You Are At: AllSands Home > Literature > Sickness Unto Death: a literary analysis
Below are some citations from Soren Kierkegaard's seminal text, The Sickness Unto Death, which has influenced Western thought in countless ways. Following the citations are reactions and notes regarding Kierkegaard's ideas.

"Socrates proved the immortality of the soul from the fact that the sickness of the soul (sin) does not consume it as the body's sickness consumes the body. One can similarly prove the eternal in a man from the fact that despair cannot consume his self" (51)

Perhaps what has been proven is merely that despair (as is "sin") is a weakness that cannot kill the body. The observation that one effect lacks a particular caused result does not prove that the result is in the realm of the impossible. Neither author has proven the existence of a spiritual nature, much less its immortality simply by stating that certain happenings fail to destroy that nature. Even assuming that there is a self, it is conceivable that other means to its destruction (hence, non-eternal nature) exist.

"the feeling of indisposition [of the body] is the illness…the feeling of indisposition [of despair] is precisely to be in despair" (55)

The feeling of physical indisposition is merely the symptom of physical illness; it is not the illness itself. So, perhaps the feeling of indisposition in being in despair is not to be in despair (on some more profound level), but rather the symptom of being deranged.

"in the world a self is what one least asks after" (62)

Maybe, just maybe, that should have clued Mr. Kierkegaard in to something.

In the third section, Kierkegaard's insistence upon including Christianity into Existentialism gets confused and conjures up several philosophical difficulties.

"Sin grows every time one fails to get rid of it." (139)

Although I looked, I didn't really see any particular justification for this. The best I could find for the author was that since you recognize an existing sin, you are therefore sinning again in your present recognition. . .how does that differ from recognizing a debt you owe? Surely a debt grows stronger in recognition of its existence (even if it's not a financial increase) as opposed to when it is ignored. It seems to me, if you recognize a given failure which you call sin, then you have simply affected your being (the eternal part) once-it does not continue to affect you-you are what you have made yourself.

"Aesthetico-metaphysically…" (148)

I really hope that Kierkegaard is mocking some other author when he makes up terms like this one.

"Might not that possibly be a lie, and in fact the highest be the particular human being and being that particular human?" (152)

This is a worthy question, and one that he ignores. I suspect that he ignores it because it cannot co-exist with his metaphysical belief. While he may claim that becoming one's own self is the highest good of humanity, he seems to imply that the becoming itself is a sin-a process that cannot be carried out by humans except in defiance.

"sin in effect falls below the level of the concept" (153)

It always makes me nervous when I read something like "in effect." First off, I'm not even sure what he's trying to say with below the level of the concept; second, what does it really have to do with the heart of his argument; third, why did he have to write it in such a bizarre fashion?

"God is a friend of order" (154)

No comment necessary.

"the doctrine that you and I are sinners, which doctrine unconditionally splits up 'the crowd' confirms the qualitative difference between God and man more radically than ever before-for once again this is something only God can do" (154-5)

And yet, Kierkegaard seems to be doing his best to do it himself. What ever happened to removing the board from your own eye?

"if it were possible to shift the divine over to the human, there would be one thing in which man will never come to resemble God: in the forgiveness of sins" (155)

In the New Testament, it is said that men must forgive their own indiscretion, and those committed against them before God can forgive them. Further, even were that to be false (which I assure you it is not), what rationale is there for the thought that if humans were divine they would lake the power to forgive?

"this is Christ's grief: he cannot do otherwise" (159)

Someone needs to go back and read the definition of omnipotent. . .since when was God limited by a mere mortal?