Soren Kierkegaard’s Crises

Here we have an interesting lecture from the course by The Teaching Company, called “Philosophy as a Guide to Living” which is taught by Professor Stephen A. Erickson. The course has 24 lectures, each lasting 30 minutes. However today I will be briefly going through lecture 12 called “Kierkegaard’s Crises”.

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Professor Stephen A. Erickson

As you might know, lecture 16 is perhaps half way through the course and Prof Stephen reflects on what he has looked at understanding the meaning of life. Prof Stephen feels that life seems complicated and complex, but now we have reached a dead end.

Stephen discusses the previous lectures and what philosophers have thought about life. Stephen mentions lectures 8 and 9 which centers on Schopenhauer’s Pessimism and realism. These lectures conclude that Life cannot be such a burden, although we must fight our animalistic passions in order to gain a higher sense of worth. We struggle in this cruel world and struggle with our inner demons or animalistic intentions, but we can resign ourselves to peace and art to withdraw from the world, if only for a moment.

Prof Stephen then briefly talks about lecture 10 and 11, which is on Alienation in Marx and his utopian Hope. Prof Stephen feels that We do not all need to contemplate revolution, even if life is quite hard.

Now its time to look at Kierkegaard’s ideas. Søren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, poet and thelogen born 5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855. He is actually called an existentialist. What this philosophy or movement is defined as is that we all need to look at ourselves individually to understand the power we hold, we are all free to make our own decisions and must avoid being pressed into organisations, definitions and institutions. Soren’s ideas present that we MUST become individuals, we are not born individuals.

Philosophy at that time was you were born into something. You was born as a Christian or born into another religion, you can read many books and that was the only sure way to represent that religion. Soren felt this was easy, all too easy, all too secure.

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Søren Kierkegaard

Prof Stephen talks a bit about how humans have a lower and a higher nature. what can connect us with our reason? where can we discover meaning? Stephen mentions that the Greeks felt we perhaps could detach from our emotions and find something that would give a lasting value to us. The Greeks almost seem obsessed about finding truth and beauty.

Maybe if truth is eternal and we perhaps could know it, then maybe there is something eternal about us. Perhaps and only just perhaps there is some objective immortally we can grasp, before we leave this planet, maybe then we can find something that matters to us, something that MEANS something to us and subdue our lower nature and enhance our higher nature.

Soren Kierkegaard read a lot about the thinkers in his day. Most of these were danish hegelians. They talked about a lot of history as Friedrich Hegel did in his day. Soren felt that the ideas like this to explain life was being abused. Soren Felt such academics who read hegal were into trivialities and being pompus about it. He noticed that everyone is making life easier, this cannot be so. Soren now wants to be famous, but instead of making things easier, how about he makes things more difficult. Why not look into the small things that seem unimportant, but they SHOULD matter. so that we pay attention to the details of life.

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Friedrich Hegel

Kierkegaard’s Meaning in life is found through living through situations that do not seem to make sense. We are stuck by either/or situations.

Prof Stephen quotes Kierkegaard on a few things. Stephen states that Kierkegaard feels Life is not where history of dialectic ideas or about the history of this or that.

Kierkegaard wrote many books. One of them was “fear and trembling” This famous book about the dilemma of Abraham a biblical character, he was asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Such a dilemma to Kierkegaard was The teleological suspension of the ethic,

What does this mean?

Prof Stephen explains that this means that “There is morally no justification for you to sacrifice your son”, but god has command him to make this sacrifice, but why? God has commanded, and thus Abraham must do it, but it cannot not be morally right, but it is however justified by a higher reason. Thankfully god saves Abraham from the painful and moral dilemma by sending him an angel to stop the sacrifice. Still for those of us who are not fortunate, we struggle with moral, ethical and religious values every day. To Kierkegaard, this is actually a GOOD thing. We should struggle and question our individuality in accordance to religion, we should NOT be so sure of ourselves, but we should struggle within and not show our pain as if we bear a cross.

Soren tells us that the true meaning of our lives is within us and hidden, but it seems no one else can know it, touch it or understand it, but perhaps only through a relationship with god. As you probably can guess Soren Kierkegaard is deemed to be a Christian philosopher and a lot of his knowledge is set on Christian terms.

Soren sets to explain his ideas through through two concepts. They are two knights, think perhaps of those who fight for their belief and are on a quest.

The first concept is the Knight of resignation. Soren has troubles with such people who are knights of resignation. Those who display their religion, display their humility and poverty, they resign but call attention to themselves.

knigt of resignation

The other concept is the Knight of faith. Now soren prefers these people, they are inward, unseen, but you do not know that they are a knight of faith, you cannot tell from their external appearance on who they really are. They sometimes act on their faith, but they will not tell you they acted on this because their religion told them to.

knight of faith

Could you tell she is a knight?

Kiekegaard felt you should not display your relation to god, but understand it, in accordance to finding your meaning of life.

The lecture mentions that Soren also stressed the importance of separateness and isolation from others as quite a good thing. We must not be too overly connected with others. There was a Danish journal called “The Corsair” which often satirised people, eventually the journal satirised Soren Kiekegaard and eventually made serious fun out of him.

Children began to throw stones at Soren when they saw him in the streets. The lecture states this was a sad and cruel situation, but Soren felt this seemed quite a good thing. Soren actually practised what he preached. Security with others is a kind of death, we put on faces to meet the faces that we see, but this is almost inner agony. Have a think about this one one for a moment.

The lecture concludes that we Set of reflections regarding oneself, to realise one isn’t but MUST become an individual. Essential existentialism, our true nature to be reached, we need to be specific with god. This lecture is part one in this course next lecture looks through stages on the meaning of life according to Kierkegaard lecture 13 – Kierkegaard’s Passion.

Knowledge Products on Nietzschie

God is Dead!
This is how the audio course Giants of Philosophy starts off on its explanation of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. If you find the introduction of this course startling and profound Just wait till you hear the rest of the course.  The narration is done by the late great actor Charlton Heston and he does a brilliant job of it too.  Charlton keeps us interested through the course throughout.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche was no stranger to controversy as the start of the course rightly points out. Within the first 10 minutes we learn that the philosophies of Nietzsche was easily adapted for the Nazi’s, Nietzsche hated the Jewish religions and Christianity. At times Nietzsche was extremely nationalistic, deplored morality and through it weak for the heard mentality. Nietzsche also adored those who were strong and were honest enough to use their strength to gain power and flaunt their power.

Nietzsche felt European civilisation was dying off due to its constant belief in Christianity and felt that Europe was becoming decadent. Nietzsche wanted the new man, the “Overman” who would not only become man, but over him, this man would not do deny the meaning of the earth, but enjoy it. Nietzsche hated the pseudo talk of Christianity and felt many Christians could not live up to the ideals of Christianity anyway.

The course examines how Nietzsche fell in love with the philosophies of Arthur Schopenhauer and Søren Kierkegaard, but then Nietzsche disagreed with the conclusion of Schopenhauer’s view of “the will”, which Schopenhauer stated that the meaning of the earth is a cruel meaningless place, where our desires consume us and thus as we try to fight “this will”, it is a losing battle and the only way we could challenge “the will” would be through artistic appreciation or through contemplation, but rationally “the will” concludes absurdity and Nihilism will reign supreme. Nietzsche agreed the world was cruel, but felt that there was little wrong with this, we should celebrate it and we should affirm life. Pointless Nihilism is just a form of giving up.

By the way, Nihilism is the idea that life and rationality is so meaningless, so absurd, that life becomes pointless and we ultimately will believe in nothing, perhaps this nothing will even erode belief. We just live to eat, breed and then die.

Nietzsche also disagreed with Kierkegaard’s view of throwing ourselves into a leap of faith to religion. As pointed out earlier in this course, Nietzsche despised religion and felt religion was for the weak masses, who chain the strong so that the weak could be kept safe. Nietzsche felt religion was a lie that denied the true meaning of the earth.

The course has many voice actors narrating how Nietzsche would have talked. There is also a narration for Bertrand Russell, which I found quite funny, because Bertrand was severely dismissive of Nietzsche and his philosophy, you can listen to Bertrand’s criticism here.

We get to listen to Nietzsche’s idea of the overman, his views into morality. We also hear of Nietzsche’s criticism of how philosophy was developing, where Nietzsche felt philosophy was inventing the world, not realizing the world. The course examines and discusses Nietzsche’s friends and how he fell out with some of them. How Nietzsche felt about women and Nietzsche’s view on art, his admiration for Greek culture and then the course moves on to Nietzsche view on art.

What I have mentioned so far is on the two first tapes and there is around two or three more to go. The style of the course makes it easy for the listener to take in Nietzschian philosophy and it’s easy to listen again and again. The break music can be a bit off putting at times though. You will love the voice acting, its just as if Nietzsche was talking to you, trying to persuade you with his arguments. You will not get a lesson like this from many other courses.

Why was Nietzsche so hated by some philosophers and then only to be cherished by later philosophers?

There are a mix of reasons and I hope to at least point a few out.

The reason why some hate Nietzschian philosophy.
  •  Quite a few Christians (although not all Christians) felt Nietzsche was a blasphemer, you can also imagine what the Jews think of Nietzsche.
  • Nietzsche was not too fond of women and said pretty horrible things about them, including how to treat women and how he felt they lacked rationality.
  • Others questioned Nietzsche ideas of morality.  Stating that the results led to the destructive world wars.
  • Some major philosophers dismiss Nietzsche because his philosophy did not seem to take the rigid structure philosophy can demand, some philosophers go so far to state Nietzsche as poetic, which is quite true in some regards.
  • Nietzsche’s work was easily twisted for Nazi propaganda purposes, especially since Nietzsche despised Jewish religion. There is a good documentary called “Nietzsche and the Nazis” on this subject here.
  • Other philosophers felt Nietzsche was too abstract and his solution to Nihilism does not make much sense.
  • Some philosophers felt Nietzsche cure for Nihilism was worse than the disease.
  • Nietzsche’s disapproval for democracy.
  • Nietzsche’s reaffirmation of values clashes against biological values or is a poor misinterpretation of Darwinism.
  • His philosophy is aimed at the few, this being the elite and perhaps the individual at the cost of the masses. The mass and perhaps downtrodden is ignored since Nietzsche despises them.
Some reasons why Nietzsche philosophies are praised.
  • Some felt that Nietzsche gave birth to Existentialism, although he did not claim to be an existentialist himself, some felt that religion was too stifling and we get a chance to examine how man could perceive himself in the world, even if the world turns out to be cruel.
  • Some major philosophers felt that even if Nietzsche’s philosophy was not so well structured, it is still easily understandable and most influential.
  • We have quite a few state that Nietzsche’s work was adapted for Nazi use by Nietzsche’s sister (Elisabeth Förster) and that the later version of Nietzsche’s work were not his main world.  It is known that Nietzsche fell out with his sister because she married an anti-Semite.  He also fell out with the great composer Wagner because of his anti-Semitism.
  • Nietzsche would have laughed at the idea of the Germans being a great and noble culture or race. At times Nietzsche would criticise his culture as decadent. Nietzsche can easily be associated with anarchy.
  • If your the elite, power hungry or even an artist, you ll love Nietzsche.
  • If Nietzsche can influence literary greats like George Bernard Shaw, postmodern and existentialists philosophers (who are hard to please), feminist movements and psychologists, then something must be good. However we need to note that there is a battle to have Nietzsche as someone who recommends an idea, because he is a much sort after icon.
I am sure I have missed a large amount of points and there are plenty of points others can think of.
Even if you do not manage to get hold of this particular course. It is always possible to read many of Nietzsche’s works.

The thing is that “Knowledge products” is a very old course and its highly unlikely that the knowledge products site even sells the course, but many other audio sites might sell them.

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Audio Cover
There are other courses mainly from “The Teaching Company” that cover Nietzsche in depth and I hope to revisit this famous or infamous philosophy again at some point.