The Concept of Anxiety

Review From User :

This is one of Kierkegaard's most difficult texts - and also one of his first. But it's a necessary read (and one I've been putting off for much too long) simply because it sets up many of the concepts that constitute his chief works.

In Anxiety, Kierkegaard explores the relationship between sin as a dogmatic and psychological concept. He holds that sin entered the world in historical time, when Adam made his choice in Eden. But, there's a catch. Because sin didn't exist before Adam, he couldn't have known what he was doing. God gave him a choice, but it wasn't really a choice, confined as it was between only two possibilities. So there wasn't much freedom - as the word is used in modernity - in what Adam did. His choice positioned humanity in an eternal relationship with God - and rooted anxiety in this relationship.

Anxiety is the "dizziness" or, as Sartre would say, the "nausea" that we feel when we realize that life is a continuous stream of possible choices. But sin grounds this anxiety in one's relationship with God. The only way out of anxiety is the famous "leap of faith," which Kierkegaard discusses in later texts. That is, faith in the paradox - not the irrational - but the paradox of Christ, as the vessel (this probably the wrong word) that God (the eternal) uses to enter time. It's essential to note that Christ is a paradox and NOT a contradiction. And, for Kierkegaard, belief in a paradox (or in the absurd) isn't an abandonment of reason, when it's the only choice that can be used to make life, existence, and the individual meaningful.

That's why he holds that any systemic attempt to explain existence rationally (through philosophy and especially Hegel) and/or through a religious system (see the Catholic Church, for one example) is just aesthetic mumbo jumbo. The Christ cannot be explained rationally - and God is most interested in the individual. God created individuals - not systems or, in Nietzsche's word, "herds." That's why the individual transcends any system. And any science that attempts to prove or disprove the existence of God is on the wrong track. This stuff isn't the domain of the scientific.

Our experience of anxiety really signifies our lack of faith. This lack is the relationship between anxiety and sin. We, according to Kierkegaard, have to have faith in the absurd in order not to experience anxiety. But it's almost impossible to sustain this belief, when the culture, capitalism, and even organized religion aethesthetize everything and make the extraordinary (Christianity) into the mundane and the traditional.

But anxiety seems our lot. Because humanity exists in a state of becoming, it always has a tendency to slip back into questioning Christ from a rational or aesthetic perspective. This makes no sense because God is completely Other than us. And yet we do it...and anxiety prevails...and is hereditary.

I'll be honest - I need to think more about hereditary sin. Kierkegaard seems to be arguing that lust didn't exist before Adam made the leap to sin. And now we are all conceived in lust, which is a sin against God. This means that we come into the world as a result of sin. But, again, this sin is grounded in God's will, which orients us toward him, through spirit and Christ. So sin is never final - and it's not predestined that certain people are "sinners" who will never know God. God is unknowable or, as Beckett, would say, unnamable.

Sin grounds us in a relationship with God. And the anxiety that we feel about sin - about "doing the right thing" - makes possible the choice of finding a relationship with God through faith in the paradox and absurdity of Christ.


Category: Classic, Literature, Philosophy, Psychology

This first new translation of Kierkegaard’s masterwork in a generation brings an essential work of modern philosophy to vivid life.
Although Soren Kierkegaard’s death in the fall of 1855 foreshadowed a lasting split between conservative Christians and young contemporaries who saw him as a revolutionary thinker, it was not until the turn of the 20th century – and beyond the borders of his native Denmark – that his lasting significance came to be felt. By transcending distinctions of genre, Kierkegaard brought traditionally separated disciplines to bear on deep human concerns and was able, through his profound self-insight, to uncover the strategies with which we try to deal with them. As a result, he is hailed today as no less than the father of modern psychology and existentialism.
While the majority of Kierkegaard’s work leading up to The Concept of Anxiety dealt with the intersection of faith and knowledge, here the renowned Danish philosopher turns to the perennial question of sin and guilt. First published in 1844, this concise treatise identified – long before Freud – anxiety as a deep-seated human state, one that embodies the endless struggle with our own spiritual identities. Ably synthesizing human insights with Christian dogma, Kierkegaard’s “psychological deliberation” suggests that our only hope in overcoming anxiety is not through “powder and pills” but by embracing it with open arms. Indeed, for Kierkegaard, it is only through our experiences with anxiety that we are able to become truly aware of ourselves and the freedoms and limitations of our own existence.
While Kierkegaard’s Danish prose is surprisingly rich, previous translations – the most recent in 1980 – have tended either to deaden its impact by being excessively literal or to furnish it with a florid tone foreign to its original directness. In this new edition, Alastair Hannay re-creates its natural rhythm in a way that will finally allow this overlooked classic not only to become as celebrated as Fear and Trembling, The Sickness unto Death, and Either/Or but also to earn a place as the seminal work of existentialism and moral psychology that it is.

The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin (Unabridged)

The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin (Unabridged)

The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin (Unabridged)

The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin (Unabridged)

The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin (Unabridged)

The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin (Unabridged)

The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin (Unabridged)

The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin (Unabridged)