By: Soren Kierkegaard
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Harper Perennial Modern Classics presents the rediscovered spiritual writings of Søren Kierkegaard, edited and translated by Oxford theologian George Pattison. Called “the first modernist” by The Guardian and “the father of existentialism” by the New York Times, Kierkegaard left an indelible imprint on existential writers from Sartre and Camus to Kafka and Derrida. In works like Fear and Trembling, Sickness unto Death, and Either/Or, he by famously articulated that all meaning is rooted in subjective experience—but the devotional essays that Patterson reveals in Spiritual Writings will forever change our understanding of the great philosopher, uncovering the spiritual foundations beneath his secularist philosophy.
I think I mentioned it before in a previous review but I don’t normally review non-fiction religious and philosophy books here. It just never seemed to be a thing for me even though I do write in the margins of these books and have plenty of thoughts about it *shrugs* But I decided to write a review for this book, partly because I did review another book from the series, The Present Age (review), not to mention because I had read this over the first half of Lent. Plus, I love Kierkegaard and he should get more attention here on the blog 🙂
So You Want to Read… is a monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! 🙂
I was pondering for a while as to who to feature for this March edition of “So You Want to Read…” I sometimes schedule posts based on the time of year, what holidays are coming up, etc. It took a bit of pondering, but in the end I decided to go with Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher and writer from the 19th century. I first encountered his works when I was in Grade 12 high school and took a philosophy course. It was his concept of the leap of faith that solidified my interest in his works, and since then had been slowly getting around to reading his works. The list might not appeal to everyone has his works can lean heavily on spiritual philosophy and what people nowadays see as an early form of psychology, but nonetheless I find he quite acutely pinpoints some realities about the human condition in an eloquent and rational way.
So, to anyone interested in reading a bit of philosophy for a change and have always wanted to check out Kierkegaard’s works, here’s my recommendation on where to start:
- The Present Age: On the Death of Rebellion (review) — Possibly the most easily accessible of all of his works, this particular work of his is especially timely in with the current political climate as he discusses about the mass media and its role in shaping society and the public’s response to information. There is a latter essay included in this collection, “Of the Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle,” which may initially strike readers as an odd addition but it does make sense as to why it was paired with “The Present Age.” Anyhow, I strongly recommend starting here for first-time Kierkegaard readers to get a flavour of his writing and thought processes.
- Either/Or (the first part at least) — This book is actually a collection of essays and writing fragments. I recommend reading the first bit as they’re merely a collection of thoughts that Kierkegaard has about life, the human condition, love, etc. They’re interesting and incredibly astute; I found myself nodding my head for much of this segment as I agreed with many of the conclusions he came to about life.
- The Sickness Unto Death — Okay, it was a toss-up between this book and Fear and Trembling. Both I think are equally famous when you think Kierkegaard but while the latter is shorter, The Sickness Unto Death may appeal more as his discussions serve as some predecessor to psychology and a deep analysis of the self, of despair, of the human condition and the mental process. Like most of his writings, a lot of his ideas are still deeply rooted to Christian theology but his conclusions are nonetheless interesting and the material he uncovers along the way fascinating.
And that’s my list! I hope it helps if you’re interested in reading something by Soren Kierkegaard for the first time! 🙂
The Present Age: On the Death of Rebellion
By: Soren Kierkegaard
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase
In his seminal 1846 tract The Present Age, Søren Kierkegaard (“the father of existentialism”—New York Times) analyzes the philosophical implications of a society dominated by mass media—a society eerily similar to our own. A stunningly prescient essay on the rising influence of advertising, marketing, and publicity, The Present Age is essential reading for anyone who wishes to better understand the modern world.
I don’t normally post reviews/discussion entries on philosopical and religious texts I read just because I have so many thoughts about them that a post just doesn’t seem adequate enough to express my own reactions to the text. But suffice to say I do read them on occasion. So fun fact: my favourite philosopher is Soren Kierkegaard. I was introduced to his ideas in Grade 12 philosophy when I did a paper and presentation on his leap of faith theory. While I’m not so big on how existentialism sort of branched off since his thoughts, he remains a favourite, and it pains me whenever I hear that he’s actually not terribly popular in his hometown Copenhagen. But anyway. I felt compelled to write a post about this book after having read most of it while at the dentist’s a few months ago 😛