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Preface VIII Søren Kierkegaard


Textual Source Nicolaus Notabene [Søren Kierkegaard] “Forord VIII,” from Forord. Morskabslæsninger for enkelte Stænder efter Tid og Leilighed, Copenhagen: C.A. Reitzel 1844, pp. 76-110.


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VIII. What I foresee either will happen or will not happen; for mighty Apollo has granted me the gift of prophesy.

Tiresias

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The Difficulty in General Starting a philosophical journal in Denmark not only appears to be, but in truth is a difficult matter. I myself have not failed to do what the reader most favorably disposed towards me will feel himself called to do, namely, to shake his head and cry out to me, warning and admonishing: “Look how it went there!”…. Men, who stand excellent among us with genius, with talent, with a richness of knowledge, with the unlimited confidence of the reading public, have commenced this undertaking and sooner or later given it up again. Indeed, even for Professor Heiberg an undertaking of this kind has not fully met expectations. Of his Perseus, a Journal for the Speculative Idea, only two numbers appeared. Yet if anyone in the kingdom could have succeeded, it was probably him. Embarking on a work of this kind, he could count | on his own resources and could dare to be certain of the fact that contributors would flock around him since every mature person would realize that it was an undertaking which made an important and urgent demand for his able help; every young person would feel himself flattered by the mere thought of the literary distinction accompanying the honor

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of being a contributor to Prof. Heiberg’s Journal. No young person understands this better than I, who am still often reminded of how once my youthful mind was intoxicated by daring to think that a contribution might not be rejected. No young recruit could with more enthusiasm look up to the famous general under whose flag he was to do battle than I looked up to the unforgettable editor of the Flyvepost. Nonetheless this journal did not exist for long; it did not bloom with a remarkable number of subscribers. The conflux of contributors was, from what one can conclude from the contents, not what one would have anticipated. But if this has happened, what probability is there then, barring the absurd, that I would be successful in a similar undertaking; or, put more correctly, how great then is the probability that something worse will befall me! If the age has taught others that it cannot be done, then I may hardly expect a friendly lesson from experience. On the contrary, I can expect a strict and emphatic correction, which would enjoin me and | my like not to venture presumptuously to do what even remarkable people have abandoned. Indeed, it is true that since that time interest in philosophy has increased more and more; indeed, it is true that the fact that Prof. Heiberg has made a beginning on it could be a great advantage for me. One often observes that what a strong person is unable to do, a weak one succeeds in, and that what a rich person is not able to achieve, a poor one manages because he came at the fortunate moment when it was time to reap the fruit of what the rich person had sown. Nevertheless I realize quite well that the probability of my undertaking being successful is very much less than it was in its time for Prof. Heiberg. It is easy to say after the fact that weakness can be lucky in bringing about what force could not manage. Yet while beginning, one certainly does not find encouragement in this; for who knows the time and the occasion? See, here I stand at the same point: who knows the time and the occasion? There is no man in the kingdom who knows them better than Prof. Heiberg, and yet it would not work for him.


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The prospects are then not the best, and my position is in no way advantageous. I am not Prof. Heiberg; indeed, I am even less than not being Prof. Heiberg; for I am only N.N. The mature person will perhaps regard my undertaking as rash or at best | may have sufficient indulgence to watch and wait; put differently, he will not support me, he will judge. The younger person will certainly not feel flattered by the literary exclusivity of being my contributor, and he will hardly allow himself to be moved by my requests. Why do I not just give up the whole thing? Why do I nourish the hope that I will be successful? Because my purpose is not only worthy but is also completely different from that of those who heretofore have tried to publish a philosophical journal; because my expectation is not merely beautiful but is also completely different from that of those who heretofore have begun on it.

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The Purpose of this Journal However gratifying it may be to see philosophy growing robustly around the country such that soon there will be no one who has not had contact with its spirit and is not initiated into its blessings, this gratification has, however, been unable to conquer my doubt about whether all of the many, qui nomen philosophiae dederunt, understand what has been said and what they themselves have said. This doubt is very important to me since it has often happened to me thus, even if my εποχη has hindered me from purporting to be a philosopher. | I once thought that I had assured myself with various observations that things were not completely right with some of my esteemed contemporaries. Since despite all my efforts I was unable to raise myself to the dizzying thought of doubting everything, I decided, in order to doubt something nevertheless, to collect my soul for the more human task of doubting whether all of the philosophers

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understand what they and others say. This doubt is not conquered in the system but in life. But if it is thus, what good is it if philosophy conquers all doubt when the question remains whether people really understand philosophy. This doubt cannot be a matter of indifference either to the interested parties or to philosophy. It cannot be a matter of indifference to the interested parties, for they indeed desire to understand philosophy. It cannot be a matter of indifference to philosophy, for it wants to be understood. Science does not jealously keep its knowledge for itself; indeed, it wants to communicate itself to everyone. It wants all people to come to the knowledge of the truth. It does not make great demands; it shows itself in humble form; it expresses itself with love’s condescension. Is it not, to take a single example that is repeatedly proclaimed by philosophy’s priests, “that in our age it is necessary for the theologian to be a philosopher in order to be able to satisfy the demands of the age.” But if it is a necessity, then it | must also be a possibility; for even I can see that it would be very unphilosophical of philosophy to regard as necessary something which was impossible. Every theologian can then become a philosopher. The word “theologian” in this statement cannot be taken sensu eminentiori about some particular remarkably gifted theologian; for even I can see that it would be unphilosophical of philosophy to think that it has said something by stating a tautology. It would be very unphilosophical of philosophy to define the highest being inside a determinate being so that it was a different being. The statement that is such a consolation for every candidate of theology gains in edifying force when one considers the following words: “in order to be able to satisfy the demands of the age.” The fact that the word “age” here cannot be understood as referring to a particular individual remarkably gifted in philosophy is easily seen since it would be unphilosophical of philosophy to say that the remarkable individual must seek or demand from another what he must rather seek and demand from himself. Likewise, the word “age” is not understood as referring to the idea of the age, a personification of the age, since it would be very unphilosophical


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of philosophy to distinguish realiter between the idea of the age and that theologian κατ᾿ εξοχην, who would be the idea of the age. Behold, philosophy is so good | nowadays, so different from that old stingy goddess, who required love and worship only from a few, and revealed herself to even fewer. It now makes every theologian into a philosopher so that he can satisfy the demand of the age, which then must be philosophical, which presupposes that the age, that is, the sum of individuals, is philosophical. What a beautiful hope for every candidate of theology! If only now there were no doubt left about whether each actually understands what he and others say. All other academic fields proclaim the same thing that theology proclaims since they all gravitate towards philosophy. Like a tutti it sounds from all mouths: “Philosophy is the demand of the age.” And philosophy knows the age to be the rational; it thus knows its demand to be a rational demand. I like to believe the best about my fellow human beings, and therefore I like to believe, with regard to every individual who speaks, that he understands what he is saying; but there always remains for me a residuum of doubt. It is this remaining doubt that I would like to extinguish. To achieve this is the purpose of the present journal. If there are now more people than just me, who do not completely understand all that philosophy says in our age especially concerning theology, then they certainly know how to hide it well. If (posito) they are not clever in philosophy, | then by virtue of this lack they are clever in the world. Unfortunately, I have always lacked this cleverness. As was remarked above, it cannot be a matter of indifference to philosophy whether it is actually understood or not. Yet only through the stupidity of the interested party can it come to know this; for he who is clever does not let it be noticed. My purpose is then to serve philosophy; my qualification for doing so is that I am stupid enough not to understand it, indeed, even stupider—stupid enough to admit it. And yet my undertaking can only benefit philosophy, for it can suffer no harm if even the stupidest person becomes clever by means of it; precisely thereby

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it wins its greatest victory and proves that it makes everyone a philosopher. Isn’t this purpose good, and isn’t it different from that of those who heretofore have tried to publish a philosophical journal? Even if it shares their wish to serve philosophy, the services are different: one serves it with his wisdom, another with his stupidity. With regard to this purpose of mine, I have seriously examined myself and with this self-examination found myself to be in possession of the required qualities. I dare say this without making any departure from modesty or propriety. The qualities which | are demanded are: stupidity and resignation. That I am in possession of the former, no one will probably be so polite as to dispute. With what concerns the latter, by making a confession concerning the former, I carry out a proof for being in possession of the latter. Moreover, I do not want in any way to praise myself for it as for a virtue; for it will in all probability bring a good return. Even a faithful lover can have the idea of tempting the beloved, not in order that she should lose something thereby but in order that she might show herself in the heightened beauty of his beloved glance. I love philosophy; I have loved philosophy since my early youth. I do not suppose I need to assure anyone that I feel too much deference for philosophy to presume to allow myself to tempt it in the same sense as this lover tempts the beloved. What the lover does arbitrarily—and therein lies the mistake even if it is forgivable for the sake of the love—I do driven by necessity. Yet the result may quite well be the same—that philosophy will reveal itself for my loving glance more beautifully and more magnificently than ever. Should there then be so much resignation in acknowledging one’s weakness when one dares to expect it? Who, lacking a better alternative, does not envy the foolish question, which gives a young girl occasion to | blush more beautifully than ever; the almost childish simplemindedness, which causes the wise man to smile more meaningfully than ever; the stupidity, which gives occasion for a joke to be told; or the misunderstanding, which gives wisdom occasion to explain itself more comprehensively than


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ever! I then do not want to tempt philosophy like that lover. I have always loved it; but my love is not so happy that I should venture into foolhardy experiments. If I tempt it, then it is with prayer and supplication. I do not belong to the elite, who live on intimate terms with philosophy as with an equal; I am like a lowly thrall in a princely palace, who every day sees his royal majesty, although a gaping distance separates me from him. Yet like the thrall in Palnatoke, I have only one wish, to be permitted to see him in all his magnificence. Could it not happen? Philosophy does not walk in the dark like Harald Bluetooth. It makes no mistakes. It does not confuse a burial gown with coronation clothes. Could it not happen? When does philosophy show itself to be more magnificent than when it becomes comprehensible to those lacking understanding! But if no one will admit that he lacks understanding, then philosophy likewise cannot show itself thus. Is this purpose of mine not beautiful? Is it not different from that of those who have heretofore tried to publish a journal? |

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§ 3. My Expectation Since the reader knows my purpose, he also knows my expectation; for my expectation is that my purpose will be achieved. I expect then a happy result. But for a happy result two things are required in the present case: that my undertaking be successful in an external and commercial sense, and that it be successful in an internal and scholarly sense. With respect to the external sense, my expectation concerns the subscribers and contributors. Experience has taught that a philosophical journal dare not expect a numerous following. Experience notwithstanding, I would obviously wish good fortune for my journal in this respect. For

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wishing is an activity which doesn’t cost anything. The fact that in spite of experience I expect a happy result may call for an explanation. Here it is. My journal is different from the previous ones; thus, I also dare to expect a different fate since it differs in a way that makes a happy fate probable. He who says that people are obliging says neither something new nor something untrue. They are glad to help out in every beneficial undertaking and above all to assist the beleaguered; they only wish | that their beneficent activity, their demonstrated service is clear and obvious, not ambiguous and disputable. There is no irregularity connected with being a subscriber to my journal. If I were in a position to do what the others who have tried to publish a journal had as their purpose and succeeded in doing, namely, trying to teach or to conquer, then it is conceivable that what the subscriber received from me would be more precious than what I received from him. Thus he who believed he had performed a good deed for me would, in an odd way, become my debtor. Indeed, by subscribing to my journal he would appear to be doing himself a service rather than acting as a philanthropist. This circumstance in itself might make him doubtful, and a doubting man does not like to act. When, by contrast, my subscription plan comes into the hands of the reading public, then perhaps they will say to themselves: “Let’s see what it is that the author is after….He wants to be taught….That makes some sense, and if my many business deals didn’t keep me from it, I myself would gladly teach him….What does the author want….he wants to be conquered….I can grasp that, and if my business didn’t take up all my time, then I would with pleasure polish him off, I who have long regarded myself as an upright and valuable triumphing member of | the triumphing community…since I, however, do not have occasion to do either of these, I will do something else for him…I will subscribe.” As was said, no ambiguity is possible here. My subscriber becomes in every sense my true benefactor. I have nothing to offer him except a receipt and a heartfelt thanks. The subscriber need not fear that I might cunningly exploit his desire to be considered my


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benefactor. He is and remains my benefactor in every way; I am his debtor when he pays the bill, when he reads the journal and thinks of my well-being, and even more if he really comes to my aid with instruction. No feeling person, who truly wishes to do good, can do anything better than subscribe to my journal. But when I say “every feeling person,” then I name an innumerable crowd—look! for this reason I expect many subscribers. Do I not dare it, do I not dare expect sympathy? Jean Paul says somewhere: “People are always willing to help someone bear his cross, when they know that it is the cross upon which he is to be nailed.” With respect to the contributors, as mentioned above, I dare not expect any help. Yet this bad luck serves only to throw light on the luck of my position from another perspective. If I were to receive many | contributors, then it would, in fact, prove that many people have had the same experience as I have, that they had not understood philosophy. My main expectation—my scholarly expectation—to be conquered would become all the more crucial to the extent this was the case. The fact that many people have failed to understand it would be a dangerous argument against any philosophy, in particular a philosophy which wants to be understood by everyone. On the contrary, if I receive no contributors, not a single one, then my scholarly expectation becomes probable to the extent of virtual certainty. My scholarly expectation is that I will be conquered, that I will win by losing, or to express myself in a manner which is in complete harmony with my feelings, that good people will succeed in making me understand philosophy. Yet perhaps someone will say: “You are too insignificant; philosophy does not find it worth the trouble to conquer you.” Get thee hence abominable thought! Could I dare to believe that there was a single person in my contemporary age of philosophy, who could reason so unphilosophically. Indeed, philosophy wants to be popular; it wants to make itself comprehensible to all. Let me be as insignificant now as I want to be; let me find no room in all

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the processions in the age’s stream, which carries a more concrete appellation, | yet under the rubric “everyone” I still manage to get in. The category “everyone” makes no petty distinctions; it includes everyone. In addition, philosophy is ultimately not a finite power, not a self-loving tyrant, who wants to fight, but a philanthropical genius, who wants to bring all people to the knowledge of the truth. I make no rebellion; I will be careful to avoid it; I seek instruction. The more insignificant I am, the greater the triumph for philosophy. To this end no means will be spared. I will avail myself of all useful methods, either good or bad. I will suffer everything, endure everything, do everything, if I only succeed in being initiated; but I must never be allowed to say “yes” to anything I do not understand, and I should not be asked to explain to others what I myself do not grasp. Perhaps someone will say: “What is demanded of you is that you stay quiet and keep listening.” Oh dear God! The time passes. It is absurd that a philosophy, which is so clever in life, by criticizing those who are silent and who expect something beyond it, knows very well how to explain to them that they have been made fools of. It is indeed absurd for a philosophy of this kind to make a fool out of me in a similar manner, or more correctly, in a worse manner; for someone who has given up the present forever still hopes, but one makes a fool out of me by constantly postponing the date. Have | pity! What does it help that in 10 years I will come to know what I should have done 10 years ago? Then I will indeed be wholly confused. Life is short. Don’t make the art too long for me, above all not longer than life. If it should cost an entire life to understand Hegel, then this philosophy would indeed contain the deepest contradiction. Yet I do not need to fear this. When I consider the age, its forces, and the fact that I receive no contributors, then I certainly will not seek instruction in vain. In order to strengthen me in this thought, I will now briefly discuss the philosophical ability of the age. The Hegelian philosophy has now flourished for many years here in Denmark. If now after it has explained everything, this philosophy takes a step further and explains itself, what a beautiful


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prospect. Perhaps I have not been successful in expressing myself entirely clearly. I will take pains to do so, and I believe that I more or less can; for my lack of understanding is not the same as a foggy intuition. There is one thing I know with great definitude, that is, what I do not understand; there is one thing I desire from my contemporary age, that is, an explanation. Thus, I do not deny that Hegel has explained everything; this I leave to stronger spirits, who also explain what is missing. I keep | my feet on the ground and say: “I have not understood Hegel’s explanation.” From this I draw no other conclusion than that I have not understood him. To conclude more I leave to those in power, who in their personality find a mandate to do so. I keep my feet on the ground, I pass over into another key; I ask, I ask for an explanation, an explanation, note well, which I can understand; for it is of little help to me if there comes an explanation which explains everything in Hegel, but explains it in such a way that I cannot understand it. Let someone give me an explanation, I will take it à tout prix; let someone throw it to me with a shrug of his shoulders, I would still thank him for it. Since we now have many philosophers here in Denmark, who with industry and good fortune have comprehended this philosophy, I happily expect the instruction for which I have wished. Should there nonetheless remain a difficulty, then it is my consolation that in my country of birth there are also philosophers who have come beyond Hegel. As soon as these philosophers with a little telegraphic news item explain where they have come to, then my confidence will stand unshaken towards them. If I may make a request, I would like to ask that this news item be in the form of a categorical determination in order that, if possible, it can be comprehensible to me; for the general explanation, | “I have come beyond Hegel,” is much too general for me to be able to attach a thought to it; and the more precise determination which a family name or a Christian name contains, forms such a terrible opposition to this generality that everything becomes confused for me. At this point I will immediately admit that various phenomena have been

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wholly inexplicable to me. I have read philosophical treatises in which every thought, practically every word was from Hegel. After having read them through, I have wondered who was actually the author. I then said to myself Hegel is the author; the one who has written the treatise is his secretary, and as such he is dependable and accurate. I could understand this. Yet look! This was not the case, the author was a man who had gone beyond Hegel. Here my understanding came to a halt, the author says: “I have gone beyond Hegel”; if the article could talk, it would presumably say: “what chatter.” Hegel knew how to present the whole of recent philosophy in a way so it looked as if he completed everything and as if everything that came before tended towards him. Someone else now gives a similar account, an account which to a hair is indistinguishable from Hegel’s, which thus at every point is permeated by this final thought, and then adds a final paragraph testifying that he | has gone beyond Hegel. Here once again my understanding comes to a halt, and yet what do I need? A trifle; two words are enough, a little bitty categorical determination concerning the relationship to Hegel. My scholarly expectation is then that I may succeed in becoming clever in philosophy in spite of my stupidity. If this happens, there is no one who has reason to complain. I wouldn’t, I would take myself to be the happiest of all people; for the further one has been from daring to hope, the more thankful one will be. I will never forget all of my benefactors, gentlemen subscribers and all the noble people with whose help I carried things to a happy issue in philosophy. Neither will philosophy have reason to complain; it will be glad to be more comprehensible to more and more people. Yet something else might happen: I might be declared so stupid that philosophy cannot even be concerned with me. “In a case like this all is lost, the journal must be dropped.” By no means! However stupid I am, I can nevertheless see that it is impossible for philosophy to respond so unphilosophically. To respond that I am so stupid that one cannot have anything to do with me is to define me more indeterminately than would be befitting for philosophy.


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If philosophy cannot define me more precisely, then, so far as I | can see, its position would be no less unpleasant than mine, and despite our great difference we would have something in common. I am so stupid that philosophy cannot be comprehensible to me; the opposite of this is that philosophy is so clever that it cannot fathom my stupidity. These opposites are mediated in a higher unity, that is, in a shared stupidity. Strangely enough, I still slip in. Or isn’t it the case, doesn’t philosophy teach that when the infinite is thought outside the finite, then both become finitudes? Isn’t it repeated again and again: veritas est index sui et falsi? When philosophy excludes something, then it makes itself finite. In order to prevent this, it must indeed be willing to explain a bit more accurately in what my stupidity consists. The fact that I heretofore have not understood philosophy certainly cannot be a hindrance for me coming to do so. On the contrary, it would be a hindrance if I had understood it. My stupidity may then be a sign of the fact that I am lacking possibility, or it may indeed express the impossibility; for otherwise my stupidity could be an infinitely distant determination of approximation to philosophy. My stupidity must then be the limit, which limits me and thereby excludes me from philosophy. If this is assumed, then there is still a difficulty that remains since, in defining my | limit negatively, one yet defines me in continuity with the other. Then I become an infinitely, infinitely, infinitely little piece of a philosopher, but I nonetheless am included. I belong to the chaotic mass in which the “cultured as points of intelligence and souls” exercise their organizing activity; with their help I then slip into philosophy. This is easy enough to say but not so easy to understand. At least one might help me with a little intermediate determination, concerning how someone who is too stupid to understand philosophy is related to the cultured, through whom he participates in the general understanding of philosophy; whether it is by understanding the cultured person or misunderstanding him; whether someone, by understanding the cultured person, understands the same thing the cultured person understands, for then he himself in fact understands philosophy; or

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whether he understands something else, in which case it does not seem completely correct to say of him that he participates with the cultured person in the general understanding. But perhaps there is another reason that philosophy cannot have anything to do with me; perhaps the explanation of my stupidity is the same as the explanation concerning philosophy, that is, that he who cannot understand philosophy likewise cannot understand the explanation of why he cannot understand it. If this | is the case, then I may ask what inuence this stupidity has on my human existence as such; whether with it I cease to be a human being; or whether, regardless of it, I still possess that which belongs to a human being essentially in order to be a human being, that whereby one is essentially a human being. I may further ask whether in spite of this stupidity of mine I can be saved just like other people. If so, by what means could I then dare to hope to be saved? With philosophy? Does it perhaps have the strange property of saving everyone, both those, who understand it and those who do not understand it? If this is denied, then is this because of my stupidity? This does not seem reasonable since it is precisely my lack of salvation. By what do I then dare to hope to be saved? If something else is named here, then the question arises whether it saves me according to something contingent in me, that is, according to my stupidity; for this would be in fact the contingent in me and does not belong to human nature essentially. If this is aďŹƒrmed, then the question arises whether I then will be saved not like other human beings, but only in the manner in which stupid human beings are saved. If this is aďŹƒrmed, then the question arises how I can be saved by being saved according to something contingent in me since, in such a case, I would then come into contradiction | with what is essential in me. A contradiction of this kind is no salvation. If one answers to this that my stupidity is what is essential in me, then I have ceased to be a human being, which was denied in the foregoing. If, by contrast, I will be saved according to what is essential in me, then the same thing that saves me must then also be able to save all other human beings; indeed,


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it alone saves them; for only he who is saved according to what is essential, is saved. Perhaps this is no more than what it was in the old days; for in the old days it was good philosophy to say: inter accidentia sola, non autem inter formas substantiales individuorum ejusdem speciei plus et minus reperitur. When then the philosopher is saved through his philosophy, it is a contingent salvation. There is then something higher than philosophy. It is higher by the fact that it takes me and similar wretches along with it. If this is the case, the question arises whether philosophy should continue to be called “the Absolute.” If it is not the Absolute, then it must know how to give an account of its limit. If I wanted to become a poet, then indeed an aesthete could probably teach me which qualities were required for the vocation. I would then see that I was not a poet and would know | how to accept my fate. If poetry, by contrast, were to demand to be the Absolute, then it would not dare to exclude me; for the Absolute cannot be anything other than what is in common for everyone. I do not then judge that it is necessary to let my journal be dropped. I am unfortunately somewhat slow-witted, and there is much to learn here. My journal could then certainly exist, whether my expectation was fulfilled completely according to my wish or not. Yet something else could also happen; I could be declared to be too unfit for anyone to have anything to do with me, “yet not so much on account of my stupidity as on the basis of a narrowminded spite.” “In such a case indeed everything would be lost. The subscribers would probably fall off since I would be found to be an unworthy upstart, and the journal would have to be dropped.” This would, in truth, be particularly difficult considering the disgrace that would befall me. However, unless I miss my guess, the subscribers would probably have a little patience with me until philosophy had explained itself a little more precisely. Although philosophy is in possession of the truth, the truth is and remains the strongest; how could a narrow-minded spite possibly be in a position to hold out against it? The result would then be beyond doubt, unless the

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spiteful one possessed an almost demonic power, which | cannot be the case with me, or unless he were clever enough to hide his spitefulness, clever enough not to expose himself to being destroyed by the truth. I am so far from this that, on the contrary, I wish my destruction because I know that this is the condition for me “to be able to rise to a more perfect existence.” If nonetheless my narrowminded spite continued to be blamed for the fact that nobody could have anything to do with me, then indeed even philosophy—to speak as is befitting of science and not to chat as can be expected from a bourgeois citizen—would have to define more precisely the nature of the narrow-minded spite that makes communication impossible. Then I would have to ask whether this spite is identical with stupidity, whether stupidity has its ground in the spite or the spite in the stupidity. If they are identical, then the matter leads back to the point we just left. If they are different, then I would have to ask, how and in what respect. I would have to ask if the difference in the relation increases according to the law of development, such that spite stops to the same degree as stupidity disappears; or if they stand in an inverse relation such that when stupidity has changed to wisdom, then spite has intensified itself to its highest degree? I would then further ask about how they then at this point relate to each other; whether it is possible | for spite to maintain itself or whether it must fall under wisdom’s necessity. If the former is the case, then the question arises whether then in spite of my spite I can attain wisdom; when the latter is the case, then the question arises whether in spite of my wisdom I can continue to be spiteful. If the former is the case, then it must indeed be an easy matter for philosophy to bring me to wisdom since it sees that wisdom contains a necessity that is higher than the will’s spite. If the latter is the case, then there is a power higher than knowledge, a power higher than the necessity of knowledge. In this case the question arises what this power is and how it is related to knowledge; the question arises whether this power cannot be the subject matter of an academic treatise; the question arises what the academic field which treats this


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matter is called; the question arises about its relation to an academic treatment of knowledge; the question arises whether by becoming an academic field it does not become the subject matter of knowledge; the question arises what relation knowledge now has to this power, which turned out to be higher than knowledge; the question arises whether it itself may be helpful in order for knowledge to be able to understand it; the question arises whether it is only in this case that knowledge needs its assistance or whether it is always thus; the question arises whether there could be an exception, and what it is; the question arises whether it is not important to know this before beginning | to know something else; the question arises what kind of an exception this is and what follows from it with respect to the nature of that knowledge; the question arises what knowledge it is, against which spite is not able to offer resistance; the question arises whether all knowledge is necessary knowledge, or whether all knowledge is to the same degree both free and necessary; if this is the case, this power can exclude me from all knowledge, if it is not the case, then it can only exclude me from a certain kind of knowledge; the question arises whether the kind of knowledge which it is able to exclude me from is higher on the basis of this or whether the other kind of knowledge is higher for the opposite reason; if this is the case, then philosophy is not the highest, but only, even at its highest, or, in the last kind of knowledge, a knowledge of the highest? I do not then judge that it was necessary to let my journal be dropped. I am unfortunately somewhat slow-witted, and there is much to learn here. My journal could then certainly exist, whether my expectation was fulfilled completely according to my wish or not. Yet I will imagine one more case, that philosophy itself deigned to speak to me. I do not know whether I should imagine it to be a man or a woman. Therefore, I think it is best to imagine an invisible voice speaking | as if from one’s inner being, though it comes from the clouds, a voice speaking in such a human manner, although its speech is divine, so mild and friendly that it is a pleasure to listen

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to, for philosophy is always friendly, it is only philosophers who are böse. It would speak to me more or less thus: “You misunderstand, it has not been granted to you to understand me. Yet you ought not be angry with me for this, for I am not the one who creates human beings. You are not able to comprehend me. I do not say this to upset you, even if you were the only person who was too limited for it; no one can be upset by my quiet, peaceful life. But you are not the only one; what is the case for you is the case for many others; indeed, it is the case for the mass of human beings to which you belong. I am only for the chosen, for those who were marked early in their cribs; and in order that these people might belong to me, there is demanded time and industry and occasion, enthusiastic love, magnanimity to dare to love hopelessly, renunciation of much of what other people regard as beautiful and which is thus. He in whom I find these qualities I reward also with the kiss of the Idea; I make the embrace of the Concept fruitful for him. I show him what the earthly eyes wish to see, the grass growing. I show this to him in a far higher world; there I let him understand and see how| thoughts grow within each other more and more perfectly. What is split up in the manifold of language, what is everywhere present in the speech of both the most simple person and the most clever, is collected here and grows in its silent growth. I cannot show myself to you, I cannot be loved by you. Don’t think that it is because I am too proud, No! but it is my essence itself. Farewell! Don’t demand the impossible. Praise the gods that I exist; for if you do not grasp my essence, there are yet those who do. Be glad then that the happy ones become happy; do so and you will not regret it.” Thus, I would perceive its speech. To this I would respond, out of reverence for its sublime being, seeking to choose my words as well as possible, thus: “Every word You have spoken, sublime being, I have completely understood, even if I’ve again painfully comprehended that I was not among the number of the happy ones. Every word in Your warning has penetrated into my soul in a healing fashion, after ridding me of my former foolishness. While You were speaking, my heart, which


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had been sick and despondent, became healthy and happy again, and while You were speaking of Your understanding with the loving ones, it was as if I were transported away from the noise of the world, as if I had come to a quiet place, to where You always call Your devotees. I realize well that it is not a place for me but it must be magnificent to | be able to come there, joyful to contribute to the preservation of philosophy’s lonely domicile, so that the world’s noise and trouble might not come to disturb it; that it must be a beautiful reward for this to see the chosen ones radiating in the reflection of Your magnificence. And to this You would allow everyone, myself included, to contribute his part. Is it not thus? Oh! but if it is so, why do You then tolerate what has happened recently! Why do You not send out one of Your own lovers, who has not only thoughts in his head but anger in his nostrils, to consume the most hypocritical worshipers, who desecrate Your pure being, who frighten us weak ones, by wanting to make it a necessity for us to understand You? For You must not think that I have come upon such notions on my own account; it was the speech and example of others which seduced me. Then the confusion will stop, and the chosen ones will follow You, and the rest of us will mourn less our exclusion. For, I dare believe that the difference of existence has its deepest ground in a unity in the Absolute, that possibility, by letting this unity come to perception, is not denied any person, that this existence, precisely by this possibility, indicates a more perfect one, where the unity will perfectly penetrate everyone and is not conditioned by the difference as in this world; for I see well the perfection | or imperfection of difference; I see it with pain, the happy person with joy; but I do not comprehend that the difference is the perfection of existence. I believe and, indeed, I dare to believe that the perfect existence will make everyone into everything, and everything into indifference. This You will not deny, You, who although of divine origin, are yet so human; and is being human anything other than believing this? This You will not deny in order not to make humanity unhappy; Your lovers would become unhappy since they alone become happy;

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the rest of us would become unhappy since we did not become Your lovers.” If this happened, if philosophy in its sublime simplicity addressed me thus, then it might seem best for me to stop, the sooner the better. Nonetheless to continue to besiege philosophy with my requests would be cowardly. But although I had already given up the pretension of being a philosopher and now also have given up hope of becoming one since the majority of human beings were excluded from philosophy, there would nonetheless be numerous considerations that would necessarily interest them. My journal is entitled: Philosophical Considerations. I can still make considerations without being a philosopher; perhaps I can even call them “philosophical considerations,” | since there must always be a confinium between philosophy and the doctrine in which the rest of us seek a refuge, and in this respect philosophy could indeed be useful to us if only by repelling us. Whether there is in our age the probability that philosophy will explain itself in this manner or even in a better if nonetheless similar manner, I do not know; I’ll worry about it then. If, by contrast, it continues to be more and more mysterious, more and more difficult in its expression, if it continues in this way wanting to attain its beautiful goal of being comprehensible to everyone, then perhaps my beautiful expectation can be fulfilled, my pium desiderium to become a philosopher. I turn then with trust to my contemporary age. I have not doubted everything; I turn to the men who have doubted everything. What beautiful hope! Have they found certainty about everything? I do not know; but at some points they must indeed probably have found it. Let there even be something exaggerated in all the talk which is heard concerning the system; the possibility that there was nothing in it was too terrible a contradiction for my weak head to consider. Would that it now were an original Danish system, a perfect domestic product, and would that I were included; even if I were just a delivery boy for | the Danish system, I would nonetheless be happy and satisfied.


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Thus, I will hope for the time being that my beautiful expectation will be realized. To that end, I have but one more request which I have for the powerful and good people, with whose help it will happen; namely, that they show a little pity and tolerance towards me. Don’t misunderstand me. It is not my intention that they should stop speaking strictly to me, punishing me, or putting me in the corner. Use every means when it is made necessary: a little pereat, a little subscription of many students and candidates, who feel challenged to rebel against my stupidity. I shudder, but my zeal for being included is so great that I will endure anything. What I want is that they should denigrate every accidental victory, and spare me from every unnecessary humiliation since neither of these contributes to achieving my main goal. Don’t terrify me with the authorities; for it does not benefit me that others have said or understood what I cannot understand. Don’t have fun at my cost. I would like to give an example: one of my benefactors produces an explanation of Aristotle in order to help me to a better insight. I really succeed in understanding it; I am already completely happy about it; but look! This explanation | is not to be found in Aristotle. My benefactor is merely trying to see if he can get me to believe that Aristotle would have said some such thing. Admittedly, it does not matter at all; for if the explanation really explains something, then it doesn’t matter whether it comes from Aristotle or from a servant girl. But for the sake of gossip and not to weaken my confidence in my mentors, I wish that they would refrain unless it was absolutely necessary. Yet what should move them to do it? A victory over my ignorance, it would yet be too poor a victory; a triumph over my lack of literary knowledge, it would almost be a satire on the one triumphing! It would be like a teacher seeking to be a rival of his student. In the above I have striven to recommend my undertaking in the best manner; I have not let it lack in captatio benevolentiae to the right and the left; I have done what stood in my power to turn every

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feeling person into my benefactor: my subscriber, my teacher, my mentor. I have nothing further to add than that I hope to have done what was necessary. In the journal itself I dare | not give my heartfelt outpourings a place; there I continue to walk awry along the way of thought. Dead for the many affairs here on earth, Affairs manifold, multifarious, Affairs festive, and of daily life.

Cf. Baggesen Collected Works, 6th vol., p. 143

Heiberg on sig philosophy  
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