Friday, 4 January 2013

Søren Kierkegaard- Fear and Trembling

Fear and Trembling
Penguin Classics
Søren Kierkegaard
1843

“If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?”

Oh dear, we're at that time again (and by 'we' I mean 'me'); time to write a review that I really don't feel like doing, about a book that I didn't take much out of. This is going to require every diversionary tactic I ever tried when writing an essay, in an attempt to make the reader think they're getting lots of intellectual stimulation out of something incredibly vapid, which, ironically, is the exact opposite of the relationship that I have with old Søren Kierkegaard. In short, the long-deceased Danish philosopher makes me feel guilty about not appreciating him.

Of course there are plenty of recognised literary classics that rub certain people the wrong way, and I doubt there's a single book lover out there, no matter how open-minded, who can't tell you about a particular book or a whole genre that they just don't like, or at the very least can't get in to. I don't really like Ernest Hemmingway, for example, though I have this sort of vague, itching notion that I probably should. My record with philosophy in the past is similarly spotty, having enjoyed some Plato and Nietzsche, but also having wrote the worst review of all time in my look at Descartes' Discourse on the Method.

Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling (which I keep trying to type as 'Fear and Loathing' every damn time) is a work of philosophy, obviously, and it's very famous and hip. It's also very religious; essentially comprising of a drawn out, fully explored look at various ethical conflicts in metaphorical relation to the biblical old testament story of Abraham and Isaac; you know the one, where the lovely old Judeo-Christian god decided to mess with his old mate Abraham by demanding he sacrifice his son Isaac, in a sort of test of faith, only more psychopathic.

As you can tell by the fact you've already formed your opinion, there's plenty to think about regarding that old ethical conundrum (mainly about how big a bastard god is), and Kiekergaard goes all out with it, tackling issues of our supposed duty of god verses the power of the subjective will and all that. The trouble is I just found all of this ethics stuff more than a little bit dull. It's kind of like arguing over the shape of clouds. I finished it though, so now I can tell everyone I meet that I've read a copy of Fear and Trembling, then hope they never ask me anything about it. Now I'm going to finish this review, publish it, and feel both smug and guilty.