The influence of Kierkegaard’s father on his work has been frequently noted. Not only did Kierkegaard inherit his father’s melancholy, his sense of guilt and anxiety, and his pietistic emphasis on the dour aspects of Christian faith, but he also inherited his talents for philosophical argument and creative imagination.
The father’s sense of guilt was so great (for having cursed God? for having impregnated Kierkegaard’s mother out of wedlock?) that he thought God would punish him by taking the lives of all seven of his children before they reached the age of 34 (the age of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion). This was born out for all but two of the children, Søren and his older brother Peter.
Søren was astonished that they both survived beyond that age. This may explain the sense of urgency that drove Kierkegaard to write so prolifically in the years leading up to his 34th birthday.
— William McDonald, Senior Lecturer / Ph.D.
Hegelianism promised to make absolute knowledge available by virtue of a science of logic. Anyone with the capacity to follow the dialectical progression of the purportedly transparent concepts of Hegel’s logic would have access to the mind of God (which for Hegel was equivalent to the logical structure of the universe).
Kierkegaard thought this to be the hubristic attempt to build a new tower of Babel, or a scala paradisi — a dialectical ladder by which humans can climb with ease up to heaven.
The Bible states: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
It seems that Kierkegaard lived by these words:
Kierkegaard’s strategy was to invert this dialectic by seeking to make everything more difficult. Instead of seeing scientific knowledge as the means of human redemption, he regarded it as the greatest obstacle to redemption. Instead of seeking to give people more knowledge he sought to take away what passed for knowledge. Instead of seeking to make God and Christian faith perfectly intelligible he sought to emphasize the absolute transcendence by God of all human categories.
Instead of setting himself up as a religious authority, Kierkegaard used a vast array of textual devices to undermine his authority as an author and to place responsibility for the existential significance to be derived from his texts squarely on the reader.
Kierkegaard distanced himself from his texts by a variety of devices which served to problematize the authorial voice for the reader. He used pseudonyms in many of his works (both overtly aesthetic ones and overtly religious ones). He partitioned the texts into prefaces, forewords, interludes, postscripts, appendices. He assigned the “authorship” of parts of texts to different pseudonyms, and invented further pseudonyms to be the editors or compilers of these pseudonymous writings. Sometimes Kierkegaard appended his name as author, sometimes as the person responsible for publication, sometimes not at all. Sometimes Kierkegaard would publish more than one book on the same day. These simultaneous books embodied strikingly contrasting perspectives. He also published whole series of works simultaneously, viz. the pseudonymous works on the one hand and on the other hand the Edifying Discourses published under his own name.
Christian faith, for Kierkegaard, is not a matter of learning dogma by rote. It is a matter of the individual repeatedly renewing h/er passionate subjective relationship to an object which can never be known, but only believed in. This belief is offensive to reason, since it only exists in the face of the absurd (the paradox of the eternal, immortal, infinite God being incarnated in time as a finite mortal).
Kierkegaard’s “method of indirect communication” was designed to sever the reliance of the reader on the authority of the author and on the received wisdom of the community. The reader was to be forced to take individual responsibility for knowing who s/he is and for knowing where s/he stands on the existential, ethical and religious issues raised in the texts.
— William McDonald