10 Fascinating Facts About Søren Kierkegaard

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Born on May 5, 1813, Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a tall-haired theologian who brought about a sea change in Christian thought by challenging state religion and breaking with philosophical traditions that sought to prove the existence of God using logic.

He was also an enigmatic figure whose writing confounded even the wisest minds of the time (and ever since then). Raised in a household that valued intellectual life, Kierkegaard was no stranger to thoroughly and exhaustively challenging thoughts and positions. His contributions to philosophy are immense, even though he never seemed to fully agree with himself. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Søren Kierkegaard.

1. A BROKEN ENGAGEMENT AFFECTED HIS WRITING.

At 27 years old, Søren Kierkegaard was engaged to Regine Olsen, but he wrote in his journal almost immediately afterward that it was a mistake; a year later, he called it off. Some surmised that he didn’t want to share his despair and melancholic personality with anyone. It’s also possible that he decided to avoid marriage because it didn’t allow for the intensity of the philosophical project he wanted to undertake. It’s not clear exactly why he called it off, but it shook him to his soul, and he alluded to her and pled with her in his earliest writings to understand why he’d ended the relationship. The disengagement was also the launching point of a three-year period in which he published seven books.

2. HE WILLED HIS BELONGINGS TO HIS EX-FIANCÉE.

Kierkegaard saw a marriage proposal as contractually the same as a marriage, so when he died, he bequeathed his books to Olsen even though she’d married someone else years before. She did not accept the possessions.

3. HE WROTE UNDER PSEUDONYMS IN ORDER TO DISAGREE WITH HIMSELF.

A hallmark of Kierkegaard’s style of intellectual interrogation was writing under different names in order to fully examine, or sometimes contradict, the claims he made. The practice was used regularly in the late 18th and 19th centuries, with The Federalist Papers being a prime example. Kierkegaard used his own name on religious tracts that didn’t gain as much attention as his philosophical work, but the pseudonymous viewpoints still helped solidify his goal of displaying truth as subjective. All of this, according to Kierkegaard, was in service of asking the main question: how does one become a Christian?

4. HE SURVIVED COMPLETELY OFF AN INHERITANCE.

Kierkegaard’s father Michael retired at the age of 40 after great success as a wool merchant. Not only did he gift young Søren with an upbringing surrounded by thinkers and cultural figures, he left him 30,000 rixdalers, which was enough for Kierkegaard to live off of (and self-publish) for the rest of his life.

5. HE ASKED TO BE MOCKED BY A SATIRICAL DANISH PAPER.

Danish philosopher Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855), the founder of existentialism.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1845, Peter Ludvig Møller, a writer an editor for the satirical rag The Corsair, published a piece which criticized Kierkegaard’s Stages on Life’s Way, and Kierkegaard’s response lit a fuse on a minor feud that had a profound impact on the philosopher. In The Activity of a Traveling Esthetician and Dialetical Result of a Literary Police Action, the theologian scoffed at the paper and dared them to make fun of him. So, they did. For months they ridiculed the way he looked, talked, and acted, and the barrage of public insults humiliated Kierkegaard, but he would write later that it left him isolated in the only way that leads one to truly discover Christianity. Still, it’s not smart to attack people who buy ink by the barrel.

6. HE WAS BIG ON INDIVIDUALITY. 

G.W.F. Hegel was a dominant philosophical voice of the 19th century, espousing that reality consisted solely of what was rational. Kierkegaard’s entire philosophical program was aimed at countering Hegelian thought, opening his magnum opus Either/Or by asking, “Are passions, then, the pagans of the soul? Reason alone baptized?”

Kierkegaard also wrote against the church (specifically the Church of Denmark) as a group construct that he viewed as promoting a herd mentality that actively kept people from becoming true Christians. As if the title weren’t enough: in The Crowd is Untruth, he wrote that the formation of a crowd is to place another layer of abstraction between the individual and their personal truth. The height of all his writings extolling the virtue of individuality is probably the Knight of Faith, as seen in Fear and Trembling, who has such faith in himself and God that he can operate separately from the world.

7. HE BELIEVED FAITH IN GOD REQUIRED DOUBT.

Where Hegel sought to bring everything in the universe under the umbrella of reason, Kierkegaard approached religious faith as a paradoxical act of believing something outside the boundaries of reason. In Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, Kierkegaard described a “qualitative leap” made by faith that recognizes there can be no sufficient amount of evidence of God’s existence that could justify the kind of total commitment that religion demands. He further concluded that faith had no substance without doubt, writing in his journal, “Doubt is conquered by faith, just as it is faith which has brought doubt into the world.”

8. HE WAS THE FATHER OF EXISTENTIALISM.

A portrait of Søren Kierkegaard
By The Royal Library, Denmark - Flickr, Wikimedia Commons

Existentialist philosophy’s core concern is the nature of man. In embracing his emotional anguish, recognizing humanity as a passionate animal, and celebrating freedom and the individual, Kierkegaard gave birth to a movement that sought authenticity in thought by reconciling abstract reason to personal experience. Subjective truth lies at the heart of existentialism, and Kierkegaard’s work went on to influence Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidigger, Jean-Pau Sartre, and others.

9. HE STAYED CLOSE TO HOME.

By all accounts, Kierkegaard only left Copenhagen five times: four to go to Berlin, and once to go to Sweden. He spent his spare time attending the theater or talking to strangers on the street during walks. Even during The Corsair debacle, when he became the butt of Copenhagen’s jokes, he refused to leave town, visiting cafes and taking walks as he normally would have.

10. HE DIED YOUNG AFTER A SPINAL PROBLEM.

It’s a good thing Kierkegaard was so prolific, because he died in 1855, at the age of 42. He had developed a spinal disease (perhaps the long-gestating result of a childhood fall) and collapsed in the street. He died about a month later in Frederiks Hospital, leaving behind a dizzying array of philosophical ideas that wouldn’t make their full impact known until his writings were translated in the early and mid-20th century.

8 Cursed Movie Productions

Heather O'Rourke in Poltergeist (1982).
Heather O'Rourke in Poltergeist (1982).
Warner Home Video

Making a movie is hard. It’s even more difficult when freak accidents, premature deaths, and biblical acts of nature torment the cast and crew.

The movie productions below were so troubled that they’ve developed a reputation in Hollywood for actually being cursed. Since many of the films deal with satanic or supernatural subjects, fans have projected the horrors portrayed on the screen onto their behind-the-scenes happenings. The sources of other so-called curses are less mysterious: Today we know that filming downwind from a nuclear test site or covering your actors in aluminum makeup is a bad move, for example—but that wasn’t always the case.

From The Wizard of Oz to Poltergeist, here are eight “cursed” movies that have become Hollywood legends.

1. Poltergeist (1982)

JoBeth Williams stars in Poltergeist (1982)
JoBeth Williams stars in Poltergeist (1982).
Warner Home Video

Poltergeist is about a family whose new home, unbeknownst to them, was built on an ancient burial ground. This doesn't sit well with the spirits whose final resting places have been disturbed, which leads to a series of supernatural happenings. With all that in mind, you might think that director Tobe Hooper, writer-producer Steven Spielberg, and the rest of the filmmakers would know better than to use actual human remains as props, but that’s exactly what they did.

In the scene where JoBeth Williams is dragged into a swimming pool that’s under construction, the skeletons that pop up around her are real. Superstitious movie fans have pointed to this as an explanation for the shocking deaths of two of the movie's young stars: Dominique Dunne was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in 1982, just a few days shy of her 23rd birthday, and Heather O’Rourke died from misdiagnosed intestinal stenosis in 1988 at age 12.

2. The Omen (1976)

Still from The Omen.
20th Century Fox

Danger began following the cast and crew of Richard Donner’s The Omen even before production on the film had officially begun. On his way to shoot the film in London, star Gregory Peck's plane was struck by lightning. Executive producer Mace Neufeld experienced a similar scare when his flight from Los Angeles was electrocuted just a few weeks later. Other tragedies related to the movie included a terrorist bombing at the hotel where Neufeld and his wife were staying in London and the death of the film's animal trainer. The day after he came to the set to handle the baboons in the famous zoo scene, the trainer was mauled by a tiger.

However, the most shocking The Omen-related incident occurred two months after the film premiered on June 6, 1976. The film's special effects pro John Richardson was driving in the Netherlands with his assistant Liz Moore when they got into an accident. While Richardson survived, Moore was decapitated. A nearby sign for a town added another unsettling layer to the tragedy: It read Ommen, 66.6 km.

3. The Exorcist (1973)

Still from The Exorcist.
Warner Bros.

When the New York City set of The Exorcist burned down in 1972, filmmakers immediately suspected evil forces were to blame. Jesuit priest Father Thomas M. King was brought in to bless the set when the crew moved to Washington, D.C., but that didn’t end the production’s unlucky streak. It was reported that a total of nine people involved with the movie died by the time production wrapped.

4. The Conqueror (1956)

Still from The Conqueror.
Universal

The curse afflicting Dick Powell’s The Conqueror isn't blamed on supernatural forces. The historical epic was filmed in Snow Canyon, Utah, just downwind from Nevada’s Yucca Flats. The site had recently been used to test 11 atomic bombs—something the filmmakers were made aware of before shooting. The ill effects of radiation weren’t widely known at the time and any suspicions of danger were downplayed by the government. By 1980, 91 members of The Conqueror’s cast and crew had gotten cancer and 46 had died from it—including star John Wayne and director Dick Powell. It’s impossible to prove how big a role radiation played in these deaths, if any, but it definitely doesn’t explain the movie’s bad luck at the box office. The Conqueror bombed so badly that it was partly responsible for putting its studio out of business. For that, however, we choose to blame John Wayne’s unfortunate performance as Genghis Khan.

5. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Still from Rosemary's Baby.
Paramount

Rosemary’s Baby is another film about satanic subjects that was touched by tragedy. Sidney Blackmer, the actor who played coven leader Roman Castevet, commented on set, “No good will come of all this ‘Hail Satan’ business.” Following the production, producer William Castle needed surgery for his gallstones and composer Krzysztof Komeda fell and sustained brain injuries that led to a coma that was ultimately fatal. But the most notorious incident associated with the curse was the 1969 murder of Sharon Tate by the Manson Family. Tate was stabbed to death in the home she shared with Roman Polanski, her husband and the director of Rosemary's Baby, who was away working on a film in Europe. She was eight-and-half months pregnant with their son at the time.

6. The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Still from Passion of the Christ.
Icon

If you’re looking for a sign to stop making your R-rated movie about Jesus’s crucifixion, getting struck by lightning is a pretty clear one. During the production of The Passion of the Christ in 2003, a bolt of lightning hit star Jim Caviezel and assistant director Jan Michelini. And it was actually the second time Michelini had been struck by lightning on the set of the film. Both victims walked away from the incidents relatively unscathed, and when it premiered in 2004, The Passion of the Christ raked in $611 million worldwide.

7. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Still from Rebel Without a Cause.
Warner Bros.

Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause is famously one of the last movies James Dean starred in before passing away at age 24. The actor was in a fatal car crash just weeks before the premiere in 1955, and that alone would have been enough to mar the film in tragedy. It’s legacy was further complicated when the movie's two other leads met untimely death decades later: In 1976, Sal Mineo was murdered outside his Los Angeles apartment and in 1981, Natalie Wood drowned off Catalina Island under suspicious circumstances (that are still being investigated). Dean was also injured multiple times during the film’s production, once when he broke his hand pounding a desk and again when he was cut during a knife fight scene.

8. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Still from The Wizard of Oz.
MGM

The land of Oz was much less cheery than it appeared onscreen, as the troubles plaguing The Wizard of Oz were nonstop. First the Tin Man had to be recast when Buddy Ebsen, the actor originally hired to play the role, had a life-threatening reaction to his aluminum makeup. During the scene when the Wicked Witch is supposed to disappear in a plume of smoke, the trapdoor malfunctioned, and actress Margaret Hamilton suffered second-degree burns. She was wearing copper makeup at the time and crew members had to rush to remove the toxic material before it further aggravated her injuries.

Stunt and background actors were also prone to disaster. Hamilton’s double Betty Danko was sent to the hospital when a prop broom exploded and two actors playing winged monkeys fell when their wires snapped. But not every dark story you’ve heard about The Wizard of Oz is true: The Munchkin who is notoriously said to have hanged himself in one scene is actually a bird spreading its wings.

Netflix Is Now Sharing Live Updates of Its Most Watched Movies and TV Shows

wutwhanfoto, iStock via Getty Images
wutwhanfoto, iStock via Getty Images

Netflix is notoriously protective of its viewership data. While the number of people sharing The Office memes or Stranger Things spoilers online indicate some shows are more popular than others, until recently, there were no real statistics to back up these trends. As Bloomberg reports, Netflix is making its biggest move yet toward transparency by sharing live updates of its top 10 shows and movies.

Now, when Netflix users search the site, they will see the most-viewed content on the platform that day. Under the TV Shows tab, Love Is Blind tops the list for viewership in the U.S. on Wednesday, February 26, followed by Narcos: Mexico and Locke & Key. As for movies, Netflix's own The Last Thing He Wanted (2020) starring Ben Affleck and Anne Hathaway is attracting the most viewers today. A Haunted House (2013) and Foreigner (2017) are listed in second and third place, respectively.

The new feature is a major change for Netflix, but it still leaves a lot of questions about its users' viewing habits unanswered. It's unclear how long a movie or television episode needs to be played to count as a "view," and there's still no data showing exactly how many people are watching these titles.

For now, this is the closest thing Netflix subscribers have to Nielsen-style TV ratings. You can check out the full lists of the most popular Netflix movies and TV shows in the U.S. on February 26 below.

Top 10 TV Shows on Netflix

  1. Love Is Blind
  1. Narcos: Mexico
  1. Locke & Key
  1. Gentefied
  1. The Office
  1. Better Call Saul
  1. Babies
  1. The Stranger
  1. I Am a Killer
  1. El Dragón: Return of a Warrior

Top 10 Movies on Netflix

  1. The Last Thing He Wanted
  1. A Haunted House
  1. The Foreigner
  1. Girl on the Third Floor
  1. To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
  1. A Bad Moms Christmas
  1. Mr. Right
  1. The Other Guys
  1. The Grinch
  1. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

[h/t Bloomberg]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER