The Essential Kierkegaard

The Essential Kierkegaard

The Essential Kierkegaard

The Essential Kierkegaard


This is the most comprehensive anthology of Soren Kierkegaard's works ever assembled in English. Drawn from the volumes of Princeton's authoritative "Kierkegaard's Writings" series by editors Howard and Edna Hong, the selections represent every major aspect of Kierkegaard's extraordinary career. They reveal the powerful mix of philosophy, psychology, theology, and literary criticism that made Kierkegaard one of the most compelling writers of the nineteenth century and a shaping force in the twentieth. With an introduction to Kierkegaard's writings as a whole and explanatory notes for each selection, this is the essential one-volume guide to a thinker who changed the course of modern intellectual history.

The anthology begins with Kierkegaard's early journal entries and traces the development of his work chronologically to the final "The Changelessness of God." The book presents generous selections from all of Kierkegaard's landmark works, including "Either/Or, Fear and Trembling, Works of Love," and "The Sickness unto Death," and draws new attention to a host of such lesser-known writings as "Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions"


The first two entries are ostensibly addressed to Peter Wilhelm Lund (1801–1880), brother of Johan Christian Lund and Henrik Ferdinand Lund (married to Kierkegaard's sisters Nicoline Christine and Petrea Severine). In 1833 he returned to Brazil to continue his work as a paleontologist. Emanuel Hirsch has made a case for regarding the two letters and many other entries from the same period as parts of Kierkegaard's first, but not completed, writing plan, a series of letters by a Faustian doubter. The two entries were written at the end of Kierkegaard's fifth year as a student at the University of Copenhagen. The third entry (see p.12 and note 2) is the most frequently and variously quoted line by Kierkegaard, and it does crystalize many elements of his outlook.

Copenhagen, June 1, 1835

YOU KNOW how inspiring I once found it to listen to you and how enthusiastic I was about your description of your stay in Brazil, although not so much on account of the mass of detailed observations with which you have enriched yourself and your scholarly field as on account of the impression your first journey into that wondrous nature made upon you: your paradisiacal happiness and joy. Something like this is bound to find a sympathetic response in any person who has the least feeling and warmth, even though he seeks his satisfaction, his occupation, in an entirely different sphere, but especially so in a young person who as yet only dreams of his destiny. Our early youth is like a flower at dawn with a lovely dewdrop in its cup, harmoniously and pensively reflecting everything that surrounds it. But soon the sun rises over the horizon, and the dewdrop evaporates; with it vanish the fantasies of life, and now it becomes a question (to use a flower metaphor once more) whether or not a person is able to produce—by his own efforts as does the oleander—a drop that may represent the fruit of his life. This requires, above all, that one be allowed to grow in the soil where one really belongs, but that is not always so easy to find. In this respect there exist fortunate creatures who have such a decided inclination in a particular direction that they faithfully follow the path once it is laid out for them without ever falling prey to the thought that perhaps they ought to have followed an entirely different path. There are others who let themselves be influenced so completely by their surroundings that it never becomes clear to them in what direction they are really striving. Just as the former group has its own . . .

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