Has Kierkegaards prediction come about?
We have become so objective that even the wife of a civil servant argues from the whole, from the state, from the idea of society, from geographic scientificity to the single individual.
Soren Kierkegaard 1846 Concluding Postscript, Hong p.51
Soren Kierkegaard’s first love was not Regine Olsen but a particular verse from the Bible. What is it about God that is so great? He doesn’t change. He wanted to be like God.
If a person were permitted to distinguish among Biblical texts, I could call this text [James 1:17-21] my first love, to which one generally (“always”) returns at some time: and I could call this text my only love — to which one returns again and again and again and “always.”
Journals of Soren Kierkegaard Book XI 3B 291:4 August 1855
James 1:17-21 (1599 Geneva Bible)
Every good giving and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be as the first fruits of his creatures. Wherefore my dear brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. For the wrath of man doth not accomplish the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness, and superfluity of maliciousness, and receive with meekness the word that is grafted in you, which is able to save your souls.
This is a video I made where Kierkegaard asks about this thing called the soul. What is the soul? Lets start with the first thing that should interest an individual who is interested in becoming a Christian. Shouldn’t we get an idea of what the soul is before we begin a huge discussion about how to save it?
How does the single individual go about finding out about his soul or about Christianity? Kierkegaard wrote the following in 1846 (Concluding Postscript)
To avoid confusion it should immediately be borne in mind that the issue is not about the truth of Christianity, but about the individual’s relation to Christianity, consequently not about the indifferent individual’s systematic, eagerness to arrange the truths of Christianity in paragraphs but rather about the concern of the infinitely interested individual with regard to his own relation to such a doctrine.
To state it as simply as possible (using myself in an imaginatively constructing way): “I Johannes Climacus, (one of his pseudonyms) born and bred in this city and now thirty years old, an ordinary human being like most folk, assume that a highest good, called an eternal happiness, awaits me just as it awaits a housemaid and a professor. I have heard that Christianity is one prerequisite for this good. I now ask how I may enter into relation to this doctrine.” It is Christianity itself that compels me.
p. 15-16 Hong
Soren Kierkegaard attended the University of Copenhagen from 1830-1840. German philosophy dominated in Danish universities as well as in Danish churches after the death of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) who wrote his masterpiece Phenomenology of Spirit in 1807, his Logic in 1817, and Philosophy of Right in 1821. Kierkegaard wrote his pseudonymous books in response to the works of Hegel.
Kierkegaard also wrote in response to the writings of Rene Descartes with his Cogito ergo sum (thinking about one’s existence proves—in and of itself—that an “I” exists to do the thinking) and Immanuel Kant with his categorical imperative (Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law).
Another writer Kierkegaard read was Karl Friedrich von Schlegel (1772-1829) who wrote a book about the soul called Philosophy of Life, and Philosophy of Language, in a Course of Lectures: He wrote:
THE development of the human consciousness, according to the triple principle of its existence, or of its nature as compounded of spirit or mind, soul, and animated body, must begin with the soul, and not with the spirit, even though the latter be the most important and supreme. For the soul is the first grade in the progress of development. In actual life, also, it is the beginning and the permanent foundation, as well as the primary root of the collective consciousness.
He was also a close reader of the writings of Johann Goethe (Faust, his Autobiography), the music and operas of Mozart such as Don Giovanni, and the works of Shakespeare (King Lear and Romeo and Juliet).
Kierkegaard loved to ask questions. He wanted to know if human love and human knowledge can be deceived, and if it can be, is the deceiver at fault or the deceived.
Is it saying too little to say that a person comes naked into the world and possesses nothing in the world if he does not even possess his soul? (…) What is there to live for if a person has to spend his whole life gaining the presupposition that on the deepest level is life’s presupposition-yes, what does that mean?
Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 161 (1843-1844)
Can a historical point of departure be given for an eternal consciousness; how can such a point of departure be of more than historical interest; can an eternal happiness be built on historical knowledge?
Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, Hong p, 15 (146)
The substance of marriage is erotic love, but which is first-is the erotic love first, or is the marriage first, so that erotic love follows afterward? Either/Or Part I, Swenson p.35 (1843)
What does it mean to commit oneself to love? Where is the boundary? When have I fulfilled my duty? In what, more closely defined, does my duty consist? In case of doubt, to what council can I apply? And if I cannot fulfill my duty, where is the authority to compel me? State and Church have indeed set a certain limit, but even though I do not go to the extreme, can I not therefore be a bad husband? Who will punish me? Who will stand up for her who is the victim? Answer: you yourself. Either/Or II Hong p. 150-151 (1843)
Kierkegaard compared the unhappy lover and the happy lover through Repetition and his Fourth Upbuilding Discourse of 1843.
September 19 My Silent Confident: (From Repetition 1843) The unhappy lover.
Job! Job! O Job! Is that really all you said, those beautiful words: The Lord gave and the Lord took away; blessed be the name of the Lord? Did you say no more? In all your afflictions did you just keep on repeating them? Why were you silent for seven days and nights? What went on in your soul? When all existence collapsed upon you and lay like broken pottery around you, did you immediately have this superhuman self-possession, did you immediately have this interpretation of love, this cheerful boldness of trust and faith? Is you door then shut to the grief-stricken person, can he hope for no other relief from you than what miserable worldly wisdom poorly affords, lecturing on the perfection of life?
Do you know nothing more to say than that? Do you dare to say no more than what professional comforters, measure out to the individual, what professional comforters, like formal masters of ceremonies, lay down for the individual, that in the hour of need it is appropriate to say: “The Lord gave, and the Lord took away; blessed be the name of the Lord-no more, no less, just as they say “God bless you” when one sneezes!
No, you who in you prime were the sword of the oppressed, the stave of the old, and the staff of the brokenhearted, you did not disappoint men when everything went to pieces-then you became the voice of the suffering, the cry of the grief-stricken, the shriek of the terrified, and a relief to all who bore their torment in silence, a faithful witness to all the affliction and laceration there can be in a heart, an unfailing spokesman who dared to lament “in bitterness of soul” and to strive with God. p. 197 (Hong)
Repetition was published under the name of one of Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms but his discourses were all published under his own name. (Notabene – Note well)
If he had never known happiness, then the pain would not have overwhelmed him, for what is pain but an idea that the person knows nothing else does not have, but now it is precisely joy that has educated and developed him to perceive pain.” Then his joy became his own ruin; it was never lost but only lacking, and in its lack it tempted him more than ever before.
What had been his eye’s delight, his eyes craved to see again and his ingratitude punished him by inducing him to believe it to be more beautiful than it had ever been. What his soul delighted in, it now thirsted for, and ingratitude punished him by picturing it to him as more delightful than it had ever been. What he once had been able to do, he now wanted to be able to do again, and ingratitude punished him with fantasies that had never had any truth. Then he condemned his soul, living, to be starved out in the insatiable craving of the lack.
Four Upbuilding Discourses 1843, p. 117
(That was the picture of an unhappy soul. But Kierkegaard goes on)
Let us rather return to Job. … He confessed that the Lord’s blessing had rested mercifully upon him; he gave thanks for it; therefore, it did not remain with him as a nagging memory. He confessed that the Lord had richly blessed his work beyond all measure; he gave thanks for it; therefore, the memory did not remain as a consuming restlessness. He did not conceal from himself that everything had been taken away from him; therefore, the Lord who had taken it away, remained in his upright soul. He did not evade the thought that it was lost, therefore, his soul remained quiet until the Lord’s explanation again came to him and found his mind, like good earth, well cultivated by patience.
Job traced everything back to God; he did not detain his soul and quench his spirit with deliberation or explanations that only feed and foster doubt, even though the person suspended in them does not even notice that. The very moment everything was taken away from him, he knew it was the Lord who had taken it away, and therefore in his loss he remained on good terms with the Lord, he saw the Lord, and therefore he did not see despair. Or does he alone see God’s hand who sees that he gives, or does not one also see God hand who sees that he takes away? Or does he alone see God who sees God turn his face toward him, or does not also he see God who sees him turn his back, just as Moses continually saw nothing but the Lord’s back. (Exodus 33:13-23) But the one who sees God has overcome the world, in those devout words was greater and stronger and more powerful than the whole world.
Four Upbuilding Discourses 1843, Hong p.117-121 1843
One sticks a finger into the ground to smell what country one is in; I stick my finger into the world-it has no smell. Where am I? What does it mean to say: the world? What is the meaning of the world? Who tricked me into this whole thing and leaves me standing here? Who am I? How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it, why was I not informed of the rules and regulations and just thrust into the ranks as if I had been bought from a peddling shanhaier of human beings? How did I get involved in the big enterprise called actuality? Why should I be involved? Isn’t it a matter of choice? If I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager-I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint? After all, life is a debate-may I ask that my observations be considered? If one has to take life as it is, would it not be best to find out how things go? What does it mean: a deceiver? Does not Cicero say that such a person can be exposed by asking: to whose benefit? Repetition, 1843 p. 200
Shouldn’t an individual be able to have a choice when it comes to getting married? How about becoming or repeatedly trying to become a Christian? Isn’t it up to the single individual involved in decision? Did the apostles have an easier time of becoming a Christian? Read about them and see how closely they imitated Christ.
What about modern scholars? Is the scholar closer to Christ than the simple Christian?
Who has the greatest advantage when it comes to becoming a Christian, the disciple who was with Christ or an individual from a later generation? Kierkegaard answers this way:
The contemporary learner enjoys one advantage, which the learner of a later generation alas! will doubtless greatly envy him, if only for the sake of doing something. A contemporary may go where he can see the Teacher — and may he then believe his eyes? Why not? But may he also believe that this makes him a disciple? By no means. If he believes his eyes he is deceived, for the God is not immediately knowable. But then perhaps he may shut his eyes. Just so; but if he does, what profit does he have from his contemporaneity? And when he shuts his eyes he will presumably try to form some conception of the God. But if he is able to do this by himself, he is evidently in possession of the condition (faith). What he conceives, moreover, will be a figure revealing itself to the inner eye of the soul; if he now beholds this, the figure of the servant (Christ) will confuse him when he again opens his eyes.
Philosophical Fragments, p 46-47 (Swenson) 1844