View for My Work as an Author (1848)
When God chooses to let himself be born in lowliness, when he who holds all possibilities in his hand takes upon himself the form of a lowly servant, when he goes about defenseless and lets people do with him what they will, he surely must know well enough what he is doing and why he wills it; but for all that it is he who has people in his power and not they who have power over him-so history ought not play Mr. Malapert by this wanting to make manifest who he was.
Practice in Christianity (1850) Princeton p. 34
That for which Christianity has striven through eighteen-hundred years is specifically to produce the cultured person, who is the fairest flower and richest unfolding of the Christian life. The essentially Christian is not something historically concluded that enviously would be able to judge whether the cultured person is Christian. On the contrary, the cultured person provides the criterion and thereby contributes to the exaltation of the doctrine that admittedly began as a village affair (paganism) but now through the cultured has gained admittance to circles where tone, manners, elegance, wit, intellect are reconciled with their vanishing opposite. But just as the essentially Christian is not concluded in the past, so also it is not concluded in the present moment either but has the future open and can still become what it is to be.
Prefaces, Todd W. Nichol, 1997, Princeton University Press p. 33-34
Of all ridiculous things, it seems to me the most ridiculous is to be a busy man of affairs, prompt to meals, and prompt to work. Hence when I see a fly settle down in a crucial moment on the nose of a business man, or see him bespattered by a carriage which passes by him in even greater haste, or a drawbridge opens before him, or a tile from the roof falls down and strikes him dead, then I laugh heartily. And who could help laughing? What do they accomplish, these hustlers? Are they not like the housewife, when her house was on fire, who in her excitement saved the fire-tongs? What more do they save from the great fire of life?
Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 24
If a man possessed a letter which he knew, or believed, contained information bearing upon what he must regard as his life’s happiness, but the writing was pale and fine, almost illegible-then would he read it with restless anxiety and with all possible passion, in one moment getting one meaning, in the next another, depending on his belief that, having made out one word with certainty, he could interpret the rest thereby; but he would never arrive at anything except the same uncertainty with which he began. He would stare more and more anxiously, but the more he stared the less he would see. His eyes would sometimes fill with tears; but the oftener this happened the less he would see. In the course of time, the writing would become fainter and more illegible, until at last the paper itself would crumble away, and nothing would be left to him except the tears in his eyes.
Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 188
If I were to imagine a human being in a wreck at sea, unconcerned for his life, remaining on board because there was something he wanted to save and yet could not save, because he could not decide what it was he should save, then would I have a picture of Elvira; she is in distress at sea, her destruction impends, but this does not worry her, she does not notice it, she is hesitating about what she should save.
Either/Or Part I, Swenson p. 202
when the philosopher becomes blessed through his philosophy, this is an accidental blessedness. There is, then, something higher than philosophy. It is higher in that it includes me and similar bunglers. If this is so, then the question is: will philosophy continue to be called the absolute? But if it is not the absolute, then it must be able to state its boundary. If I wanted to be a poet, the esthetician would certainly instruct me about which capacities are required for that. I would then perceive that I am not a poet and would accept my fate. If, on the other hand, poetry wanted to claim to be the absolute, then it would not dare to exclude me, because the absolute cannot be anything that is not common to all.
Prefaces, Todd W. Nichol, 1997, p. 59-60
But precisely this is the misfortune, and has been the misfortune, in Christendom that Christ is neither the one nor the other — neither the one he was when living on earth, nor he who will return in glory, but rather one about whom we have learned to know something in an inadmissible way from history — that he was somebody or other of great account. In an inadmissible and unlawful way we have learned to know him; whereas to believe in him is the only permissible mode of approach.
Preparation for a Christian Life
What our age needs is an honest earnestness which affectionately preserves the tasks, which does not alarm people into wanting to rush pellmell into the highest but keeps the tasks young and beautiful and lovely to look at and beckoning to all and yet for all that difficult and inspiring to the noble, for the noble nature is inspired only by what is difficult. My listener, how did I dare to be so impolite as to doubt that I shall succeed in inspiring you — for I have the difficulties all ready.
Soren Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers Vol. 1 A-E (1967), edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, p. 303
Once you label me you negate me. (As quoted in Journal of Marriage and Family Counseling, Vol. 2 (1976) by American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, p. 33)
One understands only in proportion to becoming himself that which he understands. (Papers, V B 40, cited in Louis Pojman, The Logic of Subjectivity, p. 61)