Category Archives: Socrates

Kierkegaard and Deception

On the heels of this discussion, I was reminded of this great passage from Kierkegaard’s The Point of View for my Work as an Author:

What, then, does it mean “to deceive”? It means that one does not begin directly with what one wishes to communicate but begins by taking the other’s delusion at face value. Thus one does not begin (to hold to what essentially is the theme of this book) in this way: I am Christian, you are not a Christian–but this way: You are a Christian, I am not Christian. Or one does not begin in this way: It is Christianity that I am proclaiming, and you are living in purely esthetic categories. No, one begins this way: Let us talk about the esthetic. The deception consists in one’s speaking this way precisely in order to arrive at the religious. But according to the assumption the other person is in fact under the delusion that the esthetic is the essentially Christian, since he thinks he is a Christian and yet he is living in esthetic categories.

Even if ever so many pastors will find it indefensible, even if equally as many will be incapable of getting it into their heads—although all of them otherwise, according to their own statements, are accustomed to using the Socratic method—in this respect I calmly stick to Socrates. True, he was not Christian, that I know, although I also definitely remain convinced that he has become one. But he was a dialectician and understood everything in reflection. And the quesiton here is purely dialectical—it is the question of the use of reflection in Christendom. Qualitatively two altogether different magnitudes are involved here, but formally I can very well call Socrates my teacher—whereas I have believed and believe in only one, the Lord Jesus Christ (Søren Kierkegaard, The Point of View, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998], pp. 54-5).

Kierkegaard here is relating this maeutic form of instruction to the way his own writing has unfolded.  It’s also entirely similar to the way that Hamann’s own authorship came into being, although Kierkegaard is leaps and bounds easier to understand.

I think it’s interesting that here Kierkegaard lines up somewhat with the tradition of putting Socrates “within” the Judeo-Christian tradition in a sense.  Justin Martyr says directly that Socrates was a Christian, and Hamann counts Socrates among the “prophets” in his Socratic Memorabilia, yet here Kierkegaard takes a slightly different route and says that Socrates has become a Christian.

Blogging elsewhere

Oddly, not much blogging around these parts lately, but elsewhere, I’ve posted the third and final post of my series on Kierekgaard and Socrates here at Cynthia Nielsen’s Per Caritatem blog (the first two can be found here and here).

Bruce Ellis Benson‘s engagement with Dan Siedell’s God in the Gallery is also now up at the Church and Postmodern Culture blog.

OMGEES, this “No Pets Clause” post on Emails From Crazy People had me laughing very loudly this morning while I was eating my breakfast.  Thanks Jenn, for sending that along.

A Couple of Items

A new book symposium has begun on the Church and Postmodern Culture blog on Daniel A. Siedell’s God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art.  Two posts are up already, one by Jamie Smith and the other by Matthew Milliner (who blogs at  This Monday an engagement with the third chapter will be from Bruce Ellis Benson. The remainder of the schedule can be found here.

Second, I have begun a series of posts on Kierkegaard and Socrates over on Cynthia Nielsen’s Per Caritatem blog. The first post highlights Socrates’ importance for Kierkegaard at the end of his life, and the second post delves a bit into Kierkegaard’s “Sophistical” situation vis-à-vis the Danish Hegelian Christians of Copenhagen. I should have a third post up soon.