Quotes by Søren Kierkegaard

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Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (b.1813, d. 1855) was a profound and prolific writer in the Danish "golden age" of intellectual and artistic activity. His work crosses the boundaries of philosophy, theology, psychology, literary ...

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Prayer does not change God, but changes him who prays.

Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.
Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards.
Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living.
Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.
There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.
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.
People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid.
The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.
Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
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.
Once you label me you negate me.
Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.
Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion -- and who, therefore, in the next instant (when it is evident that the minority is the stronger) assume its opinion... while truth again reverts to a new minority.
Purity of heart is to will one thing.
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 feel as if I were a piece in a game of chess, when my opponent says of it: That piece cannot be moved.
How absurd men are! They never use the liberties they have, they demand those they do not have. They have freedom of thought, they demand freedom of speech.
Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.
Nowadays not even a suicide kills himself in desperation. Before taking the step he deliberates so long and so carefully that he literally chokes with thought. It is even questionable whether he ought to be called a suicide, since it is really thought which takes his life. He does not die with deliberation but from deliberation.
Boredom is the root of all evil--the despairing refusal to be oneself.
The most terrible fight is not when there is one opinion against another, the most terrible is when two men say the same thing -- and fight about the interpretation, and this interpretation involves a difference of quality.
God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.
Be that self which one truly is.
The present generation, wearied by its chimerical efforts, relapses into complete indolence. Its condition is that of a man who has only fallen asleep towards morning: first of all come great dreams, then a feeling of laziness, and finally a witty or clever excuse for remaining in bed.
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.
Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.
The paradox is really the pathos of intellectual life and just as only great souls are exposed to passions it is only the great thinker who is exposed to what I call paradoxes, which are nothing else than grandiose thoughts in embryo.
What our age lacks is not reflection, but passion.
Personality is only ripe when a man has made the truth his own.
During the first period of a man's life, the danger is not to take the risk.
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.
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.
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.
It belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.
It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey.
Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life's relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.
The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.
This is what is sad when one contemplates human life, that so many live out their lives in quiet lostness... they live, as it were, away from themselves and vanish like shadows. Their immortal souls are blown away, and they are not disquieted by the question of its immortality, because they are already disintegrated before they die.
The more a man can forget, the greater the number of metamorphoses which his life can undergo, the more he can remember the more divine his life becomes.
Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.
Father in Heaven! When the thought of thee wakes in our hearts let it not awaken like a frightened bird that flies about in dismay, but like a child waking from its sleep with a heavenly smile.
Repetition is the reality and the seriousness of life.
Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am ironic -- if it is pulled out I shall die.
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 seems essential, in relationships and all tasks, that we concentrate only on what is most significant and important
People commonly travel the world over to see rivers and mountains, new stars, garish birds, freak fish, grotesque breeds of human; they fall into an animal stupor that gapes at existence and they think they have seen something.
Marriage brings one into fatal connection with custom and tradition, and traditions and customs are like the wind and weather, altogether incalculable.
The difference between a man who faces death for the sake of an idea and an imitator who goes in search of martyrdom is that whilst the former expresses his idea most fully in death it is the strange feeling of bitterness which comes from failure that the latter really enjoys; the former rejoices in his victory, the latter in his suffering.
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.
Philosophy always requires something more, requires the eternal, the true, in contrast to which even the fullest existence as such is but a happy moment.
At one time my only wish was to be a police official. It seemed to me to be an occupation for my sleepless intriguing mind. I had the idea that there, among criminals, were people to fight: clever, vigorous, crafty fellows. Later I realized that it was good that I did not become one, for most police cases involve misery and wretchedness -- not crimes and scandals.
If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!
Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good.
Concepts, like individuals, have their histories and are just as incapable of withstanding the ravages of time as are individuals. But in and through all this they retain a kind of homesickness for the scenes of their childhood.
Not just in commerce but in the world of ideas too our age is putting on a veritable clearance sale. Everything can be had so dirt cheap that one begins to wander whether in the end anyone will want to make a bid.
Because of its tremendous solemnity death is the light in which great passions, both good and bad, become transparent, no longer limited by outward appearances.
Spiritual superiority only sees the individual. But alas, ordinarily we human beings are sensual and, therefore, as soon as it is a gathering, the impression changes -- we see something abstract, the crowd, and we become different. But in the eyes of God, the infinite spirit, all the millions that have lived and now live do not make a crowd, He only sees each individual.
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.
Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder, then, that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.