Soren KierkegaardSoren Kierkegaard (1813-55) - The first existentialist philosopher?

                                        Major works: Either/Or (1843), Fear and Trembling (1843), Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846)

                Learn about Kierkegaard . Recommended novel about Kierkegaard's ideas; Read Kierkegaard Quotes; (note it isn't spelt Kierkgaard or Kierkagard)

Best Kierkegaard and existentialism links

Therapy - A Kierkegaard-Inspired Novel by David Lodge (Secker & Warburg, 1995) Review by Tim LeBon

In this novel David Lodge, one of our leading novelists and the author of such comic masterpieces as Small World and Nice Work, turns his attention to the worlds of therapy. The hero of the book, Laurence Passmore, has a lot of therapy. On Mondays he has Physiotherapy, on Tuesdays Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and on Fridays either aromatherapy or acupuncture. A seemingly happily married, successful TV sitcom writer, to the layman he may be just seem to be going through a mid-life crisis. His Cognitive Behavioural therapist thinks he has a self-esteem problem but the exercises she and the other therapists set him seem to do little to help either his angst or his mysterious knee pains.

It is only when Laurence accidentally stumbles on the writings of Soren Kierkegaard that he begins to make more sense of his life. It being Kierkegaard, religion, as well as existentialism enters into the story, as Laurence sees parallels between himself and Kierkegaard in terms of both their experiences and attitude to relationships and life in general. I've no idea whether Lodge would see this book as a vindication of existentialism or a criticism of therapy - but one interpretation is that Laurence comes to terms with his life more through his own decisions and reading of Kierkegaard than anything his therapists do for him. I thoroughly recommend this book as an entertaining and intelligent read. The question which remains in my mind is - what might have happened if Laurence had seen an Existential therapist ? I'll leave that as an exercise for the interested reader ...

Either/Or by Kierkegaard (1843)

Wiki on Either /Or says 

"Either/Or ...  is an influential book written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1843, in which he explores the "phases" or "stages" of existence....The first volume, the "Either", describes the "aesthetic" phase of existence....The aesthete ... will eventually find him or herself in "despair," a psychological state ... that results from a recognition of the limits of an aesthetic approach to life. /Or .. the Second Volume, thus, represents the ethical stage".
 Read More ...

D. Anthony Storm's Commentary says

"Kierkegaard made the actual either/or a choice between the human esthetic and ethical on the one hand, and the religious on the other hand. The religious sphere is addressed later in Stages on Life's Way"  Read more ...

Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard (1843)

Wiki at  says:

"Fear and Trembling ... is a philosophical work by Søren Kierkegaard, published in 1843 under the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio. .... The work begins with a meditation on the faith of Abraham when he was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac, as told in Genesis chapter 22. Read on

Bob Zunjic says:
"What you cannot do is to praise faith and Abraham while at the same time condemning religious zeal, blind obedience and moral egotism stemming from it. Conversely, if you see that faith is the foundation of human existence then you need to appreciate its personal, temporal and subjective character." Read more

Concluding Unscientific Postscript by Kierkegaard (1846)

D, Anthony Storm writes:
The word "Concluding" has a two-fold meaning, since it refers both to the conclusion of the material first presented in Philosophical Fragments, and it was to be the conclusion of Kierkegaard's writing career, though in later years he would describe it as a turning point.....In the Postscript Kierkegaard underscores the necessity of approaching truth subjectively. He does not deny objective truth, but asserts that objective truth can only be known and appropriated subjectively. " Read More

Bob Zunjic writes:
"Concluding Unscientific Postrict to Philosophical Fragments is probably the most philosophically "laden" of all Kierkegaard's writings....Either take the comfortable route of objectivity or the uncertain route of subjectivity. ....Objectivity lacks existential decisiveness. Only in subjectivity there is the decisiveness that realizes the untruth of the accepted obsession with objectivity. " Read more

Kierkegaard quotations

 "Life is lived forward but understood backward." 

"How absurd men are! They never use the liberties they have, they demand those they do not have. They have freedom of thought, they demand freedom of speech."

"Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one can not walk away from it..."

"I stick my finger into existence and it smells of nothing. Where am I? What is this thing called the world? Who is it that has lured me into the thing, and now leaves me here? Who am I? How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted?"

"Marry or do not marry, you will regret it either way."

"It seems essential, in relationships and all tasks, that we concentrate only on what is most significant and important."

"There is no truth except truth for me"

Best Kierkegaard Links

Comprehensive on-line commentary of Kierkegaard's works - the place to go for serious on-line study

Soren Kierkegaard Newsletter  - bi-annual book reviews and original articles

Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Kierkegaard - solid if fairly short account of Kierkegaard's works and life

The Island of Freedom has a good summary of Kierkegaard's philosophy

Existential primary - useful summary

Kierkegaard and Truth as Subjectivity - an essay by Stephen James Minton

Tim LeBon's Existential Psychotherapy site - how Kierkegaard and other existential philosophers can provide practical help

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Discover more free philosophy and psychology resources at  Tim LeBon’s site