4

From his Fear and Trembling,

People commonly travel around the world to see rivers and mountains, new stars, birds of rare plumage, queerly deformed fishes, ridiculous breeds of men – they abandon themselves to the bestial stupor which gapes at existence, and they think they have seen something.

What does he mean by that phrase? Is he talking about different ethnicities and races other than European/white?

  • 1
    He did make several, what can be considered today, anti-Semitic remarks, but I don't think the evidence is there to call him a racist. I think you may be reading into this too much. "Breeds of men" could simply refer to groups. Think circuses, cultures with strange customs, etc... If you read the context of the this, it's certainly not racist there. – Goodies May 5 '16 at 19:18
  • 1
    on that @Goodies just now i found scholars saying the -ve and a variety of blogs. i've seen blogs trying to press gang camus into anti semitism, it's strange – user6917 Dec 27 '16 at 16:31
6

It is simply an analogy, in the context of the discussion regarding Søren Kierkegaard's quest for the knight of faith :

People commonly travel around the world to see rivers and mountains, new stars, [...]. This does not interest me. But if I knew where there was such a knight of faith, I would make a pilgrimage to him on foot, for this prodigy interests me absolutely.

5

they abandon themselves to the bestial stupor which gapes at existence, and they think they have seen something.

This rather looks like an early critique of what much later Edward Said calls Orientalism. Said commented as someone born and brought up in the middle-East he couldn't see the texture of life he knew in the representations of such in art & literature; they're represented in their exoticness & foreignness as something to 'gape' at.

People commonly travel around the world to see rivers and mountains, new stars, birds of rare plumage, queerly deformed fishes, ridiculous breeds of men

This rather looks like it is. Comments like this were common enough then. Similar remarks were made by Hegel and Kant for example. One might excuse them on the basis they hardly had first hand acquaintance of these peoples themselves and were going on second or third hand reports; but on the other hand one might say, of all people, we might have expected better of them.

3

I think the judgment of the headline much outweighs the evidence of the quote, which is most naturally read as a satire on the tourist mentality. Kierkegaard is making fun of those who scour the globe in search of "exotic" entertainment, without ever gaining much of value from it. While it's quite possible he's talking about other races with the phrase "ridiculous breeds of men," it seems fair to read that as part and parcel of the parody, rather than intended as representative of Kierkegaard's own views.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.