Anyone who knows me knows I was sort of obsessed with Kierkegaard as an undergraduate. And, after undergrad, I took a year off to study both Kierkegaard and skepticism. I don’t really do philosophy anymore, but Kierkegaard came to mind today.
One of his seminal works is Fear and Trembling. I’m not a Kierkegaard expert, but I do know that this book has been important to me. Others find it perplexing.
I haven’t read Fear and Trembling for several years now and my copy is in storage. But Fear and Trembling tells the story of Issac and Abraham. The book focuses on Abraham and his choice to sacrifice his son–who he loved most in the world–because of God’s command. This choice and the feelings that came with it, along with the ethical dimensions of these choices, are the focus of the book.
The title of the book probably comes from Philippians 2:12:
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Kierkegaard was the father of existentialism. And I took a whole course on existentialism as an undergrad. The reference to Philippians has always been powerful to me. I try to understand it more almost every day.
Kierkegaard was difficult to understand and interpret because he used a method of indirect communication, dedicated his books to ‘that single individual’, and had a deep and abiding, if never consummated, love for Regine.
Once upon a time, I dreamed of going to Copenhagen to study Kierkegaard more in depth.