I'm mostly interested in Fear and Trembling and on Either/Or. Can I read it straight away or is it recommended to read any other books first. If that's the case, which books then?

I'm sorry for the noob question, but it is because Kierkegaard is what got me interested in philosophy, but I never read anything but the Seducer's Diary (from Kierkegaard), and now I want to read the books I mentioned, and I don't know if it it will be hard to read them straight away.

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    Neither of those really require prior reading to understand. If you want to go into reading them with prior contextual knowledge of where they fit into Kierkegaard's life and work, then you could try reading either the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article on him, or the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's. Both of those sites are great references and starting off points to topics in philosophy.
    – Not_Here
    Oct 6, 2017 at 0:13
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    Kierkegaard reacted against Hegel. Here is an explanation of some of it: nome.unak.is/wordpress/08-3/c69-conference-paper/… Personally I do not recommend that you study Hegel before you study Kierkegaard because Hegel would be quite a long detour, and I think you can just get some idea of Kierkegaard's objections to Hegel and that would be enough now.
    – Gordon
    Oct 6, 2017 at 12:05
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    Here is a link to an online course. I have not taken it. I think these courses are free unless you want a certificate but I'm not sure. Anyway, here is the link and perhaps you would be interested to at least know about such courses: coursera.org/learn/kierkegaard
    – Gordon
    Oct 6, 2017 at 12:37
  • Reading summary work or short bios may help: goodreads.com/book/show/566901.Kierkegaard_Within_Your_Grasp
    – adamaero
    Nov 21, 2017 at 21:41
  • I've finished the first part of Either - Or today. I'm going to save my opinion on this part of the book for later, when I've already read the entire book plus suplemment, however I'm going to take a little break in between, by reading someone else's book. After that, I'll come back here to tell my opinions on the entire book, even though I already got a good idea of what I'm going to say then. Feb 8, 2018 at 23:01

4 Answers 4


You can probably jump in, but don't get discouraged if you get lost and confused. Kierkegaard's writing is very confusing most of the time. But as you keep reading you can find points which he makes incredibly lucid, all nestled within often confusing larger works.

Either/Or I probably wouldn't recommend as a first reading, but you've already read the Seducer's Diary, which is just a portion of book one, so you've already started reading it! Might be interesting for you to read it in context.

Fear and Trembling is always a go-to for academics to get an introduction to Kierkegaard. It's nice because it's compact, is relatively straightforward, and has a lot of discussion around it which you can easily access online. Most folks, for better or worse, have exposure to K through this work. Knight of Faith, leap of faith, etc, etc.

The Sickness Unto Death was a super life-changing book for me. About despair and not being one's true self, so this more easily fits into the larger body of existentialist works, if you're at all interested in that.

I'll leave you with some good quotes from The Sickness Unto Death

The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. - is sure to be noticed.


And thus it is precisely with the despair of finitude. In spite of the fact that a man is in despair he can perfectly well live on in the temporal, in fact all the better for it; he may be praised by men, be honored and esteemed, and pursue all the aims of temporal life. What is called worldliness is made up of just such men, who (if one may use the expression) pawn themselves to the world. They use their talents, accumulate money, carry on worldly affairs, calculate shrewdly, etc., etc., are perhaps mentioned in history, but themselves they are not; spiritually understood, they have no self, no self for whose sake they could venture everything, no self before God -- however selfish they may be for all that.


I agree with all the above. You probably don't need to read anything before you read Kierkegaard though I'd add two comments. The first is that Kierkegaard was intimately familiar with the Western tradition of philosophy from Plato to Hegel, so he is writing against a background and this isn't always apparent. The other comment is that Kierkegaard is completely against to the work of system-builders and for whatever reason really has it in for professors. He is particularly hard on assistant professors : 'There is nothing at all for assistant professors to do. The assistance of these gentlemen is needed here no more than than a maiden needs a barber to shave her beard and no more than a bald man needs a barber to ‘style’ his hair.' Probably it's fair to say that Kierkegaard's biography is more relevant to his philosophy than is usual with philosophers, so a biography such as Stephen Backhouse's 'Kierkegaard: A Single Life' might smooth your way in.

I'll add a third comment, which concerns Kierkegaard's style. This style can be both wonderful and verbose & obscure. More important is that Kierkegaard - I can't resist the impression - does not want to be an easy read. There is nothing pretentious about this but he employs allusion, irony, humour, litotes, and pseudonymy, to perplex and nonplus the careless, gist-seeking or skip-and-dip reader. The attentive reader will come away from the text stimulated and enriched.


In my oppinion Kierkegaard's best ideas do not require any other prior reading to be understood. Now I say 'best ideas' because he has spent a lot of his time writing about aesthetics and about what makes a true timeless masterpiece. Since he refferences a lot of Hegel and writes in-depth review of many plays and books it would help you understand him on these topics if you read about those, but I personally wouldn't recommend it. One book that did catch my eye as great additional reading after Either/Or is "Faust" by the german writer Goethe. Kierkegaard cites this to be one of the best examples of a timeless masterpiece.

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    I have Faust and Werther. Did not read though, and I think translates to my language kind of sucks. However you said it good about Kierkegaard, he has good ideas and despite his usage of language requiring a bit of tracking what he has previously said a few lines/paragraphs earlier, it isn't that hard. However, some of his ideas are just out, like when he says Christianity brought sensuality into the world. After reading and re-reading I had to admit I hardly believe that at all. Nov 22, 2017 at 7:32
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    Also wouldn't hurt to see and hear Mozart's Don Giovanni, which plays a part in Either/Or Dec 24, 2017 at 1:14

For a great introduction you might also listen to the excellent BBC In Our Time radio series' episode on Kierkegaard, bbc.co.uk/programmes/b009fycc (45 minutes).

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    Is there a reason why this might be worth listening to rather than something else? What does the video discuss? Regardless, welcome! May 30, 2019 at 23:41
  • Oh, thanks, that's appreciable, even though it's been a long time since I asked this video have already gotten some preliminaries conclusions on Kierkegaard's views after Either/Or May 31, 2019 at 5:30

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