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Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks: Volume 4, Journals NB-NB5

Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks: Volume 4, Journals NB-NB5

by Soren Kierkegaard

For over a century, the Danish thinker Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) has been at the center of a number of important discussions, concerning not only philosophy and theology, but also, more recently, fields such as social thought, psychology, and contemporary aesthetics, especially literary theory.

Despite his relatively short life, Kierkegaard was an


For over a century, the Danish thinker Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) has been at the center of a number of important discussions, concerning not only philosophy and theology, but also, more recently, fields such as social thought, psychology, and contemporary aesthetics, especially literary theory.

Despite his relatively short life, Kierkegaard was an extraordinarily prolific writer, as attested to by the 26-volume Princeton University Press edition of all of his published writings. But Kierkegaard left behind nearly as much unpublished writing, most of which consists of what are called his "journals and notebooks." Kierkegaard has long been recognized as one of history's great journal keepers, but only rather small portions of his journals and notebooks are what we usually understand by the term "diaries." By far the greater part of Kierkegaard's journals and notebooks consists of reflections on a myriad of subjects—philosophical, religious, political, personal. Studying his journals and notebooks takes us into his workshop, where we can see his entire universe of thought. We can witness the genesis of his published works, to be sure—but we can also see whole galaxies of concepts, new insights, and fragments, large and small, of partially (or almost entirely) completed but unpublished works. Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks enables us to see the thinker in dialogue with his times and with himself.

Volume 4 of this 11-volume series includes the first five of Kierkegaard's well-known "NB" journals, which contain, in addition to a great many reflections on his own life, a wealth of thoughts on theological matters, as well as on Kierkegaard's times, including political developments and the daily press.

Kierkegaard wrote his journals in a two-column format, one for his initial entries and the second for the extensive marginal comments that he added later. This edition of the journals reproduces this format, includes several photographs of original manuscript pages, and contains extensive scholarly commentary on the various entries and on the history of the manuscripts being reproduced.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"For all of his lyricism, many of Kierkegaard's works project themselves as an impenetrable fortress of abstractions. These magnificently translated journals are a tunnel beneath the moat of that fortress. They capture the unpackaged and unbuttoned Kierkegaard and thus provide a stimulus to anyone intent on understanding a religious author who could well be reckoned a Luther of Lutheranism."—Gordon Marino, Christian Century

"These new critical editions do an excellent job of making Kierkegaard's journals and notebooks available in all their richness."—Brian Gregor, Elizabeth C. Shaw and Staff

Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publication date:
Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks Series
Product dimensions:
7.70(w) x 9.90(h) x 1.90(d)

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Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks

Volume 4 Journals NB-NB5

By Niels Jørgen Cappelørn, Alastair Hannay, David Kangas, Bruce H. Kirmmse, George Pattison, Joel D.S. Rasmussen, Vanessa Rumble, K. Brian Soderquist


Copyright © 2003 Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre Foundation, Copenhagen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-14903-5



Translated by Bruce H. Kirmmse

Edited by Vanessa Rumble

Text source Journal NB in Søren Kierkegaards Skrifter

Text established by Niels W. Bruun and Steen Tullberg

It was only after the publication of the last big book, Concluding Postscript, that I dared give myself the time to look around and concern myself with my extrnl existence.

My finances no longer permit me to be an author. Genrl comment on the lit. situation in Denmark.

I will apply to the government. Because although I must continue, with God's help, to remain dignified and calm in relating myself ironically in opposition to such chimerical entities as the public, in opposition to the grovelling tyranny of the daily press, etc.—I must continue, with God's help, in an equally seemly manner, to be what I always have been: submissive.—By moderating my position I could perhaps become the darling of the public, but I won't do it: Then I would not want to be an author at all.

elements that recommend [me].

1) my efforts as an author are surely in accord with the interests of the government.

2) I have shown that I can make use of otium

3) I am young and live in a strict monastic style in order to work.

4) I am unmarried and have nothing else that occupies me. It is not like other cases in which the state supports, qua author, a man who is many other things as well, or who has a family.

And I hope all the more that I might receive consideration, because whereas other authors do earn a bit of royalties with their books (even if it is always rather meager), I have actually had to spend money, so that my proofreader has literally earned more than I have.


In the whole of the unconscious world, the pressure exerted by the surrounding world and the counterpressure exerted by the individual are identical. The first trace of spontaneity is to be found when this pressure and counterpressure are mediated via a third entity: general feeling, feeling, self-feeling.

Unconsciousness.—Then an impressionable substance (the nervous system) must be formed; next, there must be a surrounding world,—worldconsciousness;—then a gathering together, a preservation of impressions (Innerung—or, in a higher sphere, Erinnerung); and this preservation must have attained a certain level: self-consciousness.—God-consciousness.

The animals: natural instinct; artistic instinct; migratory instinct.

The child[:] understanding; imagination at puberty; reason. And as in the human organism, it develops itself through uniform repetition, the repeated reproduction of the primal cells, likewise memory, which is of course a repetition. And just as in the organism, there is at the same time a striving toward totality: thus it is with imagination, which is a totality.—Imagination completes the hum. being.

March. 1846. 9th

Concluding Postscript is out; responsibility for the pseudonymity has been acknowledged; the printing of the Literary Review will begin within the next few days. Everything is in order; all I have to do now is to remain calm and quiet, relying on The Corsair to support the entire enterprise negatively, precisely as I wish. At this moment, viewed from the vantage point of the idea, my literary situation is as correct as it could be, also in such a way that to be an author has become a deed. Taken by itself, it was surely the most fortunate of ideas that I broke with The Corsair at the very moment I was finished with my literary production in order to hinder every sort of direct approach—at a time when, precisely by having taken ownership of all the pseudonyms, I ran the risk of becoming a sort of authority. In addition to this, at the very instant that I lash out polemically against the times, I owe it to the idea and to irony to prevent every sort of confusion with the ironical rotgut served by The Corsair in the dance hall of contemptibility. Incidentally, in this case as in so many other cases, what has happened to me is that despite all my reflection there is something greater that emerges, something that is not owing to me, but to Governance. It always turns out that what I do after the greatest possible deliberation, I nonetheless subsequently understand much better—both its ideal significance and the fact that it was exactly what I ought to have done.

This existence is a strenuous one, however; I am quite certain that there is not a single person who understands me. At the most, someone, even an admirer, would concede that I bear all this nonsense with a certain dignity—but that I wish for it[?] no one, of course, would dream of that. On the other hand if, in their glib thoughtlessness, people understood why I must wish for it by virtue of the idea of double reflection, they would conclude: ergo he is not suffering at all, he doesn't feel a thing from all these crude remarks and shameless lies. Just as if one could make a free choice to assume all these tribulations whenever the idea commands it. The article against P. L. Møller was written in much fear and trembling. I wrote it on religious holidays, and as a regulating check I neglected neither to attend church nor to read my sermon. The same thing holds for the article against The Corsair. On the other hand, they were properly written, for if I had revealed passion, some would have used that as an opportunity to have a straightforward relation to me. It was amusing and psychologically perfect to see the celerity with which P. L. Møller took the hint about withdrawing from The Corsair. He stepped forward, bowed respectfully, and then departed to the place where he belongs.

For the rest, what moves me painfully is not the vulgarity but the hidden complicity of the better sort of people. I wish, all the same, that I might make myself comprehensible to a single human being, to my reader. But I dare not do so because I would then be defrauding the idea. It is precisely when I have won, when crudeness appears most shamelessly, that I dare not say it. Finally, I have a responsibility [to be silent], if I am not, precisely by virtue of my consistent imperturbabilty, to contribute to the perdition of quite a number of people. That is how it will be. I have to remain silent.

The last two months have been quite fruitful for my observations. Nonetheless, what is stated in my dissertation is so true: irony lays bare the phenomena. My ironic leap into The Corsair contributes, first of all, to making it absolutely clear that The Corsair is devoid of an idea. From the vantage point of the idea, it is dead, even though it gained a couple thousand more subscribers. It wants to be ironic and does not even understand what irony is. In general it would have been an epigram on my existence if one day it might be said that in his time there was a bungling, ironic newspaper in which he was praised; no, wait—he was abused, and he himself demanded it.—Next, my ironic leap into The Corsair lays bare the surrounding world in its self-contradiction. Everyone has gone around saying, "It's nothing, who cares about The Corsair?" and so forth. What happens? When somebody does this, he is condemned for being rash; people say he deserved all that—thus now it has become "all that"—because he himself caused it; they scarcely dare walk down the street with me—for fear that they, too, will appear in The Corsair. Incidentally, the self-contradiction has a more profound basis: for indeed, in their Christian envy, they half wish that the paper might continue to exist, each one hoping that he will not be attacked. Now they say that the paper is contemptible, that it's nothing; they impress upon the individuals who are attacked that they dare not become angry or issue a rejoinder—ergo the paper must flourish. And the public has first the titillation of envy, then the naughty pleasure of keeping watch on the person attacked—to see if it has affected him. And this phenomenon in a country as small as Denmark; this phenomenon as the only ruler: it's supposed to be nothing! Oh, how cowardice and contemptibility are well-suited to one another in an alliance of wretchedness. And when the whole thing bursts one day, it will recoil upon Goldschmidt. And yet it will be exactly the same public—and then the world will have become a wonderful world!

Furthermore, my observations more than confirm my sense that this is how it is: If a person consistently expresses an idea, every objection raised against him will contain a self-revelation of the one who raises it. They say it is I who trouble myself about The Corsair. What happens? The Concluding Postscript was delivered, lock, stock, and barrel, to Luno before I wrote in opposition to P. L. Møller. Now, in that book, particularly in the preface (which, incidentally, was written in May 45), something has been found that might seem to allude to some part of the latter affair. (This shows, among other things, how far in advance I had been aware of things.) So if I had been troubled about The Corsair I could have made a little alteration in it [the preface to the Postscript] in order to avoid the appearance. I know how I struggled inwardly about whether I ought not do it after all, because it pained me to think that Bishop Mynster, for example, might say, ["]To think that Kierkegaard would pay attention to that sort of thing, even in a book[!"] But I remained true to myself by not troubling myself about The Corsair—and what happens? Yes, as might have been expected, they see allusions to The Corsair in everything I write. Here is the self-revelation, as it is surely they themselves who have The Corsair in mente, since they find it even in what had been written before that time. I am especially occupied with two things: 1) that in the Greek sense I remain intellectually true to the idea of my existence, whatever the cost. 2) that in the religious sense this be as ennobling as possible for me. I have prayed to God with respect to this latter. I have always been solitary; now I will again really have occasion to practice this. And look, my solitary secret is not my grief, but is precisely the fact that I have the upper hand, that I transform the hostility—without its suspecting a thing—into something that serves my idea. Yes, indeed, this life is satisfying, but it is also frightfully strenuous. Oh, what a sorry side of the human race one comes to know, oh, how sad that what will look good from a distance must always be misunderstood by its contemporaries! But what saves is always the religious; in it there is sympathy for all, not the talkative sympathy with members of one's own faction and supporters, but infinite sympathy with everyone—in silence.

But it is undeniably an education to be situated as I am in a small city like Copenhagen. To work to the utmost of my abilities, almost to the point of despair, with profound agony in my soul and much inner suffering, to pay out money in order to publish books—and then to have literally fewer than 10 people who read them through properly, while university students and other writers find it convenient to depict the writing of a large book as something close to ridiculous. And then to have a paper that everyone reads, that has the license of contemptibility with which it dares to say everything, the most mendacious distortions—and it's nothing, but everyone reads it. And then the entire mass of the envious, who lend a hand by saying just the opposite—in order to belittle it in that way. Again and again to be the object of everybody's conversation and attention—and then the reverse, that is, to defend me against an attack—if they do this, it is so they themselves can attack me even more harshly. Every butcher boy believes that he is entitled practically to insult me on orders issued by The Corsair; the young university students smirk and giggle and are happy that a prominent person is trampled down; the professors are envious and secretly sympathize with the attacks, repeating them, though of course they add that it is a shame. The least thing I do, even if I merely pay a visit to someone, is mendaciously distorted and repeated everywhere. If The Corsair learns of it, it prints it, and it is read by the entire population. The man I have visited is thus put in an embarrassing situation. He almost becomes angry with me, and he really cannot be blamed for this. In the end I will have to withdraw and associate only with people I don't like, for it's almost a sin to associate with the others. And that is the way things go; and some day, when I am dead, then people will open their eyes and admire what I wanted to do; and at the same time, they will behave the same way toward one of their contemporaries, who is probably the only person who understands me. God in Heaven! If there weren't, after all, an innermost core in a person where all this can be forgotten, indeed, entirely forgotten in your company—who could endure it?

But, praise God, my activity as an author is now over. It has been granted to me—something for which, next after having published Either/Or, I am thankful to God—to be able to conclude it on my own, to be able myself to understand when it was proper to stop. I certainly know and find it quite in order that people will not view it in this light, and I could in fact prove it is so with a couple of words. It has pained me—I did think I could have wished for that recognition, but let it go.

If only I could make myself become a priest. After all, however much my present life has gratified me, out there, in quiet activity, granting myself a bit of literary productivity in my free moments, I would breathe more easily.

But there must not be any writing, not a single word; I dare not do it. For what would be written would give the reader a hint and thus disturb him; he must not find things out on the sly. These days I have tossed out more than a few things—they weren't badly written, but they can only be made use of in a quite different context.

The final format I have in mind would be this:

Short and Sweet.

In my opinion, if there is no author, an editor is the person who bears the literary responsibility. The editor of The Corsair is Mr. Goldschmidt, university student, a bright head, without ideas, without a course of study, without views, without self-control, but not without a certain talent and an aesthetically desperate power. At a critical point of his life he turned to me; I tried indirectly to support him negatively; I praise him for the certainty with which he takes a position. I think he has succeeded in doing what he wanted. I had hoped that he would have chosen the path of honor in making a name for himself; honestly, it pains me that he, as editor of The Corsair, continues to choose the path of contemptibility to earn money. It had been my wish that, if possible, this actually rather gifted person be wrested away from being an instrument of vulgarity; but truly, it had never been my wish to be rewarded so shamefully, by being immortalized by a newspaper of contemptibility, [a paper] that ought not exist and at whose hands I can only wish to be abused. My existence as an author is agreeable to being abused; therefore I wished for it and demanded it as soon as I was finished, for when Frater Taciturnus wrote, Johannes Climacus had already been delivered to the printer several days earlier. By taking this step I had also hoped to benefit others; they didn't want it; well, then, I continue to demand that I be abused because it agrees with my idea, and in order thus to have at least some benefit come from the existence of such a newspaper. It is saddening to see so many who are foolish and lacking in understanding, who laugh and yet do not—in this case at any rate—know what they are laughing at. God only knows if I have raised the stakes too high in relation to my contemporaries; my idea requires it; its consistency satisfies me indescribably—I cannot do otherwise. I beg the forgiveness of those better people who are not dialectical or who do not have sufficient prerequisites to understand that I must act in this way. And then, forward: Would that I might be abused. However significant or however insignificant my existence as an author is, this much is certain: I am the only Danish author whose dialectical situation is such that it agrees with the idea, that all possible lies and distortions and nonsense and slander are employed in order to confuse the reader, thus helping him become active on his own and preventing him from entering into a straightforward relationship. It is impossible that any other Danish author, in addressing 100 readers, is well-served when lies and distortions have 1000 readers. On the other hand, every time he dishes out abuse to me—and that is something he will surely do—he serves me; he cannot do without me, and the lack of strength to pursue the good expresses itself in the bravado of unhappy love and in his drowning himself out with abusive language, which does indeed hurt me, inasmuch as I have meant well by him. His abusive language, on the other hand, does not concern me; I am able to absent myself.


Excerpted from Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks by Niels Jørgen Cappelørn, Alastair Hannay, David Kangas, Bruce H. Kirmmse, George Pattison, Joel D.S. Rasmussen, Vanessa Rumble, K. Brian Soderquist. Copyright © 2003 Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre Foundation, Copenhagen. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Bruce H. Kirmmse of Connecticut College (emeritus) and the University of Copenhagen and K. Brian Söderquist of the University of Copenhagen are the general editors of Kierkegaard's "Journals and Notebooks", heading up a distinguished editorial board that includes Niels Jørgen Cappelørn, director emeritus of the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre in Copenhagen; Alastair Hannay of the University of Oslo (emeritus); David Kangas of Santa Clara University; George Pattison and Joel D. S. Rasmussen of Oxford University; and Vanessa Rumble of Boston College.

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