D. Anthony Storm's Commentary on Kierkegaard

First Period: Works of Youth (1834-42)

The Morning Observations In Kjøbenhavnsposten No. 43

  • The Morning Observations in Kjøbenhavnsposten No. 43
  • Kjøbenhavnspostens Morgenbetragtninger i Nr. 43
  • B
  • 1836
  • KW1, SKS13, SV13, Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post, Interimsblad, 43, February 18, 1836

Kierkegaard's second published article is on the press, particularly Kjøbenhavnsposten. He had a lifelong antipathy toward the press, though he himself published reviews in various papers. His mistrust of the press as a legitimate organ of communication was based on several observations, one of which was that the press was the voice of the masses, rather than that of the individual. He viewed that voice with great skepticism and sarcasm in later years, averring that the crowd—even if technically correct—is wrong by the very fact of being the crowd. The truth can only be stated and practiced as individuals, especially as individuals before God. Admittedly, Kierkegaard's view of the masses was not well developed at this juncture.

Kierkegaard would engage in three literary battles during his lifetime, this being the first. The second would be the so-called Corsair Affair of 1845. The final exchange would be the so-called Attack Upon Christendom. A synopsis of this first exchange follows:

  1. An anonymous 5-part article in Kjøbenhavnsposten (by Lehmann?) on the liberal press
  2. Kierkegaard's response in Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post ("The Morning Observations")
  3. Johannes Hage counters in Fædrelandet
  4. Kierkegaard responds in Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post ("On the Polemic of Fædrelandet")
  5. Orla Lehmann counters in Kjøbenhavnsposten under his own name
  6. Kierkegaard counters in Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post ("To Mr. Orla Lehmann")

Lehmann and Hage were respected writers of the day, while Kierkegaard was unknown. In these exchanges one of Kierkegaard's motives is to make his mark as a writer. Through the early portion of the exchange the combative authors remain anonymous. Not until Orla Lehmann's second article and Kierkegaard's response to it do these authors publish their names.

In his anonymous article, Lehmann defended the press against its occasional errors with the defense that everyone, after all, makes mistakes. Kierkegaard found no trouble in latching on to such a weak argument, as well as to certain locutions in Lehmann's article which were easy to mock, such as "dawn of the life and freedom of the people".

It thus remains to consider how Kjøbenhavnsposten has put its own house in order.... But if we wish to speak as human beings and not completely cut out all intellectual communication, then it should surely be in confesso [conceded] that when one says of Kjøbenhavnsposten that it is acrimonious and makes mistakes, one means that it is more acrimonious and makes more mistakes than one could wish (p. 7).

As Kierkegaard matured in his thought he came to see man as a spiritual-psychical being rather than as a political being, and hence resisted all reform which was solely political. Because of this he has often been viewed as a conservative. For Kierkegaard, it would seem, that when man's interest in theology declines, his interest in politics increases.

Yes, certainly Kjøbenhavnsposten is reforming, but on closer examination it is rather a parody of the reforming endeavor... (p. 11).