Soren Kierkegaard composed Fear and Trembling under the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio. He wrote it to discuss the stories from Genesis, and is in reference to the book of Philippians. Part of the inspiration for the book was an effort to understand the anxieties and pressures that must have been going on in Abraham’s mind when he was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Kierkegaard often incorporates ethics and intellectual obligations from his personal life into his writings, so writing under this pseudonym was one of his efforts to put forth his opinions without being under intense scrutiny.
Coming from a background of a dislike for the church, Kierkegaard created writings that tended to be very charged and opinionated. Therefore, he created tensions between society, the church, and himself. He utilized his strong voice and writing style to put forth existentialism, which is an intellectual movement that stresses the individual’s free will. This is the underlying foundation of Fear and Trembling, and it can be seen through Abraham’s journey up the mountain.
Fear and Trembling was also written on the ideas that stimulated from the philosopher Hegel. Hegelian philosophy is based on the ideas of his dialectic, which were the paradox between a thesis and its antithesis. This is the true core to Abraham’s intellectual and moral dilemma, as his level of truth is a contradiction between sacrificing his son, Isaac, and fulfilling God’s covenant. The Hegelian philosophy also explains the difference between three stages of life: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. As Abraham partakes on his journey up and down the mountain, he transcends these three stages of life’s way, and is a moral embodiment of Hegel’s philosophy that is ever so present in Kierkegaard’s writings