One of the most remarkable, versatile, and intriguing modern writers is Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, social critic, and satirist, whose voluminous works are a colorful patchwork of books published with serious titles under his own name and books published with fanciful or teasing titles under a bewildering variety of pseudonyms (including Judge William, Constantine Constantius, Young Man, Nicolaus Notabene, Hilarius Bookbinder, Inter et Inter, and Anti-Climacus). He was a sworn lifelong enemy of German abstract-idealist philosophy (Hegel above all) and a passionate preacher of the truth of Christianity—though, by his own admission, a decidedly personal, individual form of faith, with little time for what he saw as the bourgeois compromises of the institutional church.
For Kierkegaard, Christianity challenges us to believe without proofs and to love without self-interest; it provokes one to reexamine constantly one’s motives and one’s position in light of God and eternity. For this and many other reasons, Kierkegaard is often spoken of as the “father of existentialism,” and has never ceased to exercise a fascination over those who are discontented with the status quo in either practical or speculative life, who are searching for a radical point of departure. I fell under his spell in graduate school and read many, many volumes of his writings, which infused me with a certain spirit of seriousness and urgency about Christian faith, as well as a taste for literary playfulness. I was always aware of his limitations with regard to theology and the Church—he does not seem especially well-informed about Catholicism, since the Danish national Lutheran church forms the backdrop to his work—but found so much profit in his insights that I regard him with gratitude as a true intellectual benefactor.
Here I will describe some of my favorite works of this author and quote as much as I can of his own words—the sheer delight of his writing has few parallels in the Western corpus. All the books are published by Princeton University Press as part of their complete set of Kierkegaard’s Writings (KW).