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As a Person
Born on May 5, 1813 in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, Soren Aabye Kierkegaard was a famous philosopher and theologian. He claimed his physical frailty was an oppressive weight that dragged down his healthy spirit, which longed for freedom. At the age of 17, Soren joined Copenhagen University and majored in the field of theology, as his father desired; however, subsequently, he shifted to the field of philosophy. While his education did influence his thoughts, inspiration for his written works actually came from two relationships (with Michael Kierkegaard (Soren's dad) and a failed engagement (to Regine Olsen) as well as two battles (one with the Church and the other with the print media, particularly Corsaren (The Corsair)). His health started failing and Soren died on 11th November, 1855, at the age of 42 (Obinyan, 2014).
An analysis of the philosopher's life is incomplete without a mention of his father who had a great and lasting impact on Soren's life. Michael Kierkegaard was of a poor household, residing on Jutland's western side. However, at eleven years of age, his uncle, a merchant, invited Michael to the Danish capital to work as his apprentice. He was intelligent and hardworking, and made the business thrive. Lady luck was on his side -- he inherited his uncle's business and invested cleverly during the country's financial downfall, owing to picking the losing side of the nineteenth-century Napoleonic Wars, ultimately growing into one of Copenhagen's richest men. However, in spite of his financial gains, he was "melancholic" or suffering from depression. The first woman he married died childless a couple of years after their marriage, and the following year, Michael wed Anne Sorensdatter Lund, a servant who was already expecting the couple's first baby. The last of seven siblings, Soren, was born when his father and mother were 56 and 45 years of age, respectively (Evans, n.d.).
Just like his father, Soren was "melancholic" and guilt-ridden throughout his life. His relationship with his father was probably the greatest influence during the most decisive phase of his life: his failed relationship with fiancee, Regine Olsen. Although Kierkegaard fell in love and got engaged to Ms. Olsen in the year 1840, he almost immediately felt he had committed a serious mistake, and following a painful spell wherein he acted like a scoundrel to make Regine leave him, he ultimately sent his/her engagement ring (indicating an end to the engagement), in 1941, and bolted to Berlin, Germany, where he engaged in intense writing. Why he severed ties with Regine was probably not even clear to him; the world, at least, will never know why he took such a drastic step. Nevertheless, Soren felt he possessed a personal shortcoming or impairment because of which he could never marry. He felt he couldn't confide in Regine without disclosing some big secrets of his father. He interpreted his circumstance from a religious standpoint, believing God wanted him to become an "exception," sacrificing his love and the bliss of marriage (Evans, n.d.).
Even after severing ties with Regine, Soren loved her intensely; she featured in his thoughts and his personal journals throughout his life. Considerable proof exists of Soren's written works, particularly his first books, being, in a way, a means to express his thoughts and feelings to Regine. It was his broken engagement that truly gave Soren the freedom to pursue his career as a writer, and from 1843 to 1846, he wrote a remarkable number of books. Several initial works are fictional and pseudonymous. Repetition and Either/Or resemble novels (Garff, 2005). But a key point to remember is that right from the outset, Soren also wrote many religious works, labeled by him as 'Edifying Discourses' or 'Opbyggelige' ("Upbuilding Discourses" as literally translated by Hongs).
Soren's life is also incomplete without a mention of his problem with the Church during his final days and the Corsaren controversy. In the year 1846, he decided to end his literary career and become a pastor, if possible in some country parish. But the very same year, Soren was caught up in a dispute with Corsaren, a national, satirical literary magazine that made fun of the biggest brains in the nation. As much writing for Corsaren was anonymous, careless and slanderous attacks abounded (ROSENAU, 1995; Garff, 2005).
As a Philosopher
Soren Kierkegaard left his mark in an intellectually as well as geographically extensive area. He may rightly be called a man of all disciplines, owing to his contributions to philosophy, theology, literary theory, psychology, social and political theory, and communications theory.
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He wished for the world to remember him chiefly as a spiritual philosopher. In fact, Soren even stated he was actually a missionary who aimed at reintroducing Christianity in the Christian community (Garff, 2005). Considering his various interests and chiefly-religious purposes, some people raise doubts regarding whether he can really be considered a philosopher.
Soren became more and more certain that the Danish Lutheran Church rendered a true Christian life hard and sometimes even impossible to lead. By means of faith in Jesus, a real Christian finds forgiveness for sinning. Soren did not question the above mainstay of Lutheranism and Christianity. But whoever sincerely has faith in Jesus will surely express it by following and imitating Jesus. According to Soren, this is no conceptual and propositional belief. The Christian world dilutes the radical nature of the Almighty's demands on humanity. The life of Jesus proved to be a major challenge to that era's traditional order, and for his rebellion, he had to part with his own life. Soren's perspective is that Christians who truly follow Jesus may anticipate oppression and hostility from today's established order too (Garff, 2005; Evans, n.d.). However, the Christian world that asserts this ceased to hold true after the entire West adopted Christianity. But Soren Kierkegaard rebuffs the notion that Christian society is now truly Christian. According to him, the Church is always a militant that struggles with defining itself over in opposition to the world. One can't expect it to assume the Church triumphant, an entity that contributed to making the world essentially good.
The disagreement with Christianity was already being reflected in a few initial pseudonymous works of Kierkegaard. However, following the Corsaren conflict, it surfaced as an ever-more prominent subject in the philosopher's works. The journal entries dated 1846 and beyond express this disagreement in strong terms. In his own later works, the philosopher used the Sandhedsvidne ("witness to the truth") idea as a conclusive epitome of Christianity. Sandhedsvidne represents an individual who is ready to be persecuted and even sacrifice his life to uphold the truth; the usage finds support in the 'martyr' concept established in the Bible's New Testament (Evans, n.d.).
Soren published "Stages on Life's Way" and "Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions" in early-1845, after which he briefly visited Berlin; Hilarius Bookbinder edited the former book. Upon returning home, Soren published every discourse of his between 1843 and 1844 in "Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses" on 29th May, 1845. After Peder Ludvig Moller, the editor and a contributor of Corsaren, published an article on Soren wherein he raised doubts regarding the theologian's writings' coherency, Soren responded with two short articles: "The Activity of a Traveling Esthetician" which insulted the scornful Moller's integrity and "Dialectical Result of a Literary Police Action" which slammed the Corsaren's reputation and journalistic quality. The newspaper responded in kind, by scornfully attacking Soren's appearance, habits and voice. This, however, had no impact on the writer, who continued to pen articles under pseudonyms. On 27th February, 1846, he published the pseudonymous "Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments" using the name of 'Johannes Climacus', while he published "Two Ages: A Literary Review," under his real name (Evans, n.d.; Garff, 2005).
Following a year-long break from writing, Soren recommenced writing in 1847, with the "Edifying Discourses in Diverse Spirits," which included, "Works of Love" and "Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing." Aware of the fact that the society was talking about his religious status based on his pseudonyms, Soren penned "Concluding Unscientific Discourses" in which he publicly stated that he had authored the pseudonymous works. The next year, he published two works: "The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress" (pseudonymous) and "Christian Discourses" (as Soren Kierkegaard). He also penned "The Point-of-View of My Work as an Author" that very same year; this work was an autobiography of sorts, wherein he explained why he used false names. This book, however, was published only after the philosopher's demise. In 1849, he published "The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air," "Either/Or" Edition Two, "Three Discourses at the Communion on Fridays" and "The Sickness Unto Death" (as Anti-Climacus). In the subsequent year, he published "Practice in Christianity"….....
BERTMA, MARTIN A. (1990). KIERKEGAARD and/or PHILOSOPHY. History of European Ideas, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 117-126.
Evans, C. Stephen. (n.d.). Kierkegaard: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press
Garff, Joachim. (2005), Soren Kierkegaard: A Biography, trans. Bruce H. Kirmmse, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Malik, Habib C. (1997). Receiving Soren Kierkegaard: The Early Impact and Transmission of His Thought, Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America
Obinyan, V.E. (2014). Nature of Human Existence in Kierkegaard's Ethical Philosophy: A Step towards Self-Valuation and Transformation in Our Contemporary World. International Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 1-14. doi: 10.11648/j.ijp.20140201.11
ROSENAU, HARTMUT. (1995). SELF.REFLECTION AND AUTOBIOGRAPHY-- KIERKEGAARD'S WRITINGS ABOUT HIMSELF, History of European Ideas, Vol. 20, Nos 1-3. pp. 183-188,