The Concept of Anxiety

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Begrebet Angest (The Concept of Anxiety) is a philosophical work written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1844.

It may be judged how important is The Concept of Dread from the fact that besides the German translation there are two translations in French and one in Spanish. It is the first time I have had the pleasure of comparing four translations with the original text. It is hard on the eyes to keep five texts in view when I am making my translation, but it is interesting. I soon discovered to my chagrin that the Spanish translation was made, not from the Danish, but from Schrempf’s translation, and therefore could be discarded. The translator had not emulated the noble example of Don Miguel de Unamuno, who said in one of his essays, “I learned the language for the sake of reading Ibsen and was rewarded by reading Kierkegaard.” Because this translator was only a hack hired by a publisher, his name is not given. But of the French translations, which were both published in 1935 and are therefore entirely independent, it would be churlish of me to say that they are not very good, seeing that I have profited much by both of them. Walter Lowrie, Translator’s Preface to The Concept of Dread, p. vii 1944, 1957 Princeton University Press


  • Each generation has its own task and need not trouble itself unduly by being everything to previous and succeeding generations. Just as each day’s trouble is sufficient for the day, so each individual in a generation has enough to do in taking care of himself and does not need to embrace the whole contemporary age with his paternal solicitude or assume that era and epoch begin with his book, and still less with the New Year’s torch of his promise or with the intimations of his farseeing promises or with the referral of his reassurance to a currency of doubtful value. Not everyone who is stoop-shouldered is an Atlas, nor did he become such by supporting a world. Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven. Not everyone who offers himself as surety for the whole contemporary age proves by such action that he is reliable and can vouch for himself. Not everyone who shouts Bravo, schwere, Noth, Gottblitz, bravissimo has therefore understood himself and his admiration. P. 7
  • Nothing could please me more than to be regarded as a layman who indeed speculates but is far removed from speculation, although I am as devout in my belief in authority as the Roman was tolerant in his worship of God. When it comes to human authority, I am a fetish worshipper and will worship anyone with equal piety, but with one proviso, that it be made sufficiently clear by a beating of drums that he is the one I must worship and that it is he who is the authority and Imprimatur for the current year. That decision is beyond my understanding, whether it takes place by lottery or balloting, or whether the honor is passed around so that each individual has his turn as authority, like a representative of the burghers on the board of arbitration. P. 8


  • The view that every scientific issue within the larger compass of science has its definite place, its measure and its limit, and thereby precisely its harmonious blending in the whole as well as its legitimate participation in what is expressed by the whole, is not merely a pious wish that ennobles the man of science by its enthusiastic and melancholy infatuation. This view is not merely a sacred duty that commits him to the service of the totality and bids him renounce lawlessness and the adventurous desire to lose sight of the mainland; it also serves the interest of every more specialized deliberation, for when the deliberation forgets where it properly belongs, as language often expresses with striking ambiguity, it forgets itself and becomes something else, and thereby acquires the dubious perfectibility of being able to become anything and everything. P. 9
  • If it is now assumed that Hegelian philosophy has actually grasped Kant’s skepticism thoroughly (something that might continue to remain a great question despite all that Hegel and his school have done with the help of the slogan “method and manifestation” to conceal what Schelling with the slogan “intellectual intuition and construction” openly acknowledged as a new point of departure) and now has reconstructed the earlier in a higher form and in such a way that thought does not possess reality by virtue of a presupposition-does it also follow that this reality, which is consciously brought forth by thought, is a reconciliation? In that case, philosophy has only been brought back to where the beginning was made in the old days, when reconciliation did in fact have enormous significance. There is an old, respectable philosophical terminology: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. A more recent terminology has been chosen in which “mediation” takes the third place. … One rejects synthesis and says “mediation.” One says “reconciliation” and what is the result? P. 11
  • In logic, no movement must come about, for logic is, and whatever is logical only is. The external expression for the logical is what the Eleatics through a misunderstanding transferred to existence: nothing comes into being, everything is. Note p. 13
  • Corresponding to the concept of sin is earnestness. Now ethics should be a science in which sin might be expected to find a place. But here there is a great difficulty. Ethics is still an ideal science, and not only in the sense that every science is ideal. 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. What is said of the law is also true of ethics: it is a disciplinarian that demands, and by its demands only judges but does not bring forth life. P. 16
  • Sin belongs to ethics only insofar as upon this concept it is shipwrecked with the aid of repentance.
    • Note p 17 begins here – In his work Fear and Trembling (Copenhagen: 1843), Johannes de Silentio makes several observations concerning this point. In this book, the author several times allows the desired ideality of esthetics to be shipwrecked on the required ideality of ethics, in order through these collisions to bring to light the religious ideality as the ideality that precisely is the ideality of actuality, and therefore just as desirable as that of esthetics and not as impossible as the ideality of ethics. This is accomplished in such a way that the religious ideality breaks forth in the dialectical leap and in the positive mood- “Behold all things have become new as well as the negative mood that is the passion of the absurd to which the concept “repetition” corresponds. Either all of existence comes to an end in the demand of ethics, or the condition is provided and the whole of life and of existence begins anew, not through an immanent continuity with the former existence, which is a contradiction, but through a transcendence.
  • This transcendence separates repetition from the former existence by such a chasm that one can only figuratively say that the former and the latter relate themselves to each other as the totality of living creatures in the ocean related itself to those in the air and those upon the earth. Yet, according to the opinion of some natural scientists, the former as a prototype prefigures in it imperfection all that the latter reveals. With regard to this category, one might consult Repetition by Constantin Constanius (Copenhagen: 1843). This is no doubt a witty book, as the author also intended it to be. To my knowledge, he is indeed the first to have a lively understand of “repetition” and to have allowed the pregnancy of the concept to be seen in the explanation of the relation of the ethnical and the Christian, by directing attention to the invisible point and to the turning point where one science breaks against another until a new science comes to light.
  • But what he has discovered he has concealed again by arraying the concept in the jest of an analogous conception. What has motivated him to do this is difficult to say, or more correctly, difficult to understand. He himself writes that he writes in this manner so “that the heretics would not understand him.” Since he wanted to occupy himself with repetition only esthetically and psychologically, everything had to be arrayed humorously so as to bring about the impression that the word in one instant means everything and in the next instant the most insignificant of things, and the transition, or rather the constant falling down from the clouds, is motivated by its farcical opposite.
  • In actuality, the whole interest of subjectivity steps forth, and now metaphysics runs aground. If repetition is not posited, ethics becomes a binding power. No doubt it is for this reason that the author states that repetition is the watchword in every ethical view. If repetition is not posited, dogmatics cannot exist at all, for repetition begins in faith, and faith is the organ for issues of dogma. In the realm of nature, repetition is present in its immovable necessity. In the realm of the spirit, the task is not to wrest a change from repetition or to find oneself moderately comfortable during the repetition, as if spirit stood only in an external relation to the repetition of spirit (according to which good and evil would alternate like summer and winter), but to transform repetition into something inward, into freedom’s own task, into its highest interest, so that while everything else changes, it can actually realize repetition. At this point the finite spirit despairs. This is something Constantin mentions several times that repetition is a religious category, too transcendent for him, that it is the movement by virtue of the absurd, on page 142 it is further states that eternity is the true repetition. P. 17-18
  • The first ethics ignores sin. The second ethics has the actuality of sin within its scope, and here psychology can intrude only through a misunderstanding. If what has been developed here is correct, it is easily seen that the author is quite justified in calling the present work a psychological deliberation, and also how this deliberation, insofar as it becomes conscious of its relation to science, belongs to the domain of psychology and in turn tends toward dogmatics. Psychology has been called the doctrine of the subjective spirit. If this is pursued more accurately, it will become apparent how psychology, when it comes to the issue of sin, must first pass over into the doctrine of the absolute spirit. Here lies the place of dogmatics. The first ethics presupposes metaphysics; the second ethics presupposes dogmatics but completes it also in such a way that here, as everywhere, the presupposition is brought out. This was the task of the introduction. P. 23-24

Anxiety as the Presupposition of Hereditary Sin and as Explaining Hereditary Sin Retrogressively in Terms of its Origin[edit]

  • The Genesis story presents the only dialectically consistent view. Its whole content is really concentrated in one statement: Sin came into the world by a sin. Were this not so, sin would have come into the world as something accidental, which one would do well not to explain. The difficulty for the understanding is precisely the triumph of the explanation and its profound consequence, namely, that sin presupposes itself, that sin comes into the world in such a way by the fact that it is, it is presupposed. Thus sin comes into the world as a sudden, as a leap; but this leap also posits the quality, and since the quality is posited, the leap in that very moment is turned into the quality and is presupposed by the quality and the quality by the leap. To the understanding this is an offense; ergo it is a myth. As a compensation, the understanding invents its own myth, which denies the leap and explains the circle as a straight line, and now everything proceed quite naturally. P. 32
  • By habit, and especially by thoughtlessness and ethical stupidity, it has been made to appear that the first is easier than the last. We want so badly to sneak away from the sunstroke of the consequence that aims at the top of our heads. We would put up with sinfulness, go along with it. One need not trouble oneself; sinfulness is not an epidemic that spreads like cowpox, “and every mouth shall be stopped.” It is true that a person can say in profound earnestness that he was born in misery and that his mother conceived him in sin, but he can truly sorrow over this only if he himself brought guilt into the world and brought all this upon himself, for it is a contradiction to sorrow esthetically over sinfulness. The only one who sorrowed innocently over sinfulness was Christ. He sorrowed as the one who freely chose to carry all the sin of the world and to suffer its punishment. This is no esthetic qualification, for Christ was more than an individual. P. 38
  • Anxiety is a qualification of dreaming spirit, and as such it has its place in psychology. Awake, the difference between myself and my other is posited; sleeping, it is suspended; dreaming, it is an intimated nothing. The actuality of the spirit constantly shows itself as a form that tempts its possibility but disappears as soon as it seeks to grasp for it, and it is a nothing that can only bring anxiety. More it cannot do as long as it merely shows itself. The concept of anxiety is almost never treated in psychology. Therefore, I must point out that it is altogether different from fear and similar concepts that refer to something definite, whereas 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. P. 42
  • When it is stated in Genesis that God said to Adam, “Only from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you must not eat,” it follows as a matter of course that Adam really has not understood this word, for how could he understand the difference between good and evil when this distinction would follow as a consequence of the enjoyment of the fruit. When it is assumed that the prohibition awakens the desire one acquires knowledge instead of ignorance, and in that case Adam must have had knowledge of freedom, because the desire was to use it. The explanation is therefore subsequent. The prohibition induces in him anxiety, for the prohibition awakens in him freedom’s possibility. What passed by innocence as the nothing of anxiety has now entered into Adam, and here again it is a nothing-the anxious possibility of being able. He has no conception of what he is able to do; otherwise-and this it what usually happens-that which comes later, the difference between good and evil, would have to be presupposed. Only the possibility of being able is present as a higher form of ignorance, as a higher expression of anxiety, because in a higher sense it both is and is not, because in a higher sense he both loves it and flees from it. P. 44-45
  • How sin came into the world each man understands solely by himself. If he would learn it from another, he would misunderstand it. The only science that can help a little is psychology, yet it admits that it explains nothing, and also that it cannot and will not explain more. If any science could explain it everything would be confused. P. 51

Anxiety as Explaining Hereditary Sin Progressively[edit]

  • One who has properly occupied himself with psychology and psychological observation acquires a general human flexibility that enables him at once to construct his example which even though it lacks factual authority nevertheless has an authority of a different kind. The psychological observer ought to be more nimble than a tightrope dancer in order to incline and band himself to other people and imitate their attitudes, and his silence in the moment of confidence should be seductive and voluptuous, so that what is hidden may find satisfaction in slipping out to chat with itself in the artificially constructed nonobservance and silence. P. 55
  • The concept of race is too abstract to allow the positing of so concrete a category as sin, which is posited precisely in that the single individual himself, as the single individual, posits it. Thus sinfulness in the race becomes only a quantitative approximation. P. 57
  • Angest kan man sammenligne med Svimmelhed. Den, hvis Øie kommer til at skue ned i et svælgende Dyb, han bliver svimmel. Men hvad er Grunden, det er ligesaa meget hans Øie som afgrunden; thi hvis han ikke havde stirret ned. Saaledes er Angest den Frihedens Svimlen, der opkommer, idet Aanden vil sætte Synthesen, og Friheden nu skuer ned i sin gegen Mulighed, og da griber Endeligheden at holde sig ved. I denne Svimlen segner Friheden. Videre kan Psychologien ikke komme og vil det ikke. I samme Øieblik er Alt forandret, og idet Friheden igjen reiser sig op, seer den, at den er skyldig. Imellem disse tvende Øieblikke ligger Springet, som ingen Videnskab har forklaret eller kan forklare. Den, der bliver skyldig i Angest, han bliver saa tvetydig skyldig som mulig.
    • Anxiety may be compared with dizziness. He whose eye happens to look down the yawning abyss becomes dizzy. But what is the reason for this? It is just as much in his own eye as in the abyss, for suppose he had not looked down. Hence, anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, which emerges when the spirit wants to posit the synthesis and freedom looks down into its own possibility, laying hold of finiteness to support itself. Freedom succumbs to dizziness. Further than this, psychology cannot and will not go. In that very moment everything is changed, and freedom, when it again rises, sees that it is guilty. Between these two moments lies the leap, which no science has explained and which no science can explain. He who becomes guilty in anxiety becomes as ambiguously guilty as it is possible to become. P. 61
  • A person might become a heretic in his faith by wearing wide pants when everyone else in the village wears tight pants. When someone offers statistical surveys of the proportions of sinfulness, draws a map of it in color and relief, so as to guide the eye quickly in its perspicuity, he makes an attempt at treating sin as a peculiarity of nature that is not to be annulled but is to be calculated just as atmospheric pressure and rainfall are. The mean and the arithmetical average that result are nonsense of a kind that has no comparison in the purely empirical sciences. It would be a very ridiculous abracadabra if anyone should seriously suggest that sinfulness averages 3 3/8 inches in every man or that in Languedoc the average is merely 2 ¼ inches, while in Bretagne it is 3 7/8. P. 62-63
  • This deliberation is concerning the power of the example – a psychological intermediate term is frequently lacking, namely, the explanation of how it happens that the example has such power. … The attention of psychology is fixed exclusively upon the particular phenomenon, but at the same time it does not have its eternal categories ready and does not lay adequate emphasis upon saving mankind, which can be done only by saving each particular individual into the race, whatever the cost may be. The example is supposed to have had an influence upon the child. The child is represented as just a little angel, but the corrupt environment plunged it into corruption. Accounts are given again and again of how bad the environment was-and so, so the child became depraved. But if this takes place through a simple quantitative process, every concept is canceled. This is something that is overlooked. The child is represented as being basically wicked, as having not had the advantage of the good example. P. 75-76
  • 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. P. 78-79

Anxiety as the Consequence of that Sin which is Absence of the Consciousness of Sin[edit]

  • In recent philosophy there is a category that is continually used in logical no less than in historical-philosophical inquiries. It is the category of transition. However, no further explanation is given. The term is freely used without any ado, and while Hegel and the Hegelian school startled the world with the great insight of the presuppositions, there is no embarrassment at all over the use in Hegelian thought of terms “transition,” “negation,” “mediation,” e., the principals of motion, in such a way that they do not find their place in the systematic progression. If this is not a presupposition, I do not know what a presupposition is. For to use something that is nowhere explained is indeed to presuppose it. P. 81
  • The system is supposed to have such marvelous transparency and inner vision that in the manner of navel souls (navel gazers) it would gaze immovably at the central nothing until at last everything would explain itself and its whole content would come into being by itself. Such introverted openness to the public was to characterize the system. Nevertheless, this is not the case, because systematic thought seems to pay homage to secretiveness with respect to its innermost movements. Negation, transition, mediation are three disguised, suspicious, and secret agents that bring about all movement. 81-82
  • Man is a synthesis of psyche and body, but he is also a synthesis of the temporal and eternal. As for the latter synthesis, it is immediately striking that it is formed differently from the former. 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 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 no. what, then, is the temporal? P. 85
  • For the Greeks, the eternal lies behind as the past that can only be entered backwards. P. 90
  • The category I maintain should be kept in mind, repetition, by which eternity is entered forwards. Note associated with quote. P. 90
  • If I am anxious about a past misfortune, then this is not because it is in the past but because it may be repeated, i.e., become future. If I am anxious because of a past offense, it is because I have not placed it in an essential relation to myself as past and have in some deceitful way prevented it from being past. If indeed it is actually past, then I cannot be anxious but only repentant. If I do not repent, I have allowed myself to make my relation to the offense dialectical, and by this the offense itself has become a possibility, and not something past. If I am anxious about the punishment, it is only because this has been placed in a dialectical relation to the offense (otherwise I suffer my punishment), and then I am anxious for the possible for the future. Thus we have returned to where we were in Chapter I. Anxiety is the psychological state that precedes sin. It approaches sin as closely as possible, as anxiously as possible, but without explaining sin, which breaks forth only in the qualitative leap. 91-92
    • Ængstes jeg saaledes for en forbigangen Ulykke, da er det ikke, forsaavidt den er forbigangen, men forsaavidt den kan gjentages d.v.s. vorde tilkommende. Ængstes jeg for en forbigangen Brøde, da er det fordi jeg ikke har sat den i et væsentligt Forhold til mig som forbigangen, og paa en eller anden svigagtig Maade forhindrer den i at være forbigangen. Dersom den nemlig er virkelig forbigangen, da kan jeg ikke ængstes, men kun angre. Gjør jeg ikke det, da har jeg først tilladt mig at gjøre mit Forhold til den dialektisk, men derved er Brøden selv bleven en Mulighed og ikke noget Forbigangent Ængstes jeg for Straffen, da er det kun saasnart denne bliver sat i et dialektisk Forhold til Brøden (ellers bærer jeg min Straf), og da ængstes jeg for det Mulige og det Tilkommende. Saaledes ere vi atter komne hen, hvor vi vare i Cap. I. Angest er den psychologiske Tilstand, der gaaer forud for Synden, kommer den saa nær som mulig, saa ængstende som mulig, uden dog at forklare Synden, der først i det qualitative Spring bryder frem.
  • There is only one proof of spirit and that is the spirit’s proof within oneself. Whoever demands something else may get proofs in superabundance, but he is already characterized at spiritless. P. 95
  • The genius continually discovers fate, and the more profound the genius, the more profound the discovery of fate. To spiritlessness, this is naturally foolishness, but in actuality it is greatness, because no man is born with the idea of providence, and those who think that one acquires it gradually though education are greatly mistaken, although I do not thereby deny the significance of education. Not until sin is reached is providence posited. Therefore the genius has an enormous struggle to reach providence. If he does not reach it, truly he becomes a subject for the study of fate. 98-99
  • life offers sufficient phenomena in which the individual in anxiety gazes almost desirously at guilt and yet fears it. Guilt has for the eye of the spirit the fascinating power of the serpent’s glance. P. 104
  • Only by itself can freedom come to know whether it is freedom or whether guilt is posited. Therefore nothing is more ridiculous than to assume that the question of whether one is a sinner or guilty belongs under the rubric: lesson to be memorized. The relation of freedom to guilt is anxiety, because freedom and guilt are still only possibilities. P. 109

Anxiety of Sin or Anxiety as the Consequence of Sin in the Single Individual[edit]

  • The history of the individual life proceeds in a movement from state to state. Every state is posited by a leap. As sin entered into the world, so it continues to enter into the world if it is not halted. Nevertheless, every such repetition is not a simple consequence but a new leap. Every such leap is preceded by a state as the closest psychological approximation. This state is the object of psychology. To the extent that in every state possibility is present, anxiety is also present. Such is the case after sin is posited, for only in the good is there a unity of state and transition. P. 113
  • Nay, truth—which abhors also this untruth of aspiring after broad dissemination as the one aim—is not nimble on its feet. In the first place it cannot work by means of the fantastical means of the press, which is the untruth; the communicator of the truth can only be a solitary individual. And again the communication of it can only be addressed to the individual. P. 116
  • All that is need in order to become like most people is to seek the advice of Tom, Dick, and Harry, and one can always secure the testimony of a few respectable people to that end. The most effective means of escaping spiritual trial is to become spiritless, and the sooner the better. If only taken care of in time, everything takes care of itself. And as for spiritual trial it may be explained as nonexistent, or at most may be regarded as a piquant poetical fiction. In the old days, the road to perfection was narrow and solitary. The journey along it was always disturbed by aberrations, exposed to predatory attacks by sin, and pursued by the arrow of the past. Now one travels to perfection by railway in good company. P. 117
  • As soon as sin is posited and the individual continues in sin, there are two formations, one of which is described in the foregoing section. If attention is not paid to this, the demonic cannot be defined. The individual is in sin, and his anxiety is about evil. Viewed from a higher standpoint, this formation is in the good, and for this reason it is in anxiety about the evil. The other formation is the demonic. The individual is in the evil and is in anxiety about the good. The bondage of sin is an unfree relation to the evil, but the demonic is an unfree relation to the good. The demonic therefore manifests itself clearly only when it is in contact with the good, which come to its boundary from the outside. For this reason, it is noteworthy that the demonic in the New Testament first appears when it is approached by Christ. Whether the demon is legion (cf. Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39) or is dumb (cf. Luke 11:14), the phenomenon is the same, namely, anxiety about the good, for anxiety can just as well express itself by muteness as by a scream. The good, of course, signifies the restoration of freedom, redemption, salvation, or whatever one would call it. 118-119
  • The demonic has been viewed medically-therapeutically. And it goes without saying with power and with pills and then with enemas! Now the pharmacist and the physician would get together. The patient would be isolated to prevent others from becoming afraid. In our courageous age, we dare not tell a patient that he is about to die, we dare not call the pastor lest he die from shock, and we dare not tell the patient that a few days ago a man died from the same disease. The patient would be isolated. Sympathy would inquire about his condition. The physician would promise to issue a report as soon as possible, along with a tabulated statistical survey in order to determine the average. And when one has arrived at the average, everything is explained. The medical-therapeutic view regards the phenomenon as purely physical and somatic, and as physicians often do, takes a pinch of snuff and says: It is a serious case. P. 121-122
  • The demonic is the contentless and boring. The continuity that corresponds to the sudden is what might be called extinction. Boredom, extinction, is precisely a continuity in nothingness. The 3,000 years are not accentuated to emphasis the sudden; instead, the prodigious span of time evokes the notion of the dreadful emptiness and contentlessness of evil. When all ethical determinants of evil are excluded, and only metaphysical determinants of emptiness are used, the result is the trivial, the comic. The contentless and the boring represent inclosing reserve. 132-133
  • In modern times, that has been enough talk about truth; now it is high time to vindicate certitude and inwardness, not in the abstract sense in which Fichte uses the word, but in an entirely concrete sense. Certitude and inwardness determine whether or not an individual is demonic. It will become clear that arbitrariness, unbelief, mockery of religion, are not, as commonly believed, lack of content, but lack of certitude, exactly in the same sense as are superstition, servility, and sanctimoniousness. The negative phenomena lack certified precisely because they are in anxiety about the content. 138-139
  • What extraordinary metaphysical and logical efforts have been put forth in our time to produce a new, exhaustive, and absolutely correct proof, combining all earlier proofs, of the immortality of the soul; and strangely enough, while this is taking place, certitude declines. The thought of immortality possesses a power and weightiness in its consequences, a responsibility in the acceptance of it, which perhaps will recreate the whole of life in a way that is feared. And so one saves and soothes one’s soul by straining one’s mind to produce a new proof. Yet, what is such a proof but a “good work” in a purely Catholic sense! Every such individuality who knows how to set forth the proof for the immortality of the soul but who is not himself convinced will always be anxious about every phenomenon that affects him in such a way that he is forced to seek a further understanding of what it means to say that man is immortal. This will disturb him. He will be depressingly affected when a perfectly simple man talks quite simply of immortality. 139
  • The demonstration of the existence of God is something with which one learnedly and metaphysically occupies oneself only on occasion, but the thought of God forces itself upon a man on every occasion. What is it that such an individuality lacks? Inwardness. 140
  • It is no doubt difficult to give a definition of inwardness. In the meantime, I shall at this point say that it is earnestness. This is a word that everyone understands. But strangely enough, few words have less frequently been the object of deliberation. When Macbeth murdered the king, he exclaimed: “from this moment/There’s nothing serious in mortality;/All is but toys; renown and grace is dead;/The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees/Is left this vault to brag of” (Macbeth, II,3) Macbeth was a murderer; therefore the words in his mouth were a dreadful and shocking truth. Yet every individual who has lost inwardness can truly say “The wine of life is drawn,” and also “There’s nothing serious in mortality; all is but toys,” for inwardness is precisely the fountain that springs up unto eternal life, and what issues from this fountain is precisely earnestness. P. 146
  • In life there is not infrequent talk about earnestness. Someone is in earnest about the national debt, another about the categories, and a third about a performance at the theater. Irony discovers that this is the case, and with it has enough to occupy itself, because everyone who becomes earnest at the wrong place is eo ipso comical, even though an equally comical, travestied contemporary age and the opinion of the age may be exceedingly earnest about it. Therefore, there is no measuring rod more accurate for determining the essential worth of an individuality, than what is learned through the individual’s own loquacity or by cunningly extracting from him the secret: What has made him earnest in life? For one may be born with disposition, but no one is born with earnestness. 149-150
  • Some deny the eternal in man. He may continue to deny the eternal as long as he wants, but in so doing he will not be able to kill the eternal entirely. Nowadays, the various governments live in fear of restless disturbers; there are altogether too many individualities who live in fear of one restless disturber that nevertheless is the true rest-eternity. So they preach the moment, and just as the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so eternity is best annihilated by mere moments. But why do people rush around in such a terrible haste? If there is no eternity, the moment is just as long as if there were. But anxiety about the eternal turns the moment into an abstraction. 152

Anxiety as Saving through Faith[edit]

  • If a human being were a beast or an angel, he could not be in anxiety. Because he is a synthesis, he can be in anxiety; and the more profoundly he is in anxiety, the greater is the man—yet not in the sense usually understood, in which anxiety is about something external, about something outside a person, but in the sense that he himself produces the anxiety. Only in this sense can the words be understood when it is said of Christ that he was anxious unto death, as well as the words spoken by Christ to Judas: What you are going to do, do quickly. Not even the terrifying verse that made even Luther anxious when preaching on it—“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”—not even these words express suffering so profoundly. For the latter signify a condition in which Christ finds himself. And the former signify the relation to the condition that is not. 155
  • The possibility that is said to be so light is commonly regarded as the possibility of happiness, fortune, etc. but this is not possibility. It is rather a mendacious invention that human depravity has dressed up so as to have a reason for complaining about life and Governance and a pretext for becoming self-important. No, in possibility all things are equally possible, and whoever has truly been brought up by possibility has grasped the terrible as well as the joyful. So when such a person graduates from the school of possibility, and he knows better than a child knows his ABC’s that he can demand absolutely nothing of life and that the terrible, perdition, and annihilation live next door to every man, and when he has thoroughly learned that every anxiety about which he was anxious came upon him in the moment—he will give actuality another explanation, he will praise actuality, and even when it rests heavily upon him, he will remember that it nevertheless is far, far lighter than possibility was. Only in this way can possibility be educative, because finiteness and the finite relation in which every individual is assigned a place, whether they be small, or every day, or world-historical, educate only finitely, and a person can always persuade them, always coax something else out of them, always bargain, always escape from them tolerably well, always keep himself a little on the outside, always prevent himself from absolutely learning something from them; and if he does this, the individual must again have possibility in himself and himself develop that from which he is to learn, even though in the next moment that form which he is to learn does not at all acknowledge that it is formed by him but absolutely deprives him of the power. 156-157
  • 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 falsification 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. 158-159
    • I Virkeligheden sank Ingen saa dybt, at han jo kan synke dybere, og at der jo kan være Een og Mange, der sank dybere. Men den, der sank i Mueligheden, hans Blik svimlede, hans Øie forvirredes, saa han ikke fattede den Maalestok, hvilken Creti og Pleti rækker den Synkende som et frelsende Halmstraa, hans Øre lukkedes, saa han ikke hørte, hvad Torveprisen paa Mennesker var i hans Samtid, ikke hørte: at han var ligesaa god som de Fleste. Han sank absolut, men da dukkede han atter op fra Afgrundens Dyb lettere end alt det Besværende og Forfærdende i Livet. Kun negter jeg ikke, at den, der dannes ved Mueligheden, er udsat, ikke som de, der dannes ved Endeligheden for at komme i slet Selskab, skeie af paa forskjellig Maade, men for et Fald, og det er Selvmordet. Hvis han, idet han er begyndt Dannelsen, misforstaaer Angesten, saa den ikke fører ham til Troen, men fra Troen, da er han fortabt. Den, der derimod dannes, han bliver hos Angesten, han lader sig ikke bedrage af dens utallige Falsknerier, han husker nøiagtigt det Forbigangne; da bliver tilsidst Angestens Anfald, om end forfærdelige, dog ikke saaledes, at han flyer dem. Angesten bliver ham en tjenende Aand, der mod dens Villie fører ham, hvorhen han vil.
  • 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? 161

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