Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), the
Danish existential philosopher,
writes of Authenticity in one of his "Upbuilding Discourses"
entitled "Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing".
In this meditative work, he describes the process
by which we might become whole, integrated persons:
by simplifying and focusing our lives until we center on one thing.
Initially, we might not be attracted to
willing just one thing.
Why should we eliminate so many interesting possibilities?
Simplifying our lives is a matter of free choice.
Focusing on one thing rather than a dozen or a hundred
according to Kierkegaard.
He does not specify what
to will, altho he calls it "the
rather he focuses on the process
of creating a single
I. SUCCESS IS NOT ONE THING
First, Kierkegaard deals with the popular
attractions of life:
pleasure, honor, riches, power.
But he shows how these goals become unsatisfactory
because they ultimately turn into self-contradictions:
Even if he named only
one thing, be it pleasure or honor or wealth,
he would not in truth
be willing one thing....
In seeking pleasure,
he craves one gratification after another.
Variety is his
Is variety willing
one thing that shall ever remain the same?
On the contrary, it
is willing what must never
be the same.
It is willing a
multitude of things.
And a person who
wills in this fashion is not only double-minded
but is at odds with
For he first wills
one thing and then immediately its opposite....
He wills the variety
When he has enjoyed
himself to the point of nausea,
when he has become
weary and surfeited,
what does he still
want? He desires new pleasures;
his depleted soul
rages for something new—something new!
[The quotations from
Purity of Heart Is to Will One
thru-out this chapter
combine the best of two translations:
1. Douglas Steere
(New York: Harper, 1938 & reprints)
Page numbers are from
1956 Torchbook edition: Steere p. 56-57.
2. Howard V. Hong
& Edna H. Hong Upbuilding Discourses
in Various Spirits:
Princeton UP, 1993): Hong & Hong p. 26-27.]
SØREN KIERKEGAARD: WILLING ONE THING by JAMES
to cite the above page from Becoming More Authentic
Students and scholars are
invited to quote
anything from the above page.
Here is the proper form for the footnote or other reference:
James Park Becoming
The Positive Side of Existentialism
(Minneapolis, MN: www.existentialbooks.com, 2007—5th edition)
to the table of contents for
Authentic: The Positive Side of Existentialism.
The contents shows the outline of this chapter on Kierkegaard.
September 12, 2008