Philosophical Fragments


Philosophical Fragments (Danish title: Philosophiske Smuler eller En Smule Philosophi) is a Christian philosophic work written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1844. It was the first of three works written under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus, the other two were Johannes Climacus, 1841 and Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, 1846.

Kierkegaardian scholars D. Anthony Storm[nb 1] and Walter Lowrie believe Kierkegaard could be referring to Johannes Climacus, a 7th-century Christian monk, who believed that an individual is converted to Christianity by way of a ladder, one rung (virtue) at a time.[1] Kierkegaard believes the individual comes to an understanding with Christ by a leap.

Kierkegaard scholar and translator David F. Swenson was the first to translate the book into English in 1936. He called it "Philosophical Chips" in an earlier biography of Kierkegaard published in 1921[nb 2]and another early translator, Lee Milton Hollander, called it "Philosophic Trifles" in his early translation of portions of Kierkegaard's works in 1923.[nb 3]

Kierkegaard hinted that he might write a "sequel in 17 pieces" in his preface.[2] By February 22, 1846 he published a 600 page sequel to his 83 page Fragments. He devoted over 200 pages of Concluding Unscientific Postscript to an explanation of what he meant by Philosophical Fragments.[3]

He referred to a quote by Plato in his Postscript to Philosophical Fragments: "But I must ask you Socrates, what do you suppose is the upshot of all this? As I said a little while ago, it is the scrapings and shavings of argument, cut up into little bits." – Greater Hippias, 304a. He could have been thinking about this quote when he wrote this book. Plato was asking "What is beauty?" Kierkegaard asks, "What is Truth?"[4] Kierkegaard had already asked about truth 9 days earlier when he published Three Upbuilding Discourses. A mere 4 days from the publication of Philosophical Fragments he published The Concept of Anxiety.

Kierkegaard wrote his books in reaction to both Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel as well as the philosophic-historical use of speculation in regard to Christianity. Schlegel published a book bearing the same title as Kierkegaard's, Philosophical Fragments in 1799.[nb 4]

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