Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments

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Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments
Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments.jpg
Titlepage, first edition
Author Søren Kierkegaard
Original title Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift til de philosophiske Smuler
Translator David F Swenson and Walter Lowrie, Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, Alastair Hannay
Country Denmark
Language Danish
Series First authorship (Pseudonymous)
Genre Philosophy
Publisher University bookshop Reitzel, Copenhagen
Publication date
Feb 28, 1846
Published in English
Media type Hardback
Pages 630 (Hong translation)
ISBN 978-0691020815
Preceded by Stages on Life's Way
Followed by Two Ages: A Literary Review

Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments (Danish: Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift til de philosophiske Smuler) is a major work thought to be by Søren Kierkegaard. The work is a poignant attack against Hegelianism, the philosophy of Hegel, especially Hegel's Science of Logic. The work is also famous for its dictum, Subjectivity is Truth. It was an attack on what Kierkegaard saw as Hegel's deterministic philosophy. Against Hegel's system, Kierkegaard is often interpreted as taking the side of metaphysical libertarianism or freewill, though it has been argued that an incompatibilist conception of free will is not essential to Kierkegaard's formulation of existentialism.

As the title suggests, the Postscript is sequel to the earlier Philosophical Fragments. The title of the work is ironic because the Postscript is almost five times larger than the Fragments. The Postscript credits "Johannes Climacus" as the author and Kierkegaard as its editor. Like his other pseudonymous works, the Postscript is not a reflection of Kierkegaard's own beliefs. However, unlike his other pseudonymous works, Kierkegaard attaches his name as editor to this work, showing the importance of the Postscript to Kierkegaard's overall authorship.

Contrasts in Concluding Unscientific Postscript[edit]

Objectivity Subjectivity
Objective truth is that which relates to propositions, that which has no relation to the existence of the knower. History, science, and speculative philosophy all deal with objective knowledge. According to Climacus, all objective knowledge is subject to doubt. Focuses on what is asserted. Subjective truth is essential or ethico-religious truth. It is not composed of propositions or perceptions of the external world, but of introspection, experiences, and especially one's relationship with God.
Direct communication consists of statements that can be communicated and understood without appropriation, that is, without experiencing personally what is being communicated. Objective knowledge can be communicated directly. Indirect communication requires appropriation on the part of the receiver. The receiver must experience or have experienced what is being communicated, not just hear it.

When I began as an author of Either/Or, I no doubt had a far more profound impression of the terror of Christianity than any clergyman in the country. I had a fear and trembling such as perhaps no one else had. Not that I therefore wanted to relinquish Christianity. No, I had another interpretation of it. For one thing I had in fact learned very early that there are men who seem to be selected for suffering, and, for another thing, I was conscious of having sinned much and therefore supposed that Christianity had to appear to me in the form of this terror. But how cruel and false of you, I thought, if you use it to terrify others, perhaps upset every so many happy, loving lives that may very well be truly Christian.

It was as alien as it could possibly be to my nature to want to terrify others, and therefore I both sadly and perhaps also a bit proudly found my joy in comforting others and in being gentleness itself to them-hiding the terror in my own interior being.

So my idea was to give my contemporaries (whether or not they themselves would want to understand) a hint in humorous form (in order to achieve a lighter tone) that a much greater pressure was needed-but then no more; I aimed to keep my heavy burden to myself, as my cross. I have often taken exception to anyone who was a sinner in the strictest sense and then promptly got busy terrifying others. Here is where Concluding Postscript comes in.

Soren Kierkegaard, Journal and Papers, VI 6444 (Pap. X1 A541) (1849) (Either/Or Part II, Hong, p. 451-452)


Eduard Geismar was an early lecturer on the works of Soren Kierkegaard. He gave lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary in March 1936 and states this about Johannes Climacus:

Johannes Climacus has so delineated the ethico-religious life that Christianity becomes an intensification of subjectivity and its pathos. Through the discipline of resignation, aiming at an absolute commitment to the highest good, through the discipline of suffering, through the consciousness of guilt, the way leads step by step to a more profound pathos, until by a leap we reach the absolute maximum of subjectivity in the Christian consciousness of sin, with its imperative need for a new departure. The Christian revelation is not a set of propositions, but a creative act of the individual who has been prepared to receive it in part by the very discipline of human idealism, and who through this creative act becomes a new creature. But no birth is without birth-pangs and no revelation is without an experience of suffering. The way to Christianity goes through a decision, a crucial decision in the temporal moment; faith is an existential leap. The necessity of this leap is what gives offense to man and to all human idealism. Eduard Geismar, Lectures on the Religious Thought of Soren Kierkegaard, p. 57 Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis 1937

In 1963 Kenneth Hamilton described Paul Tillich as an individual who was as anti-Hegel as Kierkegaard was. He was referring to Kierkegaard's distrust of system builders which he discussed in The Concluding Unscientific Postscript (p. 13-15, 106-112.)

The first total opponent of Hegel's standpoint was Soren Kierkegaard, father of modern existentialism. Hegel had many critics in his lifetime, but they were mostly those who attacked his system because they believed that they could construct a better one themselves. But his Danish critic attacked him for being the most consistent system-builder among system-builders. In the name of Christian faith Kierkegaard rejected not this or that element in Hegelianism but the whole, referring to it in mockery as c the System. So it happens that the issue of system versus the Christian faith has been debated more than a hundred years ago. And that encounter between system and anti-system is very relevant to any examination of philosophical theology to-day. Certainly Tillich, who is often critical of Hegel, nearly always speaks in praise of Kierkegaard, and he gives such an important place in his own thinking to the category of existence that he seems at times to be travelling in the Danish thinker's footsteps. The System and the Gospel A Critique Of Paul Tillich by Kenneth Hamilton 1963 MacMillan Press p. 37

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