10 Fascinating Facts About Søren Kierkegaard

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Born on May 5, 1813, Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a tall-haired theologian who brought about a sea change in Christian thought by challenging state religion and breaking with philosophical traditions that sought to prove the existence of God using logic.

He was also an enigmatic figure whose writing confounded even the wisest minds of the time (and ever since then). Raised in a household that valued intellectual life, Kierkegaard was no stranger to thoroughly and exhaustively challenging thoughts and positions. His contributions to philosophy are immense, even though he never seemed to fully agree with himself. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Søren Kierkegaard.

1. A BROKEN ENGAGEMENT AFFECTED HIS WRITING.

At 27 years old, Søren Kierkegaard was engaged to Regine Olsen, but he wrote in his journal almost immediately afterward that it was a mistake; a year later, he called it off. Some surmised that he didn’t want to share his despair and melancholic personality with anyone. It’s also possible that he decided to avoid marriage because it didn’t allow for the intensity of the philosophical project he wanted to undertake. It’s not clear exactly why he called it off, but it shook him to his soul, and he alluded to her and pled with her in his earliest writings to understand why he’d ended the relationship. The disengagement was also the launching point of a three-year period in which he published seven books.

2. HE WILLED HIS BELONGINGS TO HIS EX-FIANCÉE.

Kierkegaard saw a marriage proposal as contractually the same as a marriage, so when he died, he bequeathed his books to Olsen even though she’d married someone else years before. She did not accept the possessions.

3. HE WROTE UNDER PSEUDONYMS IN ORDER TO DISAGREE WITH HIMSELF.

A hallmark of Kierkegaard’s style of intellectual interrogation was writing under different names in order to fully examine, or sometimes contradict, the claims he made. The practice was used regularly in the late 18th and 19th centuries, with The Federalist Papers being a prime example. Kierkegaard used his own name on religious tracts that didn’t gain as much attention as his philosophical work, but the pseudonymous viewpoints still helped solidify his goal of displaying truth as subjective. All of this, according to Kierkegaard, was in service of asking the main question: how does one become a Christian?

4. HE SURVIVED COMPLETELY OFF AN INHERITANCE.

Kierkegaard’s father Michael retired at the age of 40 after great success as a wool merchant. Not only did he gift young Søren with an upbringing surrounded by thinkers and cultural figures, he left him 30,000 rixdalers, which was enough for Kierkegaard to live off of (and self-publish) for the rest of his life.

5. HE ASKED TO BE MOCKED BY A SATIRICAL DANISH PAPER.

Danish philosopher Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855), the founder of existentialism.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1845, Peter Ludvig Møller, a writer an editor for the satirical rag The Corsair, published a piece which criticized Kierkegaard’s Stages on Life’s Way, and Kierkegaard’s response lit a fuse on a minor feud that had a profound impact on the philosopher. In The Activity of a Traveling Esthetician and Dialetical Result of a Literary Police Action, the theologian scoffed at the paper and dared them to make fun of him. So, they did. For months they ridiculed the way he looked, talked, and acted, and the barrage of public insults humiliated Kierkegaard, but he would write later that it left him isolated in the only way that leads one to truly discover Christianity. Still, it’s not smart to attack people who buy ink by the barrel.

6. HE WAS BIG ON INDIVIDUALITY. 

G.W.F. Hegel was a dominant philosophical voice of the 19th century, espousing that reality consisted solely of what was rational. Kierkegaard’s entire philosophical program was aimed at countering Hegelian thought, opening his magnum opus Either/Or by asking, “Are passions, then, the pagans of the soul? Reason alone baptized?”

Kierkegaard also wrote against the church (specifically the Church of Denmark) as a group construct that he viewed as promoting a herd mentality that actively kept people from becoming true Christians. As if the title weren’t enough: in The Crowd is Untruth, he wrote that the formation of a crowd is to place another layer of abstraction between the individual and their personal truth. The height of all his writings extolling the virtue of individuality is probably the Knight of Faith, as seen in Fear and Trembling, who has such faith in himself and God that he can operate separately from the world.

7. HE BELIEVED FAITH IN GOD REQUIRED DOUBT.

Where Hegel sought to bring everything in the universe under the umbrella of reason, Kierkegaard approached religious faith as a paradoxical act of believing something outside the boundaries of reason. In Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, Kierkegaard described a “qualitative leap” made by faith that recognizes there can be no sufficient amount of evidence of God’s existence that could justify the kind of total commitment that religion demands. He further concluded that faith had no substance without doubt, writing in his journal, “Doubt is conquered by faith, just as it is faith which has brought doubt into the world.”

8. HE WAS THE FATHER OF EXISTENTIALISM.

A portrait of Søren Kierkegaard
By The Royal Library, Denmark - Flickr, Wikimedia Commons

Existentialist philosophy’s core concern is the nature of man. In embracing his emotional anguish, recognizing humanity as a passionate animal, and celebrating freedom and the individual, Kierkegaard gave birth to a movement that sought authenticity in thought by reconciling abstract reason to personal experience. Subjective truth lies at the heart of existentialism, and Kierkegaard’s work went on to influence Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidigger, Jean-Pau Sartre, and others.

9. HE STAYED CLOSE TO HOME.

By all accounts, Kierkegaard only left Copenhagen five times: four to go to Berlin, and once to go to Sweden. He spent his spare time attending the theater or talking to strangers on the street during walks. Even during The Corsair debacle, when he became the butt of Copenhagen’s jokes, he refused to leave town, visiting cafes and taking walks as he normally would have.

10. HE DIED YOUNG AFTER A SPINAL PROBLEM.

It’s a good thing Kierkegaard was so prolific, because he died in 1855, at the age of 42. He had developed a spinal disease (perhaps the long-gestating result of a childhood fall) and collapsed in the street. He died about a month later in Frederiks Hospital, leaving behind a dizzying array of philosophical ideas that wouldn’t make their full impact known until his writings were translated in the early and mid-20th century.

17 Bizarre Natural Remedies From the 1700s

In the late 1740s, John Wesley—a British evangelist and the co-founder of Methodism—published Primitive Physick, or, An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases. The tome gave regular people ways to cure themselves with natural remedies, using items they could find in their own homes.

When in doubt, Welsey thought that drinking cold water or taking cold baths could cure most illnesses (including breast cancer); some of his suggestions, like using chamomile tea to soothe an upset stomach, have survived today. Other natural remedies he whipped up, though, are decidedly strange. Here are a few of them.

1. To Cure An Ague

Wesley describes an ague as “an intermitting fever, each fit of which is preceded by a cold shivering and goes off in a sweat.” There are many natural remedies for curing it, but all must be preceded by taking a “gentle vomit,” which, if taken two hours before the fit, Wesley says will generally prevent it, and may even cure the ague. If the vomiting fails, however, Wesley suggests wearing a bag of groundsel, a weed, “on the pit of the stomach, renewing it two hours before the fit.” The weed should be shredded small, and the side of the bag facing the skin should have holes in it.

Should this not work, Wesley suggests a remedy that requires a stronger stomach: “Make six middling pills of cobwebs, take one a little before the cold fit: Two a little before the next fit: The other three, if Need be, a little before the third fit. I never knew this fail.”

2. To Cure a Canine Appetite

Wesley turns to a Dr. Scomberg for the cure to this condition, which is defined by Wesley as “an insatiable desire of eating”: If there’s no vomiting, canine appetite “is often cured by a small Bit of Bread dipt in Wine, and applied to the Nostrils."

3. To Cure Asthma

Tar water, sea water, nettle juice, and quicksilver are all acceptable cures for what Wesley calls "moist Asthma" (which is characterized by “a difficulty of breathing … the patient spits much”). But a method that “seldom fails,” Wesley says, is living “a fortnight on boiled carrots only.”

Dry and convulsive asthma, meanwhile, can be treated with toad, dried and powdered. “Make it into small pills,” Wesley writes, “and take one every hour until the convulsions fade.”

4. To Prevent or Cure Nose Bleeds

Drinking whey and eating raisins every day, Wesley says, can help prevent nose bleeds. Other methods for preventing or curing the phenomenon include “hold[ing] a red hot poker under the nose” and “steep[ing] a linnen rag in sharp vinegar, burn[ing] it, and blow[ing] it up the nose with a Quill.”

5. To Cure a “Cold in the Head”

Getting rid of this common ailment is easy, according to Wesley: Just “pare very thin the yellow rind of an orange," he writes. "Roll it up inside out, and thrust a roll inside each nostril.”

6. To Cure “An Habitual Colick”

Today's doctors define colic as a condition suffered by "a healthy, well-fed infant who cries for more than three hours per day, for more than three days per week, for more than three weeks." But adults can get it, too; it's characterized by severe stomach pains and spasms (which, we now know, can be an indication of other conditions, like Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome). To cure it, Wesley suggests this odd remedy: “Wear a thin soft Flannel on the part.”

6. To Cure “White Specks in the Eye”

While it's unclear exactly what "white specks in the eye" actually is—eye floaters, maybe—Wesley suggests that, when “going to bed, put a little ear-wax on the Speck.—This has cured many.”

7. To Cure the Falling Sickness

Those who suffer from this illness “fall to the ground, either quite stiff, or convulsed all over, utterly senseless, gnashing his teeth, and foaming at the mouth.” To cure the condition, Wesley recommends “an entire milk diet for three months: It rarely fails.” During fits, though, “blow up the nose a little powder’d ginger.”

8. To Cure Gout

“Regard not them who say the gout ought not to be cured. They mean, it cannot,” Wesley writes. (They, here, might be referring to regular practitioners of medicine.) “I know it cannot by their regular prescriptions. But I have known it cured in many cases, without any ill effect following.” Gout in the foot or hand can be cured by “apply[ing] a raw lean beef-steak. Change it once in 12 hours, ‘till cured.”

Curing the gout in any limb can be accomplished by beginning this ritual at six in the evening: “Undress and wrap yourself up in Blankets. — Then put your Legs up to the Knees in Water, as hot as you can bear it. As it cools, let hot Water be poured in, so as to keep you in a strong Sweat till ten. Then go into a Bed well warm'd and sweat till Morning. — I have known this to cure an inveterate Gout.”

9. To Cure Jaundice

Wesley suggests curing jaundice—which turns the skin and whites of the eyes yellow (thanks to too much bilirubin in the blood, we now know)—by wearing "leaves of Celandine upon and under the feet." Other possible cures include taking a small pill of Castile soap in the morning for eight to 10 days, or "as much lies on a shilling of calcin’d egg-shells, three mornings fasting; and walk till you sweat.”

10. To Cure “The Iliac Passion”

This decidedly unpleasant condition—which Wesley defines as a “violent kind of Colic ... the Excrements are thrown up by the mouth in vomiting,” eww—has a few cures, including “apply[ing] warm Flannel soaked in Spirits of Wine.” Most delightful, however, is the cure recommended by a Dr. Sydenham: “Hold a live Puppy constantly on the Belly.”

11. To Cure “the Palpitation or Beating of the Heart”

Among the remedies for this ailment are the mundane “drink a Pint of cold Water,” the stinky-but-probably-not-effective “apply outwardly a Rag dipt In vinegar,” and the very exciting “be electrified” (which is suggested for a few other illnesses as well).

12. To Cure Pleurisy

This illness is characterized by “a Fever attended with a violent pain in the Side, and a Pulse remarkably hard.” (It's caused, we now know, when the double membrane that surrounds the lungs inside the chest cavity becomes inflamed.) Wesley’s first suggested remedy involves applying “to the Side Onions roasted in the Embers, mixt with Cream." Next up is filling the core of an apple with frankincense “stop[ping] it close with the Piece you cut out and roast[ing] it in Ashes. Mash and eat it.” Sounds delicious!

13. To cure Quinsy

“A quinsy,” Wesley explains, “is a Fever attended with Difficulty of Swallowing, and often Breathing.” (Today, the condition is called peritonsillar abscess and it's known to be a complication of tonsillitis.) He suggests applying “a large White-bread Toast, half an Inch thick, dipt in Brandy, to the crown of the Head till it dries.”

14. To Cure “A Windy Rupture”

Wesley doesn't say what, exactly, this condition is, though a Google search brings up the term hernia ventosa, which another medical book of the same time defines as a "false hernia ... where the wind is pent up by the coats of the Testes, inflating and blowing up the inguen," or the groin area. Wesley prescribes the following method to cure it: “Warm Cow-dung well. Spread it thick on Leather, [throwing] some cummin seeds on it, and apply it hot. When cold, put on a new one.” This, he says, “commonly cures a Child (keeping his Bed) in two Days.”

15. To Cure a "Tooth-ach"

Wesley suggests being electrified through the tooth. If that’s too extreme for you, try “rub[bing] the Cheek a Quarter of an Hour ... Or, put[ting] a Clove of Garlick into the Ear.”

16. To Stop Vomiting

Induced vomiting was an important part of Wesley's medical theories (remember the "gentle vomit" that could stop the ague?). But if a patient was vomiting and it wasn't a part of the prescribed method for curing him, Wesley advised "after every Vomiting, drink a pint of warm water; or, apply a large onion slit, to the Pit of the Stomach."

17. To Heal a Cut

Wesley suggests holding the cut closed "with your thumb for a quarter of an hour" (what we might call applying pressure these days), then dipping a rag in cold water and wrapping the cut in it. Another method: "Bind on toasted cheese," Wesley writes. "This will cure a deep cut." Pounded grass, applied fresh every 12 hours, will also do the trick.

Costco Is Selling Enormous Tubs of Your Favorite Gluttonous Delights—Here Are 5 of Them

iStock.com/mphillips007
iStock.com/mphillips007

Costco's grocery department is perhaps the only place in America where you can get a $5 rotisserie chicken, a $1.50 hot dog and soda combo, and 7-pound bucket of Nutella all under one roof. The tub of hazelnut spread isn't the only food you can buy in bulk, either. Whether you're catering a wedding on a budget or restocking your doomsday shelter, here are five foods you can buy online—and in some stores—that come in outrageous portions.

1. A nearly 7-pound tub of Nutella

Sometimes, a small jar of Nutella just won't do. For those who can't get enough of the chocolatey hazelnut spread, Costco offers a bigger size—to the tune of 6.6 pounds. It costs $22, which is about $14 cheaper than splurging on 14 smaller jars weighing 7.7 ounces apiece. As Thrillist points out, in-store deals are only available to Costco members, but anyone can take advantage of discounts when they order online.

2. 23 pounds of macaroni & cheese

If bathing in macaroni and cheese is on your bucket list, now's your chance. Costco offers a $90 tub filled with 23 pounds of elbow macaroni and cheddar sauce mix, all of which comes in a "heavy duty" 6-gallon bucket. With enough food to serve 180 people, it's designed to last up to 20 years "if stored in a dry, cool environment"—so yes, it's bunker-approved. (Although, sadly, it's currently out of stock.)

3. A lifetime supply of honey

Given the uncertain future of honeybees (and by extension, honey), it might not be a bad idea to stock up on the sweet, sticky stuff. Costco's 40-pound tub of GloryBee Clover Blossom Honey costs $127. Considering that a 48-ounce jar of honey costs $27 on GloryBee's website, this represents savings of more than $200.

4. Emergency rations of mashed potatoes

This bucket of food is explicitly designed for surviving rather than feasting, but who's to say that a sudden craving for mashed potatoes or mac and cheese isn't an emergency? Costco's Emergency Food kit contains a one-month supply of various foods, including oatmeal, cheddar cheese grits with green chilies, chicken-flavored vegetable stew, and a rice and orzo pilaf. It will set you back $115, but again, it has a shelf life of 20 years.

5. 60 servings of freeze-dried breakfast skillet

Mountain House's breakfast skillet comes in six coffee-sized cans rather than one oversized bucket, but it still serves the same purpose. For $160, you get 60 servings of scrambled eggs mixed with hash browns, pork sausage, peppers, and onions. Just be sure to add the right amount of water, unless you like your eggs runny.

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