Soeren Aabye Kierkegaard was born on May 5, 1813, in Denmark, Copenhagen. He is a philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious writer who is commonly regarded as to be the founding father of Existentialism. He himself used the terms existential and existentialism in relation to his philosophizing’s, his heartfelt view was that life and existence. The philosophical scene in Denmark and Europe in the mid-19th century was dominated by German philosophy and Hegel’s ideas. Fear and Trembling is written as a sustained response to his ideas. Kierkegaard’s theological work focuses on Christian ethics, and he criticized Church of Denmark because he was frustrated with the hypocrisy of the Danish Church that resulted him being hated by his own country at that time of his death. He was not really known outside of Denmark at that time because he wrote his works in Danish and his work become more appreciated after 19th Century. He was fond of using metaphor, irony and parables in his literary works. Most of his philosophical ideas deals with the issue of individuality and single individual. In this essay Fear and Trembling one of Kierkegaard’s earliest works will be analyzed as a literary work and existential way of thinking.
Kierkegaard had a habit of using pseudonym in his literary works and he used Johannes de Silentio in Fear and Trembling. He used pseudonym to be intentionally distanced from his works and ideas inside of them. He said: “In the pseudonymous works, there is not a single word which is mine. I have no opinion about these works except as a third person, no knowledge of their meaning, except as a reader, not the remotest private relation to them.” (Poole 162). Because of his continuous use of irony, the reader is left to decide what reception should be taken seriously. This indirect and ironic style of writing has made it difficult to be understand what Kierkegaard’s definitive view on things he wrote in his books by readers and scholars. Kierkegaard’s relation to Hegel is complicated, but also one of Kierkegaard’s greatest philosophical contributions is his critique against Hegel. He strongly objected Hegel’s idea that dialectical system could explain the whole of reality. While both Kierkegaard and Hegel were dialectical thinkers, they were different in their understandings of the purpose of dialectical thinking. For Hegel the purpose is to reach synthesis, while for Kierkegaard its only purpose is to open the door to inner subjectivity.
In his book Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard discusses under the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio, a story from the Bible, Genesis 22:1-18, of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. Which the one that was about to be sacrificed is Ishmael in Quran while it is Isaac in the Bible. For this commitment Abraham is known as the father of faith and faith is an important aspect for Kierkegaard because he was deeply interested with the idea of faith and ethics. In the “Exordium” is the first section of the book and in “Eulogy on Abraham” is the second section of the book, Johannes suggests just how incomprehensible Abraham’s faith is. Abraham did not question God, did not complain or weep, he did not explain himself to anyone, he just obeyed God’s orders. The Exordium provides us with four alternative paths which Abraham could have considered, all of that may have made Abraham much more understandable but would make him something less than the father of faith. The eulogy claims that there is absolutely no way we are able to comprehend Abraha and what he did.