Psy. 307; Review for Psy. 462

SØREN KIERKEGAARD: SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT IDEAS


1. Generally considered the first relatively modern "existentialist" (if we do not consider existential currents in ancient Greek thought, Zen, etc.)

2. In K's view, truth is found through subjectivity, through our individual, unique apprehension of things.

b) "The task is precisely to be objective toward oneself and subjective toward all others."

3. Existing, as contrasted to simply being, involves an infinite relationship with oneself and a passionate connection to life.

4. Passion is the quality of striving to become. Without passion there is no movement for the existing thinker. Passion raises the question of what moves one.

5. True heroism is "daring entirely to be oneself, this particular person, alone before God."

6. We may lose contact with our inner self and turn to exterior activity to camouflage this interior emptiness.

7. The sickness unto death is a sickness of the spirit. Also called despair. Its three forms are:

8. The capacity to despair is a sign of our potential ability to grow; the reality of despair is often an impotent attempt to be rid of our own deep internal spirit which is in conflict with our daily getting and doing.

9. K. was especially sensitive to, and intolerant of, the hypocrisy of pretending to spirituality while actually acting from worldly motives.

10. The emergence from comfortable ignorance into self-consciousness leads to dread, or anxiety. We live in a condition of ambiguity in which we can not be either animal or angel. This dread, or anxiety, can be a springboard for growth into new dimensions .

ll. A constant of human life is the contradiction between consciousness of our individuality and part-divinity , and the terror of the world and our own death and decay. The final terror of self-consciousness is the knowledge of our own death.

12. "Half obscurity" and "shut-upness." In asking about what style and strategy a person uses to avoid anxiety, K. asks how a person is enslaved by his lies to himself about himself. This is, in different words and fifty years earlier, almost exactly what Freud later labeled "defense mechanisms" and "repression."

13 "Lofty shut-upness" leaves a child able to respond to the world on the basis of his or her individuality. "Mistaken shut-upness" never lets the child "walk alone" or develop itself in its own way.

14. Letting a child explore the world and develop its own powers gives the child an "inner sustainment," a self-confidence in the face of experience.

15. The lie of character is built up to adjust to parents, the world, and one's own existential dilemmas. Such character defenses can become automatic and unconscious. These lies of character deny our possibilities. They lead to people afraid to think for themselves.

16. Character is a structure built up to avoid perception of the "terror, perdition, and annihilation, that we all face.

17. The "automatic cultural man" is confined by culture and a slave to it, lulled into triviality by the comfortable routines of society and the limited alternatives and dull security it offers him. Such a person is called the Philistine. Today we would call it "normal neurosis."

18. The Philistine fears real freedom, because it endangers the structure of denial which surrounds his cultural routines. It opens up possibilities which the philistine wants to stay away from.

19. At the other extreme, too much possibility carries the danger of being ungrounded, out of touch with anchoring realities. Breakdown can occur because of either too much possibility or too little.

20. Self-development requires acknowledgment of both one's realities and one's limits.

21. The real problem of life is to discover what is one's true talent, secret gift, authentic vocation? How can we express this talent, give it form, dedicate it to something beyond oneself?

22. Health is not "normal adjustment," or "cultural normality". The truly healthy person is the one who has transcended himself or herself by dispelling the lies of our character, realizing the truth of our situation, and breaking our spirit out of its conditioned prison.

23. Possibility is an intermediate stage between cultural conditioning and the leap into faith which gives us direction and meaning in the face of conditions and uncertainty which otherwise would lead to terror, a feeling of alonenessness and helplessness, and constant anxiety.