KIERAN, SAINT. See CIARAN, SAINT.
KIERKEGAARD, kyer'ke-gord, SÖREN AABY: Danish philosopher and religious author; b. in Copenhagen May 5, 1813; d. there Nov. 11, 1855. He was matriculated at the University of Copenhagen in 1830, and took up the study of theology, devoting also considerable time to philosophy and esthetics. His first literary product was a small pamphlet in which he attacked Hans Christian Andersen, contending that the latter was mistaken in making the hero of his "Only a Fiddler" a peevish nature, and maintaining that genius can know of no defeat, but that, like a thunder-shower, it will force itself against the wind. This utterance may serve as a specimen of Kierkegaard's thought. In 1840 he obtained his first degree in theology, and in the following year the master's degree for a dissertation on the conception of irony, with special reference to Socrates. Shortly afterward, he went to Berlin. He wished to demonstrate the truth of Christianity, but not, like other apologists, by explaining its dogmas. On Feb. 20, 1843, the first part of his large work "Whether--Or" appeared pseudonymously, rapidly followed by the second part, entitled "Neither," in which he answers the question propounded by himself as to whether the esthetical or the ethical type of life ought to be chosen. Between 1843 and 1846 numerous other works appeared from his pen, of which may be mentioned "Fear and Trembling," "Bits of Philosophy," "What is Fear?" and "Stations on the Path of Life," in all of which he conceals his identity behind various alleged contemporary authors, representing himself as merely the publisher of their pseudonymous literature. Only his sermons were published over his own name.
The first part of these works endeavors to impress the solemnity of Christianity upon an age which lived, either without Christianity, or with a Christianity founded on custom only. The theme "only the truth which builds is worth having" forms the substance of the entire pseudonymous literature published by Kierkegaard, and by his treatment of this theme he became a religious reviver of great importance. His positive construction of Christianity, however, did not fail to find opponents. Dogmatically he defined Christianity as the paradox; ethically, as unmixed suffering; psychologically, as a passionate departure from the ways of the world. He rejected the ideas of creed, church, priest, etc., and according to his conception a Christian is an isolated individual, alone with God, and in contact with the world only through suffering. When this part of his literary activity was completed he felt as though he had fulfilled his mission, and desired to retire to a secluded parsonage; the attacks of which he now became the subject in the press, however, led his activity into a new channel, and the mental suffering which he had endured led him to consider the influence which mental agony exerts upon the life of a Christian. The fundamental idea in his subsequent writings became more religious, more Christian; his sermons treated of the gospel of suffering.
From his early childhood Kierkegaard had regarded the old bishop of Zealand, J. P. Mynster (q.v.), with great reverence, for the latter had been "his father's pastor." But now that he had come to consider it the duty of a Christian to lead a life of suffering he asked himself if Mynster's preaching was not rather an esthetic misrepresentation of the paradox and the gospel of suffering than true Christianity; and was Mynster's life a martyrdom? For a long time Kierkegaard hoped that Mynster would admit that the Christian ideal had been correctly defined in his writings, and also that he, the primate of the Danish church, did not live according to this ideal. Mynster, however, maintained silence, and as Kierkegaard did not wish to disturb the old prelate's tranquillity of mind he also refrained from uttering his opinions. On the death of Mynster, however, a sermon preached by Martensen, in which the latter designated the late bishop as "a faithful witness of truth," aroused Kierkegaard's ire, and he wrote a protest, the publication of which, however, he delayed for some time. But when Martensen, nine months later, was appointed Mynster's successor as bishop of Zealand this protest appeared in the periodical Fædrelandet of Dec. 18, 1854, under the title "Was Bishop Mynster a Witness of Truth, a Faithful Witness of Truth--Is this Truth? " Martensen practically ignored this attack, simply stigmatizing Kierkegaard as a Thersites who danced upon the tombs of heroes; this, however, enraged Kierkegaard all the more, and he returned to the attack with various articles and brochures in all of which he censured "official Christendom," its divine services, its religious acts, and its adherents. As an advocate of individualism Kierkegaard had no sympathy for the multitude, or for the awakening tendency to organization. The enormous mental strain which his attack on organized Christianity had necessitated left him physically weak, and hastened his death. Kierkegaard's works have established in Denmark a literature so rich, so original, and so complete in form that it is absolutely without parallel in that country.
Selections from Kierkegaard's unpublished
papers, which throw much light upon his books, ed.
H. P. Barsod and H. Gottsched, appeared in 8 vols. at
Copenhagen, 1869-81. His "Works," ed. A. B. Drachmann,
J. L. Heiberg, and O. H. Lange, appeared, 14 vols.,
Copenhagen, 1901-1906. There are biographies in Danish
by G. Brandes, Copenhagen, 1877, Germ. transl.,
Leipsic, 1879; C. Koch, Copenhagen, 1898; P. A. Rosenberg, Copenhagen, 1898. Of the voluminous literature,
mention may be made of A. Bärthold, Sören Kierkegaard,
eine Verfasser-Existenz eigener Art, Halberstadt,
1873; idem, Aus und über Sören Kierkegaard, ib. 1874;
idem, Noten zu Sören Kierkegaard's Lebensgeschichte,
Halle, 1876; idem, Die Bedeutung der ästhetischen Schriften
Sören Kierkegaard's, ib. 1879; idem, Sören Kierkegaard's Persönlichkeit in ihrer verwicklung der Ideale,
Gütersloh, 1886; V. Deleuran, Esquisse d'une étude sur
Sören Kierkegaard, Paris, 1897; Ausgewählte christliche
Reden, German by Julie von Reincke, with an account of
his family and life from personal reminiscences of
his niece, Giessen, 1901; P. Münch, Die Haupt- und Grundgedanken der Philosophie Sören Kierkegaards, Leipsic, 1902.
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