Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments

book attributed to Søren Kierkegaard

Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments (Danish: Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift til de philosophiske Smuler) is an 1846 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.


Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, A Mimical-Pathetic-Dialectical Compilation an Existential Contribution Volume I, presented as "by Johannes Climacus, edited by Soren Kierkegaard"; as edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (1992) Princeton University Press


  • But I must ask you Socrates, what do you suppose is the upshot of all this? As I said a little while ago, it is the scrapings and shavings of argument, cut up into little bits. – Greater Hippias, 304a
    • Frontpiece
  • 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
  • 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 Christianity

  • 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
  • We have become so objective that even the wife of a civil servant argues from the whole, from the state, from the idea of society, from geographic scientificity to the single individual.
    • p. 51
  • The speculative thinker just wants to look at Christianity.
    • p. 52

Part Two - The Subjective Issue

  • Not even Satan himself is able, as a third party, to say anything with definitness as a third party. However, God can never become a third party when he is part of the religious. The more objective the world and individual subjectivities become, the more difficult it becomes with the religious categories, which are precisely in the sphere of subjectivity. That is why it is almost an irreligious exaggeration to want to be world-historical, scholarly-scientific, and objective with regard to the religious.
    • p. 66
  • 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. The subjective existing thinker is aware of the dialectic of communication.
    • p. 72
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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
  • To God, world history is the royal stage where he, not accidentally but essentially, is the only spectator, because he is the only one who can be that. Admission to this theater is not open to any existing spirit. If he fancies himself a spectator there, he is simply forgetting that he himself is supposed to be the actor in that little theater and is to leave it to that royal spectator and poet how he wants to use him in that royal drama, The Drama or Dramas. This applies to the living, and only they can be told how they ought to live; and only by understanding for oneself can one be lead to reconstruct a dead person’s life, if it must be done at all and if there is time for it. But it is indeed upsidedown, instead of learning by living one’s own life, to have the dead live again, then to go on wanting to learn from the dead, whom one regards as never having lived, how one ought — indeed, it is unbelievable how upside-down it is — to live — if one is already dead.
    • p. 158
  • 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
  • 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?
    • p. 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. I observe nature in order to find God, and I do indeed see omnipotence and wisdom, but I also see much that troubles and disturbs. The sum total of this is an objective uncertainty, but the inwardness is so very great, precisely because it grasps this objective uncertainty with all the passion of the infinite. In a mathematical proposition, for example, the objectivity is given, but therefore its truth is also an indifferent truth.
    • p. 203
  • 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

Appendix: A Glance at Contemporary Effort in Danish Literature

  • 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
  • Just as “fear and trembling” is the state of the teleologically suspended person when God tempts him, so also is anxiety the teleologically suspended person’s state of mind in that desperate exemption from fulfilling the ethical. When truth is subjectivity, the inwardness of sin as anxiety in the existing individual is the greatest possible distance and the most painful distance from the truth.
    • p. 268-269
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 Thinker

  • 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
  • God does not think, he creates; God does not exist, he is eternal.
    • p. 333
  • 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
  • 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?

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Irony is the cultivation of the spirit and therefore follows next after immediacy; then comes the ethicist, then the humourist, then the religious person.
    • p. 504
  • 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

Quotes about Concluding Unscientific Postscript

  • 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)