Read Fear and Trembling/Repetition by Søren Kierkegaard Edna Hatlestad Hong Howard Vincent Hong Online


Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found herePresented here in a new translation, with a historical introduction by the translators, "Fear and Trembling and Repetition" are the most poetic and personal of Soren Kierkegaard's pseudonymous writings. Published in 1843 and written under the names Johannes de Silentio and Constantine Constantius, respectively,Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found herePresented here in a new translation, with a historical introduction by the translators, "Fear and Trembling and Repetition" are the most poetic and personal of Soren Kierkegaard's pseudonymous writings. Published in 1843 and written under the names Johannes de Silentio and Constantine Constantius, respectively, the books demonstrate Kierkegaard's transmutation of the personal into the lyrically religious.Each work uses as a point of departure Kierkegaard's breaking of his engagement to Regine Olsen--his sacrifice of "that single individual." From this beginning "Fear and Trembling" becomes an exploration of the faith that transcends the ethical, as in Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac at God's command. This faith, which persists in the face of the absurd, is rewarded finally by the return of all that the faithful one is willing to sacrifice. "Repetition" discusses the most profound implications of unity of personhood and of identity within change, beginning with the ironic story of a young poet who cannot fulfill the ethical claims of his engagement because of the possible consequences of his marriage. The poet finally despairs of repetition (renewal) in the ethical sphere, as does his advisor and friend Constantius in the aesthetic sphere. The book ends with Constantius' intimation of a third kind of repetition--in the religious sphere....

Title : Fear and Trembling/Repetition
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ISBN : 9780691020266
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 420 Pages
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Fear and Trembling/Repetition Reviews

  • Jim Coughenour
    2019-02-11 19:00

    Kierkegaard is the Mozart of philosophy. Fear and Trembling begins with four variations on the story of Abraham and Isaac, each a miniature masterpiece of evocation. I've read this book several times, each time with pleasure – there's nothing quite like Kierkegaard railing against the "universal," exalting the singular, the exceptional, and introducing with anti-Hegelian flourish the "teleological suspension of the ethical." That's a phrase to make you grin in the grimmest times.There's also dark theological comedy – in SK's repeated refrain that either Abraham had a unique experience of faith (an absolute relation to the absolute!) ... or... "Abraham is lost."Well, so are we all.

  • Will
    2019-02-07 21:55

    "It is supposed to be difficult to understand Hegel, but to understand Abraham is a small matter. To go beyond Hegel is a miraculous achievement, but to go beyond Abraham is the easiest of all. I for my part have applied considerable time to understanding Hegelian philosophy and believe that I have understood it fairly well; I am sufficiently brash to think that when I cannot understand particular passages despite all my pains, he himself may not have been entirely clear. All this I do easily, naturally, without any mental strain. Thinking about Abraham is another matter, however; then I am shattered."

  • LunaBel
    2019-02-09 21:54

    Although the aim of this book is largely philosophical, I think that its most important merit lies in its poetical resonance.I only skimmed through the first part (Fear & Trembling), so I can't say much about it.The second part of the book (Repetition) is very interesting. According to the narrator, repetition is what helps us go forth, as unlikely as it may seem to some. Repetition is not recollection for what is repeated directs itself toward the future, while recollection traps the individual in the past.Even though the narrator himself lost the capacity to repeat, as defined in its genuine form, he still admires his "friend's" ability to perform repetition.S. Kierkegaard has a very subtle way to describe philosophical, and complex, concepts. It is pleasant and at the same time engaging to read him. The translation is quite smooth so it was a bonus.

  • Dallin Bruun
    2019-02-07 14:55

    I finished this book on the question "what is Christian Faith?" by Søren Kierkegaard. I think it has given teeth to my theory that as you approach spiritual truth, you approach paradox. For example: 1. God commands Adam and Even not to partake from Tree of KoG&E2. God places tree of KoG&E in middle of gardenI have kids. If I didn't want them to take cookies from the cookie jar, I wouldn't place it in the middle of their room with the lid open. It's as if, paradoxically, God wants -- needs -- his children to transgress. This of course, makes no sense, unless you become acquainted and acclimated to the paradoxical nature of spiritual truth. I know it sounds heretical, but I can't abandon the possibility; I see it too often.

  • Patrick
    2019-02-01 17:22

    Getting a notion of the historical “situatedness” of Fear and Trembling is imperative if one is to cut through the thick crust of misreadings it has accumulated over the years. Silentio is of course not justifying irrational, absolutist commitments to specific projects that contradict ethical principles. Nor is he saying that God just might, if we are unlucky, require us to kill our neighbour and it is our absolute duty to obey. We know this immediately on perceiving that it is not the willingness to sacrifice Isaac that Silentio calls the irrational/absurd aspect of Abraham’s faith, but his ability to receive Isaac back joyfully after having been willing to sacrifice him. Silentio admits that, as a knight of resignation, he would have gone as far as obeying God’s command, yet he could not have taken the “double movement” and receive Isaac back again with pure gladness (36). There is a further reason that such obedience to God as Abraham exhibited is not absurd and thus that it is not obedience to God – even if God commands death – that is problematic. On the level of hypothesis and theory, Abraham’s actions make eminent sense: the ethical, insofar as it is a totality that cannot, by virtue of its immanence, know in terms of an absolute telos “what is best,” cannot be the object of our ultimate obedience. The fact is, as long as one knows it is indeed God who is commanding one, the content of the command is irrelevant; so long as one knows it is indeed God who commands one to commit genocide, one can obey. The next question is, of course, how one can know – for it is perhaps and indicator that the command is not from God when it entails the death of many. Thus on the level of not theory but existence, where uncertainty is not guaranteed, the ambiguity becomes painful. How is the existing individual to know the command he obeys is from the God of Love? Granted that this is the “risk” of faith – for faith cannot have certainty and still be faith – we can still ask: is this risk worth it? There is a kind of assurance on the level of the ethical, and even on the level of theory which deconstructs the ethical in the presence of “the absolute” and provides a new telos. Do we want to give this up, when it is the ethical that seeks to guard against destruction and suffering?Thus the question that comes after reading FT is not ethical dilemma, “if God were to command me to suspend my love for my neighbour in service to Him, should I really do it?” It is clear that obedience to God makes sense in such circumstances, for if we trust God is Love Himself, that he is working all things to their maximum Good, we might well be obedient though it leads us into (in our own eyes) a temporary ethical “faux pas” (to euphemize an act so filled with fear and trembling as Abraham’s). No, the question is not, “should Abraham have been obedient?” The question concerns an epistemological dilemma: “is there even a single point in our lives in which a command of God is heard and understood clearly and absolutely?” Do we ever get such unmediated, unproblematic divine fiats as Abraham did? We are told that “he knew it was God the Almighty who was testing him” (22), but we are not told how he knew. This is the difficult question, and seems to be in the shadow of this question that the real fear and trembling occurs. For the answer is: we do not. In the space of this uncertainty faith resides.Yet, despite this uncertainty, Abraham’s silence seems still to be unwarranted. The fact is, in light of the above considerations, duty to God above to duty to family makes sense (the family is not omniscient and omnibenevolent – why be dutiful to it above what is?). “Speak he cannot; he speaks no human language” (114), writes Silentio. In fact, Abraham is able to explain something. Though he cannot answer what specific good will come of sacrificing Isaac – and in this sense cannot understand God’s command – he can answer at least the general goodness of following divine commands. It may not be justifiable ethically, but it is still justifiable. When Silentio says, “Abraham cannot speak, because he cannot say that which would explain everything (that is, so it is understandable)” (115), he is correct up to a point. Abraham cannot explain everything, but can he not explain why he cannot explain? Perhaps Silentio would say that giving such an explanation is a temptation, a weakness. But to that we must also inquire for a why.

  • Jesse Grove
    2019-02-22 14:18

    I'm probably never going to be the Knight of Faith. The Knight of Faith is something that I can't help but find a little disgusting. Johannes De Silentio --the name provided as author of Fear and Trembling -- explains (a word I use loosely) the actions of Abraham as the actions of someone possessing such faith in God that he believes he can sacrifice his son Issac and at the same time God will not take him away. It is proposed that Abraham accepts and fully realizes he is committing an immoral act and that his son will die; but by means of something outside or at least not inside the moral world, his son will not be taken from him. This does not mean that they'll be re-united in heaven or anything like that, but that he will have his son in the world that he, in a certain sense, rejects. I'm not doing a great job of explaining this, you should read the book; it's brilliant and not very long. What I really want to get across is how radically different this interpretation is from any other attempt at understanding the problematic story of Abraham.I also really liked the presentation of the book. De Silentio speaks not as a high and mighty Knight of Faith, but as something closer to the Knight of Infinite Resignation, something that I feel I can understand better. This Knight recognizes there are some things he can't change and makes the tough moral calls despite it. He doesn't rely on an outside force to make the world better despite his immoral actions. This is the stance most of us take. It's only from this stance, the common ground, that de Silentio is able to point out that even though we don't understand the Knight of Faith, even though we may find him immoral, we can't help but marvel at his absurd conviction.

  • Dr. A
    2019-02-01 16:55

    ---Read this and reviews of other classics in Western Philosophy on the History page of (athinkPhilosophy Production).---Writing under the pseudonyms of Johannes de Silentio and Constantine Constantius respectively, in these two key works of Søren Kierkegaard’s body of work, he takes up the power of the absurd — that which is beyond reason or understanding. In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard examines the biblical story of Abraham, who is asked by God to sacrifice his only son. Does a higher authority exist that can contradict it’s own ethical imperative “thou shall not kill,” an authority that is grounded not in reason but in faith? In this case, faith is returned to Abraham through his willingness to participate in the senseless murder of his son. Repetition takes up the idea of identity and change, telling the story of a young man who cannot fulfill his obligations in marriage because (absurdly) of the conditions created by his marriage. Two key concepts developed through Kierkegaard’s work here are existential anxiety - an anxiety felt in the face on nothing in particular, but in the face of our human freedom - and the idea of repetition. Kierkegaard is considered a precursor to the Existentialist movement, given his influence on Nietzsche, and subsequently, Sartre.---Read this and reviews of other classics in Western Philosophy on the History page of (athinkPhilosophy Production).---

  • Jeremiah
    2019-02-22 14:21

    Wrote my undergrad thesis on these two texts. How am I responsible for who I become? What does it mean to commit? How do I make it through that "thunderstorm," that existential struggle and moment of doubt that Constantius's young man talks about? What about faith? and my being a temporal being? Kierkegaard's pseudonyms certainly don't tell us, nor ought they...

  • Scott
    2019-02-04 21:13

    What to say..this isn't my favorite of SK's works, but then again, SK is my favorite author. If you're sincerely interested, get the 2006 Cambridge edition and read the introduction by C. Stephen Evans. It's very helpful.

  • Jason
    2019-02-05 18:03

    This book made me fear and tremble. I absolutely fell in love with the characters!

  • Aaron
    2019-02-18 21:57

    Søren Kierkegaard is a strange one. He writes not just under pseudonyms, but in characters. I'm not sure I ever dug to the heart of what I thought he actually felt about Repetition. But I know what the two characters in the book think. Which is his view? Who knows? A very strange read.Also, on a much more technical/practical note, I hate endnotes. This edition/translation has lots and lots of notes and they are all end-notes, a half a book away from the thing they are referencing. I love footnotes. You can't put notes in there without me reading them. But if I have to go all the way to the end of the book to read them, that's quite distracting. At the bottom of the page is much nicer.

  • Daniel Cheng
    2019-02-12 14:17

    I was always confused how a man as devoutly religious as Soren Kierkegaard could have started a philosophy as individual as existentialism. However, Kierkegaard's conception of the religious is not about strictly following what you learned in Sunday school. In fact, Kierkegaard removes the comfort of any reliance on experience, a metaphysic, or an authority figure, forcing us to silently face the world alone and take responsibility for our decisions. Kierkegaard's faith asks us to persevere through our fear and trembling so we have the courage to believe in the impossible. It is only by attempting the crazy, the immoral, the unethical, that we can expand the realm of human possibility.

  • Andrew Tucker
    2019-02-13 16:21

    Honestly, I didn't understand much of this at first due to a rigorous semester. But the more I wrote on it the more I realized and understood it's significance. Every Christian should interact with this, at least the idea of the teleological suspension of the ethical.

  • Matt
    2019-02-02 16:11

    One of the most difficult books I've ever read, but well worth it.

  • David Calhoun
    2019-02-06 21:58

    I first read this in college, many years ago now. I really liked the rebellious spirit in Kierkegaard, but became somewhat skeptical of his philosophy. His emphasis on the subjective/faith/individual experience over the objective/ethical/universal experience seemed to me something that could lead to a sort of moral relativism, if taken to an extreme. But I think my understanding was a bit off the mark. I don't think Kierkegaard was saying we should entirely throw away philosophy and science, and other objective/absolute things, especially ethical things like our judicial system and such, where we have to hold people's actions accountable with some standard. No, I think K was just saying that we expect too much out of philosophy and science, as there are parts of the human experience, such as faith, that just cannot be approached by them in the same way (namely, with reason).In this book K is talking specifically about faith, and how folks in his day have tried to analyze faith as if it were a hard science. Consequently faith in that framework becomes something foreign and unrelatable: something objective, universalizable, something which can be reasoned about with some Hegelian dialectic of some sort (Hegel was the big philosopher of K's day, and much of K's writing consequently rails against him). It short, faith in their perspective becomes something that can be analyzed away, and all the mystery and challenge inherent in it surgically and scientifically extracted.K explains that no, faith is not this at all. All of this scientific and philosophical rationalizing misses the mark, and worse, shields modern day folks from the lessons and the challenges of faith. Especially challenging passages in the Bible such as Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac, which is the topic if the entire book. Or other passages, such as Jesus challenging us to "hate" our own family and friends in order to follow him. These passages are conveniently passed over by the church of K's day, and arguably the churches of our day as well.These are meant to be challenges to be worked out by every individual, says K. Those working out these challenges are knights of faith, and every single knight of faith must figure out their way individually, not even with the help of other knights of faith. This is impossible, because the subjective challenge of faith cannot be shared, or else then it would become objectified (i.e. into something not subjective). The experience is meant to be totally individual and subjective.In a broader sense, K ushered in a philosophy of existentialism, which was a reaction to the philosophy and science of his day. I think the reason his philosophy remains attractive to this day is that there is still a dominant trend away from the individual experience, and more towards the objective and rational sciences. Look no futher than the attitudes towards STEM subjects versus the humanities in schools, the latter of which have been on a downhill trend ever since I've been in school, and probably before that. Preparing students for STEM studying and STEM careers has been a singular focus, towards what K would call the absolute, the objective, and what we would call the "hard" sciences. Humanities subjects in comparison are called "soft" and are scoffed at because they don't prepare people for jobs. There is little appreciation for how things like art, music and literature can enrich individuals and let them understand more about life than science, technology, engineering, and math. School has become something less about creating single individuals, and more for creating cogs to be placed in a big machine, for creating parts in a whole objective system that all works together.So many folks who may study these STEM subjects and later become disaffected individuals may end up turning to art, music, literature, philosophy, etc. In search of some more personal understanding that wasn't taught in school. This would support K's thinking, that there are some things in life that just cannot be rationalized and sanitized like STEM subjects.A big summary: the mystery of faith cannot be scientifically analyzed and rationalized away, as it is something for each individual to work out on their own. In a bigger sense, there are many facets of the human experience such as faith, and they cannot be explained or approached by big dominant ways of thinking, such as philosophy (in K's day) or the sciences.

  • Stone
    2019-02-18 21:11

    I have to admit that when I first got to know Kierkegaard through a 5-min introductory YouTube video, I thought he was nuts and I would not bother sitting down and spending even a second on his book. Thanks to my reasonable self, I've stopped watching those quasi-profound YouTube videos.Although appearing unphilosophical in a lot of cases, Kierkegaard's thoughts nevertheless challenged the established Hegelian school and profoundly changed the developmental course of continental philosophy in the ensuing decades, despite the fact that he was reviled and cursed while he was alive. I enjoyed this book not for the sake of agreement -- in fact I have quite different opinions on a lot of key issues discussed in the book; what I find agreeable was Kierkegaard's lyrical writing style accompanied by a rebellious sense of humour. Utilizing the very things he was supposedly against, the Hegelian dialectics, he somehow blurred the boundary between philosophy and literature without appearing linguistically awkward like, say, Camus. In that particular sense, I'd have no doubt that Kierkegaard was a genius at playing around with poetic literary devices and discoursing about the meaning of life simultaneously. Kierkegaard's influence on Protestant theology was evidently profound, though without much recognition for a long time. His prestige within the existentialist movement was more ambiguous, as many dispute what it meant to be an existentialist; nevertheless, it is without a doubt that his religious absurdist approach had a lasting effect on subsequent generations of continental philosophers. It was also quite a coincidence that, I began reading Fear and Trembling right after I finished a month-long reading marathon with Hegel's The Philosophy of History, a supposedly "entry-level" introduction to Hegelianism. The sheer contrast between languages likely contributed to my positive feedback as well -- one would begin treating quantum physics formulas like poems after they are exposed to Hegelian languages for a month. Overall speaking, this is a surprisingly well written book in my experience with reading philosophical treatises, and the best thing about it is that you don't need to agree with Kierkegaard at all in order to enjoy the book.

  • John Lawrence
    2019-02-22 14:05

    Fear and Trembling is a book is about faith. If I understand correctly, Kierkegaard was reacting against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, specifically as it applied to Christian faith. He starts out by accusing his generation of wanting to go beyond faith. It used to be that faith (and even doubt) was the work of a lifetime. But eventually faith became a starting point, something from which one would move on in order to pursue the higher discipline of dialectical or rational thinking.Fear and Trembling considers the nature of faith through the story of Abraham and his sacrifice of Isaac. He says we cheat when we read the story because we know the ending. However, the story is truly great -- one of the greatest -- and full of wonder, mystery, terror and absurdity.Kierkegaard says that faith consists of two movements. The first is the movement of infinite resignation. It is the giving up of everything in order to gain the eternal consciousness (knowledge of God and salvation). He says it takes great human courage to make this movement, yet this is where most people stop.Kierkegaard says that those who only make the first movement can be flashy, heroic knights, who glory in having given up all. They are often thinking only of themselves. They are shrewd and self-righteous, strangers and aliens in this world, self-loathing, self-absorbed, and too proud to make the movement of finitude. "[S]elf-disdain," he says, "is still more dreadful than being too proud." They do not wrestle with God to receive back the finite. Or, when offered the finite, they falter.He says, "By faith Abraham did not renounce Isaac, but by faith Abraham received Isaac." This is the second movement, the movement of finitude. It is "testing" God by expecting what was lost to be returned: "Abraham had faith. He did not have faith that he would be blessed in a future life but that he would be blessed here in the world. God could give him a new Isaac, could restore to life the one sacrificed. He had faith by virtue of the absurd, for all human calculation ceased long ago." He trembles to think of Abraham's faith and what it is to test God by making the second movement.My favorite passage is about the tax collector. Kierkegaard says that if you met a man of faith, you might mistake him for a rather ordinary, even worldly person:"The instant I first lay eyes on him, I set him apart at once; I just back, clap my hands, and say half aloud, 'Good Lord, is this the man, is this really the one--he looks just like a tax collector.' But this is indeed the one. I move a little closer to him, watch his slightest movement to see if it reveals a bit of heterogenous optical telegraphy from the infinite, a glance, a facial expression, a gesture, a sadness, a smile that would betray the infinite in its heterogeneity with the infinite. No! I examine his figure from top to toe to see if there may not be a crack through which the infinite would peek. No! He is solid all the way through. ... Nothing is detectable of that distant and aristocratic nature by which the knight of the infinite is recognized. He finds pleasure in everything, takes part in everything, and every time one sees him participating in something particular, he does it with an assiduousness that marks the worldly man who is attached to such things."Kierkegaard makes sure to contrast those who are truly knights of faith and those who are counterfeit knights, "slaves of the finite," those who don't even make the first movement, but who only pursue worldly pleasures.Kierkegaard then describes how the knight of faith not only tempts God but is himself "tempted" by God. A person who chooses to make the movement of giving up everything to gain salvation may be tempted to step back into his former worldly passions. The knight of faith, however, having been called by God to act against what he knows is right, is tempted to return to the safety of the ethical. Kierkegaard doesn't mention this as an example, but I thought of Peter, when God asked him to kill and eat what was unclean. Of course, one could argue that Peter didn't yet understand what God had already done in Jesus, declaring all things clean. But, in Peter's experience (existentially speaking) the "temptation" is nonetheless acute. The same is true with Abraham.What the knight of faith gains by this divine call is a personal relationship with God himself. Kierkegaard says that a person's relationship with God is mediated through the ethical, thus only permitting him/her to speak of God in the third person. The knight of faith on the other hand moves into a direct and private relationship with God himself and is thus permitted to address him in the second person.My understanding of philosophy is limited, but I have heard Kierkegaard called the father of existentialism. I can see how Kierkegaard is unwieldy. It is easy to see how his philosophy could be taken in many directions for good or ill. I remember reading Francis Schaeffer, who said, “I do not think that Kierkegaard would be happy, or would agree, with that which has developed from his thinking in either secular or religious existentialism. But what he wrote gradually led to the absolute separation of the rational and logical from faith” (The God Who Is There).I have also heard how Kierkegaard's philosophy might be one of the reasons modern Western Christians speak so much of having a "personal relationship" with God. Of course, who is going to argue with that? (I think Kierkegaard would be appalled at the ease with which people enter into such a personal relationship with God. Where is the "fear and trembling" of such a step? he might ask). I suspect the problem of so much talk of a private relationship with God is that it can easily ignore the corporate reality of our lives in Christ. I can also imagine that Kierkegaard's movements of faith could be taken as a sort of "two step" Christianity, the knight of faith laying claim to a higher plane of existence. (Though here Kierkegaard would say that to make the second movement is something, if desired, would only be made with much trepidation; hence, the temptation to escape back to the place of infinite resignation.) In the end, Kierkegaard does remind us that our relationship with God is both objective and subjective. Perhaps the problem is that we tend to elevate the subjective above the objective or vice versa.Fear and Trembling is a challenging read -- many of the passages are hard to understand. My brother-in-law who recommended the book to me said I should not be embarrassed to use SparkNotes to supplement my reading, which I did. Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. It raises good questions and addresses legitimate concerns, and his writing is full of irony, wit, passion and beauty.

  • Margaret Lozano
    2019-02-16 16:23

    What can I say? In my mind, the worst (philosophical) book ever written. I'm sure I'm completely alone in my absolute disdain for Fear and Trembling...but it is truly deplorable. The "teleological suspension of the ethical" has to be the worst ethical concept ever created. And yes, I get that Kierkegaard uses the story of Abraham and Isaac to illustrate a point, but that point is as pathetic as the story on which it rests. The mere fact that Kierkegaard is so married the the wretched story of Abraham being asked by god to sacrifice his own son that he is willing to go through a fantastical and (by his own admission) ABSURD quasi justification says it all....

  • Pastor Ben
    2019-02-06 17:08

    It's maybe foolish of me to rate these two books when I've only very partially understood them. I console myself with the thought that I'm not the first nor will I be the last to struggle to understand Kierkegaard. If the erstwhile king of Denmark, Frederich VII, is good company then I'm in it.

  • Coyle
    2019-02-01 14:08

    So, after being assigned this book in a class on German Idealism several years ago (three or four, I forget which), I finally got around to finishing it. In my defense, at the time I had just finished comps and this was the last book in the class and, well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. This is a compilation of two books: Fear and Trembling and Repetition. Fear and Trembling engages the question of the nature of faith using the example of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac. Kirkegaard points out that Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac was, from Abraham's perspective, at best irrational and at worst wicked, but faith is embracing the irrational and (seemingly) wicked with joy. The reward of faith is that Abraham recieved back Isaac not in the way he had expected (through resurrection), but in a way infinitely better than he could have imagined.The main strength of this book is Kierkegaard's thoughtful and thorough analysis of the irrational component of faith. Many Christians (and certainly many non-Christians) feel that there is something contrary to the way the world works in Christianity, and Kierkegaard explores this in a way that offers an answer which does not sacrifice the totality of the Christian message in the same way that liberal Christianity does when engaging the same questions.The weakness of the book is fairly obvious. With all due respect to my existentialist brothers and sisters, "mystery" is not "irrationality." There is something mysterious in Christianity, there are elements which transcend our limited reason and worldviews and draw the eyes and the mind heavenward. But to say that these elements are irrationaly, even from our own perspective, is a dangerous road to walk (Kant makes the same mistake). I realize that this is often offered as an apologetic ("you just have to believe, even if it doesn't make sense), but the fact remains that Christianity is ultimately a mystery, Christianity is a historical message of the good news of the salvation that Jesus Christ has worked on the cross. This is not irrational and requires no leap of faith (Kierkegaard never talks about a "blind" leap), it requires conversion.Repetition is the story of a young man in love and his attempts to recapture the first feelings of love. By extension (implicit at first, and then explicit), this is a discussion of religion and that initial burst of joy which one experiences on conversion, and the continued attempts thereafter to recapture that initial transcendent experience. "Can this experience be repeated?" is the central question of the book, and one which you'll have to read for yourself to get the answer.I appreciated this work much more than Fear and Trembling, possibly because of the narrative structure, but mostly because I enjoyed the topic quite a lot more. The question of the transient and the eternal is an interesting one philosophically, and one I hope to pursue in future study.Overall, these are worth a read, even if only to see what all the fuss is about.

  • James
    2019-02-05 14:04

    What happens when God asks us to do something unethical? This is the focus of Kierkegaard's moving book on faith. I first read this for a college class on Kierkegaard, and the second time around I loved it just as much. A great philosophical treaty on faith, duty to God, and ethics.Kierkegaard starts off by stating his astonishment at the number of people who try to "go beyond faith". Instead of making faith a matter for a whole lifetime, and making it a process, people tend to think it an easy matter to attain it and then move on to something better or higher.Fear and Trembling focuses on the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac and what actually went into that decision. Kierkegaard gives us four very interesting alternate scenarios for how that scene could have played out differently. We see Abraham shunning Isaac and denouncing himself as an idolator in order to save Isaac at the expense of his own faith. We see Abraham spotting the ram earlier, so that he is not required to test his faith, and subsequently losing it. We see Abraham killing Isaac and not stopped by God, and he feels remorse his whole life that he did this, even though God commanded it. And we see Abraham ignoring God's command, but Isaac perceives this and he loses his faith. All of these scenes are an attempt to show us that Abraham could not have acted any other way and still have kept his faith and promoted Isaac's.By all accounts, Abraham is a paradox. One of the highest ethical and moral standards is that the father should love the son above himself. How can God ask Abraham to suspend this ethic and kill his own son, nonetheless to promote Abraham's own standing with God? If this suspension of the ethical is not possible, then Abraham is a murderer, as he actually attempted to kill Isaac. Abraham is not even a tragic hero, because he is not doing this act for some noble idea or to save a city, etc., but simply because God commanded it be done.And yet Abraham has faith in the absurd notion that even though God would command him to do this terrible thing, Abraham believes that his son will be given back to him in this life, or that God will rescind the command he has just given. But why would God command something that he will take back later? It doesn't make sense, but Abraham has faith that it is so. This is the absurdity and paradox that most people do not see in the story of Abraham and Isaac.Kierkegaard's writings show us that the process of faith is not easy and indeed is a task for an entire lifetime. At 130 years old, Abraham was still getting no farther than faith.Fear and Trembling was one of the first books that I've read that introduced me to the idea that maybe God is higher than "Absolute" laws. Maybe the Commander himself is more important than any particular commandment he may utter. God has changed the rules over the course of history many times, and yet so often we find ourselves treating the laws themselves with more reverence.

  • Aaron Quinn
    2019-01-27 21:54

    One of the most influential books I have ever read.

  • Alex Obrigewitsch
    2019-02-01 15:56

    The two works contained in this volume both seek to address what Kierkegaard termed 'the religious,' though from different angles and through different pseudonymous life views.Fear and Trembling aims at an impossible task - to understand the single individual in relation to God who is placed above or before the universal or the ethical. This is done through a rigorous questioning of Abraham and an explication of faith. But the movement of faith causes the human to tremble, for it plunges into an impossibility and makes the impossible occur. By virtue of the absurd, the knight of faith is given back everything that has been resigned. However unknowable, beyond possibility, the knight of faith must live as though they know and it shall be. And so it shall be, for the single individual. This is abhorrent to all understanding, as it is outside of the universal, beyond the limits of reasoning. Thus does Johannes de Silentio write that he cannot understand Abraham. Outside of the human, the realm of the universal and the ethical, he wanders near to God.The knight of faith is given everything back once more, and this is a sort of repetition. Repetition is the question at the heart of the second work in this volume that goes by this name. And again here the pseudonymous author, Constantin Constantius, fails to understand the question at hand because he has yet to take the leap, the outside movement, that is the religious movement. Constantin comes to understand that repetition is a religious category, but he cannot experience it - it remains foreign to him. The young man who confides in him comes closer to this experience than Constantin does. Constantin's failing comes in that he is concerned more with recollection, desiring from repetition a recurrence of the same. His focus is backwards, and as he himself writes in the first page of the work, this reverse-focus is doomed to unhappiness. Repetition must be viewed with a forward look, looking towards a future coming of which repetition makes possible. Do not make the error of reading only Fear and Trembling; these works were originally published on the same day, and are published in translation together here because they are intertwining and interwoven threads. Their questions reverberate one another. Do not neglect Repetition; its style and tone may differ, but its importance, especially in understanding Kierkegaard's thought, should not be passed by.

  • Madeleine
    2019-01-29 20:16

    (Note: Although this edition contains both Fear and Trembling and Repetition, I'm currently only interested in Fear and Trembling and have no intention of reading anything else this volume contains.)In fall of 2006 I read Fear and Trembling (I'm going to stop underlining it now that I'm not saying two titles in one sentence "Fear and Trembling and Repetition" without underlining was weird to me.) for a class I briefly took on Kierkegaard. By the fall of '06, I was incredibly frustrated about college. It was making my depression and anxiety worse and I wasn't dealing with it well. So, not too long into the class on Kierkegaard, I dropped it. But not before we read Fear and Trembling. However, possibly due to circumstances and my general hatred of anything "faith" based or "Christian" based, I was not a fan of Fear and Trembling (although it had interesting points) nor Kierkegaard in general (from this and other stuff we read) which always made me a little sad since I love how Kierkegaard approached writing. Either/Or, for instance, is written in a really interesting way.But, six years later and a lot has changed. Life circumstances as well as my approach to "faith" and "Christian" things (well, my approach to all things concerning spirituality in some form has drastically changed, not just those two things.) so, I no longer want to continue my dislike of Kierkegaard's writings based off a way of thinking I no longer have.So, I gave away all my Kierkegaard books years ago, and now am boring Fear and Trembling because it's time to see how I feel about him now.I'll update this with a real review once I have a real review. First I had to give you Kierkegaard Begins. My origin story. (It's a bad joke..playing off the title of Nolan's Batman origin story film Batman Begins...EXPLAINING JOKES FTW)

  • Vince
    2019-02-15 19:07

    "Fear and Trembling" is the most read writing of Kierkegaard. It poses the suspension of the ethical plane of living by the 'knight of faith' who hears God (Abraham) to achieve a religion plane of living through faith. It is a necessary reading but the serious reader of Kierkegaard needs also to read his other books. "Repetition" is a minor writing that relates Kierkegaard's struggle to 'recommit' to religious action in faith. The knight of faith intensifies religious ethics only in the actions of his life. Faith is not a thought or reason, but an act that stands before God eternally."Either/Or" (the book explaining that the ethical life is a higher life over the sensual life but the reality of ethics is found through a leap of faith not a life of reasoning. Ethics are not provable in Kierkegaard's opinion.)"Fear and Trembling" (Kierkegaard's explanation of the religious man who sometimes obeys God and acts in ways that seem unethical to the surrounding society."The Concept of Anxiety" (Kierkegaard's psychology of the human anxiety over hereditary sin)"Sickness Unto Death" (Kierkegaard's recognition of the human condition of ill health/death without God.)"Practice in Christianity" (Kierkegaard's presentation of the Christian life over and against European Philosophies - Hegelism)Others.Then one must realized that Kierkegaard's philosophical presentation of human ethics and Christianity is severely focussed on the individual. He is indeed the Christian Nietzsche. Placing Kierkegaard properly in philosophy and religion is a long project. Martin Buber writes critiques of Kierkegaard that provide better understanding of the beauty and failings of Kierkegaard's life-long writing project.

  • John
    2019-02-23 20:20

    Fear and Trembling is Kierkegaard's treatment of the story of Abraham and Isaac, in which Kierkegaard assesses the ethical nature of Abraham's act. He doesn't approve nakedly of the decision, but treats Abraham as a unique individual who held a unique, personal relationship with God. Admitting that he cannot identify with Abraham, Kierkegaard approaches the problem through analogous examination of situations that are similar but not identical to Abraham's choice. Kierkegaard doesn't hand the reader any answers, concluding that we must view Abraham as either divine or lost. There is no middle ground for Kierkegaard.Kierkegaard's approach is different from the interpretation that I've held for a long time, that Abraham's experience at the altar was a symbolic representation of the end of human sacrifice, a significant change in the way humans related to their gods. For the children of Abraham, the obedience to sacrifice and the reprieve granted by God in the story represent a covenant between the family of Abraham and God. No more will there be blood sacrifices, and that family will prosper.Kierkegaard probably would reject the symbolic view as impersonal and impious, but I have to read more of his work to grasp his thinking. He reveals an annoying bias for the bland bourgeoisie, and he though rather highly of himself, breaking off an engagement to spare his fiancee from his overwhelming melancholy. He was duly disappointed when she quickly recovered.I haven't started Reptition. After one Kierkegaard book, a respite is welcome.

  • Ryan
    2019-01-24 20:07

    Fear and Trembling was a re-read for me (a repetition?) and so I will not go into detail. I will simply say that it is a great work, a must read in philosophy, and probably the most well known of Kierkegaard's (although not necessarily). Repetition was a new one for me and was, I think, better than Fear and Trembling. Kierkegaard's pseudonym, Constantin Constantius, discusses and shares the story of a young meloncholiac who falls passionately in love, yet, from the start introduces tragedy into the relationship. Constantius shares several letters from the young man, tracing his development after the break up. Throughout, Constantius explores the possibility of repetition, the same but opposite movement of the Greek concept of recollection that establishes ones self in the flux of time.

  • Ben Brewski
    2019-02-13 22:14

    Very poetic and well-written, Fear and Trembling calls into question Hegel's ethical philosophy by examining the story of Abraham and Isaac. Of course, Kierkegaard's whole schema is a response to Hegel's thinking, which is weird if you don't really buy into Hegel's ideas in the first place. Much of Kierkegaard's reasoning seems like the flip-side of what Hegel says, so it's hard to see the two as contraries - more like two sides of the same coin. Overall, this work did influence and help fund an entirely new branch of philosophy (existentialism) as well as convince a whole whack of people that Hegel is wrong; so its importance can't be missed.

  • Forsythe
    2019-01-28 22:20

    A few words about (or, at least, tangentially about) Repetition: A poet becomes the poet through the experience of love, but what then becomes of love's object? Perhaps, he (or she) becomes married to that love, has children with that love, ages with that love, and the love of that love changes over time. But what if the very thing that makes the poet the poet is that initial love itself? What if that initial experience is the poet's very muse? The love is absorbed into the world of the poet and no longer corresponds with the world without. If such were the case, how should the poet, ethically-speaking, deal with what results?

  • Paul Hinman
    2019-01-26 13:59

    About once a year I try to undertake a book that I wish I had read in college. Something that might require a bit of study, maybe even a little hand-holding to better understand. This was certainly one of those books. I'm hesitant to say that I enjoyed it, or even truly understood it - at least as it is universally understood (see what I did there?). I didn't hate reading it, but I can recognize that my method of reading 10-15 pages in a sitting isn't exactly well suited to a work like this. Reading serious academic works outside the academic setting never seems to pan out quite as I would hope.