Fear and Trembling (Penguin Classics) Info

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The infamous and controversial work that made a lasting
impression on both modern Protestant theology and existentialist
philosophers such as Sartre and Camus

Writing under the
pseudonym of "Johannes de silentio," Kierkegaard expounds his personal
view of religion through a discussion of the scene in Genesis in which
Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son Isaac at God's command. Believing
Abraham's unreserved obedience to be the essential leap of faith needed
to make a full commitment to his religion, Kierkegaard himself made
great sacrifices in order to dedicate his life entirely to his
philosophy and to God. The conviction shown in this religious
polemic—that a man can have an exceptional mission in
life—informed all Kierkegaard's later writings. His "teleological
suspension of the ethical" challenged the contemporary views of Hegel's
universal moral system, and was also hugely influential for both
protestant theology and the existentialist movement.
Alastair
Hannay's introduction evaluates Kierkegaard's philosophy and the ways in
which it conflicted with more accepted contemporary views. This edition
also includes detailed notes to complement this groundbreaking analysis
of religion, and a new chronology. 
For more than seventy
years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in
the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin
Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout
history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series
to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by
distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as
up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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Reviews for Fear and Trembling (Penguin Classics):

5

Sep 14, 2007

dear reader,

you don't even read this stuff anymore, do you?! i wouldn't if i were you! but that's the difference between me and you! you have no life, are pathetic, sit in front of your computer all day stalking your peers on various social networking sites, while i go on constantly mocking your efforts through half jest and utter disregard for the values you hold dear to your heart!

alas, perhaps the joke is on me?!

haha, boy do i get ahead of myself sometimes! silly me! yes, that is what i say! dear reader,

you don't even read this stuff anymore, do you?! i wouldn't if i were you! but that's the difference between me and you! you have no life, are pathetic, sit in front of your computer all day stalking your peers on various social networking sites, while i go on constantly mocking your efforts through half jest and utter disregard for the values you hold dear to your heart!

alas, perhaps the joke is on me?!

haha, boy do i get ahead of myself sometimes! silly me! yes, that is what i say! i say, "silly me!" and i sit in the bathtub at night and i make tiny little cuts into the backs of my thighs and the bottom of my feet! the pain let's me know i am alive! anywho! today's book is a classic by the greatly pathetic soren kierkegaard, entitled "fear and trembling: who let the dogs out?" ok let's go!


REVIEW:

one could easily argue that the central thesis of this book is the idea that "faith begins precisely where reason ends."
kierkegaard struggles with faith, simultaneously demonstrating that it is impossible to successfully rationalize faith (i.e., give any kind of logical explanation of it), just as it is impossible to achieve faith by way of reason.
another highlight is the four alternative retellings of the story of abraham and isaac, which are truly a mindfuck.


VERDICT:

in my supremely accurate and overwhelmingly insightful opinion, this book is most important as a device by which to make people at least recognize, and hopefully respect, the great personal struggle and triumph that is religious faith. too many people in this generation, it seems, write religion off without even knowing why they do so, other than that it doesn't agree with what science dictates. kierkegaard here demonstrates the difference and mutual exclusiveness of the two, and thus that it is possible to love and respect both. lol! ...more
4

Nov 11, 2015





Many readers come to read this book via the Hegel pathway. Or at least realize that a Hegel preamble is required. And most probably such a preamble is indispensable.

Alas, I came to it through a side door. As an attendant of a cycle of lectures given at the Prado Museum on the Bible (Old Testament) and Art, I listened, and looked, in fascination to the exposé of one of the Speakers. He examined the myth of Abraham and the Sacrifice of his beloved son Isaac.

After portraying what he considered an



Many readers come to read this book via the Hegel pathway. Or at least realize that a Hegel preamble is required. And most probably such a preamble is indispensable.

Alas, I came to it through a side door. As an attendant of a cycle of lectures given at the Prado Museum on the Bible (Old Testament) and Art, I listened, and looked, in fascination to the exposé of one of the Speakers. He examined the myth of Abraham and the Sacrifice of his beloved son Isaac.

After portraying what he considered an utterly unethical behavior in the part of Abraham he presented Kierkegaard’s ideas as the only way to approach the dreadful myth. For it cannot be understood.

For such is the nature of Paradox.

Abraham was no Agamemnon (*). There was no heroism in his act: Agamemnon was driven by duty; Abraham by faith. Agamemnon could hate his own act but overcome his hatred and announce the intended outcome. Abraham, as the Knight of Faith could not doubt a single instant. He had to want to kill his son, while loving him dearly, because his god had ordered him to do so. And this he had to do quietly.

Abraham was greater than all, great by reason of his power whose strength is impotence, great by reason of his wisdom whose secret is foolishness, great by reason of his hope whose form is madness, great by reason of the love which is hatred of oneself.

And so at the core of Abraham’s act was the Absurd.

In this context of absurdity silence, elastic, takes its place. And opens the door to laughter.

And of the painters, Rembrandt, the master of capturing the interruption, was also the one who represented the force in Abraham’s unrelenting and unvacillating will. There is no second-guessing god in his Abraham. No acting and no hope.





Rembrandt was the one painter who understood what Kierkegaard stated about two hundred years later. Angel had to fight hard to stop Abraham in his unflinching intention to murder.




------

Do I need to point out that Beckett read this book?

---

(*) another example of this paternal filicide not mentioned in this book is Emperor Frederick II and his son Henry. ...more
4

Oct 05, 2016

Frygt og Bæven = fear and trembling, Søren Kierkegaard
Fear and Trembling (original Danish title: Frygt og Bæven) is a philosophical work by Søren Kierkegaard, published in 1843 under the pseudonym Johannes de silentio (John of the Silence). Kierkegaard wanted to understand the anxiety that must have been present in Abraham when "God tested [him] and said to him, take Isaac, your only son, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering on the mountain that I shall Frygt og Bæven = fear and trembling, Søren Kierkegaard
Fear and Trembling (original Danish title: Frygt og Bæven) is a philosophical work by Søren Kierkegaard, published in 1843 under the pseudonym Johannes de silentio (John of the Silence). Kierkegaard wanted to understand the anxiety that must have been present in Abraham when "God tested [him] and said to him, take Isaac, your only son, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering on the mountain that I shall show you." Abraham had a choice to complete the task or to refuse to comply to God's orders. He resigned himself to the three-and-a-half-day journey and to the loss of his son. "He said nothing to Sarah, nothing to Eliezer. Who, after all, could understand him, for did not the nature of temptation extract from him a pledge of silence? He split the firewood, he bound Isaac, he lit the fire, he drew the knife." Because he kept everything to himself and chose not to reveal his feelings he "isolated himself as higher than the universal." Kierkegaard envisions two types of people in Fear and Trembling and Repetition. One lives in hope, Abraham, the other lives in memory, The Young Man and Constantin Constantius. He discussed them beforehand in Lectures delivered before the Symparanekromenoi and The Unhappiest Man. One hopes for happiness from something "out there" while the other finds happiness from something in themself.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز پنجم اکتبر سال 1996 میلادی
عنوان: ترس و لرز : غزل دیالکتیکی؛ نویسنده: سورن کی یرکگور؛ مترجم: محسن فاطمی؛ تهران، سازمان تبلیغات، 1373؛ در 231 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1374؛ چاپ سوم 1376؛ موضوع: مسیحیت - سده 20 م
عنوان: ترس و لرز ؛ نویسنده: سورن کی یرکگور؛ مترجم: عبدالکریم رشیدیان؛ تهران، نشر نی، 1378؛ در 173 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1380؛ شابک: 9643124347؛ چاپ پنجم 1385؛ چاپ ششم 1386؛ هفتم 1387؛ هشتم 1388؛ یازدهم 1392؛
عنوان: ترس و لرز ؛ نویسنده: سورن کی یرکگور؛ مترجم: محمدصادق رئیسی؛ تهران، روزگار نو، 1392؛ شابک: 9786006867625؛
سورن کی یرکگور یا با نام مستعار: یوهانس دو سیلنتیو؛ داستان قربانی کردن پسر، و ایمان راسخ و استوار ابراهیم علیه السلام را بنوشته؛ و ایشان را شهسوار ایمان نامیده است. ا. شربیانی ...more
4

Sep 13, 2017

“To contend with the whole world is a comfort, but to contend with oneself is dreadful.”
Fear and Trembling is Kierkegaard’s astonishingly dexterous analysis of faith via the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac:
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him…Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” – “To contend with the whole world is a comfort, but to contend with oneself is dreadful.”
Fear and Trembling is Kierkegaard’s astonishingly dexterous analysis of faith via the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac:
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him…Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”       –Genesis 22:1
According to Kierkegaard, Abraham was a true “knight of faith.” He didn’t merely resign himself to losing his son, but instead believed that Isaac wouldn’t actually be harmed. He had faith based on “the strength of the absurd,” or in spite of the fact that it made no rational sense to do so. Kierkegaard contended that Abraham’s belief in this undeniable absurdity elevated him to the highest plane of faith one can possibly hope to attain.

Kierkegaard then made an apparently simple (yet really rather profound) point: Abraham’s decision to make a leap of faith could not concern itself with the OUTCOME of that leap:
“Surely anyone with a speck of erectior ingenii [nobility of mind] cannot become so completely the cold and clammy mollusc as to lose sight altogether, in approaching the great, of the fact that ever since the Creation it has been accepted practice for the outcome to come last, and that if one is really to learn something from the great it is precisely the beginning one must attend to. If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin. Even though the result may gladden the whole world, that cannot help the hero; for he knows the result only when the whole thing is over, and that is not how he becomes a hero, but by virtue of the fact that he began.”
Kierkegaard concluded this section of the book by stating that faith is fundamentally a paradox, and that it goes beyond what reason can comprehend. He then proceeded to examine three “problemata.”

Problema 1: “Is there a teleological suspension of the ethical?” Kierkegaard answered in the affirmative. Basically, taking care of your fellow human beings is generally your most important ethical concern. However, since murdering a helpless child doesn’t usually provide much benefit to humanity, and yet God commanded Abraham to do so, ethical considerations must have been suspended in favor of a higher imperative.

Problema 2: “Is there an absolute duty to God?” Short answer: Yes. Slightly longer explanation: Kierkegaard held that “faith’s paradox is this, that the single individual is higher than [the human race], that the single individual determines his relation to [the human race] through his relation to [God].” I tinkered with the previous quote in an effort to make it more user friendly. Kierkegaard was kind of a dweeb with some of his jargon and specialized slang. Perhaps also with his coiffure:



Problema 3: “Was it ethically defensible of Abraham to conceal his purpose from Sarah, from Eleazar, from Isaac?” Kierkegaard was of the opinion that honesty is usually the best policy. In Abraham’s case, however, since his task was Absurd with a capital A, and as such could not possibly be understood, he had to grapple with it alone. Abraham couldn’t even attempt to relate it to anyone else, since trying to explain what is absurd and incomprehensible is…well…absurd.

Kierkegaard wrapped things up by asserting that “the highest passion in a human being is faith,” and that this is something each person must wrestle with and ultimately earn for themselves.

Thus concludes my (probably overly detailed) summary of the main points presented in the book. I’d now like to share a few of Kierkegaard’s more brilliant quotes:
“Someone who has understood life’s horror has grasped Daub’s meaning when he says that a soldier standing guard alone with a loaded gun by a powder magazine on a stormy night gets strange thoughts.”

“There is greatness in meriting the tears of those who deserve to shed them; great indeed for the poet to dare hold the crowd in check, dare discipline people into testing their own worthiness to weep for the hero, for the waste-water of snivellers is a degradation of the holy.”

“Aesthetics is the most faithless of all sciences. Anyone who has truly loved it will in a way become unhappy; while anyone who has never done so is and will remain a blockhead.”
Overall, Kierkegaard was a phenomenal writer with an often merciless wit. His mind was arrestingly complex, nimble, fluid. I can’t claim to fully grasp everything he wrote; at times I got tangled up in the threads of his subtly nuanced logic, especially when I was frantically trying to keep up with some of his more peculiar terminology. That said, many of his points were beautifully reasoned, some even striking in their clarity. I especially appreciated his musings on the suffering that standing alone with your beliefs necessarily entails, and the importance of not letting the pain erode your resolve.

Although the aforementioned merits made this a fascinating read, I couldn’t wholly relate to it, as I do not count religious faith among the more worthwhile pursuits available to us as thinking beings. I do agree with him on this:
“How monstrous a paradox faith is, a paradox capable of making a murder into a holy act well pleasing to God, a paradox which gives Isaac back to Abraham, which no thought can grasp because faith begins precisely where thinking leaves off.”
I just tend to side with Hitchens as to its rather dubious value:

...more
4

Oct 01, 2017

It is not an exaggeration to say that Fear and Trembling (1843) was a challenging piece for me to to read, maybe being someone of no religious faith had something to do with it. Kierkegaard (Johannes de silentio) compounds the essential difficulty that lies within the theme of the work, the Akedah, through choosing an alternative pseudonym to praise Abraham as a knight of faith and examine his movements. That the pseudonym's perspective is shrouded in silence seemingly precludes any clear and It is not an exaggeration to say that Fear and Trembling (1843) was a challenging piece for me to to read, maybe being someone of no religious faith had something to do with it. Kierkegaard (Johannes de silentio) compounds the essential difficulty that lies within the theme of the work, the Akedah, through choosing an alternative pseudonym to praise Abraham as a knight of faith and examine his movements. That the pseudonym's perspective is shrouded in silence seemingly precludes any clear and straightforward understanding of this work. Ultimately, whether Kierkegaard's Johannes de silentio is to be read with irony or edification appears as undecidable as whether we should view Abraham as a murderous madman -- who in contrast to Nietzsche's madman proclaiming the death of god proclaims a living god who has commanded the death of his son and then later a ram, or the great father of faith.

He goes over the story of Abraham and Isaac and can make no sense of it. he concludes that 'faith' must be a 'leap in the dark' Take the leap he seems to say and God will catch you. Most people do no such thing. They are too sensible and do not jump anywhere unless there is a soft landing of a safety net. Sadly he has bequeathed to the world the idea that Christianity is a religion and belief in god is not rational. Generations of Humanists, Rationalists and Materialists have taken this up as a stick with which to beat Christians and Christian belief. Because he thought God told him to?. Will this have you either going to church every Sunday believing it's OK to kill your kids as long as God gives you his blessing, or tearing the pages out and throwing the cover across the room screaming and swearing at Kiekegaard for being morally and ethically wrong. Like I said as piece of historical philosophy it challenged me, something most books I read never do, hence the four stars. But still left me feeling bemused and dumbfound. Definitely requires a second reading, but me doubt will happen. It's the sort of book that could fire great debate and war of words. I will just sit on the fence though and keep my opinions to myself. ...more
5

Jun 17, 2007

I was going to write that I still come back to this book, even ten years after reading it for the first time. But that's not quite true. What is true is that this book has never really left me; it has worked itself into my psyche and become an automatic philosophical reference point for my life.
Kierkegaard's discussion of faith versus resignation is an exhileration to read. His unfolding of the concept of the absurd in the universe is sublime. Everyone should dive into this work, grapple with I was going to write that I still come back to this book, even ten years after reading it for the first time. But that's not quite true. What is true is that this book has never really left me; it has worked itself into my psyche and become an automatic philosophical reference point for my life.
Kierkegaard's discussion of faith versus resignation is an exhileration to read. His unfolding of the concept of the absurd in the universe is sublime. Everyone should dive into this work, grapple with it, and re-emerge with some of Kierkegaard's Romantic greatness internalized. ...more
0

Jul 31, 2011

It seems to me that after reading "Fear and Trembling" that all of my thinking on faith lies within Kierkegaard. Which isn't to claim that I understand his arguments but that his arguments have come to dominate the way I think about the issues.

Curiously although Kierkegaard's voice comes at us from the margins he seems oddly part of a broad current of nineteenth century writing, Dostoevsky, if he cold have got past the author being a non-Russian and a Lutheran would have agreed with the emphasis It seems to me that after reading "Fear and Trembling" that all of my thinking on faith lies within Kierkegaard. Which isn't to claim that I understand his arguments but that his arguments have come to dominate the way I think about the issues.

Curiously although Kierkegaard's voice comes at us from the margins he seems oddly part of a broad current of nineteenth century writing, Dostoevsky, if he cold have got past the author being a non-Russian and a Lutheran would have agreed with the emphasis on faith alone I feel. Though then again I can be no adequate reader of Kierkegaard as he reveals himself only through a nest of alternative identities as though engaging in plausible deniability, or hide and seek, with the reader.

I think I read this first, and then was brought back to it several times by reading Dostoevsky more seriously in my 20s and then by means of David Lodge's novel Therapy - although Kierkegaard is more of a staging post in his downward path until the central character clings to a desperate ridiculous, plan (view spoiler)[ returning to his long lost first girlfriend, thirty? Forty? years after separating (hide spoiler)] through faith alone which results in his renewal.

Historically I think it's interesting because it offers in the knight of faith a rejection of the triumph of reason. Not having been raised as regular church goer, I was slightly surprised by Kierkegaard, because my assumption was that all religious people were naturally Kieregaardian knights of faith.

What strikes me as interesting about the Abraham story is that he isn't bothered by the concept of child sacrifice, which seems to be as a concept an entirely reasonable one to him, what is bvothersome is just the logical conundrum of how God may not be sticking to his side of the bargain and that leads, even requires Kierkegaard to dub Abraham a knight of faith, the champion of sola fide. We might well think that in those days God was plainly so slippery and elusive that one was obliged to cling to pure faith to avoid being completely hopeless. A golden calf is at least reliably golden and immobile. ...more
4

Jan 28, 2018





I read this book in translation. I was in awe of its author. However, the book is an easy read, and the central situation (that Abraham has to sacrifice his only son Issac on God's command) around which the whole text revolves is intriguing and exciting too. Almost on every second page, I would read a line or two, and then reflect on what is relayed. For instance, ''Faith begins where reason stops,'' and there are long sentences that one can think about for a long time. It is one of those books



I read this book in translation. I was in awe of its author. However, the book is an easy read, and the central situation (that Abraham has to sacrifice his only son Issac on God's command) around which the whole text revolves is intriguing and exciting too. Almost on every second page, I would read a line or two, and then reflect on what is relayed. For instance, ''Faith begins where reason stops,'' and there are long sentences that one can think about for a long time. It is one of those books that has to be read slowly. Look at this; ''If there was no eternal consciousness in man, and if at the bottom of everything there was only a wildly seething power … if beneath everything there lurked a bottomless void never to be filled– what else were life but despair! If it were thus, and if there were no sacred bonds which knit mankind together, if one generation followed upon another like leaves in the forest … how hollow and without consolation life would be.'' The book has many such amazing passages.

I also found the 'Notes' at the end of the book interesting. Kierkegaard did not write this book in his own name, but he was superbly conscious of its depth and worth. In fact, he was quite cocky about his achievement. In his journals, he wrote that this book alone has the strength to immortalize him. It is rare that someone knows his writing so well ( the content and value of his work) and can issue such definitive statements. I admire him because all such claims finally became true, and he knew this all along. In the contemporary world, especially in the western world, we talk a lot about 'culture,' 'clash of civilizations', religions– particularly Islam. The West also has a very settled tendency to separate itself from the rest, and views its tradition and culture in strictly demarcated boundaries of East/West (so famously espoused by Kipling). However, there is a lot in the Danish philosopher that blurs these rigid binaries. One can trace several key concepts of Eastern Philosophy in his works, particularly Hinduism. The books dwells a lot on the idea of faith and what it means. The kind of significance that Kierkegaard assigns to 'Faith' somehow directs one's attention to the various tropes of Islam in the western imagination. Of course, there is much in the book that is singularly Kierkegaard's –his contribution to the world. ...more
5

Sep 10, 2018

Fear and Trembling is an in-depth and challenging look at the Old Testament account of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac to God. The story is familiar, perhaps all too familiar as Kierkegaard notes. Without thinking, we jump to the outcome of the story or pass it off as a "trial," forgetting the time leading up to Abraham's testing in which he was silent. In his obedience to God, Abraham showed the paradox of faith -- he loved Isaac enough to be willing to lose him, but he had sufficient Fear and Trembling is an in-depth and challenging look at the Old Testament account of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac to God. The story is familiar, perhaps all too familiar as Kierkegaard notes. Without thinking, we jump to the outcome of the story or pass it off as a "trial," forgetting the time leading up to Abraham's testing in which he was silent. In his obedience to God, Abraham showed the paradox of faith -- he loved Isaac enough to be willing to lose him, but he had sufficient faith to believe that God would not require this of him. ...more
3

Oct 30, 2017

Fear and Trembling was originally published in 1843 written in Danish and under a pseudonymous name. The purpose of the book was two fold. First Kierkegaard wanted to describe the nature of true faith using the story of Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac to illustrate the concept. Second he wanted to counter the philosophy of Hegel who maintained that reason was the highest form of thought. Kierkegaard argued that faith was higher than reason.

However, Kierkegaard's understanding of faith was Fear and Trembling was originally published in 1843 written in Danish and under a pseudonymous name. The purpose of the book was two fold. First Kierkegaard wanted to describe the nature of true faith using the story of Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac to illustrate the concept. Second he wanted to counter the philosophy of Hegel who maintained that reason was the highest form of thought. Kierkegaard argued that faith was higher than reason.

However, Kierkegaard's understanding of faith was something different or beyond common understandings of the word in everyday usage. To distinguish the faith he's talking about Kierkeaard uses the term Knight of Faith. According to him anyone who says they are a Knight of Faith is by definition not a Knight of Faith. It is a personal characteristic that can't be shared.

For that matter it can't be explained, understandable, or made rational. Nevertheless, this book attempts to do just that.

My main problem with the book is that the story of nearly sacrificing a son as told in the story of Abraham and Isaac is abhorrent to my senses. I would much rather have faith explained using some other story. Ironically, the story of a father killing their child for supposedly honorable reasons seems to have been a fairly popular plot line in ancient literature. The two prominent examples noted in this book are the Agamemnon/Iphigenia and the Jephthah/daughter stories. These as well as the Abraham story had their origins in the Bronze Age and were probably passed along in the oral tradition many years before they were written down. I can see how a story like this would grab the attention of the listeners.

Kierkegaard maintains that Abraham is a true Knight of Faith because he acted only in response to God's request and his planned action was known only to himself (and God). Agamemmon's and Jephthah's actions on the other hand were public and done to maintain personal honor, thus they are not true Knights of Faith.

I'm inclined to believe that Hegel's philosophy makes more sense than Kierkegaard until it's pointed out that the Nazis and Communists used Hegel to prove that loyalty to the government was the highest calling. By contrast Kierkegaard's message places responsibility of one's action on the individual. Viewed that way Kierkegaard makes more sense. Although, the fact that I say Kierkegaard makes sense is an indication that I don't understand him properly because he says faith doesn't make sense.

I would never read Fear and Trembling on my own initiative. It was discussed by Great Books KC group of which I am a part. Fortunately, members of the group are smarter than me so the discussion went well. ...more
5

Mar 16, 2015

I'll wholeheartedly admit that I don't completely understand everything in these kinds of philosophy books as I'm not a Kierkegaard scholar and I'm certainly not a philosophy scholar, but I do understand his messages, his profound messages hidden in a cobweb of philosophical jargon, Christian study, Greek mythology references, European fairy tales and some poetry sprinkled on top of it all.

Fear and Trembling is his investigation into the paradox of faith, his complex analysis of Christianity and I'll wholeheartedly admit that I don't completely understand everything in these kinds of philosophy books as I'm not a Kierkegaard scholar and I'm certainly not a philosophy scholar, but I do understand his messages, his profound messages hidden in a cobweb of philosophical jargon, Christian study, Greek mythology references, European fairy tales and some poetry sprinkled on top of it all.

Fear and Trembling is his investigation into the paradox of faith, his complex analysis of Christianity and of human emotions. In this book, Kierkegaard looks into the anxiety of Abraham and the sacrifice of his son Isaac, his complete devotion to God and its dangerous paradoxical reality. His meditations on the individual self, infinite resignation and the knight of faith are sublime examples of existential thought, acute psychological insight and keen awareness of the human condition.

What makes Kierkegaard different from other philosophers, however, is his wit, his irony, his brilliant sense of humour and poetic prose, which makes Fear and Trembling an immeasurably great work of philosophy as well as literature at its purest.

(Brief thought: What if Søren Kierkegaard wrote novels? Hmm, interesting...) ...more
4

Nov 01, 2013

Faith, is “the paradox of existence.” It is “look[ing] impossibility in the eye.”


As such, Faith is the subject of this work which Kierkegaard limns through the pseudonymous authorship–a stratagem that I think grants him some of the freedom reserved for the writer of fiction–of one Johannes de silentio. So who is Johannes de silentio?

He is funny:

“Here we already have plenty to speak of for several Sundays, so there is no need to rush.”

down-to-earth(?):

“Instead of learning from this that he Faith, is “the paradox of existence.” It is “look[ing] impossibility in the eye.”


As such, Faith is the subject of this work which Kierkegaard limns through the pseudonymous authorship–a stratagem that I think grants him some of the freedom reserved for the writer of fiction–of one Johannes de silentio. So who is Johannes de silentio?

He is funny:

“Here we already have plenty to speak of for several Sundays, so there is no need to rush.”

down-to-earth(?):

“Instead of learning from this that he (the puny sectarian) is incapable of greatness and plainly admitting it, something I cannot but approve since it is what I myself do…”

and snarky:

“I for my part have devoted considerable time to understanding the Hegelian philosophy, believe also that I have more or less understood it, am rash enough to believe that at those points where, despite the trouble taken, I cannot understand it, the reason is that Hegel himself hasn’t been altogether clear.”

One might even say there is a bit humility in his admitting his rashness; and further, that in this humility, he will allow his readers to make similarly ‘rash’ claims:

I for my part have devoted not all that much but some time to understanding the Kierkegaardian philosophy, believe also that I have more or less understood it, am rash enough to believe that I can underhandedly imply that I am being humble by likewise admitting my rashness after having just invoked ‘a bit’ of humility in Johannes de silentio’s admission, when I too claim that [I] am rash enough to believe that at those points where, despite the trouble taken, I cannot understand it, the reason is that Johannes de silentio himself hasn’t been altogether clear. Perhaps one could fairly say such a thing about almost any philosopher worth talking about. To Kierkegaard’s credit, I don’t think he is unaware of this. It (the understanding and communication of the abstract) is in fact the problem of human existence.

In Fear and Trembling Johannes de silentio takes the liberty of making a very specific interpretation of the Abraham/Isaac story in order to convey his points. He wants us to believe that, for Abraham, it was the ultimate difficulty, not to nearly murder his son, but to believe, as he is going about the business of it, in the absurdity that he will do this oft frowned-upon deed of fatally knifing one’s own offspring and yet not lose the child. Okay? Now it seems easy enough to go along with Johannes when he says that the Knight of Faith, by clinging to what he is to sacrifice while yet performing it, is proving himself the doer of a more difficult and significant act than the Knight of Resignation, who gives up his attachment in order to perform the same act. And it also seems rather easy to think that for me or you believing in this absurdity may equate to some sort of ultimate act i.e. difficulty.

But what I am suggesting is not ‘altogether clear’ in this work is the reason that this act is being deemed so difficult for Abraham. Primarily because Abraham, presumably unlike most everyone else, had been in a somewhat regular and relatively direct communion with God prior to his ultimate trial; and this, to my thinking, would certainly skew the threshold of what is thought to be human understanding. One might even claim that Johannes de silentio doesn’t even gloss over this fact. For Abraham, who has had many a talkin-to by the God–it turns out God literally put the ‘ha’ in Abraham; it being Abram prior to this little irony–can it really be that difficult to accept any kind of absurdity? My human understanding is based, at least partially, on the fact that God has been absent from my experience in a way that ‘he’ was not in Abraham’s. Long before Abraham raised is recently sharpened sacrificin-blade, his understanding, if it still could be called human understanding, had been obscured by his contact with the Infinite; and so, I tend to think, he is much better equipped to perform in paradox, and his performance isn’t quite the ultimate act of faith that Johannes de silentio wants it to be.

That said, I do think Mr. de silentio or should I say Kierkegaard is doing something important here. He is seizing from our reason a concept–in this case ‘Faith’–and flinging it into the distance, so that it is strewn far from the feeble reach of our imagination (one wonders if perhaps Kierkegaard heard Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’ –“reach out and touch faith”– one too many times that day), so that, if only for a moment, we stand humbled and awed by the limits, not of our current understanding, but by the limits of understanding itself. Humbled because it defines the human condition; awed because it points toward the Infinite. And this move, I think, is something that is done far too seldom in our attempts to understand the world, be it through philosophy, religion, science etc. By his, perhaps retrofitted, perhaps retro-omitted, retelling of the Abraham/Isaac story, he is recognizing the absurdity of the human condition. And by our listening to this retelling, along with a bit of Kierkegaard biography we can see a sort of double allegory of this, our human condition:

A translator’s note tells us that Kierkegaard wrote in his journal the same year that Fear and Trembling came on the scene: “If I had faith I would have stayed with Regine.” Regine, it seems, is Kierkegaard’s Isaac from whom he broke off his marriage, presumably for ambitions higher than her petty finiteness. Is it possible that Kierkegaard’s regret informs–or, if you will, corrupts–Johannes de silentio’s faith that having Faith will reward one with one’s finite desires as well as reconciling one with the Infinite? As if unable to escape the torture of what he’d given up, he makes Faith an impossible move wherein it is possible to have one’s cake and eat it too. But then, who among us is free of doing such things?

Despite said contentions, despite this being my first foray into the Kierkegaardian Canon, I have reason to believe that Søren is not so susceptible to such flaws in other works. In my quick search for an image, I came across so many superlative quotes that I’ve realized I’ve been going along with a Kierkegaardian shaped hole in my life; so now illumed, I’m determined to fill the void. And for that, one of those quotes to hold me (and perhaps you) over:

“A fire broke out backstage in a theater. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.”

To me, being this serious and this funny at the same time is the mark of brilliance. ...more
5

Sep 05, 2011

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use."

"The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you'll never have."

Such a happy guy. I think the old sitcom Family Ties got it right when the Dad was reading "Kierkegaard for Dads." He summed it up by saying that "no matter how depressed I am, he is even more depressed. I find that strangely "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use."

"The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you'll never have."

Such a happy guy. I think the old sitcom Family Ties got it right when the Dad was reading "Kierkegaard for Dads." He summed it up by saying that "no matter how depressed I am, he is even more depressed. I find that strangely comforting."

Now somebody needs to write Kierkegaard for Dads. ...more
5

Feb 17, 2008

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. One of the most powerful examinatons of religious faith I have ever read.

It is written deeply, exactingly, disturbingly. If you take it for what it is, it will give you an emotional tumble, a mental workout, and a spiritual shake by the shoulders.

This is the kind of thing they keep a thousand miles from Sunday school. The real, raw, fucked-up aspects of believing in the Big Man Upstairs. This is one of the most influential Christian texts one can find in the modern era, and I originally had One of the most powerful examinatons of religious faith I have ever read.

It is written deeply, exactingly, disturbingly. If you take it for what it is, it will give you an emotional tumble, a mental workout, and a spiritual shake by the shoulders.

This is the kind of thing they keep a thousand miles from Sunday school. The real, raw, fucked-up aspects of believing in the Big Man Upstairs. This is one of the most influential Christian texts one can find in the modern era, and I originally had that word in quotes because I mean 90% of the books that use the term wouldn't have any idea how to stand up to its poetic, rigorous, existential theological onslaught.

I mean, I reject Christianity, but this I respect even if I humbly disavow some of the theological points it necessarily takes from the Bible (and for granted, at that!).

Kierkegaard wrote it from the perspective of the unbeliever, one of his many fictional counterparts, and this narrator is astonished by what he is describing, even as he describes it.

It should go without saying that what is promulgated nowadays through Christian media etc. is animal crackers and cheeze wizz.

This is thunder and roiling oceans, way beyond fire and brimstone, into real horror and logical explosion.

The analytical, dialectical examination of the entire situation will knock you on your ass. I've read the damn thing five or six times (senior thesis in Philosophy) and it got to the point where I actually felt like I was (forgive me) Communicating with Kierkegaard, having gone over the arguments and the language again and again. Even then, it threw me for a loop....

"Fear And Trembling" is the moment when Abraham brings Isaac to the mountain, having been called upon to sacrifice him by God. He doesn't want to do it, he's horrified to do it, but do it he must. It can't be explained, reasoned away, or retroactively justified, and anyone who tries to is missing the point entirely.

It can't be explained, it can only be Represented. Marveled at, as Kierkegaard does.

This is one of the few representations of that existential moment, also known as the Absurd- and the enormous, terrifying leap of faith that it requires- you will ever find.

"The teleological suspension of the ethical"- aka "morality don't mean shit when it comes to matters of faith" is a big, sticky, problem. We see it all the time in the news, and the nightmare logic touches on church/state, terrorism, visions, war, love, death....all the most important and provocative (in the literal sense of the word) issues of our time. These issues, of course, never EVER go away...there are so many uncomfortable parts of the fucked-up human psyche that this touches on that it seems like human beings can't overcome the Absurd even in what they think of as their deepest and most authentic actions.

Nietzsche (whom I always suspected as having more in common with Kierkegaard than is usually imagined) once wrote that whatever occurs outside of love occurs beyond good and evil.

That's a little taste of the kind of thing you're in for if you take on this story/tract/mediation/manifesto/prose poem.
...more
5

Mar 13, 2016

The Grand Leap of Faith

First published in The New Indian Express

I hope it is still in vogue among college-going folk to discuss not just the important matters of the day, but also vain philosophical question like, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ Or: ‘Is there a God, and if there is a God, how are we to act?’

I remember discussing such things with friends in the wee hours of hostel rooftop parties. Although the arguments never resolved, they made us feel the need to be better prepared. Anyone who The Grand Leap of Faith

First published in The New Indian Express

I hope it is still in vogue among college-going folk to discuss not just the important matters of the day, but also vain philosophical question like, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ Or: ‘Is there a God, and if there is a God, how are we to act?’

I remember discussing such things with friends in the wee hours of hostel rooftop parties. Although the arguments never resolved, they made us feel the need to be better prepared. Anyone who could quote Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, or any of the other famous philosopher-writers, usually had an edge. Thus, reading became a necessity to be able to prove a point—at least the more objective of us felt so.

Out of nostalgia or otherwise, some of the habits have persisted in me. With close friends, I still seek out opportunities to promote discussion on such quandaries. And I read philosophy to get a better understanding of how individuals more intelligent than me have thought of these questions.

One of the names I have found myself quoting more frequently these days is Søren Kierkegaard.

Kierkegaard was a Danish theologian and philosopher in the 19th century, whom later philosophers labeled a ‘Christian existentialist.’ This is to say that he pondered the same question that existentialists do—human conduct in the face of the meaninglessness of life—but gave a Christian solution to it.

Among his earliest works, the slim ‘Fear and Trembling’ is considered a masterpiece. In it, Kierkegaard complicates the Biblical story of Abraham, who was instructed by God to sacrifice his dear son, Isaac, atop a mountain. There is a three day journey between the instruction and the scheduled sacrifice. Kierkegaard brings our attention to this period, forcing us to consider Abraham’s state of mind. What drove Abraham? What made him carry out an instruction that must have, at times, appeared harsh and absurd even to him?

Kierkegaard posits that since Abraham fulfills an absolute duty to God, of obedience, the ethical paradigm—which makes killing Isaac a crime—is suspended in his case. Note that this absolute duty isn’t a transaction: Abraham isn’t offered any virgins in paradise as compensation. For Kierkegaard, Abraham’s faith is in fact a faith in the strength of the absurd—that God, whose will is not to be questioned, will also somehow make things right.

Kierkegaard thus considers faith a supremely difficult task. “Faith…is not the immediate inclination of the heart but the paradox of existence.” To be faithful is to lead an absurd life and yet have the courage to grasp what is bound to appear an even larger absurdity: the idea of God.
...more
4

Jul 23, 2019

‘In the infinite resignation there is peace and rest; every man who will, who has not abased himself by scorning himself (which is still more dreadful than being proud), can train himself to make these movements. The infinite resignation is that shirt we read about in the old fable.” The thread is spun under tears, the cloth bleached with tears, the shirt sewn with tears; but then too it is a better protection than iron and steel. The imperfection in the fable is that a third party can ‘In the infinite resignation there is peace and rest; every man who will, who has not abased himself by scorning himself (which is still more dreadful than being proud), can train himself to make these movements. The infinite resignation is that shirt we read about in the old fable.” The thread is spun under tears, the cloth bleached with tears, the shirt sewn with tears; but then too it is a better protection than iron and steel. The imperfection in the fable is that a third party can manufacture this shirt. The secret in life is that everyone must sew it for himself, and the astonishing thing is that a man can sew it fully as well as a woman. In the infinite resignation there is peace and rest and comfort in sorrow — that is, if the movement is made normally. It would not be difficult for me, however, to write a whole book, were I to examine the various misunderstandings, the preposterous attitudes, the deceptive movements, which I have encountered in my brief practice. People believe very little in spirit, and yet making these movements depends upon spirit, it depends upon whether this is not a one-sided result of a dira necessitas, and if this is present, the more dubious it always is whether the movement is normal. ...’ ...more
5

May 21, 2008

I first read this piece in a philosophy class devoted entirely to Kierkegaard. At the time I wasn't overly enthralled with his work. I think I was partly turned off by the know it all sophomore in the graduate level class who insisted on being smack dab in the middle and dominating every conversation.

In the years since, however, after reading other existentialist authors, and seeing K's influence on them, I've gone back to some of his more accessible works. I especially like that most of his I first read this piece in a philosophy class devoted entirely to Kierkegaard. At the time I wasn't overly enthralled with his work. I think I was partly turned off by the know it all sophomore in the graduate level class who insisted on being smack dab in the middle and dominating every conversation.

In the years since, however, after reading other existentialist authors, and seeing K's influence on them, I've gone back to some of his more accessible works. I especially like that most of his philosophy is based in Christianity and biblical passages. The upshot is that you don't need to know generations of philosophers that came before in order to understand what's going on, as long as you've got some background in scripture. I guess the other side of that coin is that if you don't, it seems like he's talking about the same thing for hundreds of pages instead of myriad facets of that thing.

Fear and Trembling, in the end, is about faith. Not just belief, but what Kierkegaard saw as the foundation of a religious life. The belief that comes despite all indications to the contrary. In opening up his lecture, he starts with several versions of the way the Abraham and Isaac story could have gone, and in each of them, he fails the test of faith. K is trying to show what a crazy hard thing real faith is to attain.

It's a difficult read. I have to take it in little pieces and occassionally throw in another book to keep myself sane. But if you're struggling with the concept of belief and devotion to something greater than yourself (something I've never figured out), it definitely raises useful questions. ...more
4

Aug 04, 2016

I knew I was pretty deep in the philosophical pool -- again -- when concepts like "the teleological suspension of the ethical" started to float by, somewhat menacingly. This was also my first exposure to Kierkegaard, whose writing, though dense at times, was very compelling and often quite beautiful.

In this short volume, he wrestled with the Old Testament account of Abraham's journey to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac; he asks deep questions about Abraham's faith, and motives, and actions, all I knew I was pretty deep in the philosophical pool -- again -- when concepts like "the teleological suspension of the ethical" started to float by, somewhat menacingly. This was also my first exposure to Kierkegaard, whose writing, though dense at times, was very compelling and often quite beautiful.

In this short volume, he wrestled with the Old Testament account of Abraham's journey to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac; he asks deep questions about Abraham's faith, and motives, and actions, all the while writing under the pseudonym Johannes de silentio. As noted in Alastair Hannay's introduction, "if we are to praise venerable figures like Abraham ... we should be made to appreciate what it was like to be Abraham undergoing the trial of faith".

Indeed this little book will make you think deeply about spiritual truths and concepts, and is worth the effort invested -- even if you now and then feel like you're treading water. ...more
4

Feb 25, 2018

I’ve been studying this for the past few weeks in my philosophy class and though it tied my brain up in knots I found it incredibly profound and unique
4

Aug 05, 2018

Mmmm...much to think on. Very thought-provoking stuff. I think I need to re-read it a few times to really understand all he is saying.
5

May 20, 2013

Søren’s pseudonymous author Johannes de Silentio here is trying to come to grips with faith.
Johannes de Silentio himself doesn't seem to understand faith. He is filled with awe and admiration for Abraham but cannot understand him.

Is Abraham a tragic hero? Or is he just a murderer? Or is he a knight of faith?

Abraham here is a knight of faith because he is not just resigned to the fact that he needs to sacrifice his son but he believes that he will not lose Isaac on the strength of absurd. He has Søren’s pseudonymous author Johannes de Silentio here is trying to come to grips with faith.
Johannes de Silentio himself doesn't seem to understand faith. He is filled with awe and admiration for Abraham but cannot understand him.

Is Abraham a tragic hero? Or is he just a murderer? Or is he a knight of faith?

Abraham here is a knight of faith because he is not just resigned to the fact that he needs to sacrifice his son but he believes that he will not lose Isaac on the strength of absurd. He has made a movement of faith here. This movement of faith is absolutely relating oneself to the absolute. Faith here presupposes resignation. Resignation is overcome by taking the leap of faith. So faith comes after reason and not before. It begins exactly where reason ends.
There’s an interesting part at the end where he mentions the only words that Abraham spoke. When Isaac asks Abraham where the lamb for the burnt offering is, Abraham replies " My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering"
If Abraham wasn't a knight of faith, he would have answered in a bitter and different way like "I do not know" as he was only filled with resignation.

Why should we try to understand Abraham? Why can't we just call him a murderer and move on? Trying to understand Abraham will help other anguished and isolated souls. De Silentio gives us other examples of these anxious souls, the knights of resignation. Most of them involving romantic love.

Translator somewhere mentions that at some point while writing this book, Søren wrote in his diary that if he had enough faith, he would have stayed with Regine.
So it seems here that Søren himself was a knight of resignation, his movement of infinite resignation being the break-up of his engagement with Regine and he was trying to make the movement of faith.
What an intense and passionate man.

This was an amazing read. ...more
5

Feb 20, 2011

This one actually took me all last summer to get through. In my defense, though, it was my first experience with Kierkegaard.

The books turns out to be aptly named, as the reader--immediately, upon encountering the first few pages--experiences copious amounts of both fear and trembling.

Ok. But. Worth the effort.

Incredible insight into the life of someone truly passionate about Christianity, and truly desiring to live differently because of it.
4

Jul 30, 2016

I have frequently read passages I've marked in the book, but it was the second time that I picked it up and read it cover to cover. I have heard countless times that Hegel, Kant or Derrida are hard to read, but I find Kierkegaard challenging on a whole other level. I find Kierkegaard to be one of the most profoundly artistic philosophers, especially when it comes to Faith and love. He is not just a great philosopher, but a fantastic writer, yet after numerous readings of Fear and Trembling, I have frequently read passages I've marked in the book, but it was the second time that I picked it up and read it cover to cover. I have heard countless times that Hegel, Kant or Derrida are hard to read, but I find Kierkegaard challenging on a whole other level. I find Kierkegaard to be one of the most profoundly artistic philosophers, especially when it comes to Faith and love. He is not just a great philosopher, but a fantastic writer, yet after numerous readings of Fear and Trembling, which by philosophical standards is rather short and succinct, I still feel there's more to harvest from it.

Its a book that I won't be taking off my To-Read shelf any time soon. ...more
1

Sep 09, 2011

Kierkegaard logic is immaculate in the narrow horizon of the believer, but his "philosophy" is just a soap bubble. A very beautiful one, but still a soap bubble. Of course, a believer can't explain his faith in a logical way; that's why it's called faith and not knowledge. But Mr. Kierkegaard forgot that faith can be rationalized from outside, with the help of psychology, sociology etc.

True Kierkegaard, I can't explain with logical arguments my belief that sun is revolving around earth and that Kierkegaard  logic is immaculate in the narrow horizon of the believer, but his "philosophy" is just a soap bubble. A very beautiful one, but still a soap bubble. Of course, a believer can't explain his faith in a logical way; that's why it's called faith and not knowledge. But Mr. Kierkegaard forgot that faith can be rationalized from outside, with the help of psychology, sociology etc.

True Kierkegaard, I can't explain with logical arguments my belief that sun is revolving around earth and that my planet is the center of the universe. Because that's my faith, and it;s beyond reason and logic. And i will kill my dear child because Sun said so. ...more
3

Sep 25, 2017

Kierkegaard's aim is to explain a paradox, the act of which is a knowing paradox unto itself. And since it's a work of irony and contradiction, it gives him a pretty good critical angle in exploring the contradiction in ethics, aesthetics, theology, and elsewhere. It's a fairly original piece, and his embrace of the absurd is a pretty clear cut prelude to existentialism. However with the originality comes its paradoxical incommensurability, beyond the critiques it intends itself almost as more Kierkegaard's aim is to explain a paradox, the act of which is a knowing paradox unto itself. And since it's a work of irony and contradiction, it gives him a pretty good critical angle in exploring the contradiction in ethics, aesthetics, theology, and elsewhere. It's a fairly original piece, and his embrace of the absurd is a pretty clear cut prelude to existentialism. However with the originality comes its paradoxical incommensurability, beyond the critiques it intends itself almost as more of an aesthetic expression, and its ethical thesis is a half ironic half lyrical suggestion which turns ones everyday choices into Borges' Garden of Forking Paths. The exploration of paradox is the real meat here, and puts it in a niche place where I can't see myself returning to this work for any particular reason or clarification. It gives the feeling that his other works are comparatively more fleshed out. It was fine though, I'd recommend it. ...more

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