Ulrika Carlsson in the NYT's The Stone:
Perhaps the most central theme in Soren Kierkegaard’s religious thought is the doctrine of original sin: the idea that we share in some essential human guilt simply by being born. But guilt is an important concept also in Kierkegaard’s secular writings. He thought that the modern era was defined by its concept of guilt. Kierkegaard’s 200th birthday gives us an occasion to assess the modern relevance of his legacy and the viability of his own view of modernity.
Kierkegaard thought of Socrates as the person who first discovered human autonomy — the fact that we are free to determine our own actions and therefore responsible for those actions. This insight undermined the ancient worldview, which found its perfect representation in tragic drama, where characters bring about their own ruin because they are fated to do so. In his 1843 essay “Ancient Tragedy’s Reflection in the Modern,” Kierkegaard grappled with this question partly through an analysis of the work of Sophocles. In the play “Oedipus the King,” the gods have cursed the tragic hero with a fate to commit two terrible crimes.
The curse is visited upon his children, too, including his daughter who in the follow-up play “Antigone” commits a crime of her own. Sophocles thus invites us to think of this curse as something like a hereditary disease, passed on from parents to children.