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

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First published in 1844, Soren Kierkegaard's concise treatise identified--long before Freud--anxiety as a profound human condition, portraying human existence largely as a constant struggle with our own spiritual identities. Brilliantly synthesizing human insights with Christian dogma, Kierkegaard presented The Concept of Anxiety as a landmark "psychological deliberation," First published in 1844, Soren Kierkegaard's concise treatise identified--long before Freud--anxiety as a profound human condition, portraying human existence largely as a constant struggle with our own spiritual identities. Brilliantly synthesizing human insights with Christian dogma, Kierkegaard presented The Concept of Anxiety as a landmark "psychological deliberation," suggesting that our only hope in overcoming anxiety was not through "powder and pills" but by embracing it with open arms. While Kierkegaard's Danish prose is surprisingly rich, previous translations--the most recent in 1980--have marginalized the work with alternately florid or slavishly wooden language. With a vibrancy never seen before in English, Alastair Hannay, the world's foremost Kierkegaard scholar, re-creates its natural rhythm, eager that this overlooked classic will not only become as celebrated as Fear and Trembling, The Sickness unto Death, and Either/Or but also be revivified as the seminal work of existentialism and moral psychology that it is.


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First published in 1844, Soren Kierkegaard's concise treatise identified--long before Freud--anxiety as a profound human condition, portraying human existence largely as a constant struggle with our own spiritual identities. Brilliantly synthesizing human insights with Christian dogma, Kierkegaard presented The Concept of Anxiety as a landmark "psychological deliberation," First published in 1844, Soren Kierkegaard's concise treatise identified--long before Freud--anxiety as a profound human condition, portraying human existence largely as a constant struggle with our own spiritual identities. Brilliantly synthesizing human insights with Christian dogma, Kierkegaard presented The Concept of Anxiety as a landmark "psychological deliberation," suggesting that our only hope in overcoming anxiety was not through "powder and pills" but by embracing it with open arms. While Kierkegaard's Danish prose is surprisingly rich, previous translations--the most recent in 1980--have marginalized the work with alternately florid or slavishly wooden language. With a vibrancy never seen before in English, Alastair Hannay, the world's foremost Kierkegaard scholar, re-creates its natural rhythm, eager that this overlooked classic will not only become as celebrated as Fear and Trembling, The Sickness unto Death, and Either/Or but also be revivified as the seminal work of existentialism and moral psychology that it is.

30 review for The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin

  1. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” ― Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety Sometimes, I am overtaken by a desire to read philosophy. I'm usually overcome with this impulse because of some random reason. DFW leads me to Wittgenstein. Trump leads me to Nietzsche. I chose this book because I am going to Copenhagen with my family in a couple months and wanted to pin down a couple Danish authors/writers before I left. I figured it was either a book about anxiety or a book about mermaids. Oh, t “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” ― Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety Sometimes, I am overtaken by a desire to read philosophy. I'm usually overcome with this impulse because of some random reason. DFW leads me to Wittgenstein. Trump leads me to Nietzsche. I chose this book because I am going to Copenhagen with my family in a couple months and wanted to pin down a couple Danish authors/writers before I left. I figured it was either a book about anxiety or a book about mermaids. Oh, the possibilities. The possibilities of choice made me anxious. But I pressed forward. I picked up this small book that seemed heaver than I first thought. Actually, every page I turned seemed to push the scale on this book. It grew heavier and heavier. What the hell am I doing? Do I really need to explore Kierkegaard's thoughts about original sin, the individual, progression, the flow of time, dogma, dread eroticism, sensuality, modesty, self-knowledge, demons, faith, repentance, anxiety? I once read, and I think this was attributed to Brian Eno, that the Velvet Underground's first album only sold a few thousand copies, but everyone who bought one formed a band." The Concept of Anxiety sold only 250 copies in the first 11 years after publication, but everyone who bought it seriously __________ . <--- Insert philosophy joke about Anxiety here. I would have written the joke myself, but the fact that the joke only exists in abstract, in possibility, MUST make the joke more funny. Once the joke gains form, becomes actual, the joke loses the possibility of humor. The joke dies. God dies. Alone. Look, I'm a fairly smart guy. But sometimes these BIG philosophy books throw me for a loop. They make me feel like I need to study and not just read the book. This is a book where I would probably get more out of it through some sort of 400-level classroom dialectic. I need somebody with more experience with Hegel, Jewish thought, Socrates, and Christian ethics and existentialism than I possess to brief. To hold my hand through this book. To smack my hand as I wander off into unexplored tributaries. Alas, being an adult reading this alone on my bed, I have none of those things. I have my friends on GR. I have a dictionary. I have a fairly large library. I have time (crap, if I write time here now, will I have to explore past, future, eternity, etc?). Anyway, it was worth it. It wasn't too much to bear. I read it. I'm glad I did. Now I can go visit Søren Kierkegaard and Niels Bohr in Assistens Cemetery and feel like I at least did my best to visit that holy ground with proper dedication and consecration.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Florencia

    These things always create conflicting feelings in me. I liked the book, it is a major philosophical work. Kierkegaard's influence on contemporary thinking is unquestionable, thanks to little details such as being the first existentialist, having an incredibly creative mind that made him a relevant figure in literature, psychology, theology... However, it is not something I can relate to, or agree with (I am not quite comfortable saying this, but well, it is the truth). (view spoiler)[Reflection These things always create conflicting feelings in me. I liked the book, it is a major philosophical work. Kierkegaard's influence on contemporary thinking is unquestionable, thanks to little details such as being the first existentialist, having an incredibly creative mind that made him a relevant figure in literature, psychology, theology... However, it is not something I can relate to, or agree with (I am not quite comfortable saying this, but well, it is the truth). (view spoiler)[Reflections about anxiety, which, according to Kierkegaard, existed even before the original sin. He states that it can make you sin, but it also may lead you to salvation. He is not talking about just one form of anxiety, he explores a lot of them. This book may give you a new perspective on life, if you can relate to its content. If not, it's still a truly interesting reading. (hide spoiler)] I would like to come back to it, someday. July 12, 13 * Also on my blog.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul Gleason

    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 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    William

    Incredibly rewarding, a work of deliberate and yet immediate, instantaneous poeticism, constantly dense and referential without skipping a beat. Short, ornate, humorous with its unrelentingly dry wit, but a manuscript that posits itself on the threshold of caged madness and unbounded spirit all the same. The heights of your despair, the valleys of your lowest, weakest moments -they are like the vivid heat of flames in darkness or the vast shadows of hills at daybreak, all our failures and triump Incredibly rewarding, a work of deliberate and yet immediate, instantaneous poeticism, constantly dense and referential without skipping a beat. Short, ornate, humorous with its unrelentingly dry wit, but a manuscript that posits itself on the threshold of caged madness and unbounded spirit all the same. The heights of your despair, the valleys of your lowest, weakest moments -they are like the vivid heat of flames in darkness or the vast shadows of hills at daybreak, all our failures and triumphs bare the eternal presence of contradiction.

  5. 4 out of 5

    B. P. Rinehart

    "The Concept of Anxiety (original title Begrebet Angest) was first published in June 1844. Kierkegaard had just turned thirty-one. The modest edition of 250 copies, half the number of the other pseudonymous works, was finally sold out eleven years later, whereupon a second edition of 500 copies was ordered and published in August 1855, just three months before Kierkegaard died at the age of forty-two." - General background from the translator's introduction. There will never not be a time in my l "The Concept of Anxiety (original title Begrebet Angest) was first published in June 1844. Kierkegaard had just turned thirty-one. The modest edition of 250 copies, half the number of the other pseudonymous works, was finally sold out eleven years later, whereupon a second edition of 500 copies was ordered and published in August 1855, just three months before Kierkegaard died at the age of forty-two." - General background from the translator's introduction. There will never not be a time in my life when I will not need Kierkegaard. I've already read The Sickness unto Death, which was a sequel of-sorts to this book. That book deals with despair--this book deals with anxiety. The questions that this book is trying to answer is: What is anxiety? Where did it come from? How do we deal with it? If you are familiar with Kierkegaard then you know he gives no easy explanations to these and his answers may not be satisfactory to those of the atheistic faith. Even those who are religiously inclined may not like what this doctor's diagnosis is. I am not gonna try to explain it because while I can understand it, I can't do it the justice that Kierkegaard does (and also I have a headache right-now which precludes me from in-depth analysis with Kierkegaard's prose). I could give a layman's explanation of this book like a lot of the other Goodreads review, but I feel that I would for the most part just be summarizing one chapter and Kierkegaard deserves more than that. But to show I am not totally difficult, I will post the paragraph that this work is mostly known here on Goodreads for:"Anxiety can be compared with dizziness. He whose eye happens to look down into the yawning abyss becomes dizzy. But what is the reason? It is just as much his own eye as the abyss, for suppose he had not looked down. It is in this way that anxiety is the dizziness of freedom that emerges when spirit wants to posit the synthesis, and freedom now looks down into its own possibility and then grabs hold of finiteness to support itself. In this dizziness freedom subsides."It is interesting to see how psychology is understood pre-Freud/psychoanalysis. While I definitely classify this book as philosophy, I will note that there is a sort of scientific-like examination that--while nothing like modern psychology--is not philosophical. Since I can't claim any familiarity with 19th or 20th century psychology, I can't pass any judgement on it. In the end, I definitely enjoyed this book and the message it gives to me. Even though he is mainly concerned with anxiety, he tackles so many other things in this book to get here. Kierkegaard's favorite philosopher was Socrates and it shows. Well, Kierkegaard is my favorite philosopher and I hope that I can somehow try to keep showing that through my own life. "...someone who is already formed remains with anxiety; he does not allow himself to be deceived by its countless falsifications; he accurately remembers the past. The attacks of anxiety, even though terrifying, will then not be such that he flees from them. Anxiety becomes for him a ministering spirit that leads him, against its will, where he will. Then, when it announces itself, when it disingenuously makes it look as though it has invented an altogether new instrument of torture, far more terrible than anything before, he does not draw back, and still less does he try to ward it off with noise and confusion, but bids it welcome, greets it solemnly, and like Socrates who raised the poisoned cup, he takes it in with him and says, as a patient would say to the surgeon, when the painful operation is about to begin: Now I am ready. Then anxiety enters into his soul and searches out everything, and frightens the finite and petty out of him, and it then leads him where he will."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    I struggled with this as I think it required greater familiarity with that with which he was arguing...plus as a non-believer, there is always a little bit of difficulty following him where he wants me to go. Nonetheless I still find him immensely stimulating, often very funny too.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gastjäle

    A recondite yet insightful read that both makes one gnash one's teeth and flinch with sudden violence when the home truths emerge from their ambuscades. Before I get to the nitty-gritty behind the work, I'll say a few words about the writing and presentation itself, since I feel that here the form is of great moment. Now, Vigilius Haufniensis (hereafter "Kierkegaard" - for clarity's questionable sake) makes a point of writing as obfuscatingly and as turgidly as he possibly can. The question is: A recondite yet insightful read that both makes one gnash one's teeth and flinch with sudden violence when the home truths emerge from their ambuscades. Before I get to the nitty-gritty behind the work, I'll say a few words about the writing and presentation itself, since I feel that here the form is of great moment. Now, Vigilius Haufniensis (hereafter "Kierkegaard" - for clarity's questionable sake) makes a point of writing as obfuscatingly and as turgidly as he possibly can. The question is: what on Earth for? Is he taking the Hegelian piss? Is this simply aimed at the learned 19th-century audience, only to be understood by them (if by anyone)? Or is Kierkegaard trying to drive home a valuable point through stylistic means? Any or all of the above might be the case here. The way of writing is unquestionably Hegelian, with its propensity for categories, middle terms and negations - and hazy arguments shrouded either in diaphanous semantic niceties or the impenetrable winding sheet of ludicrous terms. Kierkegaard was indubitably influenced by Hegel, there's no way around it, yet he pokes fun at the great systematist and his acolytes - the speculators - time and again, which calls the reader's attention to the whole set-up: is Kierkegaard simply being a hypocritical humbug or is he simply winking at us with is accustomed diablerie? Here's my theory: Kierkegaard is writing wittingly heavy stuff, yet not to the extent that I found myself struggling with the read. The text makes use of Kierkegaard's core terms like infinity, eternity, moment, demonic etc., and Kierkegaard has always been a thinker who rests his ideas on key terms - and rarely bothers to define them properly, yet here the dialectical trickery is more marked. Part of the reason for the heaviness is that he wanted to point out the shortcomings of Hegelian philosophy in relation to Christianity, and Kierkegaard wanted to beat the speculators in their own game. Another part for this congested gobbledygook is that he wanted to show how futile such careful definitions and argumentative gymnastics are in comparison with things that cannot be so defined (in Kierkegaard's opinion). Indeed, he clearly states that things like eagerness (on which a great deal of Kierkegaard's philosophy rests) cannot be put into words - they're existential categories. Lastly, Kierkegaard does sometimes let go of the academic jargon when he wants to deliver certain key points, which in my opinion bears out that he wasn't using the complex terminology just because it was the best medium for his study. Summa summarum, through the delivery of The Concept of Anxiety, Kierkegaard once showed what an irritating little... mastermind he is. (Or I could be horribly wrong about it all, and I'm simply too daft to follow through his arguments. However, I'm not making this up simply in order to make myself feel better for not understanding everything herein - luckily, I've read Kierkegaard before to already know what kind of a trickster he can be.) When it comes to the fruit of the deliberations professed herein, I must say I'm a bit puzzled. Because I don't necessarily share the same premisses as Kierkegaard does, it was rather difficult for me to see whence the necessity for delineating the psychological, the dogmatic and the ethical so carefully and so... arbitrarily. The same applies for his idea about the spirit as opposed to the mind - I simply don't get it. And this is a great shame, because if I don't agree to the teachings of Christianity and to religiousness on the whole, Kierkegaard is simply talking about familiar psychical concepts here disguised as religious categories. But as was typical for his time, there was really no need to explain the core concepts, because they were so obvious to many - and perhaps Kierkegaard even thought that there's no point in defining something like spirit (as per what I said above). But I tried. The first part of the study concerning the relation of Adam and sin to that of later generations was more or less pointless for someone like me, since it only had to do with some theological minutiae. Kierkegaard effectively avers that there is no proper metric for sin, since it enters into world through qualitative leaps - in other words, it enter every sinner separately, and before that takes place, sensuousness or any of those seemingly "base" things are not sinful (very non-Catholic of K!). However, this treatment does pave way for the topic of anxiety, which was a lot more relevant and interesting to my pagan self. Kierkegaard speaks of anxiety as a degree of existential discomfort felt at the sheer plurality of possibilities before any act takes place. In this way, anxiety has "nothing" as its object - and Kierkegaard did a pretty rotten job at explaining this, since he definitely did suggest that you can be anxious about things. (Even when you're anxious about the "freedom of possibilities", that "freedom of possibilities" is your object, in my opinion. Otherwise no cogitation or no sense can have any object whatsoever.) If I understood him correctly, the anxiety that is anxious about nothing is still not guilty, whereas anxiety that has an object (which is still nothing?) is guilty a priori. Thus anxiety is rather confusing, yet Kierkegaard sees in it the absolute qualification for an individual becoming truly individual, since in anxiety they are drawn to their very own selves; they choose themselves and feel that those endless possibilities are for them only, and thus - by extension - for the whole human race. Through individualism one acquires the true understanding of human nature, and this is done especially through anxiety: one gets the idea that all these things one is anxious about can befall oneself, and the more one realises that all kinds of things can befall oneself, the more profound individual he becomes in Kierkegaard's books. However, one can also be anxious about good things, which turn the individual demonic. Demonicity is something that is latent in all human beings, and at best it is merely absent - just like sinfulness. When we break off a yarn when we realise we can't blurt out a rude word in the presence of others, when we keep silent when we should probably grass on our friends, when we simply walk by when someone is in need, we're being demonic: in the first case, we're anxious about speaking what we truly think, in the second case about adhering to the truth and in the final case about charity. These examples might be a bit incompetent, provided on how one sees when a demonic person acts, but the aforementioned cases should still be somewhat correct in principle. Now, a true individual, in the throes of his existential Angst, will also keep in mind the possibility that he might become demonic at any point. Now, all this has clearly been a tremendous influence on Heidegger. He too saw the existential significance of anxiety and conscience, yet unlike him, Kierkegaard continues to play leapfrog and insists that the only safeguard against suicidal anxiety is faith. In other words, instead of developing the topic further (and he definitely had the potential for it, being such a perspicacious chap), he backed off and jumped over the issue by resorting to faith. Through the eagerness of faith and through the eagerness of anxiety, Man finds himself in moments of repetition and thus connects himself with eternity - the only thing one should in sooth be anxious about. And (now I'm extrapolating a bit) through this meaningful repetition of constant confirmation of faith, one repeats meaningfully the ideal existence. That's about it for the main thesis. As usually happens when I read Kierkegaard, I start out pretty fascinated, my interest wanes soon whenever he starts digressing, and suddenly he offers me a fabulously incisive anecdote, which makes me regain my wandering attention. This time round, he made rather wonderful points in the midst of his main deliberations. First of all, he suggested that certain topics ought to be approached from a certain point of mood - not everything should be approached "rationally" or "scientifically", but rather (this is what I thought him to mean) if one talks about love, one should seek to express the concomitant emotions instead of simply providing an inventory of marital bliss. Secondly, his point about how eagerness/passion should not be defined but rather felt is a very strong one, coming from such a penetrating and pedantic thinker. Through eagerness, life acquires its meaning, and one would be rather unfair to oneself if one simply let oneself slip into melancholy/frivolity and pretend that everything is ridiculous, absurd or pointless. And as always, Kierkegaard plants nice little reminders about not "rushing headlong into life" - something that anyone can tell you, but not something that everyone can convince you of. Once again, a Kierkegaardian read has proven to be both amusing and bemusing, and has shown itself belonging in the category of profundament (all puns intended). I still do not know how to wrap my head around his words, since posits very different things from what I do and he belongs to a whole different ideological climate than I do, but every single time the bell of wisdom rings far away, however faintly, and calls me back to exert myself in trying to understand what the Danish shapeshifter has uncovered once again. Though my patience wears thin with him at times, he nonetheless remains one of the most fascinating individual writers I've ever encountered.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Luís

    At this reading, I didn't realize how interesting this book could be. You fall asleep while reading it if you are not awake. It feels like Kierkegaard is continually repeating himself. It was after the fact and in reflection that I found some benefit. Here is what I got from it. In the Garden of Eden, Adam is most satisfied. He breathes the joy of living until God commands him: "Do not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge!" Adam is no longer free since there is now one thing he cannot do. To pr At this reading, I didn't realize how interesting this book could be. You fall asleep while reading it if you are not awake. It feels like Kierkegaard is continually repeating himself. It was after the fact and in reflection that I found some benefit. Here is what I got from it. In the Garden of Eden, Adam is most satisfied. He breathes the joy of living until God commands him: "Do not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge!" Adam is no longer free since there is now one thing he cannot do. To prove that he is free, he must violate this prohibition, this law - despite the consequences. The anguish comes from knowing what we must do to prove our freedom, even when it must destroy us. Hence the idea that "anguish is the vertigo of freedom". The release is not a right, but a privilege for those who know how to prove themselves worthy of it. Finally, it is a book that I do not regret having read!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    Kierkegaard is a gifted writer. He writes what he wants because he knows he's saying something worthwhile and lets his reading public be darned if they can't figure it out. He reminds me of Melville. He'd rather sell almost no books and say something of value than sell many books but say nothing of value. This book gets at why I read books. Nothing to me is more important than understanding who we are as human beings and Kierkegaard gives an understanding for that within this book. He presumes th Kierkegaard is a gifted writer. He writes what he wants because he knows he's saying something worthwhile and lets his reading public be darned if they can't figure it out. He reminds me of Melville. He'd rather sell almost no books and say something of value than sell many books but say nothing of value. This book gets at why I read books. Nothing to me is more important than understanding who we are as human beings and Kierkegaard gives an understanding for that within this book. He presumes the reader comprehends Hegel's "Science of Logic" and he writes in the style of Hegel's "Phenomenology", a style that involves thinking about the abstract by considering it within an abstract and then going towards a concrete. A way of thinking about thought that I love. The book has multiple takeaways but to get there various concepts get thrown at the reader through the paradoxes that Kierkegaard always has lurking about in his books. The particular is not the universal and the universal needs the particular, or Adam is not the race but each man is a member of the race. He takes this theme and plays with it and gets at the paradoxes that gives us our understanding. Every man is different but yet we think of them as part of a race or as humanity. Each individual is only like the others but is not the others. Adam, the first man, or what we call a man, is part of the race. He'll say that 'the sensuous is not the sin but its the sinfulness that gives us the sin". The truths we believe are falsifications since the particular is not the universal nor the general the singular. (There is a whole lot of Nietzschean thought floating around in this book). He does talk about anxiety and he'll say that "anxiety is about nothing". That's a real theme he has within this book. It's the nature of being or existence or how do we deal with nothing and what does it mean. He mentioned that one of the last acts of Christ was when a demon came up to him and said "what do you have to do with me" showing how the "anxiety for the good is demonic" since the demon believes Christ (goodness) should have nothing to do with him. If this book was all I knew about Kierkegaard, I would think he was not religious because the way he frames his arguments and how he used the bible only to make his points. He's got a chapter on 'now' and what does it mean. I found it way more illuminating than the modern book "Now: The Physics of Time" which I read just the week before. Kierkegaard really gets the concept in non-physics speak and understands what our instants mean. He doesn't put that chapter in for no reason. He knows the convolution between our understanding about our existence and the nature of being immortal and the understanding of immortality and the more we know our now the further we will be from the ultimate good (the infinite). He understands the pieces and knows how to put them together. The fun part for me was later in the book: "Irony is jealous of earnestness". He's getting at our understanding of our authenticity, but he uses the word 'earnestness' or 'inwardness'. In Heidegger's division II of "Being and Time" the "Time" part he clearly is indebted to Kierkegaard and this book for how Heidegger develops his dasein (a thing that takes a stand on its own understanding or as Kierkegaard is doing in this book getting at our own understanding of human being). There are difference between the writers but the overlap includes that our understanding needs the anxiety about the nothingness for our authenticity to be actualized within our finite time because being is time and time is finite. There's a part of me that said he is mocking Hegel, religion, and the psychology of his times and doesn't really mean what he is writing, but even if that were true, he is telling a story about the human experience such that you know at times he just wants to 'howl!' and have the world wake up to why we must experience (and feel!) life to its fullest in ways that only Kierkegaard knows how to get at. No doubt, this is a complex book beautifully written.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nemo

    Woody Allen once joked, "I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It’s about Russia." I listened (and re-listened in part) to a 6-hour audiobook of The Concept Of Anxiety. It's about Original Sin. (Read full review at Nemo's Library) Woody Allen once joked, "I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It’s about Russia." I listened (and re-listened in part) to a 6-hour audiobook of The Concept Of Anxiety. It's about Original Sin. (Read full review at Nemo's Library)

  11. 5 out of 5

    John Lucy

    The man, the myth, the legend. I rate just about every Kierkegaard book as a 5 because, even if I disagree with the man, he has such a creative mind: I have never finished reading an SK book without being challenged by an entirely new perspective and style of thought. The Concept of Anxiety is no different. Kierkegaard tackles sin and original sin, better termed hereditary sin, in a way that I'm not sure I've ever encountered before. Numerous times he simply sidesteps the question of why there i The man, the myth, the legend. I rate just about every Kierkegaard book as a 5 because, even if I disagree with the man, he has such a creative mind: I have never finished reading an SK book without being challenged by an entirely new perspective and style of thought. The Concept of Anxiety is no different. Kierkegaard tackles sin and original sin, better termed hereditary sin, in a way that I'm not sure I've ever encountered before. Numerous times he simply sidesteps the question of why there is sin, and perhaps how there is sin, and purposely never addresses the question of defining sin as this or that action. Some may be dissatisfied with this approach, but if you read the first quarter or so of the book and you'll find that he has the best of reasons for not answering the questions that most of us usually ask. Instead, the book focuses on the attitudes and state of sin, and attitudes and state before sin, and attitudes and state within sin, and attitudes and state within before sin, and so on. Basically the question is, what wells up inside of an individual to cause sin, and what emotions and states of spirituality does sin cause? Since we must live in this world as individuals, sin is essentially assumed, and all the focus is on the individual who sins and who does not sin. Personally, after reading this book, I am simultaneously disheartened by how far I fall short (which usually happens after reading Kierkegaard) and inspired to the greatness of love and relationship and personhood/personality that God makes available to me (which also usually happens after reading Kierkegaard). If you have trouble with the word, 'sin,' as more and more people do nowadays, you're in luck. Again, SK assumes sin in this world and in all of us, but sin is not actually the focus. You might think it is based on my review, but take another look at the title of the work and you'll see that sin is only a secondary aspect of anxiety. Don't go into this book expecting to learn more about anxiety disorders or something like that. SK does take a psychological look at anxiety, but a) he wrote this in the middle of the 19th century, and b) though SK was far ahead of his time in many respects, I doubt psychology as we understand would ever be one of his concerns. Anxiety as SK defines it is a much larger concept than we define it. But in that way SK does dig into all forms of anxiety, anything that can be defined as anxiety, more deeply than most psychologists/psychiatrists today ever do. Trust me on that one: I go to a psychiatrist weekly because of anxiety issues.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sera

    I have a historic crush on Kierkegaard, a great mind.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marian

    I don't know if it's the material or the translation or some combination of both, but The Concept of Anxiety is not nearly as accessible as Works of Love or Fear and Trembling. The other two are easy by comparison. Though the vocabulary itself is (mostly) simple, I probably understood less than 20% of this book, in part because Kierkegaard is here responding to the work of other philosophers, with some expectation that his reader is familiar with the larger dialogue. Those having a background in I don't know if it's the material or the translation or some combination of both, but The Concept of Anxiety is not nearly as accessible as Works of Love or Fear and Trembling. The other two are easy by comparison. Though the vocabulary itself is (mostly) simple, I probably understood less than 20% of this book, in part because Kierkegaard is here responding to the work of other philosophers, with some expectation that his reader is familiar with the larger dialogue. Those having a background in Hegel and others will likely be better off, and once I do, I'll have to reread this one.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anh

    Don't let the phrase "A simple deliberation" in the subtitle of the book fool you. Or rather let the subtitle "A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin" says it all. This is probably the most difficult book of Kierkegaard's. Just read one paragraph in the section entitled "The Concept of Anxiety" where Kierkegaard defines anxiety as "freedom's actuality as the possibility of possibility" and then "a sympathetic antipathy and an antipathetic Don't let the phrase "A simple deliberation" in the subtitle of the book fool you. Or rather let the subtitle "A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin" says it all. This is probably the most difficult book of Kierkegaard's. Just read one paragraph in the section entitled "The Concept of Anxiety" where Kierkegaard defines anxiety as "freedom's actuality as the possibility of possibility" and then "a sympathetic antipathy and an antipathetic sympathy". Still a little bit unclear? Don't worry, the author is here to help. He further wrote: "anxiety is a foreign power, that laid hold of him, a power that he did not love but about which he was anxious, a power about which he nevertheless loved even as he feared it." See? A very simple deliberation. Thanks so much for the clarification, Søren . The biggest hint may come from a later paragraph in the same section; Anxiety is the anxious possibility of being able . Humanity love/attracted by the infinite possibility of being able to choose who we are and can become, but fear/repelled by the responsibilities that this possibility/freedom requires. Despite being (so) difficult to read, this book is probably the most important book of Kierkegaard's, earning him the title "the father of existentialism". Its' core concepts were later picked up and further developed by Sartre in Nausea (existential angst, freedom of choice), Martin Heidegger in Being and Time (possibility of freedom, authenticity), and Sigmund Freud (Thanatos (death) drive: a desire for what we fear and a fear of what we desire). If, on the other hand, the speaker maintains that the great thing about him is that he has never been in anxiety, I will gladly provide him with my explanation: that it is because he is very spiritless....The more profound the anxiety, the more profound the culture.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    I'm pretty sure this book has hidden depths to it and some commentators say it is really about psychology and not about original sin. But reading through so much biblical language, alegorical or not, is simply unbearable to me. I couldn't finish it. It could probably be a more interesting read for a christian with a background on Hegel. I'm pretty sure this book has hidden depths to it and some commentators say it is really about psychology and not about original sin. But reading through so much biblical language, alegorical or not, is simply unbearable to me. I couldn't finish it. It could probably be a more interesting read for a christian with a background on Hegel.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Will

    Another Kierkegaard book that's more interesting to read about than to read. Here, the psychological argument isn't fleshed out, but revealed bit by bit, over 200 pages, through an overly abstract (and banal) theological exegesis. Another Kierkegaard book that's more interesting to read about than to read. Here, the psychological argument isn't fleshed out, but revealed bit by bit, over 200 pages, through an overly abstract (and banal) theological exegesis.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andee Nero

    I didn't love it but I didn't hate it... I liked that it made me feel less bad about my anxieties but it was hard for me to take it seriously. I did enjoy the dissection of hereditary sin. I'll take away a few gems and that's about it. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it... I liked that it made me feel less bad about my anxieties but it was hard for me to take it seriously. I did enjoy the dissection of hereditary sin. I'll take away a few gems and that's about it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Castle. V.G.

    I tried to grasp the meaning of this book but I constantly got lost. At one point he is talking about Adam and Even and then at the next point there is a kind of system. I think this book is not just for me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Onur Çukur

    A strange journey to mankind's inner thoughts and emotions with psychological inferences. A strange journey to mankind's inner thoughts and emotions with psychological inferences.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gastjäle

    I skimmed through it, and lost my faith in the translators. For instance, the footnotes were sometimes mixed (couldn't always tell the difference between Kierkegaard's and the translators') and biased. Also, they had the temerity to leave some German passages untranslated! Such things weren't a continuous occurrence, yet it undermined my trust in the book I'm reading, which is indeed a bad thing. Kierkegaard himself seemed like a rather irascible and contradictory author. He couldn't help dispara I skimmed through it, and lost my faith in the translators. For instance, the footnotes were sometimes mixed (couldn't always tell the difference between Kierkegaard's and the translators') and biased. Also, they had the temerity to leave some German passages untranslated! Such things weren't a continuous occurrence, yet it undermined my trust in the book I'm reading, which is indeed a bad thing. Kierkegaard himself seemed like a rather irascible and contradictory author. He couldn't help disparaging different fields of science (often for the most obtuse reason, such as not having the capacity to solve religious mysteries) for their pretense for comprehensive definitions, whereas he himself never questions his principles and postulates, often advocating irrationality. In a way it makes "sense," yet one wonders where he drew the line of the power of logic. Even though I find Kierkegaard's views highly biased and sometimes even ludicrous, I must give his focus on the individual its due approbation. He realised the subjective way we all perceive things, making it, if not difficult, then at least bloody challenging to make objective truths about our existence. Also the fact that you may not be able to define everything is not necessarily a sign of weakness in my opinion, or that people have just conjured up needlessly convoluted ideas which don't hold water in closer scrutiny - those ideas might actually be extremely intricate, and not necessarily definable. Love being a good example, art being another. I'll continue to read Kierkegaard's works for sure, but this book itself wasn't really proper food for thought, merely the hors d'oeuvres. Or perhaps I should re-read it in English. I don't know.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dimitris Passas (TapTheLine)

    ''The Concept of Anxiety'' is a historical treatise on the concept of anxiety and its relation with the original sin as well as the concepts of Good and Evil. Kierkegaard examines those problems from the Christian perspective, though his approach to the Christian doctrine is quite differentiated from the formality of the official Christian dogma. Kierkegaard highlights the subjective element and he views humans as entities which are separated from the objective World and as totally responsible f ''The Concept of Anxiety'' is a historical treatise on the concept of anxiety and its relation with the original sin as well as the concepts of Good and Evil. Kierkegaard examines those problems from the Christian perspective, though his approach to the Christian doctrine is quite differentiated from the formality of the official Christian dogma. Kierkegaard highlights the subjective element and he views humans as entities which are separated from the objective World and as totally responsible for the way of living they choose. This choice is characterized by its freedom as well as the feeling of distress (Anxiety) which is always present in every human decision. If humans have no external foundation in which they will seek and find answers concerning the ethics and the truth/untruth of things, then he is obligated to carry the heavy load of self-definition which is the immediate consequence of every free choice. Kierkegaard famously said ''Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom'' and this is a phrase which any true Existential thinker would approve. Even though many historians of philosophy do not strictly define Kierkegaard as an Existentialist, the two modes of thinking share plenty similarities and it should be noted that the Danish philosopher influenced the philosophies of prime Existentialists thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Levinas, and Karl Barth. ''The Concept of Anxiety'' is a classic dissertation which belongs to every philosophy scholars' and academics' bookcase.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    The purpose of this book is “to treat ‘anxiety’ psychologically in such a way as to have in mind and view the dogma of hereditary sin”…which essentially means giving a phenomenological account of anxiety to explain the existence of sin. In short: Why do we sin? Because we are anxious. This short, dense, and sometimes freewheeling book can get pretty wild but at the heart of it is a simple insight: anxiety expresses our relation to the possible future, it is therefore fundamental to our freedom—t The purpose of this book is “to treat ‘anxiety’ psychologically in such a way as to have in mind and view the dogma of hereditary sin”…which essentially means giving a phenomenological account of anxiety to explain the existence of sin. In short: Why do we sin? Because we are anxious. This short, dense, and sometimes freewheeling book can get pretty wild but at the heart of it is a simple insight: anxiety expresses our relation to the possible future, it is therefore fundamental to our freedom—to our way of being. To be human is to be anxious. The rest of the book explores the implications and manifestations of this basic constituent element of our being, mostly as it relates to Christian “dogmatics” (the core doctrines of Christian belief: sin, the fall of man, redemption, faith,…the demonic). It starts off weird then by the end is nearly off the rails. But it’s sharp, energetic, often funny, and thought provoking the whole way through. As a side note, I really enjoyed reading this after recently finishing “Being and Time”. It’s amazing how much of Heidegger I was finding in The Concept of Anxiety. To the extent that it seems the key to their respective philosophies—achieving existential wholeness—turns on almost a single point: finitude vs. infinity. Heidegger finds it in resolutely anticipating Death while Kierkegaard finds it in earnestly anticipating Eternity. The former is authenticity while the latter is faith. The parallels are easy to draw and the influence Kierkegaard (and this book in particular) had on Heidegger is clear.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hadi Mortada

    I find this one as one of the most thrilling books I've ever read. Actually it is the first book from Kierkegaard I've ever read. If it was my first time with Kierkegaard the climax couldn't be better. Indeed somehow in the end I could tell that he did take the composition, if not the material or the content from Plato's Phaedo. At the end, it totally clarified the new, not concept, nor value, but idea. I find this one as one of the most thrilling books I've ever read. Actually it is the first book from Kierkegaard I've ever read. If it was my first time with Kierkegaard the climax couldn't be better. Indeed somehow in the end I could tell that he did take the composition, if not the material or the content from Plato's Phaedo. At the end, it totally clarified the new, not concept, nor value, but idea.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hunter McClure

    One of the most thought-provoking things I've ever read, and also one of the most difficult. This would be getting five stars if only Kierkegaard had gotten an editor, or for that matter had simply even looked over his own work before sending it to the publisher. One of the most thought-provoking things I've ever read, and also one of the most difficult. This would be getting five stars if only Kierkegaard had gotten an editor, or for that matter had simply even looked over his own work before sending it to the publisher.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marlena

    Phew.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    I have read very little of Søren Kierkegaard’s writing, but I came to appreciate his work during law school when I encountered an excerpt from Either/Or: If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility! The responsibility of potential has weig I have read very little of Søren Kierkegaard’s writing, but I came to appreciate his work during law school when I encountered an excerpt from Either/Or: If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility! The responsibility of potential has weighed on my mind in adulthood, so these short lines stuck with me over the years and led me to look for more opportunities to learn about Kierkegaard. The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin unexpectedly joined my reading list as I was reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Kierkegaard influenced Bonhoeffer’s thinking, so I decided to pause on the biography to read The Concept of Anxiety and Bonhoeffer’s Ethics. The connections between the two books/authors were enjoyable to explore. For those considering a dive into The Concept of Anxiety, please note that Kierkegaard is notoriously dense. Part of this issue stems from the challenge of translation, but the concepts do not lend themselves to a casual reading. Kierkegaard also presumes his readers are familiar with Kant, Hegal, and other philosophers of the day, so readers may need to supplement their background before diving into The Concept of Anxiety. Still, the ideas in the book are significant and worth exploring. A primary theme in his book is that anxiety—or unfocused fear—is a good thing, or at least potentially a good thing. Kierkegaard compares anxiety with the dizziness of looking down into an endless abyss. Mere looking at the chasm does not change the prospect of plummeting downward, but the realization that you could causes a strong physiological response. Similarly, anxiety is the dizziness of freedom when people realize the endless possibilities of life. Having to choose what is next prompts anxiety or dread. This unfocused fear extends back to Adam and Eve’s original sin of eating the forbidden fruit. God’s instruction to them was, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Kierkegaard points out that the Adam and Eve could not have understood what death was, since it did not yet exist. But they did know that they had a choice: eat from the tree or do not eat from the tree. Once they disobeyed, death entered the earth, and the subsequent anxiety related to free choice emerged. Here is where Kierkegaard explores why anxiety is a good thing: it creates a pathway for humans to return to God. The potential for a person to choose A or to choose B is an awareness of personal responsibility. Kierkegaard explains that “[w]hoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate…” Further, anxiety forces self-examination in an inescapable way to impart the eternal implications of either reconciliation with God or conflict with God. Reconciliation with God makes for an interesting subject when looking at the full title of Kierkegaard’s book. Today, a person would likely not expect to read about theology in a book about psychology, but those subjects were interwoven for Kierkegaard. He did not view ingested medicine as a treatment for the root issue of anxiety or other related conditions (a view that likely had a significant and long-lasting effect for the church). Instead, he theorized on why anxiety exists and evaluated how people respond. This fills much of the book. As suggested above, there is a lot to chew on in in Kierkegaard’s writing, so bite-sized portions are the best way to proceed. The Concept of Anxiety fit together well as I explored the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I recommend it for those who enjoy philosophy. Beyond my recommendation, here are my additional thoughts from the book. As I read the introduction and Kierkegaard’s claim of Christianity, I thought of 1 Corinthians 2:11: “Who can know a man’s heart?” Many great thinkers read Kierkegaard—the Father of Existentialism—and those who are non-Christians see a fellow non-Christian. Many Christians read Kierkegaard and see a non-Christian. Yet Kierkegaard himself followed Christ’s teachings, so an analysis of who Kierkegaard was and how someone categorizes him may naturally seem unclear. Yet any person who has wrestled with thinking well and wrestled with faith likely has a wide expanse of thoughts. I often mention Thomas Jefferson as someone I admire and have read broadly. What I find as I explore the record of his life—including his own writing—is there is indeed much to admire, but there is also much that leaves me aghast. Jefferson and other Founders had some great ideas and just as many that were paltry. No mere mortal is flawless, and the more a person commits their thoughts to paper, the more those flaws become apparent. So it strikes me with Kierkegaard. This acknowledgement of flaws is not a critique. Writing forces exploration of ideas, and there are plenty of times I look back at my past writing and conclude, “what was I thinking?” Yet it still seems better that one should undertake the effort of thinking (and subsequently writing). The written words do not mean you are forever chained to those ideas. Instead of viewing the printed words as a chain, see them instead as a foundation upon which new ideas can build. Without this effort, a person is much more likely to be swept up with the latest trend of ideas or—worse still—whatever charismatic character stands on the popularity pedestal of the day. Forethought provides the lens to view ideas and people with a greater sense of reason and wisdom. Throughout the book, Kierkegaard proclaims that innocence is ignorance. As such, he describes Adam’s understanding of the prohibition against eating the fruit as ignorance. He could not understand the implications of eating because he was still innocent and thus ignorant. Kierkegaard assumes that the prohibition against eating the fruit awakened desire and the possibility of freedom—freedom to obey or freedom to eat the fruit. At the heart of this book, Kierkegaard seems to be seeking reconciliation between religion and science. He notes that sin and its origins must be determined by each individual. If a scientist were to attempt explaining it, that individual is moving into the realm of something that science cannot properly evaluate. This attempt thrusts the scientist down a path of foolishness that is unavoidable. Kierkegaard writes that “only in the moment that salvation is actually posited is this anxiety overcome...When salvation is posited, anxiety, together with possibility is left behind.” Later, Kierkegaard notes that after salvation, anxiety then exists to serve another role, that of conviction and the goal of reconciliation. The original idea strikes me as one that has had a deleterious effect within the church. There are many people who proclaim Christ but suffer from diagnosed anxiety with notable chemical imbalances that require medicine. Medicine and science have provided a far broader understanding on how the human mind works since Kierkegaard’s time. Thus, it is interesting to think about how he might have reconciled the new information with his original ideas. Kierkegaard commented that beauty and motherhood are feminine ideals, which is an observation that has no universal agreement today. While there is grounding for the idea in the Bible, the assertion seems to highlight the challenge of bridging religion and psychology/science. While Kierkegaard may have believed his assertion to be universal, it likely was not at the time and certainly isn’t today. His observation could prompt an interesting discussion on what individuals desire, but it works poorly as a foundational point. Kierkegaard believed that genius without religion will never be satisfied. He believed that without Christianity, genius turns outward to achieve great success. Yet such a pursuit can never be satisfied because such success is temporal. I read this portion of the book in conjunction with an Atlantic article by Arthur C. Brooks. His article, “‘Success Addicts’ Choose Being Special Over Being Happy,” argues that success is just as much a drug as alcohol or narcotics—complete with the dopamine hit and the health risks of overuse. He goes on to suggest steps that will lead to more contentedness than the churn of success. Brooks’s thesis seems to align with Kierkegaard’s, though the Atlantic article does not touch upon religion. It would be interesting to further explore how the two authors’ concepts further fit together. One of Kierkegaard’s later points that happiness on earth is a lie suggests that there might be some hearty debate between the two. I won’t say The Concept of Anxiety is an enjoyable read, but it is a worthwhile read. It is probably an extension of my liberal-arts education that I conclude we could all use some time on philosophy to think through what we believe and why. Thinking on such matters creates a framework to evaluate all the happenings that matter most. Mark Twain once commented that man has no more reason than monkeys when it comes to politics and religion. It is this idea that leads polite company not to discuss either subject. But developing a sound philosophy on these matters allows people to apply reason and thus civility to both subjects that shape the ins and outs of our daily lives. The Father of Existentialism would expect a sincere exploration of one’s existence, and The Concept of Anxiety is a fine place to begin.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anh

    The Death of Socrates (1787) - Jacques-Louis David When anxiety announces itself, when it cunningly pretends to have invented a new instrument of torture, far more terrible than anything before, he does not shrink back, and still less does he attempt to hold it off with noise and confusion; but he bids it welcome, greets it festively, and like Socrates who raised the poisoned cup, he shuts himself up with it and says as a patient would say to the surgeon when the painful operation is about to The Death of Socrates (1787) - Jacques-Louis David When anxiety announces itself, when it cunningly pretends to have invented a new instrument of torture, far more terrible than anything before, he does not shrink back, and still less does he attempt to hold it off with noise and confusion; but he bids it welcome, greets it festively, and like Socrates who raised the poisoned cup, he shuts himself up with it and says as a patient would say to the surgeon when the painful operation is about to begin: Now I am ready. Then anxiety enters into his soul and searches out everything and anxiously torments everything finite and petty out of him, and then it leads him where he wills.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    This has to be one of the worst books every written. Soren Kierkegaard apparently wrote The Concept of Dread in his younger years as a writer. Reading this short and indigestible tract is equivalent to breaking off the ends of asparagus stalks, not the tips which you can gently cook and easily eat in a wide variety of ways, but the bottom parts that are hard as wood, fibrous, and nearly impossible to chew. Lacking in any clear purpose, direction, or relevance, this is one work of literature tha This has to be one of the worst books every written. Soren Kierkegaard apparently wrote The Concept of Dread in his younger years as a writer. Reading this short and indigestible tract is equivalent to breaking off the ends of asparagus stalks, not the tips which you can gently cook and easily eat in a wide variety of ways, but the bottom parts that are hard as wood, fibrous, and nearly impossible to chew. Lacking in any clear purpose, direction, or relevance, this is one work of literature that can be spat out into the garbage so you can move on to something more nurturing and digestible. It is not easy to tell why Kierkegaard wrote this. He never explicitly states his reasoning behind the matter. He apparently wanted to write something about psychology, or at least he keeps mentioning psychology and saying that it has severe limitations, something he claims to demonstrate. But the definition or purpose of psychology is never examined. He says its is inferior to religious dogma but he doesn’t get around to saying why dogma is more useful. In fact philosophy, in the truest sense of the word, is meant to do away with dogma, a system of beliefs that does not require proof or systematic thinking. After reading The Concept of Dread, you can possibly deduce that Kierkegaard preferred dogma to evidence based reasoning because he had no talent for logic or methodical thought. He never argues a point. What he says is true because he says it is true and you are stupid if you don’t agree with him. End of argument. You could invoke Wittgenstein’s claim that philosophy is meant to be descriptive of reality rather than argumentative, an assertion that has merit when used in its proper context. But if that is what Kierkegaard was up to here, he fails miserably to convince through description. The descriptiveness starts with Adam, alone in the Garden of Eden. Kierkeagaard objects to the story of Adam and Eve being interpreted as an allegory or a myth; we have to take it as historical fact. Why? We can’t know because he never gives a reason for this. But let’s be nice readers and take him at his word for the sake of following his discussion. Adam, the first man, was paradoxically outside the human race while being the human race at the same time. Why is this important? Who knows? Did Adam have language? He didn’t need it because he had no one to speak to until Eve came along. Only God spoke to them but God is omnipotent so would he even need to use language to communicate with them? Couldn’t he just implant information in their heads without the medium of speech? Kierkegaard raises this question but never attempts to answer it. And that pesky serpent didn’t actually speak because snakes, by nature, don’t talk. So when Adam is confronted with the possibility of committing Original Sin he hesitates because he feels...GASP!...a moment of dread. Yes those butterflies in his stomach were a paralyzing anxiety that made him see a future full of infinite possibilities that could result from his desire, decision, and consequent action. But Adam has faith and takes a leap, crossing over the abyss of anxiety and commits Original Sin. And we, the descendants of this mythological first man, have been doing the same thing ever since. This is a profound insight by Lierkegaard’s standards. But this is the same dread felt by every teenage boy the first time he tries to kiss a girl. It is the dread you feel before going to a job interview. It is the dread you feel the first time you score a bag of weed or use a fake ID to buy beer at a convenience story. No doubt, it is the dread that Evel Knievel felt every time he revved up his motorcycle engine before jumping his bike over a line of parked cars. Yes, people get nervous before they do something risky. It is a mundane insight by most people’s standards. 150 years after Kierkegaard wrote The Concept of Dread we have self-help books with titles like Feel the Fear and Do It Anyways. Thanks Soren, you really did the world a favor by writing this book. It’s not easy to comprehend what the field of psychology was like in the mid-19th century but certainly they were farther along than this. He doesn’t advance his thought much beyond this simple assertion and his claim that psychology is inferior to dogma is undercut by the obvious fact that he didn’t seem to know much about psychology to begin with. How does he claim to know what Adam was feeling at that time? Did he travel back in time and ask Adam about the matter? He couldn’t have been relying on someone else’s testimony because no one was there but Eve and the snake. By Kierkegaard’s admission, the snake couldn’t speak and it hasn’t been established that Adam could either. Is any of this important anyways? Nope. Kierkegaard doesn’t grasp the idea that philosophizing and quibbling are two different things. There is also a wonderful mess of insights we get from the rest of the book too. Original Sin entered the world through Adam but it is possible that Original Sin was first a part of God; after all, if it entered the world, it must have entered from someplace, it had to exist first in order to enter. Every human is a sinner but each one has to start the chain of sin themselves; humans are born as an eternal chain of recurrence and sin starts anew with each one. “Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy”, says Edward Norton’s nameless charcter in Fight Club. Great idea, Kierk, old buddy...where did you get it from? Socrates, right? We also get a long digression into the description of time and eternity, though it’s not explained what purpose this serves in developing the thesis, though it’s not quite clear what the thesis is. Time is the measurement of eternity’s flow through the present into the past. A moment is a segment of eternity but it is a segment that lasts forever. Eternity only extends into the future because once the present becomes the past it no loner exists. But doesn’t that mean that eternity has a boundary and a limit, making it, therefore by definition, not eternal? “Shut your mouth”, shouts Kierkegaard from his grave, “logic is nonsense when being confronted by the truths of belief and dogma.” Towards the end he claims that people who have faith are able to overcome dread but people who oppose faith because they fear it become locked up inside themselves because without faith, they are unable to make the leap of faith that overcomes dread. What logic! Did Kierkegaard personally know of anyone who fit this description? How can he claim this to be a universal truth when he spent so little of his life around the other human beings that he despised so much? The guy didn’t have many friends and apparently he didn’t want any either. He probably never even traveled outside of Denmark. These concepts of faith, dread, and fear of faith are vaguely expressed and some concrete examples of what they mean would have gone a long way in clarifying matters and proving they have any validity. Kierkegaard lacked an epsitemology and his wrtigins suffer terribly because of that omission. Of course, he believed faith mattered more than facts so why bother with proof? Don’t forget that spirit is what binds the soul to the body and Hegelian philosophy, science, paganism, and anything that isn’t Christian is twaddle, an oddly annoying word that gets used often whenever Kierkegaard makes an ad hominem attack on anyone he disagrees with. To be fair, this overuse of “twaddle” is probably the fault of the translator. But even so, at an intellectual level intellectual level it’s like calling someone a poopy-face or saying, “Yo mama’s so hairy you got rug burn when you was born.” The book actually gets easier to follow towards the end. The theme of “dread” that is supposed to be the thread tying the whole book together but it is not strong enough to do this. The comprehensible parts of the book are random and don’t complement one another. The Concept of Dread is formless, sloppy, lacking in structure, without clear purpose, and never presents any ideas that are relevant to anything in the real world. If you are not a Christian, then it is based entirely on a false premise. You may want to be a good sport, keep an open mind, and try to see this from the point of view of someone you disagree with but that does not add up to much when the author does such a poor job of stating what his purpose even is. Even if you are a Christian there is a definite possibility that you won’t understand or accept what Kierkegaard is yammering on about because he does such an insufficient job of writing clear and meaningful ideas. Some people say reading Kierkegaard will help you understand the Nazi Martin Heidegger but if you can understand Heidegger at all, reading Kierkegaard doesn’t offer much assistance. Heidegger, the fascist sympathizer who studied under the Jewish Husserl and had and had an affair with the Jewish Hannah Arendt, was possibly nothing more than a master of obfuscation anyways. Bertrand Russel accused him of using complex language to hide the fact that he had nothing to say (I only partially agree with this) and even the Nazis snubbed him, calling his philosophy gibberish, when he petitioned them to be the prime philosopher of National Socialism while applying for the position of rector of an elite Nazi university. (If you are a Kierkegaard defender, don’t whine at me about this digression since Kierkegaard also goes on long, irrelevant sidetracks in several of his books.) Reading Kierkegaard in light of Heidegger is like reading one of those footnotes that doesn’t do anything to enhance the main text. Over the last 30 years, I have read a lot of philosophy. I have read other books by Kierkegaard too. Abstract thinking is not foreign to me. Other reviewers say they like this book but can’t explain it. Some reviers explain it but their explanations make no more sense than the original text does. I’m calling bullshit on The Concept of Dread. It reads like something Kierkegaard wrote in haste without putting much thought into what he wanted to say. He probably never bothered to proofread it, revise it, or edit it. If he were alive today, he might even be surprised it is still in print. Skip over this pile of detritus and go straight for Fear and Trembling. I don’t agree with that book but at least it is comprehensible and can be understood, analyzed, and debated in a meaningful way.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mamluk Qayser

    It is quite sad that Kierkegaard, the most sensitive man the Earth ever seen in his long history, could not express himself in words and action like the other Romantics of his times. Nay, it is because of his sensitivity that sent him running contra the brutish sensitivity his contemporary displayed. And as he is of the most sensitive, the only way he can compensate is to realize his aesthetic in the most abstract way; here the most sensitive person became the most abstract person in the world. It is quite sad that Kierkegaard, the most sensitive man the Earth ever seen in his long history, could not express himself in words and action like the other Romantics of his times. Nay, it is because of his sensitivity that sent him running contra the brutish sensitivity his contemporary displayed. And as he is of the most sensitive, the only way he can compensate is to realize his aesthetic in the most abstract way; here the most sensitive person became the most abstract person in the world. His sublimation is in a way aesthetic (aesthetic acts because it must, ethical acts because of the sack of the act, spiritual acts because it believed). Look at him speaking: he must lose Regina in order to get back her in this very lifetime. How can a man become more abstract than this? Just because he finally can untangle his repressed sensitivity in the Hegelian puzzle drawn from a biblical picture, he thought his story must end likewise (it is in this must lie the aesthetic). The spiritual is spiritual because it is pure freedom; it is in actuality stands in the complete opposite pole from Kierkegaard’s formula. But then how should we paint the picture of faith without Kierkegaard’s formula? Faith takes another step further, it is not merely by the virtue of the absurd Regina must return to him, but it is by the virtue of the absurd Regina will return to him. For how a faithful Kierkegaard should reacts when Regina doesn’t return back to him, in contrast with the default aesthetic Kierkegaard? The faithful Kierkegaard would not fall into despair for the medal of faith is exactly rewarded in the completion of the act itself, rather than the result of the act. Innocence is ignorance. In the repose of ignorance, the spirit as an agent of freedom posited itself outside of itself. In other words, ignorance is ignorance toward something. This something is something outside from itself (and that’s why it is ignorance). And this contemplation about something outside from itself is what begets anxiety. Anxiety, according to Kierkegaard is freedom’s actuality from the possibility of possible. The spirit dreamed of something actual from mere possibility, the object is not here and now, and so the spirit is tumbling around in his sleep for the object. The way, in which children are very fidgety about something lurking beyond their grasp, their spirit already threw its arm into the unknown while their body still at the fence of innocence. It is only when the children cross the marches and stepped into the unknown that they have their innocence as they really realizing freedom’s actuality of possibility of possibility as an actuality. This solves the jettison between the doctrine of concupiscence and the first sin. How can the first man who shaped according to God’s mind has the innate faculty of sinfulness? It is absurd. And so, it is not concupiscence (innate tendency to commit sin) that tempts Adam, but it is the anxiety of the spirit (spirit dreaming of something it doesn’t have), which propels Adam to eat the fruit, and with that he has loss his innocence when he lost his ignorance by leaping/actualizing the spirit anxiety. If somebody is going to ask me what is anxiety from Kierkegaard’s view, I would say as such: That man proper is the synthesis posited by spirit between the soul and the body. Adam before the Fall is not a man proper for there is no synthesis posited by spirit. It is only when the Prohibition came that the synthesis by the spirit can be moved. Innocence is ignorance because in ignorance the spirit posits nothing, because in ignorance there is no possibility. But, the Prohibition allows the spirit to make a leap, for it is approaching the abolishment of ignorance. Ignorance is ultimately ignorance towards something, after this has been posited by the spirit, the spirit then conceives this something as something outside itself: thus anxiety. The way, in which children are very fidgety about something lurking beyond their grasp, their spirit already threw its arm into the unknown while their body still at the fence of innocence. As Kierkegaard is the acolyte of Hegel, it is totally understandable he presented the existential dilemma following Hegelian triad of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, which yielded us to an existential drama involving friction between the physical, psychical and spirit. As I am a student of Kant, I believe the Kierkegaardian’s triad could be compared as follows: the physical as the sensibility, psychical as the transcendental unity of apperception (few passage below, Kierkegaard equates psychical and soul, and I believe soul it the convergence/pole of the sensuous, refer to my essay On Soul) and the spirit as the Kantian Reason. The Kantian Reason could be described as pure possibility/freedom inherent in man, which never satisfied with the entire Kantian doctrine that set an adamantine lock over the heavens. The existential dilemma aptly described by him as, “…To do away with itself, that spirit can never do; seize itself, so long as it has itself outside itself, it cannot do that either. Nor can the human being sink down into the vegetative (physical), for he is characterized as spirit…” (p. 53). Here the drama only involved between the spirit and the physical, the psychical does not contribute any active role in them as it functioned only as a pole the ego refer to in the background and in reflection. Lastly, Kierkegaard sealed the deal by saying that man can never escape from anxiety: “…flee from anxiety he cannot, for he loves it; really love it he cannot, for he flees from it…” Pathogenesis of anxiety: Anxiety is “…the dizziness of freedom that emerges when spirit wants to posit the synthesis, and freedom now looks down into its own possibility and then grabs hold of finiteness to support itself…” (p.75). What makes the freedom dizzy was that when it tries to posit the synthesis, it posits into the eternal. The eternal is the present, for when the positing for the present, the infinite succession of events (that is the abstract concept of time; the ever vanishing) comes to a complete halt. The present then is an abstract concept spatialized by our representation as the “…going on that never moves from the spot, since for our powers of representation, the eternal is the infinitely contentful…” (p. 195). It is only in the positing of present, where time intersects with temporality, the concept of past time, present time and future time is made intelligible. As the freedom is a tool of possibility, after the positing of the spirit, it directly interjects into the eternal present, as here is the only space it can make itself intelligible. Then, it projects itself into the future time, as there is the only space it can make itself knowable (by realizing its possibility), and it is exactly here the yawning abyss of future time made the freedom dizzy; it is a realm of pure nothingness where its existence is only guaranteed by the eternal present. The ultimate layout of anxiety: It turned out later that Kierkegaard conceived anxiety as different states occurring in different moments of the synthesis. (Aside from one type described above) The moments of the synthesis where different kind of anxiety (while retaining its basic definition) are manifested would be: proto-synthetic, para-synthetic and post-synthetic. As here the word counts are limited, I cannot ponder on the details on the types of anxiety. The cure for anxiety: at the end of the day, Kierkegaard recommends faith as the cure for anxiety. Anxiety is freedom’s possibility, and people thought that possibility is as light as the feather. Nay, say, Kierkegaard for in anxiety “…all things are equally possible and anyone truly brought up by possibility has grasped the terrifying as well the smiling…” Faith following Hegel is “…inner certainty that anticipates infinity…” In anxiety, it overwhelms the individual via the discoveries of finiteness. But with the power of faith, it pulls the individual up not by rejecting the finiteness but to idealize them in the shape of finiteness. Anxiety is actually a jumping stand towards faith: in the case of fate, the anxiety in its anxiousness has ransacked and discarded from the self everything finite (because it is playing with the card of infinity), thus it has already taken away everything fate can snatch away. It is only up to the individual to rise up to God’s bounty not from the pain of his loss and sinfulness, but from solely of his choice.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bett Correa-Bollhoefer

    A mind spinning book. I love this guy.

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