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Kierkegaard, Søren Aabye (1813–55)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC044-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2022
Retrieved June 12, 2024, from

Article Summary

Kierkegaard’s work was shaped by his perception of modern culture as tending toward a kind of forgetfulness of what it means to be human. He discerned this tendency in modern philosophy, especially in the post-Kantian German tradition. He sought to expose as illusory any idea that we can come to understand the whole of reality from no particular point of view: in Hegel’s terms, from the standpoint of ‘pure thought’ (see also Hegel). For Kierkegaard, forgetfulness of what it means to be human also manifests itself in modern forms of putatively ethical and religious life. He perceived that Christianity, in particular, had lost its grip on people as a way of life, while persisting in a shallow form: institutionalized, notional, conformist.

Offered in a spirit of opposition to system-building, Kierkegaard’s texts are often fragmentary, funny and lyrical, rich in examples, intimate in tone. They draw widely from Ancient Philosophy and the Classics, as well as from Biblical and Christian sources. They are in general more concerned to articulate difficulties than to proffer easy solutions. They nonetheless brim with ideas and insights.

In philosophy, Kierkegaard’s influence is most clearly marked in the later traditions of phenomenology and existentialism and in the philosophy of religion (see also Existentialism). In theology and religious studies, his work has been taken up from a wide range of perspectives: Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, liberal, conservative, Buddhist, Taoist. Secular authors have also found much in his work to appreciate. The breadth of his influence – in philosophy and theology but also in literature and film, in sociology, psychology and psychotherapy – attests to the power of his work to cut across traditional boundaries.

Citing this article:
Watts, Daniel. Kierkegaard, Søren Aabye (1813–55), 2022, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC044-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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