Søren Kierkegaard 1813-1855
1813Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, the youngest of seven children of Michael Kierkegaard,a wealthy Copenhagen merchant, and his second wife, Anne Lund. Søren was educated at home, and his father communicated to him strong religious sentiment and deep if not tortured emotional feelings.
1830 Søren enters the University of Copenhagen to study theology, but quickly forsakes the queen of sciences for her handmaidens philosophy, literature, and history. Here he first encounters Hegel's works, and begins a lifelong opposition to Hegel's philosophy, which Kierkegaard maintained trusted too much on "pure thought" ("what to know")--this was its radical flaw--and led us to lose sight of our actual existential plight ("what to do.") Søren, however, mostly spends his time living an indulgent "collegiate" life, drinking and going to the theater. He is known for his taste in clothes and food. He also becomes more and more estranged from his father. ["aesthetic stage"]
1836 In the wake of a temptation to suicide, Søren undergoes a moral conversion though not a religious conversion. ["ethical stage"]
1838 Shortly before his death, Michael reveals to Søren two sins with which he had been consumed all his life. First, while an impoverished serf, he had "cursed God for the dreariness of his life" and he lived ever since obsessed by this unforgivable blasphemy. Second, Sørens mother was originally Michaels first wifes maid, with whom he had sexual relations Anne shortly after his first wife's death, and a resulting pregnancy forced his marriage to her. Søren refers to this time of his life as the "great earthquake."
Søren reconciles with his father, and undergoes a religous conversion, beginning to live as "penitent" seeking to "become a Christian." ["religious stage"] Yet his Christianity is also a scandal for him: it repulses him because he feels it wreaks havoc with the nature of man and with the self, and it attracts him because it offers the only "radical cure" for this "mortal sickness" with which sin afflicted men. From now he is obsessed with a sense of dread and menace.
1840 Finishes his theological studies, presenting his dissertation On the Concept of Irony to the university. He prepares for ministry and is engaged to Regine Olsen, for whom he cared passionately.
1841 Kierkegaard becomes disillusioned with the Lutheran Church, and his future as a pastor and devoted husband. From this point on he is an opponent of "institutional Christianity." Convinced that a "divine veto" exists against the marriage, and that his life as a "penitent" was incompatible with that of a husband, against his will he breaks his engagement to Regine. He runs off to Berlin to listen to Schellings lectures. He returns to Copenhagen and begins life as writer, writing under various pseudonyms, in which he rebels against "the system" and "objectivity," making "unscientific" and "unsystematic" attacks on conventional Christian theology, science, and philosophy in satirical essays, parables, anecdotes, real and fictional journals.
1843ff Either/Or [Victor Eremita] and Fear and Trembling [Joannes de Silentio] are published. Followed by Philosophical Fragments (1844) [Johannes Climacus], Stages on Life's Way (1845) [Frater Taciturnus], Concluding Unscientific Postcript (1846), The Sickness unto Death (1849) [Anti-climacus], Training in Christianity (1850) [Anti-climacus], For Self-Examination, Judge For Yourselves! (1851-52) [Anti-climacus], and The Attack upon "Christendom" (1854-1855).
1854 After his writing brings about no change, Kierkegaard becomes convinced that he must break with the institutional Lutheran church. We waits until the death of Bishop J.P. Mynster, a friend of his father's, and then writes "Was Bishop Mynster a witness to error?" in which he argues that he was. Both clergy and the general public rose in defense of their beloved Mynster.
1855 After withdrawing the last of his inheritance, Keirkegaard collapses in the street on his way home, and dies soon after. He is buried in the huge Cathedral Church of Copenhagen, his eulogy delivered by his brother Peter. Upset with this way of violating Kieregaards spirit, his nephew caused a scene at the gravesite.