Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks: Volume 5, Journals NB6-NB10 by Soren Kierkegaard, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks: Volume 5, Journals NB6-NB10

Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks: Volume 5, Journals NB6-NB10

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 But Kierkegaard left behind nearly as much unpublished writing, most of which consists of what are called his "journals and notebooks."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galaxies of concepts, new insights, and fragments, large and small, of partially (or almost entirely) completed but unpublished works.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 5 of this 11-volume series includes five of Kierkegaard's important "NB" journals (Journals NB6 through NB10), covering the months from summer 1848 through early May 1849. This was a turbulent period both in the history of Denmark—which was experiencing the immediate aftermath of revolution and the fall of absolutism, a continuing war with the German states, and the replacement of the State Church with the Danish People's Church—and for Kierkegaard personally. The journals in the present volume include Kierkegaard's reactions to the political upheaval, a retrospective account of his audiences with King Christian VIII, deliberations about publishing an autobiographical explanation of his writings, and an increasingly harsh critique of the Danish Church. These journals also reflect Kierkegaard's deep concern over his collision with the satirical journal Corsair, an experience that helped radicalize his view of "essential Christianity" and caused him to ponder the meaning of martyrdom.

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

Philosophy in Review - Brian Gregor
[A]nyone interested in the serious study of Kierkegaard has reason to be grateful to the editorial board and the Søren Kierkegaard Research Center for undertaking this invaluable project.
From the Publisher
"[A]nyone interested in the serious study of Kierkegaard has reason to be grateful to the editorial board and the Søren Kierkegaard Research Center for undertaking this invaluable project."—Brian Gregor, Philosophy in Review

"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

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Princeton University Press
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Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks Series
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Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks

Volume 5 Journals NB6â"10

By Niels Jergen Cappelørn, Alastair Hannay, David Kangas, Bruce H. Kirmmse George Pattis Rumble, K. Brian Soderquist


Copyright © 2003 Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre Foundation, Copenhagen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-15218-9



Translated by Bruce H. Kirmmse

Edited by Alastair Hannay

Text source Journal NB6 in Søren Kierkegaards Skri??er

Text established by Niels W. Bruun and Finn Gredal Jensen


July 16, 1848

S T Hr. Magister Kjerkegaard.


Dear Hr. Magister!

Permit me to thank you, oh, permit me to thank you for being willing to send for me. I am coming soon—quietly; because I sense that with you one must be very quiet in order to be properly able to hear what you say.

Yours, R. Nielsen.—

S T Hr. Magister Kjerkegaard.—

* * *

By becoming contemporary with Christ (the exemplar), you discover precisely that you don't resemble it at all, not even in what you call your best moments, for in such a moment you are of course not in the corresponding tension of actuality, but are observing. From this it follows, then, that you really and truly learn what it is to take refuge in grace. The exemplar is what demands itself of you, and alas, you feel the difference terribly. Then you take refuge in the exemplar, that he will have mercy on you. Thus the exemplar is simultaneously the one who judges you infinitely in the strictest way—and also the one who has mercy on you.

* * *

Fundamentally it is sinful and punishable lust, just as sinful as every other lust, to want to observe and observe, to be uplifted by what is highest by observing—observing suffering for a good cause instead of going forth into the true tension of actuality—instead of suffering, etc. This lust makes the church into a theater, for the difference betw. theater and church is the relation to actuality. This lust for observing is just as sinful as when a debauched person is fearful of having children: in observing one wants to have pleasure and take leave of earnestness.

* * *

I concede that I began my activity as an author with a great advantage: being viewed as something close to a scoundrel, but with a brilliant mind, i.e., a hero of the salon, the darling of the times. It was a bit of an untruth—but otherwise I would not have had peop. on my side. Gradually, as peop. noticed that this was not quite the way things were, they fell away and are still falling away. Alas, if it were to become clear that I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling, then it's goodbye to the world's approval.

But this was where the spy lurked—and people did not notice this. That a person is at first a debauched voluptuary, a salon hero, and then, after many years becomes what is called a saint: this does not captivate people. But that, as a precaution, a penitent, a preacher of repentance begins in the costume of a salon hero: this is something to which people are not entirely accustomed.

This has also enriched me with an almost unlimited knowledge of hum. beings.

* * *

When, in small nation, all agree to regard what every even moderately cultivated person must be capable of realizing is crudeness, vulgarity, not wittiness—to regard this as wittiness, so that even the loftiest circles of the society read this sort of thing and are so familiar with it, so that even the young females of our most respected families allude to it without blushing: then eo ipso the country has met its demise; it has committed treason against itself and against everything good and noble that it once had and will prevent itself from acquiring it in the future.

* * *

If a country wants to permit a boy to perpetrate boyish pranks and wants to require that the respected people of the country put up with it and put a good face on it—then the country must also make sure that it is quite certain that this is a boy and that these are boyish pranks, that he is not made into a genius on account of his boyish pranks.

* * *

Oh, how loathsome it is to live in a tiny little nonsensical country whose only character is a lack of character. At one moment one must show that one is someone respected; at the next moment one must be a sort of mad fellow—and this is for this wretched couple of hundred thousand peop., of whom (with the exception of the few who understand something, but they are of course precisely those who are treated like this) no one understands anything.—Assume it is decided that one is to be regarded as a sort of riff-raff—fine, then one arranges one's life accordingly. But this nonsense is disgusting; this sort of thing can only happen in a country in which contemptibility dominates public opinion, because contemptibility has precisely missed a certain point, which is what makes the impropriety painful. In these times, contemptibility is the only power. For what are the evil powers? Inertia and envy. Nowadays everything that is good and capable of doing anything immediately falls prey to these evil powers—but "contemptibility" has license to enter the Passage. Contemptibility is not envied, nor can it set inertia in motion, therefore things go so well for it. In Denmark contemptibility has now become the path "to success and power."

* * *

Dying is the only thing that can clear the air. At that very instant I will be in my ideality, because the problem is that I am too ideally developed to live in a market town. Oh, how loathsome to live in a situation in which the only thing that can help me is to die. Every day I live I simply become more burdensome to the envy of the market town.

* * *

In Christendom people have turned the matter around, so that that mythical Christ came from the era of childhood; the age of childhood composes myths. Charming! It is just the reverse. First came the historical Xt. Then, long after, came the mythical—an invention of the understanding, which then attributes the mythical to that era of childhood, acting as if the understanding now had the task of explaining this myth—this myth, which it itself has composed.

* * *

Alas, I am neither proud not vain, nor vainglorious—I am a thinker, an enormously passionate thinker. And this is precisely what bothers me: that some people want to abuse me and insult me, others to plague me with distinctions and honors. But to help me further along if possible, to assist me in understanding something more than I have understood: no one, not anyone, not a living soul wants to do that. That is, for me everything is merely a hindrance. And it is a torment to have to live in such a way that simply in order to be allowed to think, I almost have to let them regard me as mad—for otherwise they might make much of me; I would have to drink toasts and gab at gatherings, loved and honored by all those who do not think.

* * *

Look, this is sadness: after having oneself suffered all ignominy, etc., finally a criminal's death for the sake of the truth. And then: not to be able to say to his disciples, Now you shall have a fine time—but to have to say, Go forth and suffer the same thing, begin where I left off.

* * *

Reduplication is rlly what is Christian. It not only differs as a doctrine from other doctrines, but differs in being the doctrine that reduplicates, so that the teacher is of importance. For Christianity what is constantly being asked is: Not only is what someone says true, from a Christian point of view, but what is he like, the person who is saying it[?]

Thus, when a man clad in silk, bearing the insignia and stars of orders and knighthood, says that the truth must suffer persecution, etc., these appositions, this juxtaposition produces a merely aesthetic situation. His presentation is moving, while his appearance reassures one that things are no longer like that—that was in the old days. Certainly this silken man does indeed say, "Remember that you do not know when the moment will come when you must suffer for the truth," and then the silken man cries (for in his imagination he is a martyr). But then the listener thinks: No, that's nonsense, the whole appearance of the man and his entire life provide a quite different assurance—nowadays the truth is no longer persecuted. Woe for him!—On Sundays, out in the country, in rural calm, when a reverend swears and thunders and crosses himself in talking of how the world persecutes the Xns (His Reverence included), it is easy to see that this is a rogue who in the safety of the countryside, in the company only of peasants and such, who respect him politely, flatters his vanity by imagining that he is persecuted. No, Dad, this too is a comedy. If it is to be in earnest, please be kind enough to take it the capital and appear on the big stage.

* * *

... And then not a single one who will forsake anything in order to serve the truth. All the others grab hold of worldly goods—and precisely for doing so are honored and respected, praised as earnest. I, who acquire none of this, am in addition punished as frivolous.—And then the person who ought to have come closest to understanding one, he flatters me in the most obliging terms: "He can only vaguely sense what I mean." Ah, aha, he acts as if the talk were about the difference betw. one hum. being and another instead of about self-denial. Aha, no! But people are lily-livered, people cannot give up anything at all. This is why people confess "that one can only vaguely sense what I mean." And yet, were a serving maid actually to renounce the world, she would understand me entirely.

* * *

What Christendom needs at every moment is someone who expresses Christianity absolutely recklessly. He would then be seen as the standard of measurement, i.e., the way that Christendom judges him would show how much true Christianity there is in Christendom at any given time. If it is his fate to be put to death, then Christendom is even worse than Judaism in Xst's day, for in those days the offense was infinitely greater because Xnty was something absolutely new, while in Christendom people at least have knowledge of it. If it is his fate to be mocked and scorned, to be thought mad, while an entire generation of priests (who, be it noted, dare not speak recklessly) is honored and furthermore seen as truly Christian, then Christendom is a hallucination. And so on; in short, his fate is the judgment. The judgment is not what he says but what is said about him.

This is the totally modern type of a judge.

* * *

As early as the article "Public Confession" there was a signal shot (I had then completed the manuscript of Either/Or, and Either/ Or appeared immediately after; the article was also a mystification: having disavowed the authorship of the many newspaper articles—which, of course, no one had attributed to me—I ended by asking that people never regard as mine anything on which my name did not appear. And that was precisely when I wanted to begin as a pseudonym) hinting that Prof. Heiberg was the literary figure I wanted to protect—he [and] Mynster: both were mentioned there, and as unmistakably as possible. But then H. himself came out with his impertinent and dandified review of Either/Or, item with a casual promise that he never kept. Then the resistance of his coterie, his attempt to ignore it, which was a falsum in so small a literature. All this provided the occasion for the vulgarity to emerge with such force. I was the one who should and could have struck out at it, but I couldn't, because I had to hold in constant readiness a possible polemic against H. Finally, however, I did strike out at the vulgarity—and H. left me in the lurch. Prior to that time there had often been muttering to the effect that I in fact supported or indulged that rebellion. Now people could see for themselves—but Heiberg thought that if Kierkegaard were to get a cudgeling it would be a good thing. Phooey!

* * *

What I Have Written in Newspapers.

in Flyveposten An article

"Yet Another Defense of the Emancipation of Women."

3 political articles.

"Kjøbenhavnsposten's Morning Observations."

"On Fædrelandet 's Polemic"

"To Orla Lehmann."

in Fædrelandet.

"Public Confession"

"Who Is the Author of Either/Or" over the signature FF.

Then a little article concerning the sermon in Either/Or and one I had given at the seminary.

"A Fleeting Comment on a Detail in D. Juan."

"A Declaration and a Little More."

Then the two articles by Frater Taciturnus.

* * *

. ... Oh, one can be cruel in many ways. A tyrant can have a pers. cruelly mistreated. But one can also be cruel in another way, as someone has been cruel to me. With tears in his eyes, at my feet, he begged me for the sake of Jesus Xst to do what I could not do—oh, that was very cruel; in fact I have never got over it! What is truly most cruel: wanting to be the cruel person oneself—or imputing such cruelty to another pers.!

* * *

And even if Denmark wanted to do so, it is a big question whether it could undo the injustice it has done me: it is beyond dispute that as an author I absolutely will bring honor to D.; that qua author I have existed pretty much at my own expense, without any support from the government or the people; [that I have] endured, have continued producing without even the least literary assistance from a journal because I realized how small the country was; and that I have then been treated like this: my greatest work not even reviewed, and the machinery of the entire project scarcely suspected; and then its author is singled out by the vulgarity, so that he is pointed out to all the cobbler's apprentices, who insult him on the street in the name of "public opinion" (for the press is of course the organ of public opinion)—No, no, Denmark has passed judgment on itself.

* * *

These are the factors. I am a penitent, and therefore, without sparing myself, I must endure venturing forth into dangers from which other people may be permitted to exempt themselves. However much I suffer, I have nothing to complain about, for I am bearing my punishment and doing penance.—But this is my relation to God, which does not in the least way concern my contemporaries or make them blameless, any more than were Joseph's brothers because Joseph became great. But Governance, which is the third factor, is absolute justice itself. Had I not been the person I am, [had I] merely been what I am as an author, then it would almost have been too hard having to experience the torments of spiritlessness that I have had to endure. But I have to do penance for my personal life—and therefore everything, everything is in order.

* * *

. ... It was in this way that in a sense I began my activity as an author. The fact is that in so-called established Xndom, peop. are so firm in the illusion that they are Xns that if there is to be any question of making them aware, one must employ many artifices. If someone who is not otherwise known as writer begins straightaway as a Christian writer, he will not have the times on his side. People immediately shunt it aside, saying "This isn't something for us," etc.

I began as an aestheticist—and then with what was surely unheard-of rapidity I came to the religious. Then I demonstrated what it is to become Xn, etc.

This is how I here present myself to my contemporaries as an author—and in any case this is the way I belong to history. Here I believe I am able only—and dare only—to speak of myself as an author; I do not believe that my personality, my personal life, whatever I might be able to reproach myself for, is of concern to the public. I am the author. And as such, who I am, what has been granted me, I myself know full well. I have put up with everything that would serve my cause.

I would ask, in particular, every more competent person to be slow in passing judgment concerning powers and the use of powers that are not seen every day—this I ask in particular of every more competent person. It would certainly be no use asking fools to do so. But every more competent person generally has respect for himself and for his own judgment—and this is precisely why I ask him to judge carefully.


Excerpted from Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks by Niels Jergen Cappelørn, Alastair Hannay, David Kangas, Bruce H. Kirmmse George Pattis 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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