Either/Or 1843

Father in heaven! Teach us to pray rightly so that our hearts may open up to you in prayer and supplication and hide no furtive desire that we know is not acceptable to you, nor any secret fear that you will deny us anything that will truly be for our good, so that the labouring thoughts, the restless mind, the fearful heart may find rest in and through that alone in which and through which it can be found-by always joyfully thanking you as we gladly confess that in relation to you we are always in the wrong. Amen.

Soren Kierkegaard, Either /Or 1843 Part II, p. 341 Hong Translation

Getting the majority vote on one’s side and one’s God-relationship transformed into a speculative enterprise on the basis of probability and partnership and fellow shareholders is the first step toward becoming objective.

Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 1846 Hong p. 66

Either Experience or Knowledge. Either arts or science. From Johann Goethe’s Autobiography.  1749-1832

Either external conversion or internal conversion. From Not Paul, But Jesus by Jeremy Bentham     1748-1832

Showing at one view, under the head of Paul’s Conversion, the different accounts from which the inference is drawn that the Conversion was outward only, not inward.

Showing, at one View, the Passages, from which the Inference is drawn, that Paul’s inward Conversion was never believed, by any of the Apostles, or their Disciples.

Jeremy Bentham by Henry William Pickersgill detail.jpg

Kierkegaard’s first book was Either/Or, A Fragment of Lfe (February 20, 1843) Published in two parts.

There comes a midnight hour when all men must unmask said the Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard. [in Either/Or II]. With this “midnight hour” of death August Tholuck was deeply concerned. “As for thee, man, who has never yet made peace with God, how can he possibly be happy in this life, seeing that every moment is conducting him farther and farther away from the place which contains all that gives pleasure to his heart? Every tick of the clock, every particle of sand that drops in the hourglass, proclaims that a fragment of his life, and with it, of his fortitude and joy is gone.”

The pietism of August Tholuck (1799-1877) savors of deep living and height of thinking. For over fifty years he taught at Halle University, Germany, the center of rationalism. Here as a defender of evangelical Christianity, opposed by faculty colleagues, he became successful in tying reason and pietism together; what he did changed the whole character of the seminary at Halley. The Christian seriously considers the meaning of death. Thoughtfully he reflects: “The Christian is to live forever. So is everyone else, but the Christian knows it. The result is that he is deprived of the consolation of a tidy view of the world.
A journey with the saints, by Thomas Kepler 1951 P. 96

Either serving only God or serving only the world or serving God by serving the world or serving the world by serving God. Or serving yourself.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and will love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24

Either Yes or No

Truth as well as life unite Yes and No, and only the courage which accepts the infinite tension between Yes and No can have abundant life and ultimate truth. How is such a courage possible? It is possible because there is a Yes above the Yes and No of life and of truth. But it is a Yes which is not ours. If it were ours, even our greatest, our most universal and most courageous Yes, it would be contrasted by another No. This is the reason why no theology and no philosophy, not even a theology or philosophy of “Yes and No” is ultimate truth. In the moment in which it is expressed, it is contradicted by another philosophy and another theology. Not even the message of Yes and No, be it said by Kierkegaard or by Luther or by Paul, can escape its No. There is only one reality where there is not Yes and No but only Yes: Jesus as the Christ. First He also stands under the No, as completely as a being can stand; this is the meaning of the Cross.

The New Being, Chapter 13: Yes and No by Paul Tillich 1955

 Either a goddess or a lonely woman:
That woman who was worshiped during the French Revolution as “the goddess of reason” would be a good subject for a drama. It is well-known that she died sometime later in the most pitiable state in a hospital.
Journals and Papers of Kierkegaard, 4A 74

Either a Seducer or a Courtesan:
I have half a mind to write a counter-piece to “The Seducer’s Diary.” It would be a feminine figure: “The Courtesan’s Diary.” It would be worth the trouble to depict such a character.
Journals and Papers of Kierkegaard, 4A  128

Either Cause and Effect or Effect and Cause
Either Theology or Philosophy

It was Jean-Jacques Rousseau who wrote about the first kiss in his 1761 book, The New Heloise. Others were writing of first love.

Another keen observer, Kierkegaard, in his Diary of a Seducer, says,
“Love has many mysteries, and this first love is also a mystery, if not the greatest. Most men in their ardent passion are as if insane; they become engaged or commit some other stupidity, and in a moment it is all over, and they know once more what it has cost them, what they have lost.”
The sexual life of our time in its relations to modern civilization / by Iwan Bloch ; translated from the sixth German edition by M. Eden Paul, 1909. p. 204
The Diary of a Seducer is part of Kierkegaard’s 1843 book Either/Or

All those who are well acquainted with humanity, all poets and psychologists, are in agreement respecting the fugitive character of youthful love. For this reason, they advise against marriage concluded during the passion of early youth. This poetry of love at first sight is, according to Gutzkow, the eternal game of chance of our young people, in which their health, their life, and their future go to wreck.

Many writers have sought to define and elucidate the sound that arises from a kiss. Johannes Jorgensen says very delicately in his Stemniger that “the plash of the waves against the pebbles of the beach is like the sound of long kisses.” It is generally an exclusively humorous or satirical aspect that is most conspicuous.  In Seducer’s Diary (Forforerens dagbog) of Soren Kierkegaard, Johannes speaks of the engaged couples who used to assemble in numbers at his uncle’s house: “Without interruption, the whole evenings through, one hears a sound as if a person was going round with a fly-flap: that is the lover’s kiss.
The Kiss and its history, by Dr. Christopher Nyrop … Tr. by William Frederick Harvey. 1901 p. 7

e-o to ft kierkegaard

Either faith or knowledge, Or both faith and knowledge.
In 1915 Professor Peter Hendrickson wrote a letter to Rasmus B Anderson, the translator of the Younger Edda. He said Norwegian literature was unknown to him in his early years. He had emigrated to American and in 1849 was one of the first Norwegian students at Beloit College in Wisconsin, which was founded in 1846. After graduation in 1854 he returned to Norway where he was influenced by the Danish professor Rasmus Nielsen who was teaching from his book Tro og Viden (Faith and Knowledge). Nielsen taught that faith and knowledge are two separate things whereas professor Nyblaus argued that faith and knowledge are united in one and the same human consciousness. Nielsen was a disciple of Kierkegaard, who in reality wanted no disciples for himself but only for Christ. Soon Professor Hendrickson was reading both Soren Kierkegaard and Hans Lassen Martensen with feverish zeal.
Life Story of Rasmus B. Anderson, Madison, WI 1915 P. 119-124
The British and Foreign Evangelical Review Vol 19 1870 p. 641

Either folly, duty, or suffering.
Soren Kierkegaard’s delineation of three fundamental modes of life: First, the Life of Enjoyment – Folly and Cleverness in the Pursuit of Pleasure; second, the Life of Duty – Realizing the Self through Victorious Accomplishments; third, the Life of Faith – The Religious Transformation of the Self through Suffering.
Saint Paul Institute Bulletin, Volume Nine Number Five February 1918 p. 13


Back to the Stages. It is markedly different from Either/Or by a tripartition. There are three stages, an esthetic, an ethical, a religious, yet not abstract as the immediate mediate, the unity, but concrete in the qualification of existence categories as pleasure-perdition, action-victory, suffering. But despite this tripartition, the book is nevertheless an either/or. That is, the ethical and the religious stages have an essential relation to each other. The inadequacy of Either/Or is simply that the work ended ethically, as has been shown. In Stages that has been made clear, and the religious is maintained in its place.
Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 1846 Hong p. 294

Even if I proved nothing else by writing Either-Or, I proved that in Danish literature a book can be written without needing the warm jacket of sympathy, without needing the incentive of anticipation, that one can work even though the stream is against him, that one can work hard without seeming to, that one can privately concentrate while practically every bungling student dares look upon him as a loafer. Even if the book itself were devoid of meaning, the making of it would still be the pithiest epigram I have written over the maundering philosophic age in which I live. 
Journals of Soren Kierkegaard 4A 45

Kierkegaard’s first big hit was the first book he published, Either/Or by Victor Erimeta. He published it under a pseudonym. One newspaper owner invited Victor to lunch several times.

Later, August Strindberg as well as Wilhelm Stekel recorded their interest in Kierkegaard’s book.

August Strindberg

Wilhelm Stekel

Here are a few quotes from his first book, Either/Or Volume 1 , February 20, 1843, translated by David F. Swenson, about a good called SOUL that is in despair.

My soul is so heavy that thought can no more sustain it, no wingbeat lift it up into the ether. It if moves, it sweeps along the ground like the low flight of birds when a thunderstorm is approaching. Over my inmost being there broods a depression, an anxiety, that presages an earthquake. p. 28

Strangely enough, it is always the same thing which at every age engages our attention, and we go only so far, or rather, we go backward. When I was fifteen years old, and a pupil in the classical school, I wrote with much unction about the proofs for the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, about the concept of faith, and on the significance of the miraculous.

For my examen artuim I wrote an essay on the Immortality of the Soul, which was awarded prae ceteris; later I won a prize for another essay on this same subject. Who would believe that I, after having made so substantial and promising a beginning, should now in my twenty-fifth year have come to the pass of not being able to give a single proof for the immortality of the soul? p. 34

the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility! p. 40

This external is perhaps quite unobtrusive but not until I look through it, do I discover that inner picture which I desire to show you, an inner picture too delicately drawn to be outwardly visible, woven as it is of the tenderest moods of the soul. If I look at a sheet of paper, there may seem to be nothing remarkable about it, but when I hold it up to the light and look through it, then I discover the delicate inner inscriptions, too ethereal, as it were, to be perceived directly.

Turn your attention then, dear Symparanekromenoi, to this inner picture; do not allow yourselves to be distracted by the external appearance, or rather, do not yourselves summon the external before you, for it shall be my task constantly to draw it aside, in order to afford you a better view of the inner picture. p. 171

Where shall I find rest and peace? The thoughts arise in my soul, the one against the other, the one confounding the other. When you were with me, then they obeyed your least hint, then I played with them like a child, I wove garlands of them and placed them on my head. I let them flutter like my hair loose in the wind. Now they twine themselves terrifyingly about me, like serpents they twist themselves around me and crush my anguished soul. p. 213


What is a poet? An unhappy man who in his heart harbors a deep anguish, but whose lips are so fashioned that the moans and cries which pass over them are transformed into ravishing music. His fate is like that of the unfortunate victims whom the tyrant Phalaris imprisoned in a brazen bull, and slowly tortured over a steady fire; their cries could not reach the tyrant’s ears so as to strike terror into his heart; when they reached his ears they sounded like sweet music. And men crowd about the poet and say to him, “Sing for us soon again”-which is as much as to say, “May new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be fashioned as before; for the cries would only distress us, but the music, the music, is delightful.” And the critics come forward and say, “That is perfectly done-just as it should be, according to the rules of aesthetics.” Now it is understood that a critic resembles a poet to a hair; he only lacks the anguish in his heart and the music upon his lips. I tell you, I would rather be a swineherd, understood by the swine, than a poet misunderstood by men.

Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or Volume I Edited by Victor Eremita, February 20, 1843, translated by David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson Princeton University Press 1971 p.19

Compare with Lucian of Samosata 120-180 AD

Either direct or indirect communication.

Either able to do nothing or able to do everything:
A Paradox:
When one thinks only one thought, one must in connection with this thinking discover self-denial, and it is self-denial that discovers that God is. Precisely this becomes the contradiction in blessedness and terror: to have an omnipotent one as one’s co-worker. An omnipotent one cannot be your co-worker, a human being’s co-worker, without it signifying that you are able to do nothing at all; and on the other hand, if he is your co-worker, you are able to do everything.
Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love 1847 Hong translation p. 362

Either pure of heart or a sinner:
Just as a person should not seek his peace through another human being and should not build upon sand, so it also holds true that he should not rely on any other person’s work to convince him that he’s a sinner, but rather to remind him of his own responsibility before God if he does not discover it by himself-any other understanding is diversion. It is only a jest if I would pass judgment on you, but it is a serious matter if you forget that God will pass the judgment. So what is sought is given. God is near enough, but no one without purity can see God, and sin is impurity, and therefore no one can become aware of God without becoming a sinner. The first is a beckoning word, and the gaze of the soul is toward the heights where the goal is, but other words that provide the beginning are immediately heard, and these are depressing words. And yet this is the way it is for the person who wants to understand sin.
Soren Kierkegaard, Three Discourses On Imagined Occasions,  June 17, 1844,  Hong 1993 P. 28

A is depressed and in search of fame and fortune in part one. Part two consists of advice about life from B, Judge Vilhelm. B is A’s tutor and his hope is to make him into a hero.

Kierkegaard may have been influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 1762 book Emile. Rousseau envisioned himself as a tutor to his imaginary scholar Emile. Here is Rousseau’s Preface.

Here is a sample of Judge Vilhelm’s advice to young A.

“One must work for a living in order to live-that’s just the way life is-it’s the shabby side of existence. We sleep seven hours out of twenty-four; its wasted time, but it has to be that way. We work five hours our of the twenty-four; it is wasted time, but it has to be that way. By working five hours, a person has his livelihood, and when he has that he begins to live. Now, a person’s work should preferably be as boring and meaningless as possible, just so he has his livelihood from it. if he has a special talent, he should never commit the sin against it of making it his source of income.

No, he coddles his talent; he possesses it for its own sake; he has even greater joy from it than a mother from her child. He cultivates it; he develops it for twelve hours of the day, sleeps for seven hours, is a nonhuman for five, and thus life becomes quite bearable, even quite beautiful, because working five hours is not so bade, inasmuch as, since a person’s thoughts are never on the work, he hoards his energies for the pursuit of his delight.”

Our hero is making no headway. For one thing, he has no special talent with which to fill the twelve hours at home; for another, he has already gained a more beautiful view of working, a view he is unwilling to give up. So he probably will decide to seek help from the ethicist again. The latter is very brief. “It is every human being’s duty to have a calling.” More he cannot say, because the ethical as such is always abstract, and there’s no abstract calling for all human beings. On the contrary, he presupposes that each person has a particular calling.

Which calling our hero should choose, the ethicist cannot tell him, because for that a detailed knowledge of the esthetic aspects of his whole personality is required, and even if the ethicist did have this knowledge, he would still refrain from choosing for him, because in that case he would indeed deny his own view of life. What the ethicist can teach him is that there is a calling for every human being and, when our hero has found this, that he is to choose it ethically.
Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or Part 2 Hong p. 291-292


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)

Kierkegaard wanted to be “A solitary who casts his writings before the public without any one to advertise them, without any party ready to defend them, one who does not even know what is thought and said about those writings, is at least free from one anxiety—if he is mistaken, no one will take his errors for gospel,” just like Rousseau and so many other authors.

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. …

Søren Kierkegaard, Journal and Papers, VI 6444 (Pap. X1 A541) (1849) (Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 451-452)

Either a slave to your desires or possessing your self.

Soren Kierkegaard

Desire awakens, and as it always happens that one first realizes he has dreamed in the moment of awakening, so likewise here, the dream is over. This impulse with which desire awakens, this trembling, separates the desire and its object, affords desire and object.

This is a dialectical qualification which must be kept sharply in mind-only when the object exists does the desire exist, only when the desire exists does the object exist; desire and its object are twins, neither of which is born a fraction of an instant before the other. But though they are thus born at exactly the same instant, and with no time interval between, as is the case with other twins, the importance of their coming into existence is not that they are united but, on the contrary, that they are separated. But this movement of the sensuous, this earthquake, splits the desire and its object infinitely asunder for a moment; but as the moving principle appears a moment separating, so it again reveals itself as wising to unite the separated. The result of this separation is that desire is pulled out of its substantial repose with itself, and consequently the object no longer falls under the qualifications of substantiality, but disperses itself in a manifold. 77-78

As the life of the plant is bound to earth, so is the first stage held captive in substantial longing. Desire awakens, the object flees, manifold in its revelation; the longing breaks away from the earth and starts out wandering; the flower gets wings and flits inconstant and unwearied here and there. Desire is directed toward the object, it is also moved within itself, the heart beats soundly and joyously, the objects swiftly vanish and reappear; but still before every disappearance is a present enjoyment, a moment of contact, short but sweet, evanescent as the as the gleam of a glowworm, inconstant and fleeting as the touch of a butterfly, and as harmless; countless kisses, but so swiftly enjoyed, that it is as if there were only taken from one object what is given to the next. Only momentarily is a deeper desire suspected, but this suspicion is forgotten.
Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or Part one Swenson, p. 79

How can the esthetic, which is incommensurable even for portrayal in poetry, be represented? Answer: by being lived. It thereby has a similarity to music, which is only because it is continually repeated, is only in the moment of being performed. … in this way the esthetic elevates itself and reconciles itself with life, for just as poetry and art in one sense are precisely a reconciliation with life, yet in another sense they are enmity to life, because they reconcile only one side of the soul. Here I am at the summit of the esthetic. And in truth, he who has humility and courage enough to let himself be esthetically transformed, he who feels himself present as a character in a drama the deity is writing, in which the poet and prompter are not different persons, in which the individual, as the experienced actor who has lived into his character and his lines is not disturbed by the prompter but feels that he himself becomes a question whether he is putting the words in the prompter’s mouth or the prompter in his, he who in the most profound sense feels himself creating and created, who in the moment he feels himself creating has the original pathos of the lines and the moment he feels himself created has the erotic ear that picks up every sound-he and he alone has brought into actual existence the highest in esthetics. But this history that proves to be incommensurable even for poetry is the inner history. This has the idea within itself and precisely therefore is the esthetic. Therefore it begins, as I expressed it with the possession, and its progress is the acquiring of this possession. It is an eternity in which the temporal has not disappeared as an ideal element, but in which it is continually present as a real element.

Thus, when patience acquires itself in patience, it is inner history.
Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or II, Hong p. 137-138

Either Christianity or Christendom.

When, in 1855, Soren Kierkegaard launched his attack upon the Lutheran state church of Denmark, he took his stand on the solid ground of Biblical faith. Christianity, properly so called, is not a product of human culture but a revelation from God. The New Testament, which is the climatic stage of this revelation, draws a sharp line between church and the world. The Christian is to live a life of love in the world, but he is not to embrace the world as his way of life. His goals of achievement and his guidelines for decisions are provided by the truth made manifest, and the love revealed, in Jesus Christ. Christianity is primarily personal; it is the authentic context for the relationship of an individual human being to God. This relationship must begin in what Kierkegaard called an “infinite resignation.”

“S.K. saw the trend of Western society toward leveling and mass conformity, and nothing has happened to stop that trend. Our generation of Americans is a conformist generation. We are tending toward a mass likeness, not only in clothing, cars, houses, and recreations, but also in our thinking.”

Gates started from the last of Kierkegaard’s writings, The Attack on Christendom 1855

Christendom revisited : A Kierkegaardian View of the Church Today, by Gates, John A, published 1963 P. 13, 66

Concluding Postscript

Compared with the Hegelian notion that the outer is the inner and the inner the outer, it certainly is extremely original. But it would be even more original if the Hegelian axiom were not only admired by the present age but also had retroactive power to abolish, backward historically, the distinction between the visible and invisible Church. The invisible Church is not a historical phenomenon; as such it cannot be observed objectively at all, because it is only in subjectivity. Alas, my originality seems only mediocre.
Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846, Hong p. 54

Christians at funerals sometimes resort to pagan expressions about Elysium and the like. But it is also ludicrous that a man for whom Christianity has meant nothing at all, not even so much that he cared to give it up, dies, and then at the graveside the pastor as a matter of course ushers him onto the eternal happiness as it is understood in Christian terminology. Please do not remind me, however, that there must always be a distinction between the visible and invisible Church and that no one may presume to judge hearts. Far from it, oh, far from it. But when one at a more mature age became a Christian and was baptized, then there could at least be the possibility of a kind of assurance that Christianity had some meaning for the baptized. So let it be left to God to judge hearts.
Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846, Hong p. 364-366

either-or internal

Mediation looks fairly good on paper. First one assumes the finite, then the infinite, and then says on paper: This must be mediated. An existing person has unquestionably found there the secure foothold outside existence where he can mediate-on paper. The Archimedean point has been found, but one does not notice that it has succeeded in moving the whole world. When, however, the setting is not on paper but in existence, because the person mediating is an existing person (and therefore prevented from being a mediating person), he will then, if he becomes aware of what it means to exist (that is, that he exists), at that very same moment become the one who absolutely differentiates, not between the finite and the infinite, but between existing finitely and existing infinitely. The infinite and the finite are joined together in existing and in the existing person, who does not need to bother with creating existence, or with thinking about reproducing existence, but all the more with existing.

With the help of mediation, even existence is produced on paper. In existence, where the existing person finds himself, the task is simpler: whether he will be so kind as to exist. As an existing person, then, he need not form existence out of the finite and the infinite, but, composed of the finite and the infinite, he, existing, is supposed to become one of the parts, and one does not become both parts simultaneously, because one is that by being an existing person, for this is exactly the difference between being and becoming, and the chimerical proficiency of mediation, if it belongs anywhere at all, is an expression-for the beginning. In several regards this is what happened to the most recent philosophy-namely, having had the task of combating a mistaken reflection and having finished that, it confuses the end of this work with the end of everything, but instead the end of this work is at best the beginning of the real task.
Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846, Hong p. 419-420

Either good or evil or both good and evil.
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.
Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846, Hong p.420-421

soren Kierkegaard hero

Although Either/Or attracted all the attention, and nobody noticed the Two Edifying Discourses, this book betokened, nevertheless, that the edifying was precisely what must come to the fore, that the author was a religious author, who for this reason has never written anything [[aesthetic]], but has employed pseudonyms for all the aesthetic works, whereas the Two Edifying Discourses were by Magister Kierkegaard.”
Søren Kierkegaard, The Point of View, Walter Lowrie, 1962 p. 12

sk 1849

Theology deals with what concerns us inescapably, ultimately, unconditionally. It deals with it not as far as it is but as far as it is for us. In no theological statement can the relation to us be omitted. Without the element of ultimate concern, no assertion is a theological one. … theology is a practical discipline. If “practical” is understood in contrast to theoretical, that statement is entirely wrong, since truth is an essential element in what concerns us ultimately. If “practical” means that theology must deal with its subject always as far as it concerns us in the very depth of our being, theology is practical. But since by popular distortion the word “practical” has received an antitheoretical flavor and since the Ritschlian school created that definition of theology in order to cut off theology from philosophy, sacrificing truth to morals, it is more adequate to use another term, for instance, to use with Soren Kierkegaard the word “existential.”

Existential is what characterizes our real existence in all its concreteness, in all its accidental elements, in its freedom and responsibility, in its failure, and in its separation from its true and essential being. Theology thinks on the basis of this existential situation and in continuous relation to it. Asking for the meaning of being, theology asks for the ultimate ground and power and norm and aim of being, as far as it is my being and carries me as the abyss and ground of my existence, it asks for the threatening and promising power over my existence, for the demanding and judging norm of my existence for the fulfilling and rejection aim of my existence. In other words: In asking for the meaning of being, theology asks for God.

The Protestant Era, by Paul Tillich p. 87-88 translated by James Luther Adams, University of Chicago Press 1948


The existentialist revolt; Reinhardt, Kurt F. (Kurt Frank), 1896-1983 p. 16, 23, 30, 36

The “crisis theology” or” dialectical theology” of Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and Reinhold V Niebuhr is no less indebted to the Danish thinker than the existential philosophy of Heidegger, Jaspers, Sartre, and Marcel. But while “dialectical theology” is concerned primarily with the precarious existential situation of the individual Christian facing the “Eternal Word” of Christian revelation, Kierkegaard’s main concern is the possibility of man’s self-realization: to what extent, he asks, can man realize himself and save himself by withdrawing from the irresponsibility, superficiality, and forgetfulness of everyday life? Existence, then, is for Kierkegaard the attainment of self-possession in the spiritually directed and determined life of the individual. And “existential thinking” is the vital thought-process by which the concrete human individual appropriates that Truth which for the armchair philosopher and the systematizer remains an abstract proposition, compelling no existential assent.

The Socratic method consists, according to Kierkegaard, in leading the reader to a point where he finds out for himself what the author has been trying to convey to him, without the need of “direct communication.” To accomplish this, Kierkegaard needed a number of sharply profiled individual characters whose thoughts and actions he could experimentally develop to their extreme possibilities. This is the explanation of the use of the many pseudonyms in Kierkegaard’s works. “With my left hand,” he says, “I gave to the world ‘Either/Or’ (i.e., pseudonymous “indirect communication”), and with my right hand ‘Two Edifying Discourses'” (i.e., “direct communication” over the signature of his own name). In the last analysis, to be a philosopher means for Kierkegaard to understand oneself as a creature of God. …. Gradually but inevitably Kierkegaard centered his existence in the alternative indicated by the title of his first great book: Either /Or (1843). Either wholehearted obedience to God’s law or open rebellion against it; either for or against Christ, for or against Truth; either hot or cold, but never lukewarm or halfhearted!

As far as the different characters used dialectically in Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous works are concerned, they all represent integral (yet contradictory) elements of the personality of the author. A good example are the five persons attending the banquet described in In Vino Veritas (Stages on Life’s Road, I):  Kierkegaard was as bitter and coolly rational as Constantine Constantius, as pensively melancholic as The Young Man, as lyrico-dialectically reflective as Johannes de Silentio, as ironic as Victor Eremita, and as cynical as The Seducer. By being presented simultaneously these widely divergent characters balance each other off. The author is hiding behind all of them: they are he, and yet not he, because none of them is wholly Soren Kierkegaard.

Kierkegaard’s battle cry, “either — or,” signalized his valiant fight on two major fronts: on the one hand, he fought against the liberalist secularization of the Danish Lutheran State Church and, on the other, against Hegel’s pantheistic idealism with its incumbent dissolution of Christian dogma.


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