Søren Kierkegaard on Objective Truth

Kierkegaard-A-Single-Life

What I really need is to get clear what I am about to do…What matters is to find my purpose, to see what it really is that God will that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth that is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. Of what use would it be to me to discover a so-called objective truth, to work through the philosophical systems so that I could, if asked, make critical judgments about them, could point out the fallacies in each system; of what use would it be to me to be able to develop a theory of the state, getting details from various sources and combining them into a whole, and constructing a world I did not live in but merely held up for others to see; of what use would be be to me to be able to formulate the meaning of Christianity, to be able to explain many specific points – if it had no deeper meaning for me and for my life?

[Truth] must come alive in me, and this is what I now recognize as the most important of all. This is what my soul thirsts for as the African deserts thirst for water. This is what is lacking and this is why I am like a man who has collected furniture, rented an apartment, but as yet has not found the beloved to share life’s ups and downs with him. But in order to find that idea – or, to put it more correctly – to find myself, it does no good to plunge still farther into the world. That was just what I did before… I have vainly sought an anchor in the boundless sea of pleasure as well as in the depths of knowledge. I have felt the almost irresistible power with which one pleasure reaches a hand to the next; I have felt the counterfeit enthusiasm it is capable of producing. I have also felt the boredom, the shattering, which follows on its heels. I have tasted the fruits of the tree of knowledge and time and again have delighted in their savouriness.

Thus I am again standing at the point where I must begin in another way. I shall now calmly attempt to look at myself and begin to initiate inner action; for only thus will I be able, like a child calling itself “I” in its first consciously undertaken act, be able to call myself “I” in a profounder sense. But that takes stamina, and it is not possible to harvest immediately what one has sown…I will hurry along the path I have found and shout to everyone I meet: Do not look back as Lot’s wife did, but remember that we are struggling up a hill.

– Søren Kierkegaard, August 1, 1835. Quoted in Stephen Backhouse, Kierkegaard: A Single Life (Zondervan, 2016), pp. 74-75.

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