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Philosophical Fragments

Philosophical Fragments, or a Fragment of Philosophy
The Danish text, in Kierkegaard's handwriting, reads: Philosophical Fragments or a Fragment of Philosophy by S. Kierkegaard
Author Søren Kierkegaard (as Johannes Climacus)
Original title Philosophiske Smuler eller En Smule Philosophi
Country Denmark
Language Danish
Series First authorship (Pseudonymous)
Genre Christianity, Philosophy, Psychology
Publication date
June 13, 1844
Published in English
1936 - First Translation
Pages ~83
Preceded by 'Three Upbuilding Discourses, 1844'
Followed by 'Prefaces'

Philosophical Fragments (Danish title: Philosophiske Smuler eller En Smule Philosophi) is a Christian philosophic work written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1844. It was the first of three works written under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus, the other two were Johannes Climacus, 1841 and Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, 1846.

Kierkegaardian scholars D. Anthony Storm[nb 1] and Walter Lowrie believe Kierkegaard could be referring to Johannes Climacus, a 7th-century Christian monk, who believed that an individual is converted to Christianity by way of a ladder, one rung (virtue) at a time.[1] Kierkegaard believes the individual comes to an understanding with Christ by a leap.

Kierkegaard scholar and translator David F. Swenson was the first to translate the book into English in 1936. He called it "Philosophical Chips" in an earlier biography of Kierkegaard published in 1921[nb 2]and another early translator, Lee Milton Hollander, called it "Philosophic Trifles" in his early translation of portions of Kierkegaard's works in 1923.[nb 3]

Kierkegaard hinted that he might write a "sequel in 17 pieces" in his preface.[2] By February 22, 1846 he published a 600 page sequel to his 83 page Fragments. He devoted over 200 pages of Concluding Unscientific Postscript to an explanation of what he meant by Philosophical Fragments.[3]

He referred to a quote by Plato in his Postscript to Philosophical Fragments: "But I must ask you Socrates, what do you suppose is the upshot of all this? As I said a little while ago, it is the scrapings and shavings of argument, cut up into little bits." – Greater Hippias, 304a. He could have been thinking about this quote when he wrote this book. Plato was asking "What is beauty?" Kierkegaard asks, "What is Truth?"[4] Kierkegaard had already asked about truth 9 days earlier when he published Three Upbuilding Discourses. A mere 4 days from the publication of Philosophical Fragments he published The Concept of Anxiety.

Kierkegaard wrote his books in reaction to both Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel as well as the philosophic-historical use of speculation in regard to Christianity. Schlegel published a book bearing the same title as Kierkegaard's, Philosophical Fragments in 1799.[nb 4]


  • Structure 1
  • Overview 2
    • A Project of Thought 2.1
    • The God as Teacher, Saviour and the Paradox 2.2
    • The Disciple and the Disciple at Second Hand 2.3
  • Reviews and assessments 3
    • Existential point of view 3.1
    • Christian point of view 3.2
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Sources 7
    • Primary sources 7.1
    • Secondary sources 7.2
  • External links 8


Kierkegaard always wrote a preface signed by the name of the pseudonymous author he was using. He began this practice with his unpublished book Johannes Climacus and continued it throughout his writing career. However, he added his own name as the person responsible for publication of Philosophical Fragments, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, The Sickness Unto Death and Practice in Christianity. He also wrote many discourses which he signed with his own name. He began that practice with the writing of Two Upbuilding Discourses in 1843. He divides his book into five major sections

  • A Project of Thought
  • The God as Teacher and Savior: An Essay of the Imagination
  • The Absolute Paradox of the Offended Christian
    • Appendix: The Paradox and the Offended Consciousness
  • The Case of the Contemporary Disciple
    • Interlude
  • The Disciple at Second Hand

Later, in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript Kierkegaard said "The Issue in Fragments is an Introductory Issue, Not to Christianity but to Becoming a Christian."[5]


Kierkegaard uses familiar Christian vocabulary to develop his own method for arriving at Truth. He presents two views, the Socratic and the religious. Socrates is considered an authoritative voice in the philosophic community so Kierkegaard begins with his ideas. He developed the doctrine of recollection which Kierkegaard makes use of in his explanation of Truth and ignorance.

His aim is to advance beyond Socrates, who was interested in finite truth, to another Teacher who explained Eternal Truth. The Enlightenment movement was intent on combining concepts of God, nature, knowledge and man into one world view. Kierkegaard was a counter-Enlightenment writer.[6] He believed that knowledge of God was a "condition" that only "the God" can give and the "Moment" God gives the condition to the Learner has "decisive significance".[7]

Socrates remained true to himself, through his manner of life giving artistic expression to what he had understood. Philosophical Fragments p, 8

He uses the category of the single individual to help those seeking to become Christians. He says, "I am he who himself has been educated to the point of becoming a Christian. In the fact that education is pressed upon me, and in the measure that it is pressed, I press in turn upon this age; but I am not a teacher, only a fellow student."[8] And again, "Once and for all I must earnestly beg the kind reader always to bear in mente (in mind) that the thought behind the whole work is: what it means to become a Christian."[9] He can only bring an individual to the point of becoming a Christian because the single individual must choose to become a Christian in freedom. Kierkegaard says, either believe or be offended. But choose.


and Historians tend to try to prove Christianity rather than teach belief in Christ through faith. Kierkegaard says,

A Project of Thought

Kierkegaard uses the Doctrine of Recollection as an example of how truth was found in Ancient Greek philosophy and is still found in psychotherapy and modern medicine. Both of these sciences are based on questioning the patient, "Learner", in the hope of jogging their memory about past events. The therapist could ask the right question and not realize he has received the answer he was looking for, this is known as Meno's paradox. Kierkegaard puts his paradox this way, "what a man knows he cannot seek, since he knows it; and what he does not know he cannot seek, since he does not even know for what to seek."[10]

The problem for the "Learner" is that he is in "Error", and is ignorant of his Error. He had the truth from birth, he knew who his creator was, but forgot. Kierkegaard calls this Error "Sin". How can he find out that he had vested his life in outer goods rather than the inner goods of the Spirit? A Teacher must bring him the "condition"[note 1] necessary for understanding the Truth.[nb 5] He explains the whole process this way:

The conversion of Saint Paul by Andrea Meldolla 1510-1553

Now he owes everything to his Teacher but is saddened that it took so long to find out that he forgot his soul belonged to God and not to the world, and he "Repents".[12] The "Moment"[13] the Teacher brings the condition the learner experiences a "New Birth". Kierkegaard says a "change has taken place within him like the change from non-being to being. He calls this change "Conversion".[14] He says, "When one who has experienced birth thinks of himself as born, he conceives this transition from non-being to being. The same principle must also hold in the case of the new birth. Or is the difficulty increased by the fact that the non-being which precedes the new birth contains more being than the non-being which preceded the first birth? But who then may be expected to think the new birth?"[15] This is a paradox.

When the seed of the oak is planted in earthen vessels, they break asunder; when new wine is poured in old leather bottles, they burst; what must happen when the God implants himself in human weakness, unless man becomes a new vessel and a new creature! But this becoming, what labors will attend the change, how convulsed with birth-pangs! And the understanding—how precarious, and how close each moment to misunderstanding, when the anguish of guilt seeks to disturb the peace of love! And how rapt in fear; for it is indeed less terrible to fall to the ground when the mountains tremble at the voice of the God, than to sit at table with him as an equal; and yet it is the God's concern precisely to have it so. Philosophical Fragments p. 27
How many an individual has not asked, “What is truth?” and at bottom hoped that it would be a long time before the truth would come so close to him that in the same instant it would determine what it was his duty to do at that moment. When the Pharisee, “in order to justify himself,” asked, “Who is my neighbor?” he presumably thought that this might develop into a very protracted inquiry, so that it would perhaps take a very long time and then perhaps end with the admission that it was impossible to define the concept “neighbor” with absolute accuracy – for this very reason he asked the question, to find an escape, to waste time, and to justify himself. But God catches the wise in their foolishness, and Christ imprisoned the questioner in the answer that contained the task. So it is with all Christ’s answers. Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love p. 96-97
The truth is within me, that is, when I am truly within myself (not untruthfully outside myself), the truth, if it is there, is a being, a life. Therefore it says, "This is eternal life, to know the only true God and the one whom he sent, the truth." (John 14:6 The Bible) That is, only then do I in truth know the truth, when it becomes a life in me. Therefore Christ compares truth to food and appropriating it to eating, just as, physically, food by being appropriated (assimilated) becomes the life sustenance, so also, spiritually, truth is both the giver of life and the sustenance of life, is life. Practice in Christianity, Hong 1991 p. 206

But Kierkegaard went deeply into the choice in his first book, Either/Or:

The God as Teacher, Saviour and the Paradox

Kierkegaard leads his reader to consider how a teacher might become a teacher. He says life and its circumstances constitute an occasion for an individual to become a teacher and he in turn becomes an occasion for the learner to learn something. Socrates was such a teacher as this. But what about God? What would be the occasion that moved him to become a Teacher? God is moved by love but his love is unhappy. He wants to make himself understood just like a teacher but He's teaching something that doesn't come to an individual from the known world but from a world that is Unknown. "His love is a love of the learner, and his aim is to win him. For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal, and it is only in equality or unity that an understanding can be effected, and without a perfect understanding the Teacher is not the God, unless the obstacle comes wholly from the side of the learner, in his refusing to realize that which had been made possible for him."[16]

God's goal is to make himself understood and, according to Kierkegaard, he has three options. He could elevate the learner to help the learner forget the misunderstanding. God could show himself to the learner and cause him to forget his Error while contemplating God's presence. Both options are rejected on the basis of equality. How can God make himself equal to man? Only by becoming man himself, but not a king, or a leader of an established order, no, for equality's sake he must become one of the humblest, a servant.[17][18]

Kierkegaard's Journal 1835

But God can't make himself understood because he's completely unlike every other human being. God has not sinned, whereas every human being has. This is a paradox but the ultimate paradox is that a single individual who looks just like everyone else is God. "The thesis that God has existed in human form, was born, grew up; is certainly the paradox in the strictest sense, the absolute paradox." Christianity is also a paradox as well as the forgiveness of sins.[19] Kierkegaard is saying that the "Moment" the individual comes in contact with the Paradox is of utmost importance because this is where the decision is made. This is his Either/Or. Either believe or be offended.[20] Reason is attempting to understand the Paradox but comes to its own limit and can't understand what it knows nothing about.

Kierkegaard says Reason "collides" with the knowledge of the Unknown. If Reason and God have a happy encounter the individual comes to be a believer. If the collision results in an unhappy encounter the Reason is Offended. The Reason says that the Paradox is absurd and can get no meaning from the encounter. But when "Reason yielded itself while the Paradox bestowed itself, and the understanding is consummated in that happy passion, the individual is happy and asks for nothing more."[21][nb 6] Kierkegaard says Christ offers every single individual the "invitation."[nb 7]

The Disciple and the Disciple at Second Hand

Kierkegaard explores how a contemporary of Christ and succeeding generations receive the "condition" necessary to understand the Paradox that God has permitted himself to be born and wrapped in swaddling-clothes. A contemporary could have been living abroad and in that case the contemporary would have to hear the story from eyewitnesses. How reliable would they be? The only thing they saw was a lowly servant.[22] The immediate contemporary can "serve as an occasion for the acquirement of historical knowledge", an occasion to help the individual understand himself in the Socratic sense, or the contemporary could have received the condition from God and become a believer.[23]

The "condition" comes into existence. Kierkegaard says the "coming-into-existence is a kind of change, but is not a change in essence but in being and is a transition from not existing to existing. But this non-being which the subject of coming into existence leaves behind must itself have some sort of being. He asks his reader to consider whether the necessary can come into existence or if the necessary "Is", since everything that comes into existence is historical. But for Kierkegaard "all coming into existence takes place in freedom." The disciple freely chooses to follow Christ when the Holy Spirit convinces him that he's a sinner.

He finally discloses what this "condition" the "Moment" brings to the individual. He says, "faith[nb 8] has precisely the required character; for in the certainty of belief there is always present a negated uncertainty, in every way corresponding to the uncertainty of coming into existence. Faith believes what it does not see..." [25]

An individual can know what Christianity is without being a Christian. Kierkegaard says, "By Baptism Christianity gives him a name, and he is a Christian de nomine (by name); but in the decision[note 2] he becomes a Christian and gives Christianity his name.[26] It would indeed be a ludicrous contradiction if an existing person asked what Christianity is in terms of existence and then spent his whole life deliberating on that-for in that case when should he exist in it?"[27][nb 9] [nb 10][nb 11]

Belief is not a form of knowledge, but a free act, an expression of will, it is not having a relationship with a doctrine but having a relationship with God. Kierkegaard says "Faith, self-active, relates itself to the improbable and the paradox, is self-active in discovering it and in holding it fast at every moment-in order to be able to believe."[28][nb 12][nb 13]

Kierkegaard mentioned Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) in his book Repetition p. 149 (1843) and this book, Philosophical Fragments (p. 38ff, Swenson), and what Kierkegaard writes is written also by Hamann in his book, Socratic Memorabilia, in this way:

Reviews and assessments

Kierkegaard was criticized by his former teacher and pastor Hans Lassen Martensen, he concludes from Kierkegaard's writing, here and in Concluding Unscientific Postscript, that he's saying an individual can be saved without the help of the Church. Martensen believed 19th century Socialism would destroy individuality, but regarded Kierkegaard's emphasis on the single individual as too one-sided.[29] Kierkegaard was responding to Hegelian writers such as Ludwig Feuerbach and David Strauss who emphasized the objective nature of God. God is just man's idea.

Otto Pfleiderer wrote an assessment of Kierkegaard's views in 1877.[31] He called his work "ascetic individualistic mysticism."[32]

Robert L Perkins wrote a book about Kierkegaard's books which used Johannes Climacus as a pseudonym.[33] and Kierkegaardian biographer, Alastair Hannay, discusses Philosophical Fragments 36 times in Søren Kierkegaard, A Biography.[34] Jyrki Kivelä wonders if Kierkegaard's Paradox is David Hume's miracle.[34] Which comes first existence or essence? Richard Gravil tries to explain it in his book Existentialism.[34] Kierkegaard says God comes into existence again and again for each single individual. He didn't just come once for all.

Existential point of view

The Descent of the Modernists

An early existentialist, Miguel de Unamuno, discussed the relation between faith and reason in relation to Kierkegaard's "Postscript" to this book.

Hegel and his followers accepted Christianity without miracles or any other supernaturalism. Robert Solomon puts it this way:

"What is Christianity, "revealed religion," divested of its "figurative thought"? It is a faith without icons, images, stories, and myths, without miracles, without a resurrection, without a nativity, without Chartres and Fra Angelico, without wine and wafers, without heaven and hell, without God as judge and without judgment. With philosophical conceptualization, the Trinity is reduced to Kant's categories of Universality (God the father) Particularity (Christ the Son) and Individuality (The Holy Spirit). The incarnation no longer refers to Christ alone, but only to the philosophical thesis that there is no God other than humanity. Spirit, that is, humanity made absolute, is God, which is to say that there is nothing other than humanity … What is left after the philosophical conceptualization of religion? To the orthodox Christian, nothing is left, save some terminology which has been emptied of its traditional significance. From Hegel's gutted Christianity to Heine and Nietzsche's aesthetic atheism is a very short distance indeed. From Hegel to Existentialism, By Robert C. Solomon, Oxford University Press US, 1989 p. 61[36]

Eduard Geismar gave a seminar about the religious thought of Kierkegaard in 1933. He said, "Kierkegaard develops the concept of an existential thinker. The task of such a thinker is to understand himself in his existence, with its uncertainty, its risk and its passion. Socrates was such an existential thinker. … from Socrates he has learned his method of communication, the indirect method. From Socrates he has learned to abstain from giving the reader and objective result to memorize, a systematic scheme for arrangement in paragraphs, all of which is relevant only to objective science, but irrelevant to existential thought. From Socrates he has learned to confront the reader with a question, to picture the ideal as a possibility. From Socrates he has learned to keep the reader at a distance, to throw him back on his individual responsibility, to compel him to find his own way to a solution. Kierkegaard does not merely talk about self-reliance; his entire literary art is devoted to the promotion of self-reliance."[37]

Jean-Paul Sartre vehemently disagreed with Kierkegaard's subjective ideas. He was Hegelian and had no room in his system for faith. Kierkegaard seemed to rely on faith at the expense of the intellect. He developed the idea of bad faith. His idea is relative to Kierkegaard's idea of the Moment. If a situation (occasion for Kierkegaard) makes an individual aware of his authentic self and the individual fails to choose that self that constitutes bad faith.

Sartre was against Kierkegaard's view that God can only be approached subjectively.

Time Magazine

summed up Sartre and Camus' interpretation of Kierkegaard in this way,

Christian point of view

Soren Kierkegaard read the works of both Hegel and Goethe. His ideas expressed in this book could have come from a few maxims written by Johann Goethe. Goethe and Kierkegaard each stressed the need for the individual to come to an understanding of what the Bible is all about and then applying that understanding as it is appropriated.

Paul Tillich

and Neo-orthodox theologians were influenced by Søren Kierkegaard. Tillich's book The New Being[41] is similar to Kierkegaard's idea of the "New Birth". He's more of a Christian existentialist than an Existentialist. Many of the 20th century Theologians attempt to answer all the questions of Christianity for the individual, like who Jesus was as a person. Kierkegaard's idea was different. He believed each single individual comes to Christ in his or her unique way.[42] He was against all speculation regarding whether or not an individual accepts the prompting of the Holy Spirit. A New Birth doesn't come about through historical or philosophical ponderings. He wrote,

"There is a prayer which especially in our times would be so apt: 'God in heaven, I thank you for not requiring a person to comprehend Christianity, for if it were required, then I would be of all men the most miserable. The more I seek to comprehend it, the more I discover merely the possibility of offence. Therefore, I thank you for requiring only faith and I pray you will continue to increase it." "When love forgives the miracle of faith happens"[43]

Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk was influenced by Philosophical Fragments and other works by Kierkegaard.[44] He wrote a book about the new birth in 1961.[45] Merton says we come to an understanding with God because he gives us free speech, Parrhesia.[46] Kierkegaard and Merton both point more to understanding than to reason as the motivating factor in belief.

Julie Watkin, from the University of Tasmania, Australia, wrote the following about this book: Philosophical Fragments (…) "investigates in somewhat abstract philosophical language the Platonic-Socratic idea of recollection of truth before considering how truth is brought about in Christianity. The distinction made here is that with the former, the individual possesses the truth and so the teacher merely has to provoke it maieutically to the surface, so to speak, and is not vitally important, since any teacher would do. Where Christianity is concerned, the individual is like a blind person, needing the restoration of sight before he or she can see. The individual had the condition for seeing initially but is to blame for the loss of sight. The individual in Christianity thus needs the God and Savior to provide the condition for learning the truth that the individual is in untruth (i.e., sin). Since the God appears in the form of a lowly human and is not immediately recognizable, there is the element of the paradox. The individual must set aside objections of the understanding so that the paradoxical savior (who is the vitally important object of faith rather than the teaching) can give him-or herself to the individual in the moment along with the condition of faith."[47]

Was Kierkegaard a Monergist or a Synergist? God's love moves everything.

Moved by love, the God is thus eternally resolved to reveal himself. But as love is the motive so love must also be the end; for it would be a contradiction for the God to have a motive and an end which did not correspond. His love is a love of the learner, and his aim is to win him. For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal, and it is only in equality or unity that an understanding can be effected, and without a perfect understanding the Teacher is not the God, unless the obstacle comes wholly from the side of the learner, in his refusing to realize that which had been made possible for him. But this love is through and through unhappy, for how great is the difference between them! It may seem a small matter for the God to make himself understood, but this is not so easy of accomplishment if he is to refrain from annihilating the unlikeness that exists between them. Philosophical Fragments p. 20

See also

  • (The Vita Nuova of Dante)The New life of Dante Alighieri
  • Johann Gottlieb Fichte p. 419ffDifficulties Arising from the Common Mode of Thought: Definition of Being (Seyn) and Ex-istence (Deseyn)The Doctrine of Religion Lecture III: 1806
  • Selected sermons of Schleiermacher, Chapter IV: The Necessity of the New Birth
  • Faith and Knowledge, by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, 1802-Google Books
  • Thomas Carlyle, , The Everlasting Yea or NoSartor Resartus
  • 19th Cent. Philosophy: Soren Kierkegaard Gregory B. Sadler, has a whole video series about Philosophical Fragments on YouTube.


  1. ^ Kierkegaard started talking about the condition in Either/Or
    Every human being, no matter how slightly gifted he is, however subordinate his position in life may be, has a natural need to formulate a life-view, a conception of the meaning of life and of its purpose. The person who lives esthetically also does that, and the popular expression heard in all ages and from various stages is this: One must enjoy life. There are, of course, many variations of this, depending on differences in the conceptions of enjoyment, but all are agreed that we are to enjoy life. But the person who says that he wants to enjoy life always posits a condition that either lies outside the individual or is within the individual in such a way that it is not there by virtue of the individual himself. I beg you to keep rather fixed the phrases of this last sentence, for they have been carefully chosen. Either/Or II p. 180ff see also Fear and Trembling p. 98-100 and Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 27, 132-139
  2. ^ Kierkegaard devoted his first book Either/Or to making a decision and choosing either God or the world. He wrote,
    If a man esthetically ponders a host of life tasks, then he … does not readily have one Either/Or but a great multiplicity, because the self-determining aspect of the choice has not been ethically stressed and because, if one does not choose absolutely, one chooses only for the moment and for that reason can choose something else the next moment. What is important in choosing is not so much to choose the right thing as the energy, the earnestness, and the pathos with which one chooses. In the choosing the personality declares itself in its inner infinity and in turn the personality is thereby consolidated. Either/Or II Part II p. 167
    His self is, so to speak, outside him, and it has to be acquired, and repentance is his love for it, because he chooses it absolutely from the hand of God. What I have expressed here is not academic wisdom; it is something every person can express if he wants to, something every person can will if he so wills. This, you see, is why it is so hard for individuals to choose themselves, because the absolute isolation here is identical with the most profound continuity, because as long as one has not chosen oneself there seems to be a possibility of one way or another of becoming something different. So here you have my humble view of what it is to choose and to repent. It is improper to love a young girl as if she were one's mother or one's mother as if she were a young girl; every love has its distinctiveness; love of God has its absolute distinctiveness, and its expression is repentance. (…) The Either/Or I erected between living esthetically and living ethically is not an unqualified dilemma, because it actually is a matter of only one choice. Through this choice, I actually choose between good and evil, but I choose the good, I choose eo ipso the choice between good and evil. The original choice is forever present in every succeeding choice. I as free spirit am born out of the principle of contradiction and am born through choosing myself. Either/Or Part II p. 217-219
  1. ^ Storm says Johannes Climacus (Kierkegaard) is not a Christian but is explaining how one would become a Christian if one was interested in becoming that. See his commentary on Kierkegaard's unpublished book Johannes Climacus 1841-42
  2. ^ Refer to Søren Kierkegaard, Scandinavian studies and notes, Volume 6 No. 7 August 1921 Editor George T Flom University of Illinois Published in Menasha, Wisconsin p. 24
  3. ^ Hollander provides more insight Selections from the writings of Kierkegaard 1923, Hollander, Lee Milton, 1880–1972
  4. ^ Schlegel's book was bits of philosophy cut up into little fragments Friedrich Schlegel's Lucinde and the Fragments, By Friedrich von Schlegelb University of Minnesota Press, 1971 He also wrote The Philosophy of History, this link takes you to Lecture X - On the Christian Point of View in the Philosophy of History
  5. ^ He forgot about Job's lessons. "His soul belonged to the world as its illegitimate possession; it belonged to God as his legitimate possession; it belonged to Kierkegaard as his possession, as a possession that is to be gained."[11] See Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1843
  6. ^ Dr. Stephen Hicks, Professor of Philosophy at Rockford College created a YouTube video explaining Kierkegaard's view about faith and reason
  7. ^ Kierkegaard explained this further in his book Training in Christianity, which is now translated Practice in Christianity.
  8. ^ "Tro is translated here and in the following three pages as belief or "faith"--- Josiah Thompson says the following about Kierkegaard's use of the word Tro,
    In Fragments Climacus makes clear that he means to give the Danish term for belief, Tro, a double sense. "In the most eminent sense" it will refer to the Christian's faith, his capacity to believe against reason and the awful paradox of God's entry into time through Christ. As the mental act that somehow holds together oppositions of incalculable severity, Tro, in this sense is "the category of despair." But there is another "direct and ordinary sense" of Tro that refers not to the relationship of mind to the Christian paradox, but to "the relationship of the mind to the historical." In this second sense of belief, Tro is "the category of doubt." In both senses Tro is founded on opposition, ultimately on the opposition which is consciousness itself. Also in both senses, Tro is seen as a mental act that respects yet defeats the opposition which upon which it is founded. "Defeat" may be too strong a word, for uncertainty is never really defeated by Tro, but only ignored, uncoupled, put out of circuit. Thus Climacus argues that "in the certainty of belief there is always a negated uncertainty, in every way corresponding to the becoming of existence. Belief believes what it does not see; it sees that the star is there, but what it believes is that the star has come into existence." [24] The essential claim, then, is that the existence of anything cannot be known, but must be believed. Kierkegaard, by Josiah Thompson, Alfred A. Knopf, 1973, p. 173 (See p. 170-180))
    see also Martin Buber I and Thou for his explanation of the same concept
  9. ^ Kierkegaard repeats the same message in The Concept of Anxiety: When a man of rigid orthodoxy applies all his diligence and learning to prove that every word in the New Testament derives from the respective apostle, inwardness will gradually disappear, and he finally comes to understand something quite different from what he wished to understand. When a freethinker applies all his acumen to prove the New Testament was not written until the 2nd century, it is precisely inwardness he is afraid of, and therefore he must have the New Testament placed in the same class with other books. p. 142-143
  10. ^ He says thinking about life or death in an academic way is contemplation but contemplation should lead to a conclusion at some point.
    Indeed, from what does that confusion of thoughtlessness come but from this, that the individual's thought ventures, observing, out into life, wants to survey the whole of existence, that play of forces that only God in heaven can view calmly, because in his providence he governs it with wise and omniscient purpose, but which weakens a human being's mind and makes him mentally deranged, causes him misplaced care, and strengthens with regrettable consolation. Misplaced care, namely in mood, because he worries about so much; regrettable consolation, namely in slack lethargy, when his contemplation has so many entrances and exits that it eventually wanders. And when death comes it still deceives the contemplator, because all his contemplation did not come a single step closer to the explanation but only deceived him out of life. Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions p. 93
  11. ^ He repeated the same thing another way in Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments: "In the animal world, the particular animal is related directly as specimen to species, participates as a matter of course in the development of the species, if one wants to talk about such a thing. When a breed of sheep is improved, improved sheep are born because the specimen merely expresses the species. But surely it is different when an individual, who is qualified as spirit, relates himself to a generation. Or is it assumed that Christian parents give birth to Christian children as a matter of course? At least Christianity does not assume it; on the contrary, it assumes that sinful children are born of Christian parents just as in paganism. Or will anyone assume that by being born of Christian parents one has come a single step closer to Christianity than the person born of pagan parents if, please note, he also is brought up in Christianity? And yet it is of this confusion that modern speculative thought is, if not directly the cause, nevertheless often enough the occasion so that the individual is regarded as related to the development of the human spirit as a matter of course (just as the animal specimen is related to the species), as if development of spirit were something one generation can dispose of by a will in favor of another, as if the generation and not individuals were qualified as spirit, which is both a self-contradiction and an ethical abomination. Development of spirit is self-activity; the spiritually developed individual takes his spiritual development along with him in death. If a succeeding individual is to attain it, it must occur through self-activity; therefore he must skip nothing. Now, of course it is easier and simpler and cheaper to bellow about being born in the speculative 19th century." p. 345
  12. ^ Fragments attempted to show that contemporaneity does not help at all, because there is in all eternity no direct transition which also would indeed have been an unbounded injustice toward all those who come later, an injustice and a distinction that would be much worse than that between Jew and Greek, circumcised and uncircumcised, which Christianity has canceled. Lessing has himself consolidated this issue in the following words, which he has in boldface: contingent truths of history can never become the demonstrations of necessary truths of reason. ... Everything that becomes historical is contingent, inasmuch as precisely by coming into existence, by becoming historical, it has its element of contingency, inasmuch as contingency is precisely the one factor in all coming into existence. –and therein lies again the incommensurability between a historical truth and an eternal decision. … It is a leap, and this is the word that Lessing has employed, within the accidental limitation that is characterized by an illusory distinction between contemporaneity and non-contemporaneity. His words read as follows: "That, that is the ugly broad ditch that I cannot cross, however often and however earnestly I have tried to make the leap." … to have been very close to making the leap is nothing whatever, precisely because the leap is the category of decision. Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 97-98 See Stages on Life’s Way, Hong p. 443-445
  13. ^ And he explains it again in Preparation for a Christian Life Preparation for a Christian Life (Practice in Christianity)


  1. ^ A Short Life of Kierkegaard, by Walter Lowrie, 1942, 1970, Princeton University p. 166-167
  2. ^ Philosophical Fragments p. 5
  3. ^ See Concluding Unscientific Postscript Chapter IV p 361ff
  4. ^ Concluding Postscript title page
  5. ^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 1846, Hong 1992 p. 381
  6. ^ Kierkegaard within your grasp, by Shelley O'Hara, Wiley Publishing inc. p. 10
  7. ^ Philosophical Fragments, Swenson p. 11-14
  8. ^ Point of View, Lowrie p. 75
  9. ^ Point of View, Lowrie, note p. 22
  10. ^ Philosophical Fragments, Swenson p. 9
  11. ^ Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 167
  12. ^ Philosophical Fragments p. 13
  13. ^ Kierkegaard wrote about the finite moment in Either/Or I, Swenson An ecstatic lecture p. 37-38 and Part II, Hong p. 21-22, 83-85 now he's writing about the Eternal Moment.
  14. ^ Philosophical Fragments, Swenson p. 11-15
  15. ^ Philosophical Fragments, Swenson p. 15
  16. ^ Philosophical Fragments p. 20
  17. ^ Read it here from his book: Philosophical Fragments
  18. ^ See Works of Love, 1847 Hong 1995 p. 87ff
  19. ^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 217 (read p.202-217) also see Philosophical Fragments p.31-35 and The Sickness Unto Death p. 132-133 Hannay
  20. ^ Kierkegaard wrote about this in Either/Or p. 213-219 as well as his discourses but states it most clearly in Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong 1993, p.203-212|
  21. ^ Philosophical Fragments, Swenson p. 35-38, Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 349-352, Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 199-222
  22. ^ Philosophic Fragments p. 42-46
  23. ^ Philosophic Fragments p. 52
  24. ^ Philosophical Fragments P. 60
  25. ^ Philosophic Fragments p. 55-56
  26. ^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 272-273, Works of Love, Hong, 1995 p. 25-26
  27. ^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 270
  28. ^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 233
  29. ^ Read Section 63-71
  30. ^ Chapter XXI. The Contradiction in the Revelation of God
  31. ^ That review is listed in Secondary Sources below.
  32. ^ Pfleiderer p. 307-308 see Secondary Sources for more
  33. ^ A free peek from Google Books can be found in Secondary Sources
  34. ^ (1921) Unamuno, Miguel de, 1864-1936 p. 198THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE IN MEN AND IN PEOPLES
  35. ^ (See pages 59-68) as well as Chapter 5 Kierkegaard and Subjective Truth p. 72ff
  36. ^ Lectures on the Religious Thought of Søren Kierkegaard, by Eduard Geismar, Given at Princeton Theological Seminary in March 1936 p. 47-48
  37. ^ See the link to this article in Primary sources below
  38. ^ Time Magazine, Religion: Great Dane December 16, 1946,9171,934769-1,00.html
  39. ^ from Maxims and Reflections
  40. ^
  41. ^ Here is a YouTube recording of C. S. Lewis writing about the New Man in the 1940s
  42. ^ Sickness Unto Death, 1989 Hannay p.165, 162 (note), Works of Love, p. 295
  43. ^ See Run to the mountain: the story of a vocation, By Thomas Merton in secondary links below
  44. ^ Read The New Man
  45. ^ The New Man, By Thomas Merton p. 62ff
  46. ^ Historical Dictionary of Kierkegaard's Philosophy, By Julie Watkin, Scarecrow Press, 2001 p. 193-194


Primary sources

  • Online English text of the Fragments
  • Philosophical fragments Google Books (it has the historical introduction to the book)
  • Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments Volume I, by Johannes Climacus, edited by Søren Kierkegaard, Copyright 1846 – Edited and Translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong 1992 Princeton University Press

Secondary sources

  • The Philosophy of Religion: On the Basis of Its History, by Otto Pfleiderer 1887 p. 209-213, 307-308
  • Philosophical fragments and Johannes Climacus by Robert L. Perkins, Mercer University Press, 1994
  • Kierkegaard: a biography by Alastair Hannay, Cambridge University Press, 2003 p. 222ff
  • Is Kierkegaard's Absolute Paradox Hume's Miracle? By Jyrki Kivelä
  • Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre; The Search for Method (1st part). Introduction to Critique of Dialectical Reason, I. Marxism & Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre 1960
  • Existentialism by Richard Gravil, Humanities-Ebooks
  • Run to the mountain: the story of a vocation by Thomas Merton, Patrick Hart, HarperCollins, 1995

External links

  • Quotations related to Philosophical Fragments at Wikiquote
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