Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Soren Kiekegaard - Notes

[ This was some of the work I did over the break while we were away. I just never got around to uploading it! ]

Soren Kiekegaard was a 19th century Danish Philosopher and was described by Jean-Paul Sartre (one of the "leading figures" in 20th century French philosophy) as the first existentialist writer. Existentialism is a philosophical belief that seems to place emphasis on an individuals freedom, choice and existence.

In his book entitled "Either/Or" Kierkegaard rejects the idea of organised religion. He also states that to be a christian one must reject Christianity completely. If everybody was a christian, it would be impossible for anybody to be a christian.

Kierkegaard supports the idea of  what is referred to as “eternal isolation” - Views this as the human condition and the starting point of all knowledge and wisdom – A kind of despair and anxiety, unknowing. Kierkegaard says you can never be cured of this condition of despair. It's seen as a phenomena of being. Life is despair. For Kierkegaard, there is constant doubt. His passionate commitment is to the figure of Christ. It is also aimed towards the idea of eternal salvation.

Kierkegaard had a difficult childhood. He was 1 of 9 siblings, and by the time he was 21 his mother had passed away.  His father was highly religious, and Kierkegaard rebelled against this, constantly going to parties and drinking. At a later stage in his life he made a conscious decision to stop this. He became a trainee priest. Kierkegaard was planning to get married yet ultimately decided against this after seeing it as too hedonistic.

Hedonistic essentially means: devoted to pleasure.

Kierkegaard devoted the rest of his life to the writing of philosophical works. He wanted to open peoples eyes to the fact they were hiding from themselves through all their pleasure seeking. In every person is a sense of despair, this sense is central to life. It is not an objective fact, it's subjective and only contained within a particular person. Each person must deal individually with the sense of disappear that is central to existence. Kierkegaard also refers to this sense as 'angst'.

In the novel 'Nausea' Sartre's hero is sickened by the sight of a tree root. Sees the tree existing yet sees that it has no purpose. Sartre calls this the key to existence. The following is an extract taken from the novel:

"And then all of a sudden, there it was, clear as day: existence had suddenly unveiled itself. It had lost the harmless look of an abstract category: it was the very paste of things, this root was kneaded into existence. Or rather the root, the park gates, the bench, the sparse grass, all that had vanished: the diversity of things, their individuality, were only an appearance, a veneer".

If you were to remove despair from humans, you would remove their humanity. 


These lectures were prepared for the second year, but there's no harm in having a listen I suppose. Its hard to get a handle on existentialism until you have 'done' romanticism though

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