That Individual Precis by AL

Kierkegaard’s essay “That Individual” (1843) asserts that in order to find inner truth, one must disengage from the crowd (or the untruth) to become an individual. He illustrates why the crowd is untruth by first establishing the connection between man and God. When man approaches God as an individual, man is himself raised to the level of a God. Kierkegaard then refutes the claim that one is more likely to be successful as a part of the crowd. While this may be true in terms of material possessions, in siding with the crowd man replaces his personal relationship with God, and instead turns to reason. Essentially this man values the collective over the individual. Placing the collective above the individual goes against God’s word that “only one attains the goal” (95). Therefore being a part of the collective precludes attaining true individuality.

Second, the crowd is untruth because in the crowd the individual is no longer held responsible for his actions. This, in turn, leads to a mob mentality because no individual is accountable for the actions of the crowd as a whole. The actions of the crowd, therefore, do not stem from any form of courage, but rather cowardice.

Because the crowd is untruth, those guiding the crowd must possess disrespect for man (because he instead respects the cowardly untruth of the crowd). Instead, one must respect man and respect truth by upholding the individual. This can be done by following Christ’s example and counteracting the crowd. Breaking the influence of the crowd does not involve isolation, but rather to connection with others at an individual level. Thus the only way to reach the individual is one by one. In terms of the intellect, the spirit, or religion, the individual holder of the truth must therefore view the leader of the crowd (who undermines this individual effort) with contempt. None of this is in regards to politics, but rather the “eternal truth.”

Modern media has also assisted the untruth of the crowd. Journalism essentially acts as an extension of the crowd because an author can claim anything, and when this claim is amplified by mass media it becomes the purported truth, all the while the individual author is held unaccountable and irresponsible.

Truth is very difficult to attain for numerous reasons. First, it can only be communicated and received by the individual (rather than the fast mass communication of the press). Furthermore, finding truth first involves “admitting that one has been deceived” (98). Lastly, one must be receptive to God (for truth is communicated through God), because God himself is Truth. God, once again, cannot exist within the impersonal conditions of the crowd, and therefore the individual must also deny the existence of the crowd.

This rejection of the crowd and respect for the individual is what the Scripture means by “love thy neighbour.” If everyone loved one another as they love themselves, then equality could be attained. To even be aware of this goal, whether it the goal is realized or not, is to be aware of the meaning of equality. Equality, however, is difficult to attain because it involves breaking away from the majority (the crowd) and its easy material advantages.

Even one who does see the truth cannot use the crowd as a means to convey it (because the crowd is untruth). Therefore, to be a true individual will always be, by definition, a struggle. However each person within this crowd, when separated, is an individual, and therefore has the ability to find truth. But, once again, only as an individual. Kierkegaard has made it his goal to convey this message in hopes of inciting others to pursue this individuality. Individuality is not something that one creates, but something that has always existed within.

That Individual Precis by A.L.

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