Kierkegaard as a thinker of the time

Sheet Articles 1834-36, 1842-51, 1854-55
LITERATURE CRITICISM / A selection of Søren Kierkegaard's magazine articles is no easy introduction to his thinking. In contrast, they act as a marker of the thinker as the voice of his time.


We have recognized the woman for her ability in domestic practice. But the woman is more than that. She is now also educating in a theoretical direction. She proves her worth as a speaker and thinker. And then she has a deep insight into the secrets of nature. That is why the woman in her day feared, felled witches and burned the woman on fire.

We're not in the MeToo age, but back in 1834. But we are in the middle of a text discussing the role of women in the world. Her abilities and capabilities. Her right to be. Not as an appendix to the man, but as an independent being with everything that belongs to it. The writer is the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, and the text – which can be found in the recently published collection of Kierkegaard's magazine articles – clearly shows the range of the thinker.

The leaf articles produce another form of grain at eye level
with the thinker than his philosophical works do.

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard – arguably one of the Nordic's greatest philosophers if not the greatest – did not sit in an ivory tower and think. On the contrary, he actively participated in contemporary debates. He mingled and oozed out of his knowledge, his attitudes and reflections. In this sense, he can rightly be seen not only as a philosopher but as an intellectual. When you read these magazine articles, you sense how he was a part of his time. A voice in it.

To reproduce the life of the 16-year-old

Kierkegaards was also a Copenhagen flanner. Often he walked the streets thin – thinking and talking to the people on his way. This flow of words and thoughts is also felt in the magazine articles. Resilient is the idea of ​​hiking. His style is poignant and associative.

Take, for example, the articles on the actress' crisis. Specifically, the reason for the lyrics is that Johanne Luise Heiberg, at the age of 34, was to take over the role of Julie in Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Heiberg took over the role from the mere 16-year-old Emma Meier. This makes Kierkegaard spin a series of reflections not only on the actress' enviable life – which according to Kierkegaard is not enviable at all – but also on age, aging and experience. How an experienced woman with greater resonance can reproduce the 16-year-old's character traits because she has lived through them and gotten them at a distance. The articles are a splendid example of how Kierkegaard manages to combine philosophical thoughts about the passage of time with far more concrete considerations about, among other things, the paradoxical design of celebrity. How fans of an actress will eventually get used to paying tribute to him, and that this habituation will eventually remove part of her mystery and indefinable character, which just helps to create the attraction. In the habituation and knowledge of her, part of the reason for paying homage to and cultivating her is then removed. Such thoughts seem almost directly transferable to the celebrity culture of our time and the way in which the private is staged and used in social media.

An extension of the work

The articles are hardly an easy access to Kierkegaard's philosopher. In addition, they are too leaping in themes and too difficult to read. But they bring about a different kind of coming at eye level with the thinker than his philosophical works do. This is probably due to the feeling of simultaneity. That the text relates to the current topics of the time, and that one thereby has the feeling of being present side by side with Kierkegaard's pen.

Kierkegaard often walked the streets thin – thinking and talking to the people
his way.

However, language is an obstacle on the road, and therefore it is extremely gratifying that Niels Jørgen Cappelørn has done such a masterful job. The notation is thus extremely extensive – fills in about half of the book – but is at the same time extremely accurate. Not a word seems superfluous. On the contrary, the notes provide a welcome assistance in reading Kierkegaard's not always straightforward language and his use of words most of us today have either forgotten or never learned. One will thus often find oneself leaping from Kierkegaard's writing to Cappelørn's explanations and in the symbiosis between the two find a text that was probably written in the middle of the 1800th century – but certainly lives and breathes in 2019.

Female roles or religion

What then is the relevance today? It is, of course, easiest to spot if one acknowledges an interest in Kierkegaard's other writings and philosophy. If you do, the magazine articles will be able to function as an extension of the work. Especially the last part of the book, with its many articles on the essence of religion, will be interesting to study in conjunction with Kierkegaard's philosophical treatment of the religious. But even without much knowledge about the thinker and his thinking, several of the articles will arouse something in the reader. The themes are by no means contrived. They go into clinch with everything from female roles and plays to theological discussions about truth and righteous Christianity. They show the wide and intellectual reach of the thinker. Kierkegaard was not only a thinker with time, but also of time.

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