Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher but was also considered a theologian and other titles with respect to the humanities. His area of authorship consists of a wide variety of critical topics such as; philosophy, religion, morality ethics, and psychology. He is considered the father and first existential philosopher. A considerable amount of his writings deals with the issues of how one should live as a single individual. He emphasizes the importance of personal choice and commitment to finding the meaning of existence as it is found in each individual. His psychological writings studied the feelings and emotions an individual may succumb to when faced with the freedom of choice. In this short biography, three areas of Soren Kierkegaard will be mentioned; Kierkegaard’s youth, his faith, and his philosophical contribution.

Soren Kierkegaard was born in Copenhagen May 06, 1813, to his mother Ane who was 45 years of age and father Michael who was 56 years of age. Soren was the seventh child born to Ane and Michael. From the seven children only two, Soren and his older brother Peter outlived their father. Michael Kierkegaard believed his children’s death was the consequence of a curse from God. According to Soren’s second and third cousins, he was a mischievous boy who they would rather avoid. Soren as a boy was given the nickname “the fork” because when asked at the dinner table what he wanted to become when he grew, he responded “a fork.” The reason was so he can spear any food of his choosing at the dinner table. When asked if someone would try to stop him he responded that he would then spear the person who attempted to stop him. Most authors point to this remark to reveal the intellectual wit and satire of the young Soren Kierkegaard. Most scholars notice the sarcasm from his youth reflected in his writings as an adult through pseudonyms. The name Kierkegaard has a long and intricate history. It is spelled in several different ways but originally the name was spelled, Kirkegaard. In Danish, the name is translated as “churchyard” because of the close proximity of the family farm near a church. Soren Kierkegaard’s father Michael was born on the family farm but it was Soren’s grandfather Peder Kierkegaard who took his farm’s name as his surname to highlight where his family was from, (Garff & Kirmmse).

In respect to spirituality, although he had a personal affection toward Jesus Christ within the Christian religion; he was critical of Christendom and organized religion in general, but to the extent of anyone’s knowledge he never renounced his love for Christ. Contrary to the teachings of Christianity that the way of life ought to be subjective in the sense of becoming a subject, Kierkegaard believed that the most meaningful way to live as an individual is to become objective. Clearly, Kierkegaard presents himself as an objective and reasonable thinker. While he also believed in science and the credibility it contributes by way of observation; he argued it had any merit towards the inner workings of spirituality. In his youth, the Kierkegaard family went to church on Sundays and participated in communion on Fridays a few times a year as was the Lutheran tradition at that time. Soren never became an ordained minister but he did write thirteen communion discourses and personally ministered three of the discourses himself at the church. At Copenhagen University, Soren completed an undergraduate degree in theology likely to commemorate his late father who desired Soren to become a pastor. Soren later changed his ambition and in the same institution achieved a doctoral degree in philosophy but did not become a professor. Soren desired authoritative freedom and believed if he became a pastor or professor he would have to write under the authority of the Church or the State. Indeed, Kierkegaard continued to write philosophy and plenty of theology in his later years. He remained critical of organized religion and Christendom, but Kierkegaard did not write to the extent of heresy. Instead, there are many theological writings theistic theologians may find edifying. The subject of Faith became an intricate topic in his theology, Kierkegaard wrote, “certainly no eye is as sharp-sighted as faith’s and yet faith, humanly speaking, is blind; for reason, understanding, humanly speaking, is sighted, but faith is against the understanding,” (p. 105).  The implication Kierkegaard is making is ingrained in the conflict between religion and philosophy, or more closely to the context, between faith and reason. For clarity, the “leap of faith” concept should be mentioned. In general, Kierkegaard believed that incredible biblical accounts require faith to believe instead of reason. Doctrines such as the trinity or resurrection are in conflict with reason and would eventually have to choose either to suspend belief in the incredible doctrines for the sake of reason, or take a leap of faith and suspend reason in order to believe the incredible doctrines by faith.

Kierkegaard was a highly influential figure to theologians and philosophers. In the philosophical world, he was the cornerstone of existentialism; a term not developed by Kierkegaard but became a term conveying a self-description. The existential term is credited to “Jean-Paul Sarte and his associates notably Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Albert Camus—existentialism became identified with a cultural movement that flourished in Europe in the 1940s and 1950s,” (Crowell). In general, Kierkegaard’s existentialism emphasized the inquiry of the individual to search and give meaning to life. The individual should do this not by the influence of religion or society. Neither should it be accomplished by merely armchair reflection about existence, but by the experience of the individual’s existence as the will and passions motivate actions. The starting point of existentialism is the concept of the absurd, that the world contains no meaning except for the meaning we discover if perhaps there is any meaning to be discovered at all. For Kierkegaard, absurdity rested in the limitations of human freedom and choice as it finds conflict with the world’s external circumstances which lack a foundation of meaningful justifiability. To put it simply, “absurdity is limited to actions and choices of human beings, these are said to be absurd to the extent that, as they issue from human freedom, they lack a foundation outside themselves,” (p. 39).

Soren Kierkegaard met his end at the age of 42 in 1855. Soren was a highly influential philosopher and theologian who left behind a voluminous amount of writings for readers to muse on for an individual lifetime. His influence continues to influence philosophers both theistic and atheistic. Kierkegaard is a significant philosopher in the sense that his writings have the capability of breaking through the theistic and atheistic bias. His early upbringing as a nineteenth-century protestant and later his objective way of thinking inclined him with the ability to question the deepest roots of subjectivity. Such an exercise has left many theists to become atheists; nevertheless, although he may have rejected the established Christian church he did not reject his love for Christ. The result was a legacy of knowledge for theists and atheists to continue the search for the existence and meaning of the individual self in an absurd world.

“In a little while I shall have won, the entire battle will at once be done. Then I may rest in halls of roses and unceasingly, and unceasingly speak with my Jesus.” Soren Kierkegaard

 

Works Cited

Garff, Joakim. Soren Kierkegaard: A Biography, Princeton University Press, 2007. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=1441388.

Soren Kierkegaard. Discourses at the Communion on Fridays. Indiana University Press, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=670312.

Crowell, Steven. Existentialism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2015. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/existentialism/. Web. Oct 20, 2019.

Michelman, Stephen. The A to Z of Existentialism, Scarecrow Press, 2010. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=1124498.

Garff, Joakim. Soren Kierkegaard: A Biography, Princeton University Press, 2007. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=1441388.

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