Kierkegaard on the Individual vs. the Crowd

Kierkegaard on the Individual vs. the Crowd

“Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion — and who, therefore, in the next instant (when it is evident that the minority is the stronger) assume its opinion, which then becomes that of the majority, i.e., becomes nonsense by having the whole [mass] on its side, while Truth again reverts to a new minority.” (Kierkegaard)

“The yardstick for a human being is: how long and to what degree he can bear to be alone, devoid of understanding with others. A man who can bear being alone during a whole life-time, and alone in decisions of eternal significance, is farthest removed from the infant and the society-person who represent the animal-definition of being human.” (Kierkegaard)

#philosophy #kierkegaard

35 Replies to “Kierkegaard on the Individual vs. the Crowd”

  1. Yeah he’s talking about the New Testament, the Jews rejected Jesus, Jesus became the prophet of a new religion that reveals truth, then Christians jailed people like Galileo because he broke with church Orthodoxy, basically doing the same thing...

  2. Bill Polhemus​​ O.K., but that’s not really the point, is it? I mean, you’re right, I forgot that, Galileo was put under house arrest, not put in prison, but the point is the same. What he was saying was true, and the majority that Kierkegaard wrote about rejected it, the same way the Jewish people of Christ’s time rejected him.

    The point, I think, is that the majority tend to support each other’s views, which aren’t necessarily true, and that the truth is revealed to people who seek it earnestly, and reject the fabrications of the majority.

    That’s my view of what Kierkegaard wrote, anyway.

  3. Allen Tanner Interesting point. I think I agree with Kirkegaard, because it seems as if what he’s refering to is an essential quality of truth. The part he wrote about animal-definition? That’s the lower faculties of mankind I think, the part that’s incapable of grasping truth, and the higher faculties which can grasp it require a person to let go of the material, sensory experiences which society is based on. A person who defines himself by his higher nature is always going to be a bit of an outsider, because people are unique, but society puts us to use in ways that make us identify with labels.

  4. Bill Polhemus I don’t think he was speaking generalities, I think he meant the truth is a special thing, and you have to be willing to form your identity around a higher nature to grasp it. Most people won’t do that. They’re going on last year’s truths.

  5. Allen Tanner I’ve never actually read Nietzsche, but I remember some commentary that refered to his concept of “the release of the Dionysian impulse”, as the ultimate end of human consciousness, or something like that.

    I had an unfavourable impression of his philosophy, and I thought, as an expression of existentialism, Kierkegaard’s philosophy seemed better.

    Nietzsche seemed amoral, almost sociopathic, Kierkegaard seemed humane and ethically oriented. I should probably study more phiiosophy…

  6. Allen Tanner I don’t quite understand your comment, I know what the Apollonian impulse is, what does that mean, “or and, just a point of view.”

    Could you explain a little about Nietzsche?

  7. Allen Tanner​ Oh, I see.

    I tried to read Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time once. It was a little too difficult for me at the time, but I remember a concept called “Dasein”, or I guess “being-there”, what you’re refering to sounds like that.

    The quote from Nietzsche that you referenced above reminded me of Stoic philosophy, because it seems to place value on refraining from passing judgement on sensory experience, because there’s an objective reality of some kind that is comprehensible to people only through contemplation.

    I think Kirkegaard believed that, but Nietzsche and Heidegger seemed to believe that there was no subjective or objective reality, just experience.

    Like I said, I should study more philosophy, I think I’m probably not explaining this quite right, but if you know anything about this, maybe you can tell me if I’m on the right track.

  8. Conrad Carvalho I don’t think that’s what Kierkegaard means, I think he’d probably say the Tea Party was the majority too, just different sides of the same coin.

  9. John Hanley Allen Tanner​ Bill Polhemus​ what I saw is that you guys are all towards the same direction, it’s just same way as I looked at the issue. Its all about uniqueness, being who you are and bearing all provocations to stand alone in a CROWD. Not wearing a dress to match with the CROWD.​

  10. All I can say is, philosophy comes by many differing thoughts. From my own thoughts;-I believe there are things that are meant for change, there are also things that are meant to become. Thus they have not went the cycle through which has brought it in to the beholders eye to begin with.

    Through someone’s misdeeds another person was brought in to light, within my life. And although our contact was brief I believe that something is unfinished.

    He has , that I’m aware of (5) five books to his credit as well as a speaker on and of his works which hold his (5) five concepts in regards.I believe he might be the one I seek as my teacher.

    Right now I look to find someone who may help me either find what it is I seek or to help me get passed it all. I apologise, I truly did not know where to go with this, and than this page came up on my board. Like it was an answer to a prayer. So please if there are any possibilities to my issue at hand. Please contact me. You may reach me privately at 619-451-5923 (or)at:

  11. what a great thought by kierkegard,it has sense on this times,were we might be with the general and repetitive opinions of the mass,or do we have unique ideas? majority or minority,maybe between both concepts,expressed with great clarity,by the famous philosoper……….

  12. Bill Polhemus I don’t understand what you mean, Lysenkoism is manipulating scientific facts to support a pre-determined conclusion, where is that happening anywhere in this disscusion?

    Also, when I wrote “that’s not really the point…”, I meant that it didn’t seem relevant whether Galileo was jailed or placed under house arrest, he was persecuted for revealing the truth by the religious authorities of his time, and that seems to be the same thing that happened to Jesus, and seems to be the essential meaning of what Kierkegaard wrote. I’m pretty sure Kierkegaard was a Christian.

    Finally, why are you refering to me as “comrade”? Did something I wrote remind you of communism or something?

  13. Bill Polhemus I don’t have any idea what your comments mean, how am I a “science type”?

    Wasn’t Galileo part of the reason for the advancement of human knowledge you’re making reference to? I mean, did I get something wrong about what happened, Galileo’s discoveries went against church doctrine, so they arrested him, right? His discoveries were true, and the church rejected them so they could maintain the status quo that they had convinced themselves of, right? And that’s what Kierkegaard was writting about, isn’t it?

    I don’t know anything about climate change, all I meant is that I see a parallel between what Kierkegaard wrote and what happened to Galileo, I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong about it…

  14. Bill Polhemus Huh? Are you saying the church wasn’t against Galileo’s discoveries that showed the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe? First I’ve heard that’s not what happened, but I don’t know, maybe you’re right.

    Anyway, I agree with what Kierkegaard wrote, and I was looking for an example of it. The story I heard about Galileo seemed to fit. The church used to teach that the Earth was at the center of the solar system, and that everything revolved around it, but when Galileo discovered moons orbiting Jupiter, that showed the church was wrong, but they rejected his ideas in favor of their doctrine, for just the reason Kierkegaard wrote about. That’s what I heard, anyway.

  15. Bill Polhemus I don’t have an agenda, I was just expressing the view that what happened to Galileo was like what Kierkegaard wrote. I don’t know anything about the other things you mentioned, maybe those things are like what Kierkegaard wrote too, but I couldn’t say.

    In 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret for the way the church had treated Galileo, which is just like what Kierkegaard wrote, in my opinion. First the crowd rejects the truth in favor of their own illusory version of reality, then when it becomes apparent that the strength of truth is with the minority, the majority assumes that opinion and the truth reverts to a new minority.

    I don’t know if that happened with Einstein and quantum mechanics, but that’s what seems to have happened with Galileo.

  16. Bill Polhemus But, I think Nils Bohr had a contrary belief based on some mathematical argument which he found more convincing. The church didn’t, their belief was formed by what Kierkegaard described as “gangs who have no opinion…”

    See, what he means, for instance, is that church officials who held the belief that the Earth was the center hadn’t really considered it. They simply accepted what the majority told them, otherwise they would have seen Galileo was right, and changed their opinion.

  17. Bill Polhemus Galileo is universally considered with demonstrating irrefutablely that the Earth was not the center of the universe by discovering the moons of Jupiter. The moons he discovered are named after him for that reason, the Galilean moons.

    The church ignored this direct evidence in favor of church doctrine, which was unsupported by fact. That’s exactly what Kierkegaard meant, It’s not spin.

  18. Bill Polhemus I never wrote Galileo was oppressed, I wrote the church chose to believe a “truth” they made up, instead of his discoveries, for exactly the reason Kirkegaard mentioned in the above quote.

  19. Bill Polhemus Galileo’s situation with the church was not like Nils Bohr and Einstien. Bohr and Einstein were two individuals with a difference of opinion based on the interpretation of data. The church is a majority of the kind Kirkegaard wrote about, which rejected empirically true evidence in favor of an illusion they invented.

  20. Bill Polhemus​ I don’t think what you’re writting about has anything to do with the post anymore. I don’t know what you mean by my “exceptions”, and I don’t know what other means science would be established by except for a scientific method. It seems as if you’re on to another topic, I was writting about Kierkegaard.

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