A Review of “Introducing Kierkegaard”

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The Introducing… series, I was surprised to find out is actually graphically based. Thus what you hold in your hands is a cross between a graphic novel, Wikipedia, and a MA philosophy student’s notes on the given philosophical system or individual or concept. It’s relatively short, yet thorough.

It’s the fastest way to gain a conversational knowledge of a complex, dense or ignored topic. I suspect that proper philosophic academicians frown in mild disgust on these little introductory booklets, but their practical, bite-sized information-download style are just too advantageous to pass up.

Just so there is no confusion, this is not the first one that I have read; I’ve also plugged out Introducing Critical Theory.

Kierkegaard, a early 19th century Dane, raised of a tyrannically puritan (and rich from running a grocery store) father, whose influence dominates Soren’s life and thought.

There are three aspects of Kierkegaard that I found to be of interest. First of all his profoundly paradoxical, mystical, introverted and despondent Christian faith, which – oddly enough – made him the grandfather of existentialist (famously atheist) thought. Second, his observations of bourgeois society, rich with romantic notions of the loner, are the opening salvoes against pop culture, conformity, and the group versus the lone individual. His ideas about the “Public” and his rejection of reason and logic to answer the biggest and highest questions mark him as an initiator of a host of later philosophical ideas, ranging from Nietzsche to Postmodernism. Lastly, Kierkegaard’s writing is known to be quite witty; he famously adopts different personas in his books, makes contradictory arguments, was the first to write philosophic novels along the lines of Camus’ The Stranger. Kierkegaard never came up with a logically consistent system; he wrote his books to place the reader into paradoxes and forced them to come to their own conclusion or leave them to create or finish the train of thought.

Kierkegaard is both profoundly modern – I feel very comfortable saying that he is the first emo kid – and is yet a tortured soul who looks back, abjectly towards a dark, sinful form of Christianity. Tertrullian, in 200 AD, first said “I believe because it is absurd”; Kierkegaard is the ultimate formulator of this arguement. More systematic thinkers easily rip his ideas to shreds; his belief in Christianity seems to be based on a flip of a coin. His legacy is paradoxical, much like his writing. He was interested in thinking about the individual and the choice and freedom of the individual.

Interesting stuff. One of the original tortured loners; one of the first to link existence with being different from the larger social group. Am surprised that his faith has not led him to be “re-discovered” by modern evangelicals.

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