Born in Copenhagen, Soren Aabye Kierkegaard was raised in a restrictive religious environment. His father was a Lutheran who interpreted his religion through guilt and gloom. Reacting to his father’s narrow-mindedness, Kierkegaard rebelled during his college years but returned to studying theology after his father died.
Two years after his father died, Kierkegaard made a major shift in his life. He decided not to become a minister, and abruptly called off his year-long engagement to a local girl. Living off his father’s inheritance, he devoted himself to the ministry of writing. He wrote 20 books in the next 14 years.
In contrast to Hegel’s systematic and rational view of life, Kierkegaard focused on the ambiguity and sheer excitement of an unpredictable existence. He saw that philosophy can be used as an excuse for not taking personal responsibility.
According to Kierkegaard, life is full of riddles. Although people desire the infinite truths of life, they are occupied with its trivialities. We are fragile finite beings but we want to live forever. It is only when we submit to the will of God that we find ultimate freedom. For Kierkegaard, we find our meaning because of these mysteries, not in spite of them.