Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Søren Kierkegaard, fully Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

Danish Philosopher, Theologian, Poet, Social Critic and Religious Author interested in Human Psychology

"How ironical that it is by means of speech that man can degrade himself below the level of dumb creation -- for a chatterbox is truly of a lower category than a dumb creature."

"How to be listed as a dream in the mind of a young girl is an art, going out is a masterpiece"

"I… begin with the principle that all men are bores. Surely no one will prove himself so great a bore as to contradict me in this."

"I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe."

"I divide my time as follows: half the time I sleep, the other half I dream. I never dream when I sleep, for that would be a pity, for sleeping is the highest accomplishment of genius."

"I do not care for anything. I do not care to ride, for the exercise is too violent. I do not care to walk, walking is too strenuous. I do not care to lie down, for I should either have to remain lying, and I do not care to do that, or I should have to get up again, and I do not care to do that either. Summa summarum: I do not care at all."

"I feel as if I were a piece in a game of chess, when my opponent says of it: That piece cannot be moved."

"I have just now come from a party where I was its life and soul; witticisms streamed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me, but I went away — yes, the dash should be as long as the radius of the earth's orbit --- and wanted to shoot myself."

"I have never been able, really, to regret anything in all my life. I have always been far much too absorbed in the present moment or the immediate future to think back."

"I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations - one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it - you will regret both."

"If a man cannot forget, he will never amount to much."

"If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe."

"If I did not know that I am a genuine Dane, I could almost be tempted to explain my self-contradictions by supposing that I am an Irishman. For the Irish do not have the heart to immerse their children totally when they have them baptized; they want to keep a little paganism in reserve; generally the child is totally immersed under water but with the right arm free, so that he will be able to wield a sword with it, embrace the girls."

"If I do not do that, then my greater understanding does not help him at all. If I nevertheless want to assert my greater understanding, then it is because I am vain or proud, then basically instead of benefiting him I really want to be admired by him."

"If I have ventured wrongly, very well, life then helps me with its penalty. But if I haven't ventured at all, who helps me then?"

"If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of potential -- for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints; possibility never."

"If it is not making this absolute love with what another story goes, one should never venture to love, even if they got married ten times."

"If one is truly to succeed in leading a person to a specific place, one must first and foremost take care to find him where he is and begin there."

"If then, if you have lived in despair, then whatever else you won or lost, for you everything is lost, eternity does not acknowledge you, it never knew you, or, still more dreadful, it knows you as you are known, it manacles you to yourself in despair."

"If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life."

"If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one."

"In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, I have one more intimate confidant. My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known -- no wonder, then, that I return the love."

"In every man there is something which to a certain degree prevents him from becoming perfectly transparent to himself; and this may be the case in so high a degree, he may be so inexplicably woven into relationships of life which extend far beyond himself, that he almost cannot reveal himself. But he who cannot reveal himself cannot love, and he who cannot love is the most unhappy man of all."

"In the deepest sense, the being in a state of sin is the sin, the particular sins are not the continuation of sin, they are expressions of its continuation."

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

"In the vast reaches of the dry, cold night, thousands of stars were constantly appearing, and their sparkling icicles, loosened at once, began to slip gradually toward the horizon."

"Irony is a disciplinarian feared only by those who do not know it, but cherished by those who do. He who does not understand irony and has no ear for its whispering lacks of what might called the absolute beginning of the personal life. He lacks what at moments is indispensable for the personal life, lacks both the regeneration and rejuvenation, the cleaning baptism of irony that redeems the soul from having its life in finitude though living boldly and energetically in finitude."

"It belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite."

"It is a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money."

"It is not a gain that guilt should be wholly forgotten. On the contrary, it is loss and perdition. But it is a gain to win an inner intensity of heart through a deeper and deeper inner sorrowing over guilt."

"It is perhaps the misfortune of my life that I am interested in far too much but not decisively in any one thing; all my interests are not subordinated in one but stand on an equal footing."

"It is quite true what Philosophy says: that Life must be understood backwards. But that makes one forget the other saying: that it must be lived /forwards. The more one ponders this, the more it comes to mean that life in the temporal existence never becomes quite intelligible, precisely because at no moment can I find complete quiet to take the backward-looking position."

"It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey."

"It is so impossible for the world to exist without God that if God should forget it, it would immediately cease to be."

"It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand, and what those things are. Human understanding has vulgarly occupied itself with nothing but understanding, but if it would only take the trouble to understand itself at the same time it would simply have to posit the paradox."

"It is the supreme paradox of thought to want to discover something she herself cannot think"

"It requires courage not to surrender oneself to the ingenious or compassionate counsels of despair that would induce a man to eliminate himself from the ranks of the living; but it does not follow from this that every huckster who is fattened and nourished in self-confidence has more courage than the man who yielded to despair."

"It was completely fruitless to quarrel with the world, whereas the quarrel with oneself was occasionally fruitful and always, she had to admit, interesting."

"Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper, so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer he can, as it were, creep into God."

"Knowledge of the truth I may perhaps have attained to; happiness, certainly not. What shall I do? Accomplish something in the world, men tell me. Shall I then publish my grief to the world, contribute one more proof for the wretchedness and misery of existence, perhaps discover a new flaw in human life, hitherto unnoticed? I might then reap the rare reward of becoming famous, like the man who discovered the spots on Jupiter. I prefer, however, to keep silent."

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."

"Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living."

"Life is not a problem to be solved but reality to be experienced."

"Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards."

"Listen to the cry of a woman in labor at the hour of giving birth -look at the dying man's struggle at his last extremity, and then tell me whether something that begins and ends thus could be intended for enjoyment."

"Live to the point of tears."

"Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself."

"Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all."

"Love is found only in freedom, and only it there for recreation and fun forever"

"Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is."