I started reading Kierkegaard (SK) due to is alleged similarity to Nietzsche (FN). For SK’s later work, I was struck by the similarities to FN and pleased by SK’s style which is generally straight forward and clear. His pamphlet series The Instant and articles in The Fatherland had a general readership in mind. Since they were published separately, there is a certain amount of repetition but this must be forgiven as circumstantial. I have decided to focus on comparing the similarities between SK and FN. I am less sure how they would have disagreed, if they had actually met beyond the obvious point that one was an atheist and the other Christian.

(Although SK said he is “not a Christian” – this reminded me of Confucius: “When a country is well governed, poverty and a mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is ill governed, riches and honor are things to be ashamed of.” Analects of Confucius)

Christian Suffering

The main thrust of SK’s late writings was that the “official” Danish church of 1850’s had diverged from New Testament Christianity into paganism or Judaism. His main justification for his argument is that Christianity is a religion of earthly suffering. This is also the assessment of FN and their agreement on this point could hardly be stronger!

The religion of suffering has become the religion of mirth, but it retains the name unchanged. SK, The Instant No.4 (What is really shocking)

Above all beware of the priests! It is a mark of being a Christian (if one is to be a Christian in such a sense that it will hold good in the Judgment) that one has suffered for the doctrine. SK, The Instant No 5

What can be remembered eternally? Only one thing: to have suffered for the truth. If thou wouldst have a care for thine eternal future, take heed to suffer for the truth. SK, The Instant No 8

ONCE on a time, Zarathustra also cast his fancy beyond man, like all backworldsmen. The work of a suffering and tortured God, did the world then seem to me. FN, Zarathustra

Ye cannot divine how sorely prophetic men suffer: ye think only that a fine “gift” has been given to them, and would fain have it yourselves […] But it never occurs to us that it is their sufferings –that are their prophets! FN, Gay Science, 316

But how did such an “improved” Teuton look after he had been drawn into a monastery? […] there he lay, sick, miserable, hateful to himself, full of evil feelings against the impulses of his own life, full of suspicion against all that was still strong and happy. In short, a “Christian.” FN, Twilight of the Idols

Both thought that suffering should be sought but for different ends – SK to prove that a man was a true Christian and eventual self annihilation. FN demanded suffering to follow his ideal of “what does not kill me makes me stronger”.

And according to the New Testament what is it to love God? It is the will to become, humanly speaking, unhappy for this life, yet blissfully expectant of an eternal blessedness – in no other way can a man love God who is spirit. The Instant No 6, Fear most of all to be in error

For enjoyment and innocence are the most bashful things. Neither like to be sought for. One should have them,- but one should rather seek for guilt and pain! FN, Zarathustra

One point of disagreement between the two is their valuation of earthly life. But both have, at least, considered the possibility that non-existence is preferable to existence.

Suppose now that this child in its naiveté were to say to its parents, “But if this is such a bad world, and if this is what awaits me, then indeed it is not well that I have come into this world.” Bravo, my little friend, thou has hit the mark! SK, The Instant No 7

[Quoting Silenus:] Suffering creature, born for a day, child of accident and toil, why are you forcing me to say what would give you the greatest pleasure not to hear? The very best thing for you is totally unreachable: not to have been born, not to exist, to be nothing. The second best thing for you, however, is this — to die soon. FN, Birth of Tragedy

I have yet to discover why SK and FN came to opposite views on Silenus’s challenge – is earthly life to be valued highly or lowly. Since SK believed in an afterlife, he could arguably afford to highly value the spiritual world while being pessimistic about earthly life. FN seemed to alternate between saying earthly life is “good” while also saying to assign a value of life is in fact meaningless.

To be continued…

Anti Citizen One