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Fear and Trembling (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 7, 1986

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Danish (translation)

About the Author

S¢ren Kierkegaard (1813-55) was born in Denmark and wrote on a wide variety of themes, including religion, psychology, and literature. He is remembered for his philosophy, which was influential in the development of 20th century existentialism.

Alastair Hannay is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oslo. He is co-editor of the Cambridge Companion to Kierkegaard and has translated Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, The Sickness unto Death, Either/Or, and Papers and Journals for Penguin Classics

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (January 7, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140444491
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140444490
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

118 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Xue Tian on November 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
The value of this work is that it correctly argues that faith is ultimately a choice that cannot be completely supported by logic or rational proof. It was Kierkegaard's experience of losing the chance to be with the person he loved that forced him to confront the absurd nature of faith. Although believers in many religions will argue that their faith is logical and rational, Kierkegaard fully grasped that if conviction is based fully on logic, it does not need faith to support it.

Perhaps the best metaphor can be found in the New Testament passage where Christ invites Peter to walk on water -- Peter takes a step with faith and does not sink, but then looks down, and begins to evaluate the situation using his rational mind, and begins to sink. True faith walks on water. Only true faith could be sufficient to base a life on the conviction that a dead guy in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago came back from the dead and has his own kingdom where his followers will live forever in eternal bliss. On the other hand, this conviction has become so entrenched in the popular culture of the last 2,000 years that it has just become an unremarkable backdrop to the modern world and is considered a socially acceptable belief.

The challenge for a modern christian is to find true faith when they mistakenly believe that the story of Jesus Christ is completely supported by logic and rational thinking. The mere act of mentally assenting to what has been accepted in popular culture, a broad and shallow idea that God and Jesus exist, is not faith at all; just an unexamined conclusion of a lazy mind that has not yet questioned its own surroundings. True faith is a radical departure from the status quo, a renewal of personal conviction despite all contradictions and a recognition of UNCERTAINTY.
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188 of 206 people found the following review helpful By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on April 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
FEAR AND TREMBLING stands as one of Soren Kierkegaard's most widely read works. It's brevity is appealing to those with only a marginal interest in philosophy and theology. It's subject matter is what attracts those persons who want to find a nexus between ethics and theology.
In the work, Kierkegaard engages the famous passage in the Old Testament of the bible where Abraham is ordered by God (Yahweh) to sacrifice his son, Isaac. It stands today as the most salient episode in the bible where Plato's EUTHYPHRO dillema is confronted.
Now, what is the EUTHYPHRO dillema, you may ask? The dillema is set out by Socrates in Plato's dialouge of the same name. Basically, it comes down to this: are good and evil intrinsic to the universe itself? Or are the qualities of good and evil decided upon by God (or gods)? If the former is true, then God (or the head of a pantheon of gods) cannot be truly omnipotent, for there is at least one power that even he / she / it must follow. If, on the other hand, good and evil are decided by God(s), then might makes right.
Enter Kierkegaard, who spends the pages of this work acting more-or-less as a defense attorney for Abraham for his even contemplating the murder of his son. For Kierkegaard, the divine-command-theorist, the latter horn of the conundrum (i.e.: might makes right) is the only plausible alternative open for the religious believer. The first horn denies God's sovereign omnipotence over the universe and all of its affairs, which is utterly unacceptable.
So, the Dane offers to us the defense of what he calls the "teleological suspension of ethics." That is to say, while Abraham was acting out of direction from God, he was not subject to the ethical laws of the "everyday" universe that the rest of us live in every day.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By The trebuchet on January 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
The ironic pen-name Kierkegaard uses should be more than enough warning that things aren't necessarily what they seem, so if anyone tells you what this book is about, or what Kierkegaard intended, I suggest you take it with a grain of salt, read this book, and decide for yourself.
Students of Kierkegaard will tell you the meaning of this book in terms of his personal life; philosophers will show you its philosophical meaning; the religious will describe it as a treatise on faith. It is probably all of these, and may be even more. The work centers on the exemplary life of Abraham, in particular the story in which he is asked by God to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac - the son given to him as fulfillment of a promise by God himself. This story is fully worthy of the "fear and trembling" the title expects, but it also serves as an archetypal example of faith itself, in uncompromising terms.
It is also a counter-argument against the (in Kierkegaard's view) stifling moral rationalism of Hegel - an argument "on the strength of the absurd" which is nonetheless compelling, even if one were to ultimately reject it. Considering this, it is perhaps fitting that his work - certainly grave and severe - ultimately provides an affirmation of individual self-determination and a wholehearted engagement with the real world and its affairs... a faith which Kierkegaard professed himself incapable of.
Worth the time of reading once or several times. Poetic, but not lighthearted entertainment - then again, who would read a book titled "Fear and Trembling" on a lark?
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