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Soren Kierkegaard Quotes

Once you label me you negate me.
Soren Kierkegaard
Above all do not forget your duty to love yourself.
Soren Kierkegaard (Letter to his cousin Hans Peter, 1848)
Personality is only ripe when a man has made the truth his own.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1843)
Madness and truth become in the last analysis indistinguishable.
Soren Kierkegaard (Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments)
The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1848)
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1843)
Love possesses everything without ceasing, and there is no shadow of variation.
Soren Kierkegaard (Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844)
The presence of irony does not necessarily mean that the earnestness is excluded.
Soren Kierkegaard (Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments)
To venture the truth is what gives human life and the human situation pith and meaning.
Soren Kierkegaard (Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844)
The question is asked in ignorance, by one who does not even know what can have led him to ask it.
Soren Kierkegaard (Philosophical Fragments, 1844)
Let others complain that the times are wicked. I complain that they are paltry; for they are without passion.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Diapsalmata, 1843)
It belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.
Soren Kierkegaard
Man's essential idea is spirit and we must not allow ourselves to be put off by the fact that he is also able to walk on two legs.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or, 1843)
If I have ventured wrongly, very well, life then helps me with its penalty. But if I haven't ventured at all, who helps me then?
Soren Kierkegaard (The Sickness Unto Death, 1849)
It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand, and what those things are.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1854)
Old age realizes the dreams of youth: look at Dean Swift; in his youth he built an asylum for the insane, in his old age he was himself an inmate.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or, 1843)
I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations - one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it - you will regret both.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Balance Between Esthetic and Ethical, 1843)
The question of immortality is of its nature not a scholarly question. It is a question welling up from the interior which the subject must put to itself as it becomes conscious of itself.
Soren Kierkegaard (Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments)
What is a poet? An unhappy man who conceals profound anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so fashioned that when sighs and groans pass over them they sound like beautiful music.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Diapsalmata, 1843)
In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, I have one more intimate confidant.... My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known -- no wonder, then, that I return the love.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Diapsalmata, 1843)
For it is a delusion to think one can keep one's personality blank, or that one can in any real sense arrest and interrupt personal life. The personality already has interest in the choice before one chooses, and if one postpones the choice the personality makes the choice unconsciously, or it is made by the dark powers within it. Then when at last the choice is made, if, as I remarked earlier, one has not gone into complete dissolution, one discovers that there is something that must be done over again, that must be retracted, and that is often very difficult.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or, 1843)
When one fears that somehow he will not be able to maintain an understanding grasp of something complex and extensive, he tries to find or to make for himself a brief summary of the whole--for the sake of a comprehensive view. Thus death is the briefest summary of life or life reduced to its briefest form. Therefore to those who in truth meditate on human life it has always been very important again and again to test with this brief summary what they have understood about life. For no thinker has power over life as does death, this mighty thinker who is able not only to think through every illusion but can think it analytically and as a whole, think it down to the bottom.
Soren Kierkegaard (Works on Love, 1847)
If you marry, you will regret it; if you do not marry, you will also regret it; if you marry or do not marry, you will regret both; Laugh at the world’s follies, you will regret it, weep over them, you will also regret that; laugh at the world’s follies or weep over them, you will regret both; whether you laugh at the world’s follies or weep over them, you will regret both. Believe a woman, you will regret it, believe her not, you will also regret that; believe a woman or believe her not, you will regret both; whether you believe a woman or believe her not, you will regret both. Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will also regret that; hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the sum and substance of all philosophy.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Diapsalmata, 1843)
It is quite true what Philosophy says: that Life must be understood backwards. But that makes one forget the other saying: that it must be lived—forwards. The more one ponders this, the more it comes to mean that life in the temporal existence never becomes quite intelligible, precisely because at no moment can I find complete quiet to take the backward- looking position.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1843)
Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder, then, that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or, 1843)
I do not care for anything. I do not care to ride, for the exercise is too violent. I do not care to walk, walking is too strenuous. I do not care to lie down, for I should either have to remain lying, and I do not care to do that, or I should have to get up again, and I do not care to do that either. Summa summarum: I do not care at all.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Diapsalmata, 1843)
How absurd men are! They never use the liberties they have, they demand those they do not have. They have freedom of thought, they demand freedom of speech.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Diapsalmata, 1843)
Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion—and who, therefore, in the next instant (when it is evident that the minority is the stronger) assume its opinion ... while Truth again reverts to a new minority.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1850)
The more a man can forget, the greater the number of metamorphoses which his life can undergo, the more he can remember the more divine his life becomes.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1842)
Death is not earnest in the same way the eternal is. To the earnestness of death belongs precisely that remarkable capacity for awakening, that resonance of a profound mockery which, detached from the thought of the eternal, is an empty and often brash jest, but together with the thought of the eternal is just what it should be, utterly different from the insipid solemness which least of all captures and holds a thought with tension like that of death.
Soren Kierkegaard (Works on Love, 1847)
The truth is a snare: you cannot have it, without being caught. You cannot have the truth in such a way that you catch it, but only in such a way that it catches you.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1854)
My life is absolutely meaningless. When I consider the different periods into which it falls, it seems like the word "Schnur" in the dictionary, which means in the first place a string, in the second, a daughter-in-law. The only thing lacking is that the word "Schnur" should mean in the third place a camel, in the fourth, a dust-brush.
Soren Kierkegaard (The Sickness Unto Death, 1849)
If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?
Soren Kierkegaard (Fear and Trembling, 1843)
Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am ironic if it is pulled out I shall die.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1847)
If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Diapsalmata, 1843)
I have the courage, I believe, to doubt everything; I have the courage, I believe, to fight with everything; but I have not the courage to know anything; not the courage to possess, to own anything. Most people complain that the world is so prosaic, that life is not like romance, where opportunities are always so favorable. I complain that life is not like romance, where one had hard-hearted parents and nixies and trolls to fight, and enchanted princesses to free. What are all such enemies taken together, compared with the pale, bloodless, tenacious, nocturnal shapes with which I fight, and to whom I give life and substance?
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or, 1843)
Only he who has been bitten by a serpent knows the suffering of one who has been bitten by a serpent.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Shadowgraphs, 1843)
Your own tactic is to train yourself in the art of becoming enigmatic to everybody. My young friend, suppose there was no one who troubld himself to guess your riddle - what joy, then, would you have in it?
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or, 1843)
If then, if you have lived in despair, then whatever else you won or lost, for you everything is lost, eternity does not acknowledge you, it never knew you, or, still more dreadful, it knows you as you are known, it manacles you to your self in despair.
Soren Kierkegaard (The Sickness Unto Death, 1849)
What the age needs is not a genius - it has had geniuses enough, but a martyr, who in order to teach men to obey would himself be obedient unto death. What the age needs is awakening.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry for November 20, 1847)
I feel as if I were a piece in a game of chess, when my opponent says of it: That piece cannot be moved.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Diapsalmata, 1843)
I ... begin with the principle that all men are bores. Surely no one will prove himself so great a bore as to contradict me in this. That piece cannot be moved.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Rotation of Crops, 1843)
How ironical that it is by means of speech that man can degrade himself below the level of dumb creation—for a chatterbox is truly of a lower category than a dumb creature.
Soren Kierkegaard
In order to swim one takes off all one's clothes—in order to aspire to the truth one must undress in a far more inward sense, divest oneself of all one's inward clothes, of thoughts, conceptions, selfishness etc. before one is sufficiently naked.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1854)
The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. - is sure to be noticed.
Soren Kierkegaard (The Sickness Unto Death, 1849)
Every person, if he so wills, can become a paradigmatic human being, not by brushing of his accidental qualities, but by remaining in them and ennobling them.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or, 1843)
A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry)
Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living.
Soren Kierkegaard
This is what is sad when one contemplates human life, that so many live out their lives in quiet lostness ... they live, as it were, away from themselves and vanish like shadows. Their immortal souls are blown away, and they are not disquieted by the question of its immortality, because they are already disintegrated before they die.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Balance Between Esthetic and Ethical, 1843)
During the first period of a man's life the greatest danger is not to take the risk.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1850)
In the heart of nature, where a person, free from life's often nauseating air, breathes more freely, here the soul opens willingly to every noble impression. Here one comes out as nature's master, but he also feels that something higher is manifested in nature, something he must bow down before; he feels a need to surrender to this power that rules it all... Here he feels himself great and small at one and the same time.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry for July 29, 1835)
The ethical individual lives in such a way that he is continually transferring himself from one stage to another.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or, 1843)
To be a teacher does not mean simply to affirm that such a thing is so, or to deliver a lecture, etc. No, to be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner. Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner, put yourself in his place so that you may understand what he understands and the way he understands it.
Soren Kierkegaard
How, then, shall we face the future? When the sailor is out on the ocean, when everything is changing all around him, when the waves are born and die, he does not stare down into the waves, because they are changing. He looks up at the stars. Why? Because they are faithful.
Soren Kierkegaard (Two Upbuilding Discourses, 1843)
Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1835)
To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.
Soren Kierkegaard
Because of its tremendous solemnity death is the light in which great passions, both good and bad, become transparent, no longer limited by outward appearences.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry for July 17, 1840)
The task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted.
Soren Kierkegaard
Which deception is more dangerous? Whose recovery is more doubtful, that of the one who does not see, or that of the person who sees and yet does not see? Which is more difficult-to awaken someone who is sleeping or to awaken someone who, awake, is dreaming that he is awake?
Soren Kierkegaard (Works of Love, 1847)
If I did not know that I am a genuine Dane, I could almost be tempted to explain my self-contradictions by supposing that I am an Irishman. For the Irish do not have the heart to immerse their children totally when they have them baptized; they want to keep a little paganism in reserve; generally the child is totally immersed under water but with the right arm free, so that he will be able to wield a sword with it, embrace the girls.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1840 - 1842)
What is talkativeness? It is the result of doing away with the vital distinction between talking and keeping silent. Only some one who knows how to remain essentially silent can really talk--and act essentially. Silence is the essence of inwardness, of the inner life. Mere gossip anticipates real talk, and to express what is still in thought weakens action by forestalling it. But some one who can really talk, because he knows how to remain silent, will not talk about a variety of things but about one thing only, and he will know when to talk and when to remain silent. Where mere scope is concerned, talkativeness wins the day, it jabbers on incessantly about everything and nothing... In a passionate age great events (for they correspond to each other) give people something to talk about. And when the event is over, and silence follows, there is still something to remember and to think about while one remains silent. But talkativeness is afraid of the silence which reveals its emptiness.
Soren Kierkegaard (The Present Age, 1846)
What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry, 1835)
No human being can give an eternal resolution to another or take it from him.
Soren Kierkegaard (Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844)
I stick my finger into existence and it smells of nothing. Where am I? What is this thing called the world? Who is it that has lured me into the thing, and now leaves me here? Who am I? How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted?
Soren Kierkegaard
Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life's relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry for January, 1836)
The more one suffers, the more, I believe, has one a sense for the comic. It is only by the deepest suffering that one acquires true authority in the use of the comic.
Soren Kierkegaard (Stages on Life's Way, 1845)
I have just now come from a party where I was its life and soul; witticisms streamed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me, but I went away - yes, the dash should be as long as the radius of the earth's orbit - and wanted to shoot myself.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry for March, 1836)
Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Diapsalmata, 1843)
If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin.
Soren Kierkegaard (Fear and Trembling, 1843)
Boredom rests upon the nothingness that winds its way through existence; its giddiness, like that which comes from gazing down into an infinite abyss, is infinite.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or, 1843)
In order to learn true humility, it is good for a person to withdraw from the turmoil of the world, for in life either the depressing or the elevating impression is too dominant for a true balance to come about. Here, of course, individuality is very decisive.
Soren Kierkegaard (Journal Entry for July 29, 1835)
A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that's just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it's a joke.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Diapsalmata, 1843)
Do not interrupt the flight of your soul; do not distress what is best in you; do not enfeeble your spirit with half wishes and half thoughts.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or - Ultimatum, 1843)
The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.
Soren Kierkegaard (Either/Or, 1843)
The Door of Direct Experience: Empowering Book by Daniel Seeker on Amazon
Soren Kierkegaard Biography

Born: May 5, 1813
Died: November 11, 1855

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian and writer. He is most commonly recognized as being the first existentialist. He has been very influential in philosophical history.

Notable Works
Either/Or (1843)
Two Upbuilding Discourses (1843)
Fear and Trembling (1843)
Philosophical Fragments (1844)
Stages on Life's Way (1845)
Works on Love (1847)
The Sickness Unto Death (1849)
Practice in Christianity (1850)
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