Fear and Trembling

book by 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, meaning roughly "John the Silent" in English.

It goes against the grain for me to do what so often happens, to speak inhumanly about the great as if a few millennia were an immense distance. I prefer to speak humanly about it, as if it happened yesterday, and let only the greatness itself be the distance.




  • Not merely in the realm of commerce but in the world of ideas as well our age is organizing a regular clearance sale. Everything is to be had at such a bargain that it is questionable whether in the end there is anybody who will want to bid. Every speculative price-fixer who conscientiously directs attention to the significant march of modern philosophy, every Privatdocent, tutor, and student, every crofter and cottar goes further. Perhaps it would be untimely and ill-timed to ask them where they are going.
  • The present writer is nothing of a philosopher, he has not understood the System, does not know whether it actually exists, whether it is completed ; already he has enough for his weak head in the thought of what a prodigious head everybody in our day must have, since everybody has such a prodigious thought. Even though one were capable of converting the whole content of faith into the form of a concept, it does not follow that one has adequately conceived faith and understands how one got into it, or how it got into one. The present writer is nothing of a philosopher ; he is, poetice et eleganter, an amateur writer who neither writes the System nor promises of the System, who neither subscribes to the System nor ascribes anything to it. He writes because for him it is a luxury which becomes the more agreeable and more evident, the fewer there are who buy and read what he writes. He can easily foresee his fate in an age when passion has been obliterated in favor of learning, in an age when an author who wants to have readers must take care to write in such a way that the book can easily be perused during the afternoon nap, and take care to fashion his outward deportment in likeness to the picture of that polite young gardener in the advertisement sheet, who with hat in hand, and with a good certificate from the place where he last served, recommends himself to the esteemed public. He foresees his fate – that he will be entirely ignored. He has a presentiment of the dreadful event, that a jealous criticism will many a time let him feel the birch ; he trembles at the still more dreadful thought that one or another enterprising scribe, a gulper of paragraphs, who to rescue learning is always willing to do with other peoples’ writings what Trop magnanimously resolved to do with a book called The Destruction of the Human Race – that is, he will slice the author into paragraphs, and will do it with the same inflexibility as the man who in the interest of the science of punctuation divided his discourse by counting the words, so that there were fifty words for a period and thirty-five for a semicolon.


  • Once upon a time there was a man who as a child had heard the beautiful story about how God tempted Abraham, and how he endured temptation, kept the faith, and a second time received again a son contrary to expectation. When the child became older he read the same story with even greater admiration, for life had separated what was united in the pious simplicity of the child. The older he became, the more frequently his mind reverted to that story, his enthusiasm became greater and greater, and yet he was less and less able to understand the story. At last in his interest for that he forgot everything else ; his soul had only one wish, to see Abraham, one longing, to have been witness to that event. His desire was not to behold the beautiful countries of the Orient, or the earthly glory of the Promised Land, or that godfearing couple whose old age God had blessed, or the venerable figure of the aged patriarch, or the vigorous young manhood of Isaac whom God had bestowed upon Abraham – he saw no reason why the same thing might not have taken place on a barren heath in Denmark. His yearning was to accompany them on the three days’ journey when Abraham rode with sorrow before him and with Isaac by his side. His only wish was to be present at the time when Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw Mount Moriah afar off, at the time when he left the asses behind and went alone with Isaac up unto the mountain ; for what his mind was intent upon was not the ingenious web of imagination but the shudder of thought.
  • "O Lord in heaven, I thank Thee. After all it is better for him to believe that I am a monster, rather than that he should lose faith in Thee."
    • Section One, Prelude
  • When the child must be weaned, the mother blackens her breast, it would indeed be a shame that the breast should look delicious when the child must not have it. So the child believes that the breast has changed, but the mother is the same, her glance is as loving and tender as ever. Happy the person who had no need of more dreadful expedients for weaning the child !
    • Section One, Prelude
  • When the child has grown big and must be weaned, the mother virginally hides her breast, so the child has no more a mother. Happy the child which did not in another way lose its mother.

    • Section Two, Prelude
  • It was a quiet evening when Abraham rode out alone, and he rode to Mount Moriah ; he threw himself upon his face, he prayed God to forgive him his sin, that he had been willing to offer Isaac, that the father had forgotten his duty toward the son. Often he rode his lonely way, but he found no rest. He could not comprehend that it was a sin to be willing to offer to God the best thing he possessed, that for which he would many times have given his life ; and if it was a sin, if he had not loved Isaac as he did, then he could not understand that it might be forgiven. For what sin could be more dreadful?
    • Section Three, Prelude
  • When the child must be weaned, the mother too is not without sorrow at the thought that she and the child are separated more and more, that the child which first lay under her heart and later reposed upon her breast will be so near to her no more. So they mourn together for the brief period of mourning. Happy the person who has kept the child as near and needed not to sorrow any more!
    • Section Three, Prelude
  • When the child must be weaned, the mother has stronger food in readiness, lest the child should perish. Happy the person who has stronger food in readiness !
  • Section 4, Prelude

A Panegyric Upon Abraham

  • If a human being did not have an eternal consciousness, if underlying everything there were only a wild, fermenting power that writhing in dark passions produced everything, be it significant or insignificant, if a vast, never appeased emptiness is beneath everything, what would life be then but despair?
    • p. 15
  • It is human to lament, human to weep with them that weep, but it is greater to believe, more blessed to contemplate the believer.
  • No, not one shall be forgotten who was great in the world. But each was great in his own way, and each in proportion to the greatness of that which he loved. For he who loved himself became great by himself, and he who loved other men became great by his selfless devotion, but he who loved God became greater than all. Everyone shall be remembered, but each became great in proportion to his expectation. One became great by expecting the possible, another by expecting the eternal, but he who expected the impossible became greater than all. Everyone shall be remembered, but each was great in proportion to the greatness of that with which he strove. For he who strove with the world became great by overcoming the world, and he who strove with himself became great by overcoming himself, but he who strove with God became greater than all. So there was strife in the world, man against man, one against a thousand, but he who strove with God was greater than all. So there was strife upon earth : there was one who overcame all by his power, and there was one who overcame God by his impotence. There was one who relied upon himself and gained all, there was one who secure in his strength sacrificed all, but he who believed God was greater than all. There was one who was great by reason of his power, and one who was great by reason of his wisdom, and one who was great by reason of his hope, and one who was great by reason of his love ; but 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.
    • p. 31 (Princeton University Press, 1973)
  • It is human to lament, human to weep with them that weep, but it is greater to believe, more blessed to contemplate the believer.
  • But Abraham believed, therefore he was young; for he who always hopes for the best becomes old, and he who is always prepared for the worst grows early, but he who believes preserves an eternal youth.
    • p.33 (Princeton University 1973 edition)

Problemata:Preliminary Expectoration

  • From the external and visible world comes the old adage: “Only one who works gets bread.” Oddly enough, the adage does not fit the world in which it is most at home, for imperfection is the fundamental law of the external world, and here it happens again and again that he who does not work does get bread, and he who sleeps gets more abundantly than he who works. In the external world, everything belongs to the possessor.
    • p. 27
  • Yes, if Abraham the instant he swung his leg over the ass's back had said to himself, "Now, since Isaac is lost, I might just as well sacrifice him here at home, rather than ride the long way to Moriah" - then I should have no need of Abraham, whereas now I bow seven times before his name and seventy times before his deed. For this indeed he did not do, as I can prove by the fact that he was glad at receiving Isaac, heartily glad, that he needed no preparation, no time to concentrate upon the finite and its joy. If this had not been the case with Abraham, then perhaps he might have loved God but not believed; for he who loves God without faith reflects upon himself, he who loves God believingly reflects upon God.
    • pp28
  • An old proverb fetched from the outward and visible world says: "Only the man that works gets the bread." Strangely enough this proverb does not aptly apply in that world to which it expressly belongs. For the outward world is subjected to the law of imperfection, and again and again the experience is repeated that he too who does not work gets the bread, and that he who sleeps gets it more abundantly than the man who works. In the outward world everything is made payable to the bearer, this world is in bondage to the law of indifference, and to him who has the ring, the spirit of the ring is obedient, whether he be Noureddin or Aladdin, and he who has the world's treasure, has it, however he got it.
    • pp.39, Princeton University Press 1973 Edition
  • How is one to explain the contradiction illustrated by that orator? Is it because Abraham had a prescriptive right to be a great man, so that what he did is great, and when another does the same it is sin, a heinous sin? In that case I do not wish to participate in such thoughtless eulogy. If faith does not make it a holy act to be willing to murder one's son then let the same condemnation be pronounced upon Abraham as upon every other man.
    • pp. 41, Princeton University Press 1973 Edition
  • For when faith is eliminated by becoming null or nothing, then there only remains the crude fact that Abraham wanted to murder Isaac - which is easy enough for anyone to imitate who has not faith, the faith, that is to say, which makes it hard for him.
    • pp. 41, Princeton University Press 1973 Edition
  • Can one then speak plainly about Abraham without incurring the danger that an individual might in bewilderment go ahead and do likewise? If I do not dare to speak freely, I will be completely silent about Abraham, above all I will not disparage him in such a way that precisely thereby he becomes a pitfall for the weak. For if one makes faith everything, that is, makes it what it is, then, according to my way of thinking, one may speak of it without danger in our age, which hardly extravagates in the matter of faith, and it is only by faith one attains likeness to Abraham, not by murder. If one makes love a transitory mood, a voluptuous emotion in a man, then one only lays pitfalls for the weak when one would talk about the exploits of love. Transient emotions every man surely has, but if as a consequence of such emotions one would do the terrible thing which love has sanctified as an immortal exploit, then all is lost, including the exploit and the bewildered doer of it.
    • pp. 42, Princeton University Press 1973 edition
  • After all, in the poets love has its priests, and sometimes one hears a voice which knows how to defend it; but of faith one hears never a word. Who speaks in honor of this passion? Philosophy goes further. Theology sits rouged at the window and courts its favor, offering to sell her charms to philosophy. It is supposed to be difficult to understand Hegel, but to understand Abraham is a trifle. To go beyond Hegel's is a miracle, but to get beyond Abraham is the easiest thing of all. I for my part have devoted a good deal of time to the understanding of the Hegelian philosophy, I believe also that I understand it tolerably well, but when in spite of the trouble I have taken there are certain passages I cannot understand, I am foolhardy enough to think that he himself has not been quite clear. All this I do easily and naturally, my head does not suffer from it. But on the other hand when I have to think of Abraham, I am as though annihilated. I catch sight every moment of that enormous paradox which is the substance of Abraham's life, every moment I am repelled, and my thought in spite of all its passion cannot get a hair's-breadth further. I strain every muscle to get a view of it - that very instant I am paralyzed.
    • pp. 43, Princeton University Press 1973 edition
  • I am not unacquainted with what has been admired as great and noble in the world, my soul feels affinity with it, being convinced in all humility that it was in my cause the hero contended, and the instant I contemplate his deed I cry out to myself, jam tua res agitur. I think myself into the hero, but into Abraham I cannot think myself; when I reach the height I fall down, for what I encounter there is the paradox.
    • pp. 44, Princeton University Press 1973 edition
  • I do not however mean in any sense to say that faith is something lowly, but on the contrary that it is the highest thing, and that it is dishonest of philosophy to give something else instead of it and to make light of faith. Philosophy cannot and should not give faith, but it should understand itself and know what it has to offer and take nothing away, and least of all should fool people out of something as if it were nothing.
    • pp. 44, Princeton University Press 1973 edition
  • I am not unacquainted with the perplexities and dangers of life, I do not fear them, and I encounter them buoyantly. I am not unacquainted with the dreadful, my memory is a faithful wife, and my imagination is (as I myself am not) a diligent little maiden who all day sits quietly at her work, and in the evening knows how to chat to me about it so prettily that I must look at it, though not always, I must say, is it landscapes, or flowers, or pastoral idylls she paints. I have seen the dreadful before my own eyes, I do not flee from it timorously, but I know very well that, although I advance to meet it, my courage is not the courage of faith, nor anything comparable to it. I am unable to make the movements of faith, I cannot shut my eyes and plunge confidently into the absurd, for me that is an impossibility ... but I do not boast of it.
    • pp. 45, Princeton University Press 1973 edition
  • When it is present to me, I am unspeakably blissful, when it is absent, I long for it more vehemently than does the lover for his object; but I do not believe, this courage I lack. For me the love of God is, both in a direct and in an inverse sense, incommensurable with the whole of reality. I am not cowardly enough to whimper and complain, but neither am I deceitful enough to deny that faith is something much higher. I can well endure living in my way, I am joyful and content, but my joy is not that of faith, and in comparison with that it is unhappy. I do not trouble God with my petty sorrows, the particular does not trouble me, I gaze only at my love, and I keep its virginal flame pure and clear. Faith is convinced that God is concerned about the least things. I am content in this life with being married to the left hand, faith is humble enough to demand the right hand - for that this is humility I do not deny and shall never deny.
    • pp. 45, Princeton University Press 1973 edition
  • But what did Abraham do? He arrived neither too soon nor too late. He mounted the ass, he rode slowly along the way. All that time he believed - he believed that God would not require Isaac of him, whereas he was willing nevertheless to sacrifice him if it was required. He believed by virtue of the absurd; for there could be no question of human calculation, and it was indeed the absurd that God who required it of him should the next instant recall the requirement. He climbed the mountain, even at the instant when the knife glittered he believed ... that God would not require Isaac. He was indeed astonished at the outcome, but by a double-movement he had reached his first position, and therefore he received Isaac more gladly than the first time. Let us go further. We let Isaac be really sacrificed. Abraham believed. He did not believe that some day he would be blessed in the beyond, but that he would be happy here in the world. God could give him a new Isaac, could recall to life him who had been sacrificed. He believed by virtue of the absurd; for all human reckoning had long since ceased to function.
    • ibid, p44
  • The dialectic of faith is the finest and most remarkable of all; it possesses an elevation, of which indeed I can form a conception, but nothing more. I am able to make from the springboard the great leap whereby I pass into infinity, my back is like that of a tight-rope dancer, having been twisted in my childhood,26 hence I find this easy; with a one-two-three! I can walk about existence on my head; but the next thing I cannot do, for I cannot perform the miraculous, but can only be astonished by it.
    • ibid pp.46
  • But now as for Abraham - how did he act? For I have not forgotten, and the reader will perhaps be kind enough to remember, that it was with the aim of reaching this point I entered into the whole foregoing discussion _. not as though Abraham would thereby become more intelligible, but in order that the unintelligibility might become more desultory. For, as I have said, Abraham I cannot understand, I can only admire him.
  • Abraham I cannot understand, in a certain sense there is nothing I can learn from him but astonishment. If people fancy that by considering the outcome of this story they might let themselves be moved to believe, they deceive themselves and want to swindle God out of the first movement of faith, the infinite resignation. They would suck worldly wisdom out of the paradox. Perhaps one or another may succeed in that, for our age is not willing to stop with faith, with its miracle of turning water into wine, it goes further, it turns wine into water.
    • ibid pp. 47
  • Only the lower natures forget themselves and become something new. Thus the butterfly has entirely forgotten that it was a caterpillar, perhaps it may in turn so entirely forget it was a butterfly that it becomes a fish. The deeper natures never forget themselves and never become anything else than what they were.
    • ibid pp. 54
  • Fools and young men prate about everything being possible for a man. That, however, is a great error. Spiritually speaking, everything is possible, but in the world of the finite there is much which is not possible.
    • ibid pp. 54
  • A young swain falls in love with a princess,29 and the whole content of his life consists in this love, and yet the situation is such that it is impossible for it to be realized, impossible for it to be translated from ideality into reality. The slaves of paltriness, the frogs in life's swamp, will naturally cry out, "Such a love is foolishness. The rich brewer's widow is a match fully as good and respectable." Let them croak in the swamp undisturbed.
    • ibid 52
  • ...passion is necessary. Every movement of infinity comes about by passion, and no reflection can bring a movement about.
  • The ethical expression of what Abraham did is that he meant to murder Isaac, the religious expression is that he meant to sacrifice Isaac – but precisely in this contradiction is the anxiety that can make a person sleepless, and yet, without this anxiety Abraham is not who he is.
    • p. 30
  • "I believe nevertheless that I shall get her, in virtue, that is, of the absurd, in virtue of the fact that with God all things are possible."
  • Infinite resignation is the last stage before faith, so anyone who has not made this movement does not have faith, for only in infinite resignation does an individual become conscious of his eternal validity, and only then can one speak of grasping existence by virtue of faith.
    • p.46
  • Faith therefore is not an aesthetic emotion but something far higher, precisely because it has resignation as its presupposition; it is not an immediate instinct of the heart, but is the paradox of life and existence.


  • For the act of resignation faith is not required, for what I gain by resignation is my eternal consciousness, and this is a purely philosophical movement which I dare say I am able to make if it is required, and which I can train myself to make, for whenever any finiteness would get the mastery over me, I starve myself until I can make the movement, for my eternal consciousness is my love to God, and for me this is higher than everything. For the act of resignation faith is not required, but it is needed when it is the case of acquiring the very least thing more than my eternal consciousnesses, for this is the paradoxical.
    • pp58
  • In resignation I make renunciation of everything, this movement I make by myself, and if I do not make it, it is because I am cowardly and effeminate and without enthusiasm and do not feel the significance of the lofty dignity which is assigned to every man, that of being his own censor, which is a far proud er title than that of Censor General to the whole Roman Republic.
    • pp.59
  • By faith I make renunciation of nothing, on the contrary, by faith I acquire everything, precisely in the sense in which it is said that he who has faith like a grain of mustard can remove mountains. A purely human courage is required to renounce the whole of the temporal to gain the eternal; but this I gain, and to all eternity I cannot renounce it - that is a self-contradiction.
    • pp.59
  • It goes against the grain for me to do what so often happens, to speak inhumanly about the great as if a few millennia were an immense distance. I prefer to speak humanly about it, as if it happened yesterday, and let only the greatness itself be the distance.
    • S. Walsh, trans. (2006), p. 28

Problema I

  • One not infrequently hears it said by men, who for lack of losing themselves in studies are absorbed in phrases, that a light shines upon the Christian world whereas a darkness broods over paganism. This utterance has always seemed strange to me, inasmuch as every profound thinker and every serious artist is even in our day rejuvenated by the eternal youth of the Greek race. Such an utterance may be explained by the consideration that people do not know what they ought to say but only that they must say something.
    • pp.66, Princeton University Press, 1973
  • Faith is precisely this paradox, that the individual as the particular is higher than the universal, is justified over against it, is not subordinate but superior - yet in such a way, be it observed, that it is the particular individual who, after he has been subordinated as the particular to the universal, now through the universal becomes the individual who as the particular is superior to the universal, for the fact that the individual as the particular stands in an absolute relation to the absolute.
    • pp.67, Princeton University Press, 1973
  • Abraham is therefore at no instant a tragic hero but something quite different, either a murderer or a believer. The middle term which saves the tragic hero, Abraham has not. Hence it is that I can understand the tragic hero but cannot understand Abraham, though in a certain crazy sense I admire him more than all other men.
    • pp.67, Princeton University Press, 1973
  • The difference between the tragic hero and Abraham is clearly evident. The tragic hero still remains in the ethical.
  • In our age we hear this cry seldom, for as our ago , to its disadvantage, does not produce heroes , it has also the advantage of producing few caricatures.
    • pp, 73, Princeton University Press, 1973
  • "It is to bejudged according to the result," a man is at once clear as to who it is he has the honor of talking with. Those who talk thus are a numerous tribe, whom I will denominate by the common name of Docents.49 In their thoughts they live secure in existence, they have a solid position and sure prospects in a well-ordered state, they have centuries and even millenniums between them and the concussions of existence, they do not fear that such things could recur - for what would the police say to that! and the newspapers! Their lifework is to judge the great, and to judge them according to the result. Such behavior toward the great betrays a strange mixture of arrogance and misery: of arrogance because they think they are called to be judges; of misery because they do not feel that their lives are even in the remotest degree akin to the great.
    • pp. 73, Princeton University Press, 1973
  • Why then did Abraham do it? For God's sake, and (in complete identity with this) for his own sake. He did it for God's sake because God required this proof of his faith; for his own sake he did it in order that he might furnish the proof. The unity of these two points of view is perfectly expressed by the word which has always been used to characterize this situation: it is a trial, a temptation [FristetseJ,4' A temptation - but what does that mean? What ordinarily tempts a man is that which would keep him from doing his duty, but in this case the temptation is itself the ethical ... which would keep him from doing God's will. But what then is duty? Duty is precisely the expression for God's will. Here is evident the necessity of a new category if one would understand Abraham. Such a relationship to the deity paganism did not know. The tragic hero does not enter into any private relationship with the deity, but for him the ethical is the divine, hence the paradox implied in his situation can be mediated in the universal.
  • Is there such a thing as a teleological suspension of the ethical?
    • p. 54
  • The ethical as such is the universal, and as the universal it applies to everyone, which from another angle means that it applies at all times. It rests immanent in itself, has nothing outside itself that is its τέλος but is itself the τέλος for everything outside itself, and when the ethical has absorbed this into itself, it goes not further. The single individual, sensately and psychically qualified in immediacy, is the individual who has his τέλος in the universal, and it is his ethical task continually to express himself in this, to annul his singularity in order to become the universal. As soon as the single individual asserts himself in his singularity before the universal, he sins, and only by acknowledging this can he be reconciled again with the universal. ... Faith [in contrast to the ethical] is namely this paradox that the single individual is higher than the universal ... so that after having been in the universal he as the single individual isolates himself as higher than the universal.
    • pp. 54-55
  • It is certainly true that many persons may be so constituted that they are repulsed by it, but faith ought not therefore to be made into something else to enable one to have it, but one ought rather to admit to not having it, while those who have faith ought to be prepared to set forth some characteristics the paradox can be distinguished from the spiritual trial. p. 56
  • How did Abraham exist? He had faith. This is the paradox by which he remains at the apex, the paradox that he cannot explain to anyone else, for the paradox is that he as the single individual places himself in an absolute relation to the absolute. p. 62
  • When in our age we hear these words: It will be judged by the result-then we know at once with whom we have the honor of speaking. Those who talk this way are a numerous type whom I shall designate under the common name of assistant professors. p. 62
  • But we are curious about the result, just as we are curious about the way a book turns out. We do not want to know anything about the anxiety, the distress, the paradox. We carry on an esthetic flirtation with the result. p. 63
  • To explain the whole of existence and faith along with it, without having a conception of what faith is, is easy, and that man does not make the poorest calculation in life who reckons upon admiration when he possesses such an explanation; for, as Boileau says, "un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l'admire."
  • Faith is a marvel, and yet no human being is excluded from it; for that which unites all human life is passion, and faith is a passion.
    • p. 67
  • Now we will let the knight of faith appear in the role just described. He makes exactly the same movements as the other knight, infinitely renounces claim to the love which is the content of his life, he is reconciled in pain; but then occurs the prodigy, he makes still another movement more wonderful than all, for he says, "I believe nevertheless that I shall get her, in virtue, that is, of the absurd, in virtue of the fact that with God all things are possible.

Problema II

  • In Hegelian philosophy, the outer (the externalization) is higher than the inner.
    • p. 68
  • Recent philosophy has allowed itself simply to substitute the immediate for “faith.” if that is done, then it is ridiculous to deny that there has always been faith. this puts faith in the rather commonplace company of feelings, moods, idiosyncrasies, vagaries, etc. if so, philosophy may be correct in saying that one ought not to stop there. But nothing justifies philosophy in using this language. … Only when the individual has emptied himself in the infinite, only then has the point been reached where faith can break through.
    • p. 69
  • The true knight of faith is a witness, never a teacher, and therein lies his deep humanity, which is worth a good deal more than this silly participation in others' weal and woe which is honored by the name of sympathy, whereas in fact it is nothing but vanity.

Problema III

  • Recognition and hiddenness are also an essential element of modern drama. … I assume that everyone who merely hears the word “hiddenness” will easily be able to shake a dozen novels and comedies out of his sleeve. ... If someone playing the hiding game hides nonsense, we get a comedy, but if he is related to the idea, he may come close to being a tragic hero.
    • p. 84
  • Faust fulfills this idea. Anyone who has a notion of what it means for a person to live on spirit also knows what the hunger of doubt means and knows that the doubter hungers just as much for the daily bread of life as for the nourishment of spirit.
    • p. 109
  • A man rouges his face and wears a periwig. The same man is eager to try his fortune with the fair sex, he is perfectly sure of conquering by the aid of the rouge and the periwig which make him absolutely irresistible. He captures a girl and is at the acme of happiness. Now comes the gist of the matter: if he is able to admit this embellishment, he does not lose all of his infatuating power; when he reveals himself as a plain ordinary man, and bald at that, he does not thereby lose the loved one.
  • So either there is a paradox, that the individual as the individual stands in an absolute relation to the absolute ... or Abraham is lost.


  • Once when the price of spices in Holland fell, the merchants had a few cargoes sunk in the sea in order to jack up the price. Do we need something similar in the world of the spirit? Are we so sure that we have achieved the highest, so that there is nothing left for us to do except piously to delude ourselves into thinking that we have not come that far, simply in order to have something to occupy one’s time> is this the kind of self-deception the present age needs? Should it be trained in the virtuosity along that line, or is it not, instead adequately perfected in the art of deceiving itself?
    • p. 121-122
  • "One must go further, one must go further." This impulse to go further is an ancient thing in the world.
  • Faith is the highest passion in a man. There are perhaps many in every generation who do not even reach it, but no one gets further.

Quotes about Fear and Trembling

  • The leading figures of the generation that came to philosophical maturity in the 1840s¹stressed, from the start, their sharp disagreements with the systematic idealism of their predecessors. As Søren Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous author Johannes de Silentio makes clear in Fear and Trembling, the one thing that he is notwriting is 'the System'—that is, any version of Hegelian idealism. …
    • Karl Ameriks, Kant and Historical Turn (2006), 10. The Legacy of Idealism in the Philosophy of Feuerbach, Marx, and Kierkegaard
  • Kierkegaard’s relation to idealism is not the confrontation of one ‘system’ with another, or the attempted substitution for philosophy of an anthropological science or a program for necessary social liberation. Nonetheless, he borrows more from German Idealism than his relentless campaign against Hegel would lead one to expect. This background is indicated in the title of one of his major works, Stages on Life’s Way, as well as in the subtitle he chose for his classic Fear and Trembling: A Dialectical Lyric. At the center of Kierkegaard’s thought is a project that parallels the plot of Hegel’s Phenomenology—namely, a philosophical outline of the ideal ‘pathway of consciousness’. Whereas Hegel describes four main stages in the social history of ‘freedom’, Kierkegaard focuses on four ‘stages on life’s way’ in the development of individual freedom. These stages are deeply Hegelian because they are ordered dialectically in a series of determinate negations, and they exhibit a progression of stages that employs —and then reorders —the key phases of Hegel’s ‘objective’ and ‘absolute’ spirit. In place of Hegel’s sequence—ethics, aesthetics, religion, philosophy—Kierkegaard uses the ascending order: aesthetics, ethics, philosophical religion, orthodox religion.
  • There were some pre-Nietzschean efforts to formulate perspectives that were “beyond” or “above” the traditional “moral” outlooks, insofar as these outlooks were considered negatively, as being either too rigidly mechanical, overly rule-governed, and/or morally uninspiring (i.e., as not expressing the “true” moral spirit). One example is in Hegel’s early writings (e.g.,“The Spirit of Christianity,” 1797), where he stated that via the feeling of love, all thought of [Kantian] duties vanishes, and one rises above the whole [mechanically defined] sphere of justice and injustice. A slightly more extreme example is in the writings of Søren Kierkegaard (1813–55), who characterized the paradoxical and incomprehensible “religious” perspective as one located beyond the rationally-grounded and rule-governed “ethical” perspective. He referred to this as the “teleological suspension of the ethical” in Fear and Trembling (1843).
    • Robert Wicks, Nietzsche (2002), p. 165
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