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History
IN OUR TIME'S GREATEST PHILOSOPHER VOTE
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GREATEST PHILOSOPHER

 
Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55)
advocated by Jonathan Rée

 Listen to Jonathan Rée say why you should vote for Søren Kierkegaard

'Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.'

Søren Kierkegaard. The exceptionally uncheerful disposition Kierkegaard held to the world (not without reason after a broken off engagement and a campaign against him in the Copenhagen press) has sometimes obscured the affirming and sympathetic nature of his ideas.

Opposed to the dominant Hegelianism of his day, which deemed individuals to be of little consequence within the grand dialectic of history, Kierkegaard placed the individual at the centre of his philosophy.

He believed that man exists in isolation relating only to God and that an authentic individual must sometimes stand alone against the crowd. Furthermore, because God is essentially unknowable then religion requires a leap of faith out of the anxiety of utter freedom.

These ideas came to be hugely influential on the existentialism of Sartre, De Beauvoir and Camus but Kierkegaard hated being called an existentialist.

He believed he was on a mission from God to "reintroduce Christianity into Christendom" and his sense of the individual was founded on that individual's relationship with God.

He declared there were three types of existence - the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious. The aesthetic involves a life lived in the moment with limited capacity for reflection on things such as art; the ethical life requires a commitment to ethical ideals; and the religious life involves an understanding of ethical ideals and a sense of one own transience in relation to them.

Kierkegaard believed that dissatisfaction with the aesthetic and ethical lives, provoking guilt and anxiety, would lead people to the religious existence.

Read about Søren Kierkegaard on Wikipedia

Read about Søren Kierkegaard on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Read about Søren Kierkegaard on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Please note: the BBC accepts no responsibility for the content of external websites.

 Listen to Jonathan Rée say why you should vote for Søren Kierkegaard

Jonathan Rée

Jonathan Rée is an Historian and Philosopher. His interests centre on the relation between history and truth taking an approach that acknowledges both Continental and Analytic traditions of philosophy. His books include Descartes, Philosophy and its Past; Proletarian Philosophers; Philosophical Tales; Heidegger; A Kierkegaard Reader and I See a Voice.

 
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