Happy 205th Birthday Søren Kierkegaard

Today is the 205th birthday of the Danish philosopher and writer Søren Kierkegaard.  If you are anything like me (we are all more similar than different, really), there are writers which whom you feel a bit lacking for not having read more of their work.  He is at the top of the list for me, so much so that I have been toggling between windows looking for digital copies of anything of his.  It looks that I have settled on reading The Diary, The Essential and Either/Or.  That will be my task for the day, to locate one of those.  The world is a much better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Søren Kierkegaard
OCCUPATION: Theologian, Philosopher, Critic, Writer
BIRTH DATE: May 5, 1813
DEATH DATE: November 11, 1855
PLACE OF BIRTH: Copenhagen, Denmark
PLACE OF DEATH: Copenhagen, Denmark
FULL NAME: Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

BEST KNOWN FOR: Søren Kierkegaard was a 19th century Danish philosopher who wrote about Christian belief systems and helped birth existentialism.

Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.

Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher who imposed restrictions on his own love and emotions and declared the idea of subjectivity as truth, is now recognized as the founder of Existentialism, an influential author in psychology, and an important figure in Postmodernism.

He was born Søren Aabye Kierkegaard on May 5, 1813, into a wealthy family in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was the youngest of seven children. His father, named Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard, was married to his 3rd cousin Ane Sorensdatter Lund, and was a rigid religious man who suffered from depression and guilt, which he imposed on his children. From the young age Kierkegaard was disabled and suffered from complications after his fall from a tree when he was a boy. He was also strongly influenced by his father’s depression and stubborn belief in a curse that all his children were doomed to die by the age of 33.

Truth always rests with the minority … because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion.

His philosophy and writing was also influenced by Regine Olsen, the love of his life and the muse for his writings. He and Regine met in 1837, while they were students at University, and they became engaged in 1840, but he harbored some undisclosed secret of dark and personal nature. A year later he chose to break off the engagement rather than to reveal his secret to Regine. She married another man and refused to see Kierkegaard ever again. He sank into psychoanalysis of the ethical and emotional aspects of breaking off in his book Repetition (1843) which he published under the pseudonym Constantin Constantinus. At that time he was suffering from melancholy, probably a form of depression coming from his own trauma and disability. In his writings Kierkegaard used the word ‘marriage’ as a trope for the universal demands made by social mores.

Kierkegaard’s works deal with problems of choice in many aspects, ranging from emotions and feelings of an individual, to religious, philosophical, and political aspects of human society. Kierkegaard offered no solutions but rather a variety of views on individual, social and political conundrums and unresolvable complexities, ranging from an “Attack on” approach to an observationist position. His masterpiece and arguably the greatest work, Either/Or, was written during his stay in Berlin in 1842, then was revised and completed in Copenhagen in the fall of the same year. In it Kierkegaard plays with his three incarnations, philosopher named “A”, Judge Williams, author of rebuttals to “A”, and editor named Victor Eremita. It was published in 1843 and found little understanding among the contemporaries. His other important works are The Concept of Irony (1841), Fear and Trembling (1843), and Works of Love (1847), among others. In his later works Kierkegaard analyzed the detrimental effect of organized religion on individuals in Denmark caused by rigidity of established state church. His analysis of ‘fear’, ‘sin’, ‘guilt’, and other tools of control over minds, as well as his thoughts on the decay of the Danish State Church and failures of applied religion lead to his statement that “the human race has outgrown Christianity” which ignited attacks on him from many angered critics.

Each human being has infinite reality, and it is pride and arrogance in a person not to honor his fellow-man…. It is a paralogism that one thousand human beings are worth more than one… The central point about being human is that the unit “1” is the highest; “1000” counts for less.

Kierkegaard published his works under various pseudonyms. He used several pseudonyms to create an imitation of a discussion between several pseudo-authors, all of those in fact being one man, Kierkegaard. For that reason and also because of his complex personality and intricate thought and reasoning, he made it difficult to distinguish between what he truly believed and what he was making up for a mere argument. He died in a hospital on November 11, 1855, of complications from his fall from a tree in his childhood, and was laid to rest in the Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen, Denmark. His works were little known outside Denmark until professional translations were made in the 1920s. His works has been extremely influential ever since. His arguments against objectivity and emphasis on skepticism, especially concerning social morals and norms, laid groundwork for the 20th century Existentialism and Postmodernism.

Along with Friedrich Nietzsche, he is regarded as the father of Existentialism and existential psychology. Kierkegaard’s influence may be found in many art movements, such as Dada, Futurism, and other movements in modern art. He influenced Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Buber, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Franz Kafka and John Updike among many other thinkers and writers.

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