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Kierkegaard's Writings, VII: Philosophical Fragments, or a Fragment of Philosophy/Johannes Climacus, or De omnibus dubitandum est. (Two books in one ... Climacus, or De Omnibus Dubitandum Est. v. 7 Paperback – 21 Nov 1985

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"The definitive edition of the Writings. The first volume . . . indicates the scholarly value of the entire series: an introduction setting the work in the context of Kierkegaard's development; a remarkably clear translation; and concluding sections of intelligent notes."--Library Journal

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Can a historical point of departure be given for an eternal consciousness; how can such a point of departure be of more than historical interest; can an eternal happiness be built on historical knowledge? Read the first page
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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
One of Kierkegaard's most essential works 10 Nov 2003
By Robert Moore - Published on
Format: Paperback
If one were to read only two or three of Kierkegaard's works, this is unquestionably one of the ones to read. In this work and in its successor, Kierkegaard, employing the pseudonym of Johannes Climacus, seeks to explain the nature of Christianity in such as way as to bring out its demands on the individual, and to emphasize its incompatibility with the theology based on the work of Hegel that was becoming progressively more influential in Denmark (and in the rest of the world as well). In PHILOSOPHICAL FRAGMENTS, Kierkegaard explains through his pseudonym, he wants to present the problem of Christianity "algebraically" (i.e., logically), while in the ironically titled CONCLUDING UNSCIENTIFIC POSTSCRIPT TO THE PHILOSOPHICAL FRAGMENTS (ironic because the earlier book is quite short, while the POSTSCRIPT is four times longer) intends to "clothe the problem in historical dress." What Kierkegaard purports to do in this brief book is present the logic of Christianity.
The title is badly translated in all English editions, being a Biblical reference, to the story of the rich man Dives and Lazarus. Just as the poor man Lazarus had to be content with the crumbs from the rich man's table, so Johannes Climacus, who passionately denies that he has any contributions whatsoever to make to the grand Hegelian System, claims to be content with mere philosophical crumbs. For some reason, no publisher or translator has been willing to employ the more accurate if less palatable PHILOSOPHICAL CRUMBS.
Johannes Climacus presents the heart of the conflict between Hegel and Christianity in the first chapter. In Hegelian thought, Jesus in essence is viewed as the non-unique Son of God, and sees him as important for his teachings and the example for others for a transition to all people potentially becoming children of God. The emphasis is on the teachings, and the "truth" of Jesus can be construed as that which he taught. Kierkegaard thinks this is profoundly mistaken, and tries to get at the problem by a thought project that opens the book. Kierkegaard contrasts two kinds of teacher. One is the kind of teacher found in Socrates, where he is able to assist others in learning things because they already had the capacity to learn them. In the case of the Socratic teacher, the individual instructor is not essential to learning the truth. But Kierkegaard asks us to consider a second kind of teacher, one who not merely teaches us the truth, but provides the conditions for making such learning possible. This second kind of teacher is essential to someone learning the Truth, and it is this kind of teacher that Kierkegaard sees as representing Christ. The problem, as Kierkegaard understands it, is that we are separated from God by sin, and therefore we are in a position of needing to be restored to a relationship with God before coming to know God. Jesus is therefore not an accidental teacher of truths of a divine nature, but himself the essential foundation for anyone wanting to come to know God. In other words, for Kierkegaard, Christianity is an event and not a set of teachings: the incarnation of God in Christ as opposed to the things he wanted to teach us.
The remainder of the book explicates this essential distinction between the Christ of Christianity and the Jesus of Hegel. In particular, he deals with the question of the "disciple at second hand" versus the "contemporary disciple." This is essential to consider because while Hegel is thought to take history seriously, his Jesus becomes nonhistorical, while Kierkegaard is intent on emphasizing his historicity.
This is essential Kierkegaard, and along with the CONCLUDING UNSCIENTIFIC POSTSCRIPT and THE SICKNESS UNTO DEATH, my own favorites among his writings. One cannot understand Kierkegaard's thought without reading this book, and along with its sequel represents the heart of what he was trying to achieve in what he called his "Authorship."
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Precursor to _Concluding Unscientific Postscript_ 12 Jun 2003
By Ross James Browne - Published on
Format: Paperback
_Philosophical Fragments/Johannes Climacus_ is essential reading for anyone who wishes to read the sequel, _Concluding Unscientific Postscript_, which is arguably Kierkegaard's most important work. This first volume, even taken by itself, is still a valuble, well written, and entertaining work. But its primary purpose is to establish the personality of Kierkegaard's infamous, neurotic character "Johannes Climacus", the pseudonym under which he wrote this book as well as the monumental _Postscript_. It is very important that any Kierkegaard scholar realize the author's intentions behind the creation of the Johannes Climacus character, and the exact relationship between Kierkegaard's real views and the often-antithetical, illogical, absurd, and even farcical views of his pseudonymous alter-ego. In this book, the character of Johannes Climacus is established, and the careful reader should be able to identify the discrepency between Climacus' ideas and Kierkegaard's real ideas. This characterization process is very interesting and makes for a good read, but to get the full effect you must also read _Concluding Unscientific Postscript_, in which the reader is treated to the full effect of the neurotic ramblings of Kierkegaard's alter-ego.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
understanding faith 3 Mar 2006
By bleuemoon - Published on
Format: Paperback
if you wonder about faith and will whether we can choose to believe or not, read this book. kierkegaard provides an excellent argument for the kind of freedom we have in response to the paradox. i find in general that kierkegaard speaks truthfully from his heart. this book helps me think through my faith and understand the relationship between faith and will. read the interlude - that's where kierkegaard discusses the paradox. i recommend this book highly: it's thought provoking and not too hard to read. i also recommend sickness unto death if you are at all interested in the relationship between faith and despair.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Essential reading for the mature believer 6 Jun 2009
By Brett D. McLaughlin - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was warned this would be a really tough book. I had to read several chapters twice before I could even get the sense of them, and one particular chapter took me a good hour to even catch a clue on. But, the important thing is this: there's a payoff.

I found Climacus really enjoyable, in the same way that C.S. Lewis is in "Mere Christianity" and Tim Keller is in "The Reason for God." He essentially reasons toward an active God who injects himself into humanity via an incarnation (which is, of course, only matched in Christianity). More importantly, Climacus forces a willing reader to consider their own concerns, and perhaps most of all, their own role in salvation.

Although I keep hearing that Kierkegaard was a staunch Armenian, this book reads almost like a treatise on irresistible grace, as Climacus again and again argues for the minuscule role of man in salvation. This book will push you, and taunt you at times. But it's rewarding, and if not classic, certainly valuable reading.
By Steven H Propp - Published on
Format: Paperback
Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic, and religious author, who was the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote many other books, including Fear & Trembling; The Sickness Unto Death, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Attack upon Christendom, etc. [NOTE: page numbers refer to the 260-page Princeton hardcover edition.]

Kierkegaard wrote this book under his "Johannes Climacus" pen name; he said in the Preface, "But what is my personal opinion of the matters herein discussed?... I could wish that no one would ask me this question; for next to knowing whether I have any opinion or not, nothing would very well be of less importance to another than the knowledge of what that opinion might be... But if anyone were to be so polite as to assume that I have an opinion...I should have to be sorry for his politeness, in that it was bestowed upon so unworthy an object... I stand ready to risk my own life, to play the game of thought with it in all earnest; but another's life I cannot jeopardize. This service is perhaps the only one I can render to Philosophy, I who have no learning to offer her... I have only my life, and the instant a difficulty offers I put it in play. Then the dance goes merrily, for my partner is the thought of Death, and is indeed a nimble dancer..." (Pg. 6-7)

He begins the book, "How far does the Truth admit of being learned? With this question let us begin. It was a Socratic question... we are confronted with the difficulty to which Socrates calls attention in the Meno... For what a man knows he cannot seek, since he knows it; and what he does not know he cannot seek, since he does not even know for what to seek. Socrates thinks the difficulty through in the doctrine of Recollection... Thus the Truth is not introduced into the individual from without, but was within him." (Ch. I, pg. 11) He adds, "We begin with the Socratic difficulty about seeking the Truth, which seems equally impossible whether we have it or do not have it. The Socratic thought really abolishes this disjunction, since it appears that at bottom every human being is in possession of the Truth... If the Teacher serves as an occasion by means of which the learner is reminded, he cannot help the learner to recall that he really knows the Truth; for the learner is in a state of error... Now if the learner is to acquire the Truth, the Teacher must bring it to him; and not only so, but he must also give him the condition necessary for understanding it... But one who gives the learner not only the Truth, but also the condition for understanding it, is more than teacher... But this is something that no human being can do; if it is to be done, it must be done by God himself... The Teacher is then the God himself, who is acting as an occasion prompts the learner to recall that he is in Error, and that by reason of his own guilt. But this state... what shall we call it? Let us call it Sin... What shall we now call such a Teacher, one who restores the lost condition and gives the learner the Truth? Let us call him Saviour, for he saves the learner from his bondage and from himself; let us call him Redeemer... and when the Teacher gives him the condition and the Truth he constitutes himself an Atonement, taking away the wrath impending upon that of which the learner has made himself guilty... A teacher may determine whether the pupil makes progress or not... he ought to have Socratic insight enough to perceive that he cannot give him what is essential. This Teacher is not so much teacher as Judge... And now the moment... it is decisive, and filled with the Eternal. Such a moment ought to have a distinctive name; let us call it the Fullness of Time... When the disciple ... now receives the condition and the Truth... he becomes another man... we may call him: a new creature...the course of his life has been given an opposite direction, so that he is now turned about. Let us call this change Conversion... this conversion cannot take place without his becoming aware that his former state was a consequence of his guilt... Let us call such grief Repentance... a change takes place within him... Let us call this transition the New Birth... Just as one who has begotten himself by the aid of the Socratic midwifery now forgets everything else in the world, and in a deeper sense owes no man anything, so the disciple who is born anew owes ... everything to his divine Teacher... so the latter forgets himself in the discovery of his Teacher." (Pg. 16-24)

He observes, "This I always reason from existence, not toward existence... Whether we call existence an `acessorium' or the eternal `prius,' it is never subject to demonstration." (Ch. III, pg. 50) "if man is to receive any true knowledge about the Unknown (the God) he must be made to know that it is unlike him, absolutely unlike him. This knowledge the Reason cannot possibly obtain of itself; we have already seen that this would be a self-contradiction. It will therefore have to obtain this knowledge from the God. But even if it obtains such knowledge it cannot understand it, and this is quite unable to possess such knowledge. For how should the Reason be able to understand what is absolutely different from itself?" (Pg. 57) He summarizes: "If we do not posit the Moment we return to Socrates; but it was precisely from him that we departed, in order to discover something. If we posit the Moment the Paradox is there; for the Moment is the paradox in its most abbreviated form Because of the Moment the learner is in Error; and man, who had before possessed self-knowledge, now becomes bewildered with respect to himself; instead of self-knowledge he receives the consciousness of sin, and so forth; for as soon as we posit the Moment everything follows of itself." (Pg. 64)

He says, "Faith is itself a miracle, and all that holds true of the Paradox also hold true of Faith. But within the framework of this miracle everything is again Socratic, yet so that the miracle is never cancelled--- the miracle namely, that the eternal condition is given in time. Everything is Socratic; the relation between one contemporary and another in so far as both are believers is entirely Socratic: the one owes the other nothing, but both owe everything to the God." (Ch. IV, pg. 81) Later, he adds, "Belief and doubt are not two forms of knowledge, determinable in continuity with one another, for neither of them is a cognitive act; they are opposite passions. Belief is a sense for coming into existence, and doubt is a protest against every conclusion that transcends immediate sensation and immediate cognition." (Pg. 105) He continues, "From the eternal point of view, one does not `have Faith' that the God exists... even if one assumes that he does exist. The use of the word Faith in this connection enshrines a misunderstanding. Socrates did not have faith that the God existed. What he knew about the God he arrived at by way of Recollection; the God's existence was for him by no means historical existence." (Pg. 108)

He points out, "Every historical fact is merely relative, and hence it is in order for time, the relative power, to decide the relative fortunes of men with respect to contemporaneity; such a fact has no greater significance, and only childishness or stupidity could so exaggerate its importance as to make it absolute... If the fact in question is an eternal fact, every age is equally near... If the fact in question is an absolute fact... it would be a contradiction to suppose that time had any power to differentiate the fortunes of men with respect to it... in any decisive sense." (Ch. V, pg. 124) He adds, "There is no disciple at second hand. The first and the last are essentially on the same plane, only that a later generation finds its occasion in the testimony of a contemporary generation finds this occasion in its own immediate contemporaneity, and in so far owes nothing to any other generation." (Pg. 131) He also states, "If the contemporary generation of believers found no time to triumph, neither will any later generation; for the task is always the same, and Faith is always militant." (Pg. 135-136)

This is one of Kierkegaard's most interesting works (both as a "philosophical" work, and as a "religious" work), and should be read by anyone studying Kierkegaard.
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