Sample Term Paper
The Concept of Anxiety is one of Kierkegaard’s most straightforward, honest, and personal works. Primarily, it deals with the typical human understanding of sin, why we designate certain acts as sinful, and how our perception or experience of these acts is altered by the fact that they are labeled as “sinful.
Sin is inescapable. Sin ultimately consists in being outside of God. Only Jesus Christ, the God-man, is not in sin. Sin consciousness comes into being as part of human psychological development. It is absent from the innocent immediacy of childhood. It awakens with sexual desire – when we want to possess another. Desire is here understood as a lack that we want to fill. Possession, or incorporation of the other, is thought to be the way to fulfill the desire. In erotic love, it feels as though part of ourselves is outside of us, and needs to be reintegrated. This is the beginning of self-alienation and the loss of innocent immediacy. (“Soren Kierkegaard”, para 25)
Self-alienation is a necessary stage on the way to becoming a self. A self is a synthesis of finite and infinite, temporal and eternal, body and soul, held together by the spirit. Only with the direction of these aspects of the self, through self-alienation, does spirit arise. However, the spirit can only achieve the synthesis of self if it acknowledges its absolute dependence in this task on God (“the power that posits it”). Long before it gets to this stage, the person feels anxiety in the face of self-alienation. (“Soren Kierkegaard,” para 26)
Anxiety is an ambivalent state. It is the intimation of the delights of freedom, but also of the dread responsibility, that is a consequence of freedom. Like vertigo, it is the simultaneous fascination and fear of the abyss – a hypnotic possibility of falling that induces the dizziness to actually fall. The main arena for the exercise of freedom is in becoming a self. However, this requires alienation from one’s immediate sensate being, taking ethical responsibility for one’s relations to other people, and acknowledgment of one’s ultimate dependence on God. Each of these entails risk – and hence the anxiety. One of the risks involved is the possibility of falling prey to the demonic. A key definition of this notion is “self-enclosed reserve” [Indesluttethed] – a state in which the individual fails to relate to another as other, but returns into him or herself in narcissism or solipsism.
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