Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (English pronunciation: /ˈsɔrən ˈkɪərkəɡɑrd/ or /ˈkɪərkəɡɔr/; Danish: [ˈsœːɐn ˈkʰiɐ̯kəˌɡ̊ɒˀ] ( listen)) (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855) was a Danish philosopher, theologian and religious author interested in human psychology. He strongly criticized the philosophies of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel and the Christianity of the State Church versus the Free Church.
Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking, and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment.
His theological work focuses on Christian ethics, institution of the Church, and on the difference between purely objective proofs of Christianity and a subjective relationship to Jesus Christ, the God-Man, which comes from faith.
His psychological work explores the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with life choices. His thinking was influenced by Socrates and the Socratic method.
Kierkegaard's early work was written under various pseudonymous characters who present their own distinctive viewpoints and interact with each other in complex dialogue. He assigns pseudonyms to explore particular viewpoints in-depth, which may take up several books in some instances, while Kierkegaard, openly or under another pseudonym, critiques that position. He wrote many Upbuilding Discourses under his own name and dedicated them to the "single individual" who might want to discover the meaning of his works. Notably, he wrote:
"Science and scholarship want to teach that becoming objective is the way. Christianity teaches that the way is to become subjective, to become a subject." The scientist can learn about the world by observation but can the scientist learn about the inner workings of the spiritual world by observation? Kierkegaard said no, and he said it emphatically. In 1847 Kierkegaard described his own view of the single individual.
"God is not like a human being; it is not important for God to have visible evidence so that he can see if his cause has been victorious or not; he sees in secret just as well. Moreover, it is so far from being the case that you should help God to learn anew that it is rather he who will help you to learn anew, so that you are weaned from the worldly point of view that insists on visible evidence. (...) A decision in the external sphere is what Christianity does not want; (...) rather it wants to test the individual’s faith."
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