Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a 19th century Danish philosopher, and is generally acknowledged as the first existentialist philosopher. Kierkegaard strongly rejected both the Hegelian philosophy of his time, and what he saw as the empty formalities of the Danish church of the day.
Kierkegaard's work is sometimes difficult to interpret, since he wrote most of his early work under various pseudonyms, and often these pseudo-authors will comment on the works of the earlier pseudo-authors.
Soren Kierkegaard was born on May 5, 1813 in the danish port of Copenhagen. His father, Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard, was a strongly religious man. Convinced that he had earned God's wrath, he believed that none of his children would live to the age of 34 (Christ's age at crucifixion). The sins necessitating this punishment, he believed, included cursing the name of god in his youth, and possibly impregnating Kierkegaard's mother out of wedlock. In fact, these fears were realized for all but two of his seven children. So strong was his father's conviction, that Soren himself was surprised when he survived his 34th year. This early introduction to the notion of sin, and its connection from father and son, laid the foundation for much of Kierkegaard's work (particularly Fear and Trembling.) Kierkegaard's mother, Anne Sørensdatter Lund Kierkegaard, is not directly referred to in his books, although she too affected his later writings (details?)
Despite his father's occasional religious melancholy, Kierkegaard and his father shared a tight bond. Kierkegaard learned to explore the realm of his imagination through a series of exercises and games they played together.
Another important aspect of Kierkegaard's life that is generally considered to have had a major influence on his work, was his broken engagement to Regine Olsen. Kierkegaard's motive for ending the engagement is largely mysterious. It is generally believed that they were deeply in love-- perhaps even after she was happily married to Friedrich Schlegel. Kierkegaard even went so far as to ask Regine's husband for permission to speak with her, but was refused. Soon afterward, Regine and Schlegel left the country. By the time Regine returned, Kierkegaard was dead. She is buried in the same cemetary as Kierkegaard, isn't she?
- Fear and Trembling
- Concluding Unscientific Postscript
- Stages On Life's Way
- The Sickness Unto Death
- Works of Love
See also philosophy of religion.