Last modified on 8 July 2014, at 13:35

Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments

Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments (Danish: Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift til de philosophiske Smuler) is a major work by Søren Kierkegaard. The work is poignant attack against Hegelianism, the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The work is also famous for its dictum, Subjectivity is Truth.

QuotesEdit

Quotes from: Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, A Mimical-Pathetic-Dialectical Compilation an Existential Contribution Volume I, by Johannes Climacus, edited by Soren Kierkegaard, Copyright Feb 28, 1846 – Edited and Translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong 1992 Princeton University Press

IntroductionEdit

  • Philosophical Fragments was only supposed to clothe the issue in historical costume. The issue was the difficulty. Without wanting to affront anyone, I am of the opinion that not every young graduate in theology would have been capable of presenting the issue with even the same dialectical rhythm with which it is done in the pamphlet. I am also of the opinion that not every young graduate in theology, after reading the pamphlet would be able to set it aside and then on his own to present the issue with just the same dialectical clarity with which it is elucidated in the pamphlet.
    • p. 10
  • If naked dialectical deliberation shows that there is no approximation, that wanting to quantify oneself into faith along this path is a misunderstanding, a delusion, that wanting to concern oneself with such deliberations is a temptation for the believer, a temptation that he, keeping himself in the passion of faith, must resist with all his strength, lest it end with his succeeding in changing faith into something else, into another kind of certainty, in substituting probabilities and guarantees, which were rejected when he, himself beginning, made the qualitative transition of the leap from unbeliever to believer-if this is so, then everyone who, not entirely unfamiliar with learned scientificity and not bereft of willingness to learn, has understood it this way must also have felt his hard-pressed position when he in admiration learned to think meanly of his own insignificance in the face of those distinguished by learning and acumen and deserved renown, so that, seeking the fault in himself, he time and again returned to them, and when in despondency he had to admit that he himself was in the right.
    • p. 11-12
  • To avoid confusion it should immediately be borne in mind that the issue is not about the truth of Christianity, but about the individual’s relation to Christianity, consequently not about the indifferent individual’s systematic, eagerness to arrange the truths of Christianity in paragraphs but rather about the concern of the infinitely interested individual with regard to his own relation to such a doctrine. To state it as simply as possible (using myself in an imaginatively constructing way): “I Johannes Climacus, born and bred in this city and now thirty years old, an ordinary human being like most folk, assume that a highest good, called an eternal happiness, awaits me just as it awaits a housemaid and a professor.
    • p. 15
  • Although an outsider, I have at least understood this much, that the only unforgivable high treason against Christianity is the single individual’s taking his relation to it for granted.
    • p. 16

Part One – The Objective Issue Of The Truth Of ChristianityEdit

  • One generation after the other has died; new difficulties have arisen. As an inheritance from generation to generation, the illusion has persisted that the method is the correct one, but the learned research scholars have not yet succeeded. All seem to feel comfortable; they all become more and more objective. The subject’s personal, infinite, impassioned interestedness (which is the possibility of faith and then faith, the form of eternal happiness and then eternal happiness) fades away more and more because the decision is postponed as a direct result of the results of the learned research scholar. That is to say, the issue does not arise at all.
    • p. 27
  • inspiration is indeed an object of faith, is qualitatively dialectical, not attainable by means of quantification
    • p. 29
  • The more objective the observer becomes, the less he builds an eternal happiness, that is, his eternal happiness, on his relation to his observation, because an eternal happiness is a question only for the impassioned, infinitely interested subjectivity.
    • p. 32
  • It is Christianity itself that attaches an enormous importance to the individual subject; it wants to be involved with him, him alone, and thus with each one individually. What has been intimated here has been emphasized in Fragments frequently enough, namely, that there is no direct and immediate transition to Christianity, and therefore all those who in that way want to give a rhetorical push in order to bring one into Christianity or even help one into it by a thrashing-they are all deceivers-no, they know not what they do.
    • p. 49
  • The speculative thinker just wants to look at Christianity.
    • p. 52
  • Take a married couple. See, their marriage clearly leaves its mark in the external world; it constitutes a phenomenon in existence (on a smaller scale, just as Christianity world-historically has left its mark on all of life). But their married love is not a historical phenomenon; the phenomenon is the insignificant, has significance to the marriage partners only through their love, but looked at in any other way, (that is, objectively) the phenomenon is a deception. So it is with Christianity. It that so original? Compared with the Hegelian notion that the outer is the inner and the inner the outer, it certainly is extremely original. But it would be even more original if the Hegelian axiom were not only admired by the present age but also had retroactive power to abolish, backward historically, the distinction between the visible and invisible Church. The invisible Church is not a historical phenomenon; as such it cannot be observed objectively at all, because it is only in subjectivity. Alas, my originality seems only mediocre.
    • p. 54
  • Whereas objective thinking is indifferent to the thinking subject and his existence, the subjective thinker as existing is essentially interested in his own thinking, is existing in it. Therefor his has another kind of reflection, specifically, that of inwardness, of possession, whereby it belongs to the subject and no one else.
    • p. 72
  • The subjective existing thinker is aware of the dialectic of communication.
  • Socrates is standing and gazing into space; then two passers-by come along and one says to the other: What is that man doing? The other replies: Nothing. Let us suppose that one of them has a little more of an idea of inwardness. He describes Socrates action as a religious expression and says: He is absorbed in the divine; he is praying. Let us concentrate on the latter expression “He is praying.” But is he using words, perhaps ever so many words? No Socrates understood his God-relationship in such a way that he did not dare to say anything at all for fear of talking a lot of nonsense and for fear of having a wrong desire fulfilled.
    • p. 90
  • He wants to convince [others] that he is not a lunatic and therefore paces up and down the floor and continually says, "Boom! The Earth is round!". But is the earth not round? ... is he a lunatic, the man who hopes to prove that he is not a lunatic by stating a truth universally accepted and universally regarded as objective?
  • The objective way deems itself to have a security which the subjective way does not have (and, of course, existence and existing cannot be thought in combination with objective security); it thinks to escape a danger which threatens the subjective way and this danger is at its maximum: madness. In a merely subjective determination of the truth, madness and truth become in the last analysis indistinguishable.
  • God does not think, he creates; God does not exist, he is eternal.
  • Irony is the cultivation of the spirit and therefore follows next after immediacy; then comes the ethicist, then the humourist, then the religious person.
  • Subjectivity is Truth.
  • Truth is subjectivity.
  • It is subjectivity that Christianity is concerned with, and it is only in subjectivity that its truth exists, if it exists at all; objectively, Christianity has no existence.
  • If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy fathoms of water still preserving my faith.
  • The basis of the paradox of Christianity is that it continually uses time and the historical in relation to the eternal.
    • p. 95
  • contingent truths of history can never become the demonstrations of necessary truths of reason.
    • p. 97
  • When someone is to leap he must certainly do it alone and also be alone in properly understanding that it is an impossibility. … the leap is the decision.
    • p. 102
  • A system that is not entirely finished is a hypothesis, whereas a half-finished system is nonsense and a fragment of a system is also nonsense. Consequently, (a) a logical system can be given; (b) but a system of existence cannot be given.
    • p.107-109
  • But who is the systematic thinker? Well, it is he who himself is outside existence and yet in existence, who in his eternity is forever concluded and yet includes existence within himself-it is God.
    • p. 119
  • Christianity protests against all objectivity; it wants the subject to be infinitely concerned about himself. What it asks about is the subjectivity; the truth of Christianity, if it is at all, is only in this; objectively, it is not at all. And even if it is only in one single subject, then it is only in him, and there is greater Christian joy in heaven over this one than over world history and the system, which as objective powers are incommensurate with the essentially Christian.
    • p. 130
  • Let me be as if created for the sake of a whim; this is the jest. Yet I shall with the utmost strenuousness will the ethical; this is the earnestness.
    • p. 137
  • Philosophy (Hegel) seeks speculatively to confuse the ethical for the single individual with the world-historical task for the human race. The ethical is the highest task assigned to every human being.
    • p. 151
  • If in my relationship with God I regard what I am doing as good and do not keep watch over myself with the infinite’s mistrust of me, then it is just as if God, too, were content with me, because God is not something external, but is the infinite itself, is not something external that quarrels with me when I do wrong but the infinite itself that does not need scolding words, but whose vengeance is terrible-the vengeance that God does not exist for me at all, even though I pray. To pray is an action.
    • p. 162-163
  • What does it mean to die? What does it mean to be immortal? What does it mean to marry? I am indeed the one who continually says that between the simple person’s and the wise person’s knowledge of the simple there is only the ludicrous little difference-that the simple person knows it, and the wise person knows that he knows it or knows that he does not know it.
    • p. 165, 171, 180, 183
  • When an assistant professor, every time his coattails reminds him to say something, says de omnibus dubitandum est [everything must be doubted] and briskly writes away on a system in which there is sufficient internal evidence in every other sentence that the man has never doubted anything-he is not considered lunatic.
    • p. 194-195
  • Here is such a definition of truth: An objective uncertainty, held fast through appropriation with the most passionate inwardness, is the truth, the highest truth there is for an existing person. At the point where the road swings off (and where that is cannot be stated objectively, since it is precisely subjectivity), objective knowledge is suspended. Objectively he then has only uncertainty, but this is precisely what intensifies the infinite passion of inwardness, and truth is precisely the daring venture of choosing the objective uncertainty with the passion of the infinite.
    • p. 203-204
  • Objective faith-it is indeed as if Christianity has also been proclaimed as a little system of sorts, although presumably not as good as the Hegelian system. It is as if Christ-it is not my fault that I say it-as if Christ had been a professor and as if the apostles had formed a little professional society of scholars. Truly, if at one time it was difficult to become a Christian, I believe now it becomes more difficult year by year, because it has now become so easy to become one; there is a bit of competition only in becoming a speculative thinker. … The thesis that God has existed in human form, was born, grew up; is certainly the paradox in the strictest sense, the absolute paradox.
    • p. 215, 217
  • The speculative thinker believes only to a certain degree-he puts his hand to the plow and looks around in order to find something else to know. In a Christian sense, what he finds to know is hardly anything good.
    • p. 230
  • Every human being is spirit and truth is the self-activity of appropriation.
    • p. 242
  • The inwardness of truth is not the chummy inwardness with which two bosom friends walk arm in arm with each other but is the separation in which each person for himself is existing in what is true.
    • p. 249
  •  ! I will not conceal the fact that I admire Hamann, although I readily admit, if he is supposed to have worked coherently, the elasticity of his thoughts lacks evenness and his preternatural resilience lacks self-control. But the originality of genius is there in his brief statements, and the pithiness of form corresponds completely to the desultory hurling forth of a thought. With heart and soul, down to his last drop of blood, he is concentrated in a single word, a highly gifted genius’s passionate protest against a system of existence. But the system is hospitable. Poor Hamann, you have been reduced to a subsection of Michelet. Whether your grave has ever been marked I do not know; whether it is now trampled upon, I do not know; but I do know that by hood or by crook you have been stuck into the subsection uniform and thrust into the ranks.
    • p. 150-151

Appendix: A Glance at Contemporary Effort in Danish LiteratureEdit

  • Either/Or has the existence-relation between the esthetic and the ethical materialize into existence in the existing individuality. The book is an indirect polemic against speculative thought, which is indifferent to existence. That there is no conclusion and no final decision is an indirect expression for truth as inwardness and in this way perhaps a polemic against truth as knowledge.
    • p. 252-253
  • That Either/Or ends precisely with the upbuilding truth was remarkable to me. … The Christian truth as inwardness is also upbuilding but this by no means implies that every upbuilding truth is Christian; the upbuilding is a wider category.
    • p. 256
  • Whether in other respects Fear and Trembling and Repetition have any worth, I shall not decide. If they do have worth, the criterion will not be didactic paragraph-pomposity. If the misfortune of the age is to have forgotten what inwardness is, then one should not write for “paragraph-gobblers,” but existing individualities must be portrayed in their agony when existence is confused for them, which is something different from sitting safely in a corner by the stove and reciting. The production must continually have passion.
    • p. 264-265
  • The ethical is then present at every moment with its infinite requirement, but the individual is not capable of fulfilling it. This powerlessness of the individual must not be seen as an imperfection in the continued endeavor to attain an ideal, for in that case the suspension is no more postulated than the man who administers his office in an ordinary way is suspended. The suspension consists in the individual’s finding himself in a state exactly opposite to what the ethical requires. Therefore he relates himself to actuality not as possibility but as impossibility.
    • p. 266
  • The Concept of Anxiety differs from the other pseudonymous works in that its form is direct and even somewhat didactic. … Finally, then, came my Fragments. By now, existence-inwardness was defined to the extent that the Christian-religious could be brought up without being immediately confused with all sorts of things. Yet one thing more, Magister Kierkegaard’s upbuilding discourses kept pace with the pseudonymous books, which to my mind was a hint that he had kept himself posted, and to me it was striking that the four most recent discourses have a carefully shaped touch of the humorous. What is arrived at in immanence presumably ends in the same way.
    • p. 270
  • That subjectivity, inwardness, is truth is my thesis. I have tried to show how in my view the pseudonymous authors tend toward this thesis, which at its maximum is Christianity. That it is possible to exist with inwardness also outside Christianity, the Greeks among others have adequately shown, but in our day things seem actually to have gone so far that although we are all Christians and knowledgeable about Christianity, it is already a rarity to encounter a person who has as much existing inwardness as a pagan philosopher.
    • p. 278
  • My Fragments approached Christianity in a decisive way, without, however, mentioning its name or Christ’s name. … In an age of knowledge, in which all are Christians and know what Christianity is, it is only too easy to use the holy names without meaning anything thereby, to rattle off the Christian truth without having the least impression of it.
    • p. 281-283
  • Suffering is the 70,000 fathoms of water upon whose depths the religious person is continually. But suffering is precisely inwardness and is separated from esthetics and ethical existence-inwardness.
    • p. 288
  • Even “The Seducer’s Diary” was only a possibility of horror, which the esthete in his groping existence had conjured up precisely because he, without actually being anything, had to try his hand at everything as possibility.
    • Note, p. 295
  • Hegelian philosophy culminates in the thesis that the outer is the inner and the inner is the outer. With this, Hegel has finished. … The religious definitely establishes the contrast between the outer, and the inner, which is defined as contrast.
    • Note p. 296-297
  • Existing is something quite different from knowing.
    • p. 298

Chapter III Actual Subjectivity, Ethical Subjectivity; the Subjective ThinkerEdit

  • Abstraction does not care about whether a particular existing human being is immortal, and just that is the difficulty. It is disinterested, but the difficulty of existence is the existing person’s interest, and the existing person is infinitely interested in existing
    • p. 302
  • Be cautious with an abstract thinker who not only wants to remain in abstraction’s pure being but wants this to be the highest for a human being, and wants such thinking, which results in the ignoring of the ethical and a misunderstanding of the religious, to be the highest human thinking.
    • p. 307
  • THE Cartesian cogito ergo sum [I think therefore I am] has been repeated often enough. If the I in cogito is understood to be an individual human being, then the statement demonstrates nothing: I am thinking ergo I am, but if I am thinking, no wonder, then, that I am; after all, it has already been said, and the first consequently says even more than the last. If, then, by the I in cogito, one understands a single individual existing human being, philosophy shouts: Foolishness, foolishness, here it is not a matter of my I or you I but of the pure I. But surely this pure I can have no other existence than thought-existence.
    • p. 317
  • The ethical can be carried out only by the individual subject, who then is able to know what lives within him-the only actuality that does not become a possibility by being known and cannot be known only by being thought, since it is his own actuality, which he knew as thought-actuality, that is, as possibility, before it became actuality; whereas with regard to another’s actuality he knew nothing about it before he, by coming to know it, thought it, that is, changed it into possibility.
    • p. 320-321
  • It is not denied that with regard to evil there are cases in which the transition is almost undetectable, but these cases must be explained in a special way. This is due to the fact that the individual is so in the power of habit that by frequently having made the transition from thinking to acting he has finally lost the power for it in the bondage of habit, which at his expense makes it faster and faster.
    • p. 340
  • The transition from possibility to actuality is, as Aristotle rightly teaches, a movement. This cannot be said in the language of abstraction at all or understood therein, because abstraction can give movement neither time nor space, which presuppose it or which it presupposes. There is a halt, a leap.
    • p. 341-342
  • Ethics has been shoved out of the system and has been replaced with a surrogate that confuses the world-historical and the individual and confuses the bewildering, bellowing demands of the times with the eternal demands of conscience upon the individual.
    • p. 346
  • The subjective thinker is not a scientist-scholar; he is an artist. To exist is an art. The subjective thinker is esthetic enough for his life to have esthetic content, ethical enough to regulate it, dialectical enough in thinking to master it. The subjective thinker’s task is to understand himself in existence. … To understand oneself in existence is the Christian principle, except that this self has received much richer and much more profound qualifications that are even more difficult to understand together with existing.
    • p. 351, 353

The Issue in Fragments: How Can an Eternal Happiness Be Built on Historical Knowledge?Edit

  • Just as an old man who has lost his teeth now munches with the help of the stumps, so the modern Christian language about Christianity has lost the power of the energetic terminology to bite-and the whole thing is toothless “maundering.” To me it is clear that the confusion in Christianity is due to its having been set back one whole stage in life. That we become Christians as children has promptly given rise to the assumption that one is what has been anticipated potentially.
    • p. 363-364
  • While it may be all right for the learned theologian to spend his whole life learnedly investigating the doctrine of Scripture and the Church, it would be a ludicrous contradiction if an existing person asked what Christianity is in terms of existence and then spent his whole life deliberating on that-for in that case when should he exist in it? … One is unable to find out what Christianity is without becoming a Christian oneself.
    • p. 370-372
  • If falling in love is interpreted esthetically, it holds true that the poet’s conception of falling in love is higher than anything actuality offers. The poet can have an ideality compared with which actuality is but a weak reflection; for the poet, actuality is merely an occasion that prompts him to abandon actuality in order to seek the ideality of possibility poetic pathos, therefore, is essentially fantasy. But if one wants ethically to establish a poetic relation to actuality, this is a misunderstanding and a retrogression. The point here as everywhere is to keep the specific spheres separated from one another, to respect the qualitative dialectic, the tug of decision that changes everything, so that what was the highest in another sphere must be absolutely rejected in this.
    • p. 387
  • One says: To renounce everything is an enormous abstraction-that is why one must proceed to hold on to something. But if the task is to renounce everything, what if one began by renouncing something?
    • p. 405
  • Just as in the great moment of resignation one does not mediate but chooses, now the task is to gain proficiency in repeating the impassioned choice and, existing, to express it in existence. So the individual is certainly in the finite (and the difficulty is indeed to preserve the absolute choice in the finite), but just as he took away the vital power of the finite in the moment of resignation, so that task is to repeat this. Suppose the world offers the individual everything. Perhaps he accepts it, but he says: Oh, well, but this “Oh well” signifies the absolute respect for the absolute end or goal. Suppose the world takes everything away from him; he may wince, but he says: Oh, well-and this “Oh well” signifies the absolute respect for the absolute τέλος. In this way, one does not exist immediately in the finite. Whether to the Eternal, the All-knowing, the Everywhere-Present One it is of equal importance that a human being forfeits his eternal happiness or a sparrow falls to the ground; whether it will be manifest when everything is settled in eternity that the most insignificant circumstance was absolutely important-I do not decide.
    • p. 410-411
  • Revelation is marked by mystery, eternal happiness by suffering, the certitude of faith by uncertainty, easiness by difficulty, truth by absurdity; if this is not maintained, then the esthetic and the religious merge in common confusion. … The religious lies in the dialectic of inwardness deepening and therefore, with regard to the conception of God, this means that he himself is moved, is changed. An action in the eternal transforms the individual’s existence.
    • Notes p. 432
  • The secular mentality will say that poetry is a maiden’s over-excitement, religiousness a man’s frenzy.
    • p. 440
  • It is in the living room that the battle must be fought, lest the skirmishes of religiousness become a changing-of-the-guard parade one day a week. It is in the living room that the battle must be fought, not imaginatively in church, with the pastor shadowboxing and the listeners looking on. It is in the living room that the battle must be fought, because the victory must be that the home becomes a shrine. Let the work be done directly in the church by holding an inspection of the contending forces-under whose banner the battle will be fought, in whose name the victory will be won-by describing the position of the enemy, by imitating the attack, by praising the omnipotent ally and strengthening trust by arousing mistrust, trust in him through mistrust of oneself. Let the work be done indirectly by the ironic but yet most tender sympathy of secret concern. But the main point still is that the single individual will go home from church willing wholeheartedly and eagerly to battle in the living room. If the pastor’s activity in the church is merely a once-a-week attempt to tow the congregation’s cargo ship a little closer to eternity, the whole thing comes to nothing, the whole thing comes to nothing, because a human life, unlike a cargo ship, cannot lie in the same place until the next Sunday. Therefore, the church is the very place where the difficulty must be presented, and it is better to go from the church discouraged and to find the task easier than one thought that to go from church overly confident and to become discouraged in the living room.
    • p. 465
  • The highest His Imperial Highness is able to do, however, is to make the decision before God. The lowliest human being can also make his decision before God.
    • p. 496-497
  • Someone absolutely in love does not know whether he is more in love or less in love than others, because anyone who knows that is definitely not absolutely in love. Neither does he know that he is the only person who has truly been in love, because if he knew that, he would not be absolutely in love-and yet he knows that a third party cannot understand him, because a third party will understand him generally in relation to an object of passion but not in relation to the absoluteness of passion.
    • p. 509
  • The religious does not dare to ignore what occupies other people’s lives so very much, what continually comes up again every day in conversations, in social intercourse, in books, in the modification of the entire life view, unless the Sunday performances in church are supposed to be a kind of indulgence in which with morose devoutness for one hour a person buys permission to laugh freely all week long. … it shows far greater respect for the religious to demand that it be installed in its rights in everyday life rather than affectedly to hold it off at a Sunday distance.
    • p. 513

About this workEdit

  • When I began as an author of Either/Or, I no doubt had a far more profound impression of the terror of Christianity than any clergyman in the country. I had a fear and trembling such as perhaps no one else had. Not that I therefore wanted to relinquish Christianity. No, I had another interpretation of it. For one thing I had in fact learned very early that there are men who seem to be selected for suffering, and, for another thing, I was conscious of having sinned much and therefore supposed that Christianity had to appear to me in the form of this terror. But how cruel and false of you, I thought, if you use it to terrify others, perhaps upset every so many happy, loving lives that may very well be truly Christian. It was as alien as it could possibly be to my nature to want to terrify others, and therefore I both sadly and perhaps also a bit proudly found my joy in comforting others and in being gentleness itself to them-hiding the terror in my own interior being. So my idea was to give my contemporaries (whether or not they themselves would want to understand) a hint in humorous form (in order to achieve a lighter tone) that a much greater pressure was needed-but then no more; I aimed to keep my heavy burden to myself, as my cross. I have often taken exception to anyone who was a sinner in the strictest sense and then promptly got busy terrifying others. Here is where Concluding Postscript comes in.
  • Soren Kierkegaard, Journal and Papers, VI 6444 (Pap. X1 A541) (1849) (Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 451-452)

External linksEdit