(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Søren Kierkegaard has been called the Danish Socrates, and Concluding Unscientific Postscript demonstrates his claim to that title. In this work, Socrates is acknowledged as the illustrious Greek who never lost sight of the fact that a thinker remains an existing individual. The Socratic maieutic method, with its use of ignorance, irony, and dialectics, pervades the work.

The Socratic method is used by Johannes Climacus (Kierkegaard’s pseudonym) to elicit from the reader an awareness that truth is subjectivity. The doctrine of “the subjective thinker” stands at the center of this classic, and it provides the pivot point around which all the themes revolve. Subjective thinkers are engaged or involved thinkers, whose thought, directed toward a penetration of their inner consciousness, moves in passion and earnestness. They find in the theoretical detachment of objective reflection a comic neglect of the existing individuals who do the reflecting. Objective reflection tends to make subjects accidental and transforms their existence into something indifferent and abstract. The accent for subjective thinkers falls on the how; the accent for objective reflection falls on the what. Objective truth designates a “what” or an objective content that can be observed in theoretical detachment. Subjective truth is a “how” that must be inwardly appropriated. Truth as subjectivity thus becomes inward appropriation. Truth, subjectively appropriated, is a truth that is true for me. It is a truth which I live, not merely observe. It is a truth which I am, not merely possess. Truth is a mode of action or a manner of existence. Subjective thinkers live the truth; they exist it.