New champion in Philosophy’s Longest Sentences contest — Kierkegaard

Via reader Zeppo Shemp, here are 330 agonized-but-possibly-a-distant-light-in-the-gloom words from Søren Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript:

“If a poor thinker, who is a private practitioner, a cultivator of speculative eccentricities, occupying like a poverty-stricken lodger a garret at the top of a vast building, sat there in his little refuge, held captive in what seemed to him difficult thoughts; if, without being able to understand how or why, he began to conceive a dim suspicion that there was something wrong with the foundations; if, whenever he looked out of the little garret window, he saw shudderingly only busy and redoubled exertions to beautify or enlarge the structure, so that after having seen and shuddered he collapsed in utter exhaustion,kierkegaard feeling as a spider who in some narrow nook has managed to eke out a precarious existence since the last house-cleaning, and now senses anxiously the coming storm; if whenever he communicated his doubts to someone he perceived that his speech, because of its departure from the prevailing fashion, was regarded as the bizarre and threadbare costume of some unfortunate derelict—if, I say, such a privately practicing thinker and speculative crotcheteer were suddenly to make the acquaintance of a man whose renown did not indeed directly insure for him the validity of his thoughts (for the poor lodger was not quite so objective as to be able without more ado to draw the converse conclusion from renown to truth), but whose fame was nevertheless like a smile of fortune in the midst of his loneliness, when he found one or two of his difficult thoughts touched upon by the famous man: ah, what joy, what festivity in the little garret chamber, when the poor lodger took comfort to himself from the glorious memory of the renowned thinker, when his own thinking began to breathe courage, the difficulties began to take on form, and hope finally sprang into being—the hope of understanding himself; that is to say, the hope first of understanding the nature of the difficulty, and then perhaps of being able to overcome it!”[1]

So updating our content results, Kierkegaard has passed Locke to take over first place, and our top word-marathon candidates are:

blah-blah1. Kierkegaard: 330 words.
2. Locke: 309 words.
3. Aristotle: 188 words.
4. Kant: 174 words. (Also: 163 words.)
5. Bentham: 164 words.
6. Mill: 161 words.

[1] Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, translated by David Swenson and Walter Lowrie, Princeton University Press, 1941, p. 59.)

3 thoughts on “New champion in Philosophy’s Longest Sentences contest — Kierkegaard

  • October 4, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Not the longest by a long shot, but one of my favorites philosophical sentences is by Aristotle in ‘The Categories’ I think, setting up propositions: “Now it is possible to state of what does hold that it does not hold, of what does not hold that it does hold, of what does hold that it does hold and of what does not hold that it does not hold.”

  • October 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Just did a run-through of Kierkegaard’s sentence: magnificent!

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