Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 1992
  • Online publication date: August 2010

Philosophy and Religion in the Thought of Kierkegaard


Kierkegaard is often regarded as a precursor of existential philosophy whose religious concerns may, for philosophical purposes, be safely ignored or, at best, regarded as an unfortunate, if unavoidable, consequence of his complicity with the very metaphysics he did so much to discredit. Kierkegaard himself, however, foresaw this appropriation of his work by philosophy. ‘The existing individual who forgets that he is an existing individual will become more and more absent-minded’, he wrote, ‘and as people sometimes embody the fruits of their leisure moments in books, so we may venture to expect as the fruits of his absent-mindedness the expected existential system—well, perhaps, not all of us, but only those who are as absent-minded as he is’ (Kierkegaard, 1968, p. 110). However, it may be rejoined here, this expectation merely shows Kierkegaard's historically unavoidable ignorance of the development of existential philosophy with its opposition to the idea of system and its emphasis upon the very existentiality of the human being. How could a form of thought which, in this way, puts at its centre the very Being of the existing individual, its existentiality, be accused of absent-mindedness? Has it not, rather, recollected that which metaphysics had forgotten? Yet the impression remains that Kierkegaard would not have been persuaded himself that such recollection could constitute remembering that one is an existing individual, for he remarks, of his own ignoring of the difference between Socrates and Plato in his Philosophical Fragments, ‘By holding Socrates down to the proposition that all knowledge is recollection, he becomes a speculative philosopher instead of an existential thinker, for whom existence is the essential thing.