Modern Believing

Self-Reflection and Autobiography — Kierkegaard's Writings about Himself

Modern Believing (1997), 38, (3), 2–8.


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Volume XXXVIII, No. 3, 1997 Liberal Theology in the Contemporary World Self-Reflection and Autobiography Kierkegaard's Writings about Himself Hartmut Rosenau I Within the European history of theology and philosophy most of Soren Kierkegaard's writings could be considered as a specific and extreme step within the development of the literary genre of 'autobiography' in the middle of the nineteenth century. To write autobiographically might be a necessary result of Kierkegaard's conviction that 'subjectivity is the truth' which could in turn be read as an abbreviation of existentialism. Existentialism, and the lit­ erary form of autobiography as well, is prepared by certain developments in the history of Christian thought and philosophy which lead to the principle of subjectivity in modern thinking. I only want to give some few hints relating to this development towards Kierkegaard's writings about himself. As far as theology is concerned we have to recognize the role of conscience before God which, since Paul, makes every single person responsible in an ulti­ mate sense ('last judgement'; cf. Rom. 2). This turn to subjectivity is elaborated for the first time by Augustine's Confessions - which makes him the first 'modern' thinker. Luther is another important figure within the development of the modern principle of subjectivity, because he has discovered the theolog­ ical importance of the 'pro me' of Man's justification by faith, which provokes a concentration on one's personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ, e.g. in German pietism and in Puritanism as well (cf. John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress of 1678 as an outstanding example). Soren Kierkegaard's father, Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard, was strongly influenced by pietism, and there­ fore young Soren's education at home had its typical form and content, espe­ cially an extreme awareness of personally being guilty, being a sinner before God. As far as the history of philosophy is concerned, the modern principle of subjectivity was prepared for in the overcoming of mythology by the logos since Herakleitus and Plato; in the elaboration of the Platonic logos into cate­ gories by Aristotle; the systematic deduction of categories out of the transcen­ dental ego by Kant and Fichte, after Descartes found the cogito to be the

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Rosenau, Hartmut