30 Jun 2012
Kierkegaard had to cope with a great deal of misfortune in his life on the order of a Job. His Lutheran faith with its emphasis of the dour values of guilt, suffering, sin and piety represent the polar opposite of his great rival N.F.S. Grundtvig’s inspirational optimism. For Kierkegaard, the individual is subject to an enormous burden of responsibility with the choice hanging over his/her head of eternal salvation or damnation. Anxiety is the inevitable outcome, but instead of parallelizing the individual with the choice made on the threshold of eternity, Kierkegaard found that the dreaded burden is also the road to experiencing an exhilarating freedom by realizing one’s own identity. This individual self is the life-work which God judges. Here, there is no mediation between the individual self and God by priest or by logical system (as in Catholicism and Hegelianism respectively). There is only the individual's own repetition of faith.
Woody Allen turned mocking Kierkegaard into a gag and source of much of his humor in a number of films, most notably in Love and Death. His life and ‘philosophy’ may be what many people call ‘existentialism’ in the sense that life is absurd and has no meaning but it is a secular existentialism in which the logical choice to be made by the individual is simply to seek pleasure and evade all responsibility- the wood Allen recipe to the absurd point of denying death, reducing love to lust, ridiculing meditation, contemplation, psychoanalysis and delighting in trivia.
Kierkegaard expressed with unique power the recognition that each person is individually accountable before God, but Grundtvig recognized that the imperatives of Biblical faith are not individualistic but have a collective social and national responsibility towards one fellow citizens. During the years that followed Denmark’s catastrophic loss in the war of 1864 to a hostile aggressive German nationalism, many Danes found inspiration in Grundvig’s approach that included a fundamental optimism in the capacity of ordinary people, and sustenance through pride in their history and language.
For an understanding of the role the two of them played in Danish culture, see my recent book “An Introduction to Danish Culture”, chapters 16 (Grundtvig) and 18 (Kierkegaard) McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers. 2011. ISBN 978-0-7864-6401.
24 Jul 2012
I've always wondered how it is, to read Kierkegaard in translation. imagine he is difficult to translate. Few danes have written a more beautifil and nuanced dansih, than him.
I consider myself privilleged to be danish in respect to Kierkegaard. Also I went to the same school, where he went and later was a teacher for a short while.
I suppose mr Berdichewsky also read him in danish ?
Greeting from Copenhagen, Denmark SR