Self-knowledge in Kierkegaard
Throughout his authorship, Kierkegaard shows an intense fascination with Socrates and Socratic self-knowledge. This chapter traces, in roughly chronological order: (1) the young Kierkegaard’s autobiographical reflections on self-knowledge, when first coming to understand his task as an author; (2) Socrates as a negative figure in The Concept of Irony - where self-knowledge is understood in terms of separation from others and the surrounding society - and the contrast with the Concluding Unscientific Postscript’s treatment of Socrates as an exemplary “subjective thinker”; (3) in Either/Or, the connection between self-knowledge and self-transparency, and the link between self-knowledge and “choosing oneself”, understood as willing receptivity; (4) in writings such as The Concept of Anxiety and The Sickness Unto Death, the importance of sin and our utter dependence upon God for the question of whether self-knowledge is ever really possible; and (5) in Judge for Yourself! and related journal entries, a more precise specification of what Christian self-knowledge might amount to. I aim to show that, in his account of self-knowledge as much as elsewhere, treatments of Kierkegaard as a proto-existentialist risk misleadingly downplaying the deeply and explicitly Christian nature of his thought.