Supreme Court nominee Anthony M. Kennedy told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that he had no hidden agenda or even "a fixed view" on abortion or the right to privacy and had made no promises either to the White House or to individual senators on how he would vote on those or any other issues.

Kennedy, President Reagan's third nominee to fill the seat vacated last June by Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., began his five hours of low-key testimony minutes after the Supreme Court split 4 to 4 on a case involving the constitutionality of an Illinois law requiring minors wishing abortions to notify their parents. {Details, Page A14.}

The split vote leaves intact a lower court ruling striking down the law. But the vote makes it almost certain that the closely divided high court will revisit the issue and that Kennedy, if confirmed, will cast the deciding vote on that and other abortion-related issues.

The polite, subdued questioning yesterday by both liberal and conservative members stood in sharp contrast to the highly charged jousting that characterized the hearings of Reagan's first nominee for the seat, Appeals Court Judge Robert H. Bork.

The historic Senate Caucus Room saw none of the almost frenzied action surrounding the Bork hearings. There were no long lines of visitors waiting to get in or crowds around the door of the hearing room. There were fewer reporters covering the hearing and most were gone by mid-afternoon. There was no live coverage by the major networks.

Kennedy, with his wife and three children behind him, was cautious answering the general questions put to him by the senators. Some Senate aides said they felt Kennedy was being evasive, but he did not refuse to answer questions despite advice from Republican members that he might want to do so.

"I suspect the White House is breathing a huge sigh of relief right now," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) as yesterday's opening round drew to a close. "It's going very well," both for the committee and for Kennedy, Leahy said. "The broad general concepts were laid down," and while Kennedy's answers were often general, Leahy said, "we'll pin him down . . . in the follow-up rounds."

Kennedy, a 12-year veteran of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento, Calif., espoused a judicial philosophy quite different from Bork's.

For example, where Bork had taken issue with the notion of a constitutionally protected right to privacy, Kennedy said the Constitution's protections of "liberty" included the "protection of a value we call privacy."

Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), a key vote on the committee, pressed Kennedy on "the existence of a fundamental right of privacy" in the Constitution. "But it's there? No question about it?" DeConcini asked.

"Yes sir," Kennedy replied.

Bork, who had written widely and provocatively about constitutional doctrine, had once questioned whether the First Amendment protected anything more than political speech.

Kennedy, responding to a similar question, said the First Amendment applies to "all ways in which we express ourselves," including "dance, art and music."

Responding to allegations that he was not sufficiently sensitive to civil rights concerns, Kennedy said that it was "entirely proper" for the Senate "to seek assurances that . . . a nominee to the Supreme Court is sensitive to civil rights. We simply do not have any real freedom if we have discrimination based on race, sex, religion or national origin."

Kennedy, who has been criticized for interpreting civil rights laws too narrowly, said yesterday that "it is true that {such} laws must be generously enforced or people are going to get hurt."

Kennedy took pains to explain his longtime membership in a number of private clubs that discriminated against women and minorities, resigning from some of them only on the eve of his nomination.

"Over the years I have tried to become more sensitive to the existence of subtle barriers to the advancement of women and minorities. This was an issue on which I was continuing to educate myself. I want to see a society in which young women who are professionals have the same opportunity as I did to go to a club and meet with other professionals. I would like the same opportunity for my daughter," a Stanford University undergraduate.

Pressed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) about a distinction he made between intentional and unintentional discrimination, Judge Kennedy said there was "no question that the injury and personal hurt can be there regardless of the motive" for the discrimination.

Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) questioned the judge at length about a report that Kennedy, at a meeting last month at the White House, had indicated to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) that he might vote to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing the right to an abortion. According to an article in The Washington Times by columnist Cal Thomas, Helms said he told Kennedy that "I think you know where I stand on abortion," and Kennedy said: "Indeed I do and I admire it. I am a practicing Catholic."

Kennedy said the article was an inaccurate account of his conversation with Helms. Kennedy said he told Helms that he "admired anyone with strong moral beliefs."

"It would be highly improper for a judge to allow his or her own personal or religious views to enter into a decision with respect to a constitutional matter," Kennedy told Biden. "If I had an undisclosed intention or a fixed view on a particular case, an absolutely concluded position, perhaps I might be obligated to disclose that to you," he said.

"I do not have any such views with reference to privacy or abortion," Kennedy said, "therefore I would not attempt to try to signal by inference or by indirection, my views."

In the meeting at the White House, Kennedy said, the two matters, abortion and religion, were not linked.

Kennedy said he had made no promises to the administration. "I have not done so and would consider it highly improper to do so."

For the most part, yesterday's hearings were businesslike and dry. Kennedy, who once gave a speech on the Constitution dressed as James Madison, rarely exhibited any of the wit his friends say he often displays in private.

But asked by Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) whether a mandatory retirement age and certain disciplinary measures for federal judges should apply to the high court, Kennedy said: "In the last few weeks most of my thoughts have been on how to get on the Supreme Court rather than on how to get off it."

While Democrats carefully explored Kennedy's views during the 30 minutes allotted each member during the opening round of questioning, Republicans focused on defending Kennedy's record, and even Bork's.

Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) spoke on various subjects -- including Bork and Bork's critics -- for about 15 minutes before asking Kennedy any questions. He asked four questions in all.

When Simpson finished, Biden joked: "Judge, you are making this tough on Sen. Simpson. He spent a half-hour defending you against charges no one has made. He's still thinking about the last one {Bork}."