The Concept of Anxiety
Danish title page to The Concept of Anxiety
|Original title||Begrebet Angest|
|Series||First authorship (Pseudonymous)|
|Genre||Christianity, psychology, theology|
|Publisher||Princeton University Press 1980|
|June 17, 1844|
Published in English
|1946 - First Translation|
|Followed by||Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844|
The Concept of Anxiety (Danish: Begrebet Angest): A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin, is a philosophical work written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1844. The original 1944 English translation by Walter Lowrie (now out of print), had the title The Concept of Dread. The Concept of Anxiety was dedicated "to the late professor Poul Martin Møller". He used the pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis (which, according to Kierkegaard scholar Josiah Thompson, is the Latin transcription for “the Watchman" of Copenhagen) for The Concept of Anxiety.
All of Kierkegaard's books have either a preface, dedication, or prayer at the beginning. This book includes a lengthy introduction. The Concept of Anxiety was published on exactly the same date as Prefaces, June 17, 1844. Both books deal with Hegel’s idea of mediation. Mediation is a common thread throughout Kierkegaard’s works. His work up to this point was to show that faith was being mediated by knowledge. Here he takes up the questions of sin and guilt.
For Kierkegaard (writing as a pseudonymous author, Vigilius Haufniensis), anxiety/dread/angst is unfocused fear. Kierkegaard uses the example of a man standing on the edge of a tall building or cliff. When the man looks over the edge, he experiences a focused fear of falling, but at the same time, the man feels a terrifying impulse to throw himself intentionally off the edge. That experience is anxiety or dread because of our complete freedom to choose to either throw oneself off or to stay put. The mere fact that one has the possibility and freedom to do something, even the most terrifying of possibilities, triggers immense feelings of dread. Kierkegaard called this our "dizziness of freedom."
Kierkegaard focuses on the first anxiety experienced by man: Adam's choice to eat from God's forbidden tree of knowledge or not. Since the concepts of good and evil did not come into existence before Adam ate the fruit, which is now dubbed original sin, Adam had no concept of good and evil, and did not know that eating from the tree was "evil." What he did know was that God told him not to eat from the tree. The anxiety comes from the fact that God's prohibition itself implies that Adam is free and that he could choose to obey God or not. After Adam ate from the tree, sin was born. So, according to Kierkegaard, anxiety precedes sin. Kierkegaard mentions that anxiety is the presupposition for hereditary sin.
However, Kierkegaard mentions that anxiety is a way for humanity to be saved as well. Anxiety informs us of our choices, our self-awareness and personal responsibility, and brings us from a state of un-self-conscious immediacy to self-conscious reflection. (Jean-Paul Sartre calls these terms pre-reflective consciousness and reflective consciousness.) An individual becomes truly aware of their potential through the experience of anxiety. So, anxiety may be a possibility for sin, but anxiety can also be a recognition or realization of one's true identity and freedoms.
In 1793, forty-one years before Kierkegaard wrote The Concept of Anxiety, Immanuel Kant wrote his book Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone; his book elevated reason in the realm of Christianity. Many continental philosophers wrote their books in relation to Kant's ideas. Kierkegaard was familiar with Book Two of Kant's book The Conflict of the Good with the Evil Principle for Sovereignty over Man and he made a similar study in this book; however, he might call it the conflict of ethics and anxiety for sovereignty over man. Kierkegaard would replace Kant's term "Good" with "Ethics" and his term "Evil" with "Anxiety about the Good". He wrote about the ideal good verses the actual good that a single individual can do in the following way: "Ethics proposes to bring ideality into actuality. On the other hand, it is not the nature of its movement to raise actuality up into ideality. Ethics points to ideality as a task and assumes that every man possesses the requisite conditions. Thus ethics develops a contradiction, inasmuch as it makes clear both the difficulty and the impossibility." He was wondering how any existing human being can make any movement in an ideal world.
Kierkegaard begins this book with a short preface. By now he expects his readers to be aware that the preface is a key to the meaning of the book. Haufniensis uses the word "generation' several times as well as "epoch" and "era" in his introduction to prepare the reader for his subject. Progress from the "first science", ethics, to the "second science", psychology. Historians, psychologists, anthropologists, theologians and philosophers were all in agreement that the past must be preserved if there is to be a future for humankind. These soft sciences were of interest to Kierkegaard only in so far as they related to the progress of Christianity. His preface is followed by his first introduction since he published his thesis, The Concept of Irony. It could mark a new beginning but that is not known for certain.
Friedrich Schelling wrote Philosophical Inquiries into the Essence of Human Freedom in 1809, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel wrote his Science of Logic between 1812 and 1816, and Johann Friedrich Herbart wrote about pedagogy. All of them were discussing how good and evil come into existence. Kierkegaard questioned Hegel and Schelling's emphasis on the negative (evil) and aligned himself with Hebart's emphasis on the positive (good). Kierkegaard says "anxiety about sin produces sin" in this book and later says it again:
Repentance is a recollection of guilt. From a purely psychological point of view, I really believe that the police aid the criminal in not coming to repent. By continually recounting and repeating his life experiences, the criminal becomes such a memory expert at rattling off his life that the ideality of recollection is driven away. Really to repent, and especially to repent at once, takes enormous ideality; therefore nature also can help a person, and delayed repentance, which in regard to remembering is negligible, is often the hardest and deepest. The ability to recollect is the condition for all productivity. If a person no longer wishes to be productive, he needs merely to remember the same thing that recollecting he wanted to produce, and production is rendered impossible, or it will become so repulsive to him that the sooner he abandons it the better.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Stages on Life’s Way, Preface, Hong p. 14 (1845)
All of them were involved with the dialectical question of exactly "how" an individual, or group, or race changes from good to evil or evil to good. Kierkegaard pressed forward with his category of "the single individual." Kierkegaard's Introduction is in Primary sources below.
I understand the words of Peter, “To whom shall we go?” to refer to his consciousness of sin. It is this that binds a man to Christianity. And, since it is God, who, through the consciousness of sin, binds every individual person to Christianity, so it must be assumed that he also determines every man’s conflicts individually. Journals and Papers of Søren Kierkegaard IX A 310; J820 Croxall translation Meditations from Kierkegaard, p. 119
Many men and women are anxious about whom they should marry and how they will pick the right person. The anxious person stands at the crossroads and wonders which way to go. Kierkegaard captured the sentiment in his book Either/Or, which is filled with examples of people at the crossroads. Johann Goethe (1749–1832) was at a crossroads and couldn't make up his mind about what he wanted so he talked to the devil about it in his play Faust. Adam Oehlenschläger (1779–1850) wrote a book about a single individual wanting to get married in his book Aladdin. He let a genie make up his mind for him. Kierkegaard points out that Isaac didn't have freedom to choose his wife either. He wrote:
Isaac had expectations, but he didn't have an easy time just because God made his choice for him. Both freedom and anxiety were absent in these examples of three personal choices but ignorance was present because none of them were personally involved in a very important decision. Neither Goethe nor Oehlenschlager tells the reader if Faust or Alladin was faithful to the one chosen for him, they just end the story. But Isaac's story continued and showed that he was faithful to the choice made for him. Kierkegaard questions how a person can remain faithful to a choice that is made by others? The others are external powers whereas his spirit is an internal power. All three stories deal with the world of the spirit. Kierkegaard thinks the "spirit is a hostile and a friendly power at the same time". He wrote:
"That anxiety makes its appearance is pivotal. Man is a synthesis of the psychical and the physical; however, a synthesis is unthinkable if the two are not united in a third. This third is spirit. In innocence, man is not merely animal, for if he were at any moment of his life merely animal, he would never become man. So spirit is present, but is immediate, as dreaming. It is in a sense a hostile power, for it constantly disturbs the relation between soul and body, a relation that indeed has persistence and yet does not have endurance, inasmuch as it first receives the latter by the spirit. On the other hand, spirit is a friendly power, since it is precisely that which constitutes the relation. What, then, is man’s relation to this ambiguous power? How does spirit relate itself to itself and to its conditionality? It relates itself as anxiety. Do away with itself, the spirit cannot; lay hold of itself, it cannot, as long as it has itself outside itself. Nor can man sink down into the vegetative, for he is qualified as spirit; flee away from anxiety, he cannot, for he loves it; really love it, he cannot, for he flees from it. Innocence has now reached its uttermost point. It is ignorance; however, it is not an animal brutality but an ignorance qualified as spirit, and as such innocence is precisely anxiety, because its ignorance is about nothing. Here there is no knowledge of good and evil etc., but the whole actuality of knowledge projects itself in anxiety as the enormous nothing of ignorance. The Concept of Anxiety, p. 43–44
This "ambiguous power" is discussed further in Kierkegaard's 1847 book Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits and his 1848 book Christian Discourses where he finds himself standing against his own best intentions.
The person who is to be master (it is, of course, he himself) ruins it; such a person works with perhaps scarcely a third of his power in the right place and with more than two-thirds of his power in the wrong place or against himself. Now he gives up working in order to begin to deliberate all over again, now he works in instead of deliberating, now he pulls on the reins in the wrong way, now he wants to do both at the same time-and during all this he does not move from the spot. During all this, his life comes to a standstill, as it were; he cannot get the task firmly set, so that it stands firm, so that he is able to tear himself away from this work and have his strength available to carry out the task. The task does not become a burden, but he is swamped with the burdensome muddling with the task in order to get it, if possible to stand firm. When this is so, he naturally never gets around to carrying the burden; after all, he cannot even get it to stand still; the moment he wants to turn his back, as it were, in order to pick up the burden, the burden seems to tumble down and he has to stack it up again. Ah, if one looks at people’s lives, one often must say in sorrow: They do not themselves know what powers they have; they more or less keep themselves from finding that out, because they are using most of their powers to work against themselves. Soren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits Hong p. 295-296
Kierkegaard was interested in how an individual can keep faith awake and hope alive.
Prayer: Thou my God and Father! The question of my salvation concerns no other being but me-and thee. Should there then not remain uncertainty in fear and trembling until the last, I being what I am, and thou what thou art, I on earth, thou in heaven-a difference infinitely great-I a sinner, thou the Holy One? Should there not, ought there not, must there not, be fear and trembling till the last? Was it not the fault of the foolish virgins that they became sure, and went to sleep; while the wise virgins kept awake? But what is it to keep awake? It is uncertainty in fear and trembling. And what is faith but an empty fantasy, if it be not awake? And when faith is not awake, what is it but that same pernicious feeling of security which ruined the foolish virgins? Christian Discourses, Lowrie 1939 p. 219, Meditations from Kierkegaard, Translated and Edited by T.H. Croxall, The Westminister Press, copyright 1955, by W. L. Jenkins p. 56–57
The Brothers Grimm were writing about the use of folktales as educational stories to keep individuals from falling into evil hands. Kierkegaard refers to The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was in The Concept of Anxiety (p. 155). Can the "power of the example", or theatre pedagogy, or the theatre of the absurd, help an individual learn how to find the good? Danish folklore was at this time also coming to the attention of pedagogs. Imagination can be of assistance but it can also keep an individual from making crucial decisions. But failing to "become honest with yourself so that you do not deceive yourself with imagined power, with which you experience imagined victory in imagined struggle" is how a decision can become an impossibility.
What's keeping him from making the decision? Nothing except the imagination of the individual involved in making the decision, imaginations of guilt and sin and fear and rejection. In Fear and Trembling Abraham had to choose to follow God or call him a monster. In Repetition the Young Man had to choose to get married or to follow his love of writing. Both were "imaginative constructions" created by Kierkegaard that dealt with hope and love.
Kierkegaard felt that imaginative constructions should be upbuilding. Kierkegaard wrote about "the nothing of despair", God as the unknown is nothing, and death is a nothing. Goethe's Der Erlkönig and The Bride of Corinth (1797) are also nothing. The single individual has a reality which fiction can never represent. People should learn the difference between imaginary constructions and reality. Many things are hard to understand but Kierkegaard says, "Where understanding despairs, faith is already present in order to make the despair properly decisive."
God grant, that all playwrights compose nothing but tearjerking plays, full of all possible anxiety and horror that would not allow your flabbiness to rest on the cushioned theater seats and let you be perfumed with supranatural power but would horrify you until in the world of actuality you learn to believe in that which you want to believe in only in poetry. Either/Or Part II p. 122
The first sin
Kierkegaard is not concerned with what Eve's sin was, he says it wasn't sensuousness, but he is concerned with how Eve learned that she was a sinner. He says "consciousness presupposes itself. Eve became conscious of her first sin through her choice and Adam became conscious of his first sin through his choice. God's gift to Adam and Eve was the "knowledge of freedom" and they both decided to use it. In Kierkegaard's Journals he said, "the one thing needful" for the doctrine of Atonement to make sense was the "anguished conscience." He wrote, "Remove the anguished conscience, and you may as well close the churches and turn them into dance halls."
Kierkegaard says, every person has to find out for him or her self how guilt and sin came into their worlds. Kierkegaard argued about this in both Repetition and Fear and Trembling where he said philosophy must not define faith. He asks his reader, the single individual, to consider some questions. Can sin and guilt be transferred from one person to another? Is it "an epidemic that spreads like cowpox"? Was every Jewish person responsible for the crucifixion of Christ? Does the single individual find sin in others or in him or herself? He believed in a rigorous self-inspection and at the same time a lenient inspection of others. He put it this way in Four Upbuilding Discourses of 1844:
We do not know the life of Paul in great detail, but we do, however, know Paul, which is the main consideration. That is to say, just as the sensate man is distinguishable by his seeing the speck in his brother’s eye but not seeing the log in his own, by his rigorously condemning the same fault in others that he lightly forgives in himself, so the mark of a more profound and concerned person is that he judges himself more rigorously, uses all his ingenuity to excuse the other person but is unable to excuse or forgive himself, indeed, is convinced that the other one is more excusable, because there is always still a possibility, since the only one in relation to whom a person is deprived of this possibility is he himself. Bold confidence is a difficult matter, because it is not exactly synonymous with mental weakness. One may very well stop with it and need not go further by even wishing to judge God, that is, if in other respects bold confidence is bold confidence in the judgment, which certainly requires that God’s judgment penetrate the thought and heart, that is, if it is bold confidence in God’s mercy and there words are not a feigned pious expression of one’s own thoughtlessness, which does not trust God but is consoled by having ceased to sorrow long ago. If no human being is capable of acquitting himself he is capable of one thing-of indicting himself so terribly that he cannot acquit himself but learns to need mercy. With regard to this, it is difficult for one person to understand another, because the earnest person always lays the stress on himself. Søren Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 339-340
What was the intention of Christianity? Does the concept emerge through definitions and examples? Sin and guilt are both religious categories as far as Kierkegaard is concerned. He wrote:
The concept of guilt as a totality-category belong essentially in the religious sphere. As soon as the esthetic wants to have something to do with it, this concept becomes dialectical like fortune and misfortune, whereby everything is confused. Esthetically, the dialectic of guilt is this: the individual is without guilt, then guilt and guiltlessness come along as alternating categories of life; at times the individual is guilty of this or that and at times is not guilty. If this or that had not been, the individual would not have become guilty; in other circumstances, one who is not considered as being without guilt would have become guilty. Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, (1846) Hong p. 525-537
With the help of faith, anxiety brings up the individuality to rest in providence. So it is also in relation to guilt, which is the second thing anxiety discovers. Whoever learns to know his guilt only from the finite is lost in the finite, and finitely the question of whether a man is guilty cannot be determined except in an external, juridical, and most imperfect sense. Whoever learns to know his guilt only by analogy to judgments of the police court and the supreme court never really understands that he is guilty, for if a man is guilty, he is infinitely guilty. Therefore, if such an individuality who is educated only by finitude does not get a verdict from the police or a verdict by public opinion to the effect that he is guilty, he becomes of all men the most ridiculous and pitiful, a model of virtue who is a little better than most people but not quite so good as the parson. What help would such a man need in life? Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, Thomte p. 161
Kierkegaard observes that it was the prohibition itself not to eat of the tree of knowledge that gave birth to sin in Adam. The prohibition predisposes that which breaks forth in Adam’s qualitative leap. He questions the doctrine of Original Sin, also called Ancestral sin., "The doctrine that Adam and Christ correspond to each other confuses things. Christ alone is an individual who is more than an individual. For this reason he does not come in the beginning but in the fullness of time." Sin has a "coherence in itself".
In Philosophical Fragments Kierkegaard described the Learner in Error before God. Here he questions how the Learner discovers this Error. New sciences were emerging that challenged the conventional ethics of the time as well as the notions of guilt and sin. Kierkegaard described the struggle elegantly. He says,
"Ethics and dogmatics struggle over reconciliation in a border area fraught with fate. Repentance and guilt torment forth reconciliation ethically, while dogmatics in this receptivity to the proffered reconciliation, has the historically concrete immediacy with which it begins its discourse in the great dialogue of science. And now what will be the result?" and "Innocence is ignorance, but how is it lost?" The Concept of Anxiety P. 12, 39
In Rosenkranz’s Psychology there is definition of disposition [Gemyt]. On page 322 he says that disposition is the unity of feeling and self-consciousness. Then in preceding presentation he superbly explains “that the feeling unfolds itself to self-consciousness, and vice versa, that the content of the self-consciousness is felt by the subject as his own. It is only this unity that can be called disposition. If the clarity of cognition is lacking, knowledge of the feeling, there exists only the urge of the spirit of nature, the turgidity of immediacy. On the other hand, if feeling is lacking, there remains only the abstract concept that has not reached the last inwardness of the spiritual existence, that has not become one with the self of the spirit.” (cf. pp. 320-321) If a person now turns back and pursues his definition of “feeling” as the spirit’s immediate unity of its sentience and its consciousness (p. 142) and recalls that in the definition of Seelenhaftigkeit [sentience] account has been taken of the unity with the immediate determinants of nature, then by taking all this together he has the conception of a concrete personality. [but, Kierkegaard says] Earnestness and disposition correspond to each other in such a way that earnestness is a higher as well as the deepest expression for what disposition is. Disposition is the earnestness of immediacy, while earnestness, on the other hand, is the acquired originality of disposition, its originality preserved in the responsibility of freedom and its originality affirmed in the enjoyment of blessedness.
- Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, Nichol p. 148
We are all predisposed to certain actions, some good some evil. Are these habits or sins? "How does a person learn earnestness?" Kierkegaard and Rosenkranz thought it was a good idea for a person to find out about their own dispositions so he or she can live a happier life.
if you cannot control yourself, you will scarcely find anyone else who is able to do it.
- "B" to "A", Either/Or, Vol II p. 206-207 Hong 1987
Especially among woman there are instances of an individual who in anxiety conceives of most trivial bodily functions as sinfulness. A person may smile at this, but no one knows whether the smile will save or destroy, for if the smile contributes not to the opening of the individuality but to the closing of it, such a smile can cause irreparable harm. Søren Kierkegaard Papers V B 53:34 1844
Kierkegaard believed "each generation has its own task and need not trouble itself unduly by being everything to previous and succeeding generations". In an earlier book he had said, "to a certain degree every generation and every individual begins his life from the beginning", and in another, "no generation has learned to love from another, no generation is able to begin at any other point than the beginning", "no generation learns the essentially human from a previous one. He was against the Hegelian idea of mediation because it introduces a "third term" that comes between the single individual and the object of desire. Kierkegaard is essentially asking if the teaching of a child begins with the prohibition or with love. In other words, does Christianity say to first teach about "the works of the flesh" (the negative) or about the "Fruit of the Holy Spirit" (the positive)? Does the answer lie in the world of the spirit or in the world of temporality? Should we always go backwards to review the negative or forward because we are concentrating on the positive. Or should there be a balance between the two? And he just puts the question out there as part of the "great dialogue of science" for consideration. He began this discussion in his Two Upbuilding Discourses of 1843 in Galatians chapter 3 (There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus).
The individual does not relate himself to the ideal through the generation or the state or the century or the market price of human beings in the city where he lives-that is, by these things he is prevented from relating himself to the ideal-but relates himself to it even though he errs in his understanding of it. … Because of the jumbling together of the idea of the state, of sociality, of community, and of society, God can no longer catch hold of the single individual. … The immorality of our age could easily become a fantastical-ethical debilitation, the disintegration of a sensual, soft despair, in which individuals grope as in a dream for a concept of God without feeling any terror in so doing. God in the indefinite. … Let us sin, sin outright, seduce girls, murder men, rob on the highway-that at least can be repented, and God can at least catch hold of such a criminal. Let us mock God outright, this is always preferable to the debilitating importance with which one wants to demonstrate the existence of God. One demonstrates the existence of God by worship-not by demonstrations. Søren Kierkegaard Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 543-545
Kierkegaard is wondering if one generation can learn wonder, love, anxiety, peace, patience, hope, from a previous generation or if each "single individual" in each generation must learn these things, for the most part, on their own. He asked the same question in Philosophical Fragments about how someone learns to become a Christian. Are we Christian because of our family and personal history or because we have made a "decisive resolution"? What kind of goods is the Christian looking to gain? Isn't hope a good and despair an evil in yourself that you work to change into a the good called hope? Isn't patience a good and impatience an evil that can be changed if you want to change it? Isn't your soul a good? Is the soul given to the chosen few or is it given as a free gift to all, without merit? [nb 1] Is our future a matter of fate, of choice, or a combination of both? Kierkegaard answers this way:
If a person does not first make clear to himself the meaning of “self,” it is of no use to say of sin that it is selfishness. Only when the concept of the particular is given can there be any talk of selfishness, however, no science can say what the self is without stating it quite generally. And this is the wonder of life, that each man who is mindful of himself knows what no science knows, since he knows who he himself is, and this is the profundity of the Greek saying know yourself, which too long has been understood in the German way as pure self-consciousness, the airiness of idealism. It is about time to seek to understand it in the Greek way, and then again as the Greeks would have understood it if they had possessed Christian presuppositions. However, the real “self” is posited only by the qualitative leap. In the prior state there can be no question about it. Therefore, when sin is explained by selfishness, one becomes entangled in indistinctness because, on the contrary, it is by sin and in sin that selfishness comes into being.
- Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, Nichol p. 78-79
His soul is a self-contradiction between the external and the internal, the temporal and the eternal here, therefore, the same thing can be possessed and the same thing gained at the same time. Indeed, what is more, if the soul is this contradiction, it can be possessed only in such a way that it is gained and gained in such a way that it is possessed. The person who possesses the external does not need to gain it-in fact, he is even unable to do that. He can give away what he possesses and then see whether he can gain the same thing again; he can use what he possesses to gain something new, but he cannot simultaneously possess and gain the very same thing. ... If the person who wants to gain his soul does not want to understand that when he has won patience he has won what he needed, what was of more value than any other winning, then he will never gain it. It is already obvious here how secure this gain is, since in a profound sense it is so cunning that the more the world deceives, the more patience wins. In this gain, the very condition is also the object and is independent of anything external. The condition, therefore, after it has served the gaining, remains as that which is gained; this is different from what happens when the merchant sold his merchandise and the fisherman has caught his fish-they lay aside patience and also their tools so the they may enjoy what they gained. In the external, patience is some third element that must be added, and, humanly speaking, it would be better if it were not needed; some days it is needed more, some days less, all according to fortune, whose debtor a person becomes, even though he gained ever so little, because only when he wants to gain patience does he become one’s debtor. Søren Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong p. 163-168
Man is a synthesis of psyche and body, but he is also a synthesis of the temporal and the eternal. In the former, the two factors are psyche and body, and spirit is the third, yet in such a way that one can speak of a synthesis only when the spirit is posited. The latter synthesis has only two factors, the temporal and the eternal. Where is the third factor? And if there is no third factor, there really is no synthesis, for a synthesis that is a contradiction cannot be completed as a synthesis without a third factor, because the fact that the synthesis is a contradiction asserts that it is not. What, then, is the temporal? The Concept of Anxiety p. 85
June 3 Midnight: So once again I am sitting on watch. If I were to say that to a third party, it no doubt would need an explanation, for it is readily understood that the pilot along the coast, the sentinel at the top of the tower, the lookout at the bow of a ship, and the robber in his lair sit and watch because there is something to watch for. But someone sitting alone in his room-for what can he be watching? And someone who anticipates that everything-that is, the minor little affair that everyone else would perhaps disregard-will pass quietly, he, of course, is on watch for nothing. No wonder it is a strain for his soul and his head, because to look for something is good for the eyes, but to look for nothing strains them. And when the eyes look for nothing for a long time they finally see themselves or their own seeing; in the same way the emptiness surrounding me presses my thinking back into myself. Søren Kierkegaard, Stages on Life's Way, Hong p.356-357
Anxiety and nothing always correspond to each other. As soon as the actuality of freedom and of spirit is posited, anxiety is canceled. But what then does the nothing of anxiety signify more particularly in paganism. This is fate. Fate is a relation to spirit as external. It is the relation between spirit and something else that is not spirit and to which fate nevertheless stands in a spiritual relation. Fate may also signify exactly the opposite, because it is the unity of necessity and accidental. … A necessity that is not conscious of itself is eo ipso the accidental in relation to the next moment. Fate, then, is the nothing of anxiety. The Concept of Anxiety p. 96-97
Kierkegaard repeats the synthesis again in The Sickness Unto Death and he tied it to his idea of the "Moment" from Philosophical Fragments. He says, "For the Greeks, the eternal lies behind as the past that can only be entered backwards. The category I maintain should be kept in mind, repetition, by which eternity is entered forwards." Kierkegaard wrote Edifying Discourses in Diverse Spirits in 1847. He said, "A Providence watches over each man’s wandering through life. It provides him with two guides. The one calls him forward. The other calls him back. They are, however, not in opposition to each other, these two guides, nor do they leave the wanderer standing there in doubt, confused by the double call. Rather the two are in eternal understanding with each other. For the one beckons forward to the Good, the other calls man back from evil. These guides are called repentance and remorse. The eager traveler hurries forward to the new, to the novel, and, indeed, away from experience. But the remorseful one, who comes behind, laboriously gathers up experience. Kierkegaard also mentions this idea in his Journals. He wrote: "It is quite true what philosophy says; that life must be understood backwards. But then one forgets the other principle: that it must be lived forwards. Which principle, the more one thinks it through, ends exactly with the thought that temporal life can never properly be understood precisely because I can at no instant find complete rest in which to adopt a position: backwards.
The English poet Christina Rossetti said the same thing in her poem Advent: "The days are evil looking back, The coming days are dim; Yet count we not His promise slack, But watch and wait for Him." If we want to look back to the age of Constantine The Great and start there in our search for Christianity we will go forward and think that an emperor can create millions of Christians by edict. Constantin Constantius wanted to do that in Repetition. Goethe wanted to start with the black plague in Faust or with the Lisbon Earthquake in his autobiography. These are negative beginnings. Both Rossetti and Kierkegaard take this present age as a starting point. Now the single individual interested in becoming a Christian can go forward toward a goal without continually looking over the shoulder.
Hegel looks at eternity as an unfolding, or a transition, from stage to stage, from the Persian, to the Syrian, to the Egyptian religion as Object, Good. Kierkegaard didn't want to be doubl-minded about the good, and, after his own fashion, created his own system of good in 1847 in Edifying Discourses in Diverse Spirits. He brought eternity into relation with his own feelings of guilt in relation to Regine Olsen, his fiance, in Stages on Life's Way (1845) because he had so much anxiety about disclosing his inner being to her, it was "terrifying". However, early on, Kierkegaard had written about moving forward in regard to himself, Regine, and any other single individual. He wrote the following in 1843 and 1845.
The healthy individual lives simultaneously in hope and in recollection, and only thereby does his life gain true and substantive continuity. Thus he has hope and therefore does not wish to go backward in time, as do those who live only in recollection. What, then, does recollection do for him, for it certainly must have some influence? It places a sharp on the note of the moment; the further back it goes, the more often the repetition, the more sharps there are. For example, if in the present year he experiences an erotic moment, this is augmented by his recollection of it in the previous year etc. … Hope hovers over it as a hope of eternity that fills out the moment. Søren Kierkegaard, 1843, Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 142-143
Compared with eternity, is time the stronger? Has time the power to separate us eternally? I thought it had only the power to make me unhappy within time but would have to release me the instant I exchange time for eternity and am where she is, for eternally she is continually with me. If so, then what is time? It was that we two did not see each other last evening, and if she found another, it was that we two did not see each other last evening because she was out somewhere else. And whose fault was that? Yes, the fault was mine. But would I or could I nevertheless act in any other way than I have acted if the first is assumed to have happened? No! I regret the first. From that moment on, I have acted according to the most honest deliberation and to the best of my ability, as I also had done the first, until I perceived my error. But does eternity speak so frivolously about guilt? At least time does not; it will no doubt still teach what it has taught me, that a life is something more than last evening. But eternity will, of course, also heal all sickness, give hearing to the deaf, give sight to the blind and physical beauty to the deformed; hence it will also heal me. What is my sickness? Depression. Where does this sickness have its seat? In the power of the imagination, and possibility is its nourishment. But eternity takes away possibility. And was not this sickness oppressive enough in time-that I not only suffered but also became guilty of it? After all, the deformed person only has to bear the pain of being deformed, but how terrible if being deformed made him guilty! So when time is over for me, let my last sigh be to you, O God, for my soul’s salvation; let the next to last be for her, or let me for the first time be united with her again in the same last sigh! Søren Kierkegaard, Stages on Life's Way p. 390-391
Walter Lowrie translated The Concept of Dread in 1944. He was asked "almost petulantly" why it took him so long to translate the book. Alexander Dru had been working on the book and Charles Williams hoped the book would be published along with The Sickness Unto Death, which Lowrie was working on in 1939. Then the war started and Dru was wounded and gave the job over to Lowrie. Lowrie could find "no adequate word to use for Angst. Lee Hollander had used the word dread in 1924, a Spanish translator used angustia, and Miguel Unamuno, writing in French used agonie while other French translators used angoisse.
The book seems to be highly interpretive in its title. Is it dread, anxiety, angst, or sin? Or is the final word of the title something else. It's up to the individual reader to determine that. If the single individual can't make a choice as to the meaning of a word then all choice has been taken away from the individual. Lowrie decided the books deals with "an apprehension of the future, a presentiment of a something which is a nothing" which must be fought against. But fought on the inside with oneself about what "you" as the single individual can become. Professor Lorraine Clark put it this way in 1991, "Existence is not just a given but also a task, Kierkegaard insists-the task of becoming oneself; for “actuality (the historical actuality) relates itself in a two-fold way to the subject: partly as a gift which will not admit of being rejected, and partly as a task to be realized” (Concept of Irony, Hong p. 293). One cannot become all possibilities simultaneously in reality (however possible this may be in thought, as he readily acknowledges); one must become some one thing in particular. Otherwise, one remains abstract." And Lee Hollander writes of what he perceived as Kierkegaard's problem which could also be every individual's problem.
In previous works Kierkegaard had already intimated that what furnished man the impetus to rise into the highest sphere and to assail passionately and incessantly the barrier of the paradox, or else caused him to lapse into "demonic despair," was the consciousness of sin. In the book Begrebet Angest The Concept of Sin, he now attempts with an infinite and laborious subtlety to explain the nature of sin. Its origin is found in the "sympathetic antipathy" of Dread -that force which at one and the same time attracts and repels from the suspected danger of a fall and is present even in the state of innocence, in children. It finally results in a kind of "dizziness" which is fatal. Yet, so Kierkegaard contends, the "fall" of man is, in every single instance, due to a definite act of the will, a "leap" - which seems a patent contradiction. To the modern reader, this is the least palatable of Kierkegaard's works, conceived as it is with a sovereign and almost medieval disregard of the predisposing undeniable factors of environment and heredity (which, to be sure, poorly fit his notion of the absolute responsibility of the individual). Its somberness is redeemed, to a certain degree, by a series of marvelous observations, drawn from history and literature, on the various phases and manifestations of Dread in human life. Selections from the writings of Kierkegaard, Translated by L. M. Hollander 1923 p. 27-28
Hunt,George Laird interpreted Kierkegaard's writing as basically asking "How can we understand ourselves?" He wrote the following in 1958:
What makes man human? Although Kierkegaard does not emphasize the word, he thinks of man in terms of his creatureliness. Man's creatureliness lies in the fact that he stands between life and death. Made in the image of God, he knows what it means to feel the presence of eternity. Feeling the nearness of eternity, utterly dependent upon it for his meaning, he also knows that he dies, and that he cannot escape death. These two factors constitute both his problem and his possibility of for immortality, creates his anguish or his nervous humanness. Man sins in that he is unwilling to live in faith and therefore to be nervously human. He prefers to live either with life or with death but not with both. He seeks to escape creatureliness either by pretending that he will not die or by assuming that there is no eternity. He refuses to bear uncertainty and anguish. Either he turns his back on death by pretending that immortality is automatically a part of all life or he tries to forget his anguish by becoming an animal. It is precisely this anguish, this willingness to live neither as an animal (unaware of eternity) nor as an angel (indifferent to death), which marks the humanness from which we fall when we sin. It is also this greatness. Knowing mortality, even while he hungers humanness, this willingness to risk death as we trust God, which signals the beginning of our redemption. Ten makers of modern Protestant thought Schweitzer, Rauschenbusch, Temple, Kierkegaard, Barth, Brunner, Niebuhr, Tillich, Bultmann, Buber p. 55-56
Mortimer J. Adler, Director, Institute for Philosophical Research, answered a newspaper question about existentialism asked in 1965: He was asked, "Dear Dr. Adler: What exactly is existentialism? Can a person be a Christian and, at the same time, be an existentialist?"
Walter Kaufmann discussed the existentialism of Sartre and Kierkegaard in his 1960 lecture Kierkegaard and the Crisis in Religion. The lecture is in Primary sources below under See also.
Kierkegaard offered an avenue of hope for those who have anxiety and human nervousness near the end of this little book.
Now the anxiety of possibility holds him as its prey until, saved, it must hand him over to faith. In no other place can he find rest, for every other place of rest is mere chatter, although in the eyes of men it is sagacity. Therefore possibility is absolutely educative. In actuality, no man ever became so unhappy that he did not retain a little remnant, and common sense says correctly that if one is cunning, one knows how to make the best of things. But whoever took possibility’s course in misfortune lost all, all, as no one in actuality ever lost it. Now, if he did not defraud the possibility that wanted to teach him and did not wheedle the anxiety that wanted to save him, then he would also receive everything back, as no one in actuality ever did, even though he also he received all things tenfold, for the disciple of possibility received infinity, and the soul of the other expired in the finite. In actuality, no one ever sank so deep that he could not sink deeper, and there may be one or many who sank deeper. But he who sank in possibility-his eye became dizzy, his eye became confused, so he could not grasp the measuring stick that Tom, Dick, and Harry hold out as a saving straw to one sinking; his ear was closed so he could not hear what the market price of men was in his own day, did not hear that he was just as good as the majority. He sank absolutely, but then in turn he emerged from the depth of the abyss lighter than all the troublesome and terrible things in life. However, I will not deny that whoever is educated by possibility is exposed to danger, not that of getting into bad company and going astray in various ways as are those educated by the finite, but in danger of a fall, namely, suicide. If at the beginning of education he misunderstands the anxiety, so that it does not lead him to faith but away from faith, then he is lost. On the other hand, whoever is educated [by possibility] remains with anxiety; he does not permit himself to be deceived by its countless falsifications and accurately remembers the past. Then the assaults of anxiety, even though they be terrifying, will not be such that he flees from them. For him, anxiety becomes a serving spirit that against its will leads him where he wishes to go. Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, Nichol p. 158-159
- Hans Urs von Balthasar The Christian and Anxiety, 1952, 1994
- René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, 1641
- "If a person is unwilling to make a decisive resolution, if he wants to cheat God of the heart’s daring venture in which a person ventures way out and loses sight of all shrewdness and probability, indeed, takes leave of his senses or at least all his worldly mode of thinking, if instead of beginning with one step he almost craftily seeks to find out something, to have the infinite certainty changed into a finite certainty, then this discourse will not be able to benefit him. There is an upside-downness that wants to reap before it sows; there is a cowardliness that wants to have certainty before it begins. There is a hypersensitivity so copious in words that it continually shrinks from acting; but what would it avail a person if, double-minded and fork-tongued he wanted to dupe God, trap him in probability, but refused to understand the improbable, that one must lose everything in order to gain everything, and understand it so honestly that, in the most crucial moment, when his soul is already shuddering at the risk, he does not again leap to his own aid with the explanation that he has not yet fully made a resolution but merely wanted to feel his way. Therefore, all discussion of struggling with God in prayer, of the actual loss (since if pain of annihilation is not actually suffered, then the sufferer is not yet out upon the deep, and his scream is not the scream of danger but in the face of danger) and the figurative victory cannot have the purpose of persuading anyone or of converting the situation into a task for secular appraisal and changing God’s gift of grace to the venture into temporal small change for the timorous. It really would not help a person if the speaker, by his oratorical artistry, led him to jump into a half hour’s resolution, by the ardor of conviction started a fire in him so that he would blaze in a momentary good intention without being able to sustain a resolution or to nourish an intention as soon as the speaker stopped talking.
- Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, One Who Prays Aright Struggles In Prayer and is Victorious-In That God is Victorious p. 380-381
- The book is available on Questia: The Concept of Dread, by Walter Lowrie
- Kierkegard wrote again about dread in his 1847 book, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, translated by Howard Hong
Alas, although many call themselves Christians and yet may seem to be living in uncertainty as to whether God actually is love, it would truly be better if they made the love blaze just by the thought of paganism’s horror: that he who holds the fate of everything and also your fate in his hand is ambivalent, that his love is not a fatherly embrace but a constraining trap, that his secret nature is not eternal clarity but concealment, that the deepest ground of his nature is not love but a cunning impossible to understand. We are not, after all, required to be able to understand the rule of God’s love, but we certainly are required to be able to believe and, believing, to understand that he is love. It is not dreadful that you are unable to understand God’s decrees if he nevertheless is eternal love, but it is dreadful if you could not understand them because he is cunning. If, however, according to the assumption of the discourse, it is true that in relation to God a person is not only always in the wrong but is always guilty and thus when he suffers also suffers as guilty-then no doubt within you (provided you yourself will not sin again) and no event outside you (provided you yourself will not sin again by taking offense) can displace the joy. Soren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong p. 267-269
- Prefaces/Writing Sampler, Nichol p. 33-34, 68 The Concept of Anxiety p. 115-116
- "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, `You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you will have saved your life. Again, if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning; and you will have saved your life." Ezekiel 3:17-19 The Bible http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=3114629
- Kierkegaard Josiah Thomson Alfred A Knopf 1973 p. 142-143
- Kierkegaard wrote against prereflection and how it can keep the single individual from acting in his book Two Ages, The Age of Revolution and the Present Age, A Literary Review, 1845, Hong 1978, 2009 p. 67-68
- Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone.
- Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone: Book Two
- The Concept of Anxiety, Nichol p. 16
- See Marxist.org for Hegel's book
- Kierkegaard discusses Hebart in relation to the question of whether an individual would begin with the negative or the positive.
In his treatise De affectionbus (The Affections), Descartes calls attention to the fact that every passion has a corresponding passion; only with wonder that is not the case. The detailed exposition is rather weak, but it has been of interest to me that he makes an exception of wonder, because, as is well known, according to Plato’s and Aristotle’s views precisely this constitutes the passion of philosophy and the passion which all philosophizing began. Moreover, envy corresponds to wonder, and recent philosophy would also speak of doubt. Precisely in this lies the fundamental error of recent philosophy, that it wants to begin with the negative instead of the positive, which always is the first, in the same sense affirmatio [affirmation] is placed first in the declaration omnis affirmatio est nagatio [every affirmation is a negation]. The question of whether the positive or the negative comes first is exceedingly important, and the only modern philosopher who has declared himself for the positive is presumably Herbart. The Concept of Anxiety Thomte p. 143
- The Concept of Anxiety, p. 73
- Kierkegaard had already discussed this in his first unpublished book, Johannes Climacus, in Chapter 2, Philosophy Begins With Doubt, (Croxall translation): here he compares the positive principle with the negative principle and wonder with doubt. see pages 49ff here is the book from Goodreads Johannes Climacus
- See Soren Kierkegaard's 1847 book Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits 141-154 Hong translation
- John 6:68 Bible
- Aladdin Archive.org
- See Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 163ff
- see the complete list of Kierkegaard's works here from David F. Bishop's website Chronology of Kierkegaard's works
- The Concept of Anxiety, Nichols p. 31, 55-56, 75-76
- See Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1843
- The Concept of Anxiety, Nichols p. 41-45
- Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 113-115
- Either/Or Part II p. 198-199
- Philosophical Fragments, Swenson p. 30, The Concept of Anxiety p. 12-13, Three Discourses On Imagined Occasions, Søren Kierkegaard, June 17, 1844, Hong 1993 p. 13-14
- Three Discourses On Imagined Occasions, p.90-97
- The Vampire Female: The Bride of Corinth (1797) by: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
- Concluding Unscientific Postscript, p. 220-230
- The Concept of Anxiety p. 57-60
- Journals and Papers, Hannay, 1996 1843 IVA49
- The Concept of Anxiety p. 44-45
- Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, VIII 1A 192 (1846) (Works of Love), Hong p. 407
- The Concept of Anxiety p. 29-31, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Two Upbuilding Discourses, 1843, Hong p. 11-14
- The Concept of Anxiety p. 38
- Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 342
- The Concept of Anxiety P. 109, Concluding Postscript, Hong p. 259, 322-323
- The Concept of Anxiety, p. 39, Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 1847 Hong 1995 p. 297-298
- The Concept of Anxiety Note p. 33, There is an eternal difference between Christ and every Christian. Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, Hong 1995 p. 101
- Søren Kierkegaard, Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions p. 31-32
- See Søren Kierkegaard, Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, 1845, Hong p. 94-95
- The Concept of Anxiety P. 7 and Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 342
- Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 31
- Fear and Trembling p. 121-123
- Either/Or Part II, Hong p. 170-176, The Concept of Anxiety P. 11-13 including note,
- Johannes Climacus, by Søren Kierkegaard, Edited and Introduced by Jane Chamberlain, Translated by T.H. Croxall 2001 p. 80-81, Either/Or II p. 55-57, Repetition p. 202-203
- The Concept of Anxiety p. 9-13 Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 419-421
- Galatians 5:19-24 The Bible
- Also see Sickness Unto Death, Hannay 1989 p. 74-77
- The Sickness Unto Death, Søren Kierkegaard, translated by Alastair Hannay 1989 p. 72ff Despair viewed under the aspect of consciousness The Sickness Unto Death
- Read about it here: Philosophical Fragments
- Read it here: Purity of Heart
- Journals IV A 164 (1843) See Kierkegaard: Papers and Journals, Translated by Alastair Hannay, 1996 P. 63 and 161
- Poems of Christine Rossetti http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Poetry/christmastide_poems_of_christina.htm
- The individual is not a sinner from eternity, but is born as a sinner. The coming into existence make him into another person. This is the consequence of the appearance of the god in time, which prevents the individual from relating himself backward to the eternal, since he now moves forward in order to become eternal in time through the relation to the god in time. The individual is therefore unable to gain the consciousness of sin by himself. Concluding Unscientific Postscript P. 583-584
- Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion p. 65ff
- See Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 373-376
- The Concept of Dread, Walter Lowrie Princeton University May 26, 1943 his preface to the book
- Blake, Kierkegaard, and the Spectre of the Dialectic, Lorraine Clark, Trenton University, Ontario, Cambridge University Press 1991 p. 101
- The Concept of Anxiety, Søren Kierkegaard, Nichol, p. 118ff
- Kierkegaard referred to these terms in this book: "anxiety is freedom’s actuality as the possibility of possibility. For this reason, anxiety is not found in the beast, precisely because by nature the beast is not qualified as spirit. When we consider the dialectical determinations of anxiety it appears that exactly these have psychological ambiguity. Anxiety is a sympathetic antipathy and an antipathetic sympathy. One easily sees that this is a psychological determination in a sense entirely different form the concupiscentia of which we speak. Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety p. 42
- Selections from the writings of Kierkegaard
- The Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin, Monday, December 20, 1965, page 22: Today’s Question Dear Dr. Adler: What exactly is existentialism? Can a person be a Christian and, at the same time, be an existentialist? Dwight Pryor, Miami, Oklahoma By Dr. Mortimer J. Adler (Director, Institute for Philosophical Research)
- Søren Kierkegaard The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin June 17, 1844 Vigilius Haufniensis, Edited and translated by Reidar Thomte Princeton University Press 1980 Kierkegaard's Writings, VIII ISBN 0691020116
- Søren Kierkegaard "The Concept of Anxiety" 1844, translation by Alastair Hannay, March 2014 Kirkus Review
- Søren Kierkegaard The Concept of Anxiety The only book by Kierkegaard in audio format (Hannay translation)
- Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, Introduction, Marxists.org
- Johann Karl Friedrich Rosenkranz, Rosenkranz's Philosophy of Education (February 18, 1887), Science, Vol. 9
- Anthony D. Storm, Anthony D. Storm's Commentary on The Concept of Anxiety
- Quotations related to The Concept of Anxiety at Wikiquote
- Walter Lowrie (author) The Concept of Dread free text from archive.org
- Arne Grøn, The Concept of Anxiety in Soren Kierkegaard Mercer University Press, Oct 1, 2008 Retrieved 1/15/2012
- Walter Kaufmann, Kierkegaard and the Crisis in Religion 1960 Audio Archive.org
- Rollo May, The Meaning of Anxiety 1950, 1996 p. 170ff
- Kierkegaard and Kant on Freedom and Evil YouTube Professor Alison Assiter
- Dr. Patrick McCarty Anxiety: Its Source, Nature, Solution Audio about The Concept of Anxiety from Archive.org
- Henrik Stangerup The Man Who Wanted To Be Guilty July 2000
- Arland Ussher Journey Through Dread: A Study of Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Sartre 1955