Unit 2: Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813–1855) was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian, and social critic, widely considered a founding figure in existentialism. Convinced that the Christian faith, as it was generally practiced, had lost its way, Kierkegaard was a fierce critic of religious dogma. Kierkegaard believed that a human being's relationship with God must be hard-won, a matter of devotion and suffering. According to Kierkegaard, a person becomes a committed, responsible human being by making difficult decisions and sacrifices. The force of Kierkegaard's philosophy rests in the notion that human life is paradoxical and absurd and that to confront this absurdity is to become truly human (a theme that is taken up again by Albert Camus, as discussed in Unit 8 of this course). This unit will introduce you to Kierkegaard's life and religious philosophy, as well as provide you with an overview of themes in Kierkegaard's writings that serve as cornerstones for what would be called existentialism by later philosophers discussed in this course – particularly Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. These key existentialist themes include the notions of commitment and responsibility, absurdity, anxiety, and authenticity.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 6 hours.