Kierkegaard on staking all upon one throw

Over the last week or so (and probably for the next week or so), I have set myself the task of reading Søren Kierkegaard’s works. My impressions of the great Pascal of the North thus far are, to say the least, quite mixed. That said, like with Barth, when he’s right Kierkegaard’s so right, and when he’s wrong … well that’s perhaps for another post.

Yesterday I read with great profit and encouragement Fear and Trembling. Today, The Sickness Unto Death. Here’s a wee paragraph that sent me away for a think … and a strong coffee:

Doubtless most men live with far too little consciousness of themselves to have a conception of what consistency is; that is to say, they do not exist qua spirit. Their lives (either with a certain childish and lovable naïveté or in sheer banality) consist in some act or another, some ccurrence, this or that; and then they do something good, then in turn something wrong, and then it begins all over again; now they are in despair, for an afternoon, perhaps for three weeks, but then they are jovial again, and then again they are a whole day in despair. They take a hand in the game of life as it were, but they never have the experience of staking all upon one throw, never attain the conception of an infinite self-consistency. Therefore among themselves their talk is always about the particular, particular deeds, particular sins.

One comment

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve just read the chapter on character in Resurrection and Moral Order, where O’Donovan argues that moral thought must ask “not only about this or that act”, but also “about himself, the agent who has performed these acts”. He introduces the chapter partly with a reference to Kierkegaard’s insistence that “purity of heart” is “to will one thing.” I don’t know much about this, so please keep posting!

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