Title page for ETD etd-07212006-122036

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Cahl, Gregory Elkan
URN etd-07212006-122036
Document Title Kierkegaard's concept of anxiety : a philosophical-psychological investigation
Degree MA (Philosophy)
Department Philosophy
Advisor Name Title
Prof A P Du Toit
  • aesthetics
  • philosophy
  • anxiety
  • Kierkegaard Søren 1813-1855
  • subjectivity
Date 2001-04-19
Availability unrestricted
In 1844, when Kierkegaard published his work, The Concept of Anxiety, under the pseudonym of Vigilius Haufuiensis, it constituted no mean feat for a variety of reasons. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, was the content of the work. At that time, very little work had been done concerning the experience of anxiety and certainly no single academic work had had this issue as its formal topic. Secondly, the book was an incisive and complex theological and philosophical argument. So much so in fact, that no discussion of Haufuiensis' concept of anxiety is possible without incorporating its theological implications. Thirdly, and certainly as significant as its religious aspect, is the psychology inherent to The Concept of Anxiety. This was as innovative as the philosophical aspect, as is evinced by the pervasive influence it exercised over the development of psychology in the twentieth century. Lastly, but by no means least importantly, is the fact that Haufuiensis' work was an ingenious and derisive attack on Hegelianism, as well as a superb example of the practice of irony.

The reason that I make mention of this is to briefly illustrate the depth and complexity of this "little" work. Hence, in this essay, it has been my aim to thoroughly explore all four aspects of the work and to demonstrate how each holds as much significance as the other in considering the work as a whole. In terms of methodology, I have actively refrained from limiting my investigation to one particular approach. Instead, I have endeavoured to explore Haufuiensis' The Concept of Anxiety from a myriad of different angles, including the analytical, existential, theological, linguistic and deconstructive interpretations. Furthermore, in my opinion, any sound investigation of The Concept of Anxiety cannot proceed along the lines of isolating one specific aspect of the work as being of greater significance than any other. This is in contrast to the earlier scholars of Kierkegaard, who tended to categorize him chiefly as a Christian writer, greatly at the expense of all the other facets of his work.

The influence of Kierkegaard's work on the existentialist movement is well known and is encapsulated in his being cast as "the father of existentialism". In my opinion, this constitutes yet one more attempt to categorize both the man and his work, and as such constitutes a reductionism and an untenable approach to the work of this important thinker. My motivation in conducting an investigation into Kierkegaard's conception of anxiety is two-fold. Firstly, I am of the opinion that anxiety is a universal and, at the same time, intensely personal experience. As such, The Concept of Anxiety is an indispensable, and often overlooked part of Kierkegaard's philosophy. My second reason is to demonstrate, by simply concentrating on one aspect of Kierkegaard's work, the depth and scope of his corpus.

The Concept of Anxiety is notoriously known as being Kierkegaard's most inaccessible work, due chiefly to the difficulty experienced in its interpretation, and the subsequent plethora of misinterpretation. It is my opinion that the principal cause of this problem is the failure on the part of readers to take heed of the fact that Haufuiensis' work is conducted by means of indirect communication and as such is fraught with irony.

Finally, my conclusion after examining the conception of anxiety, as put forth by Haufniensis, as well as the reactions and influences it has elicited in the years since its publication, is that the work of the Danish author is as relevant and as important today, as it was upon being published.

© 2000, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Cahl, GE 2000, Kierkegaard's concept of anxiety : a philosophical-psychological investigation, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-07212006-122036/ >


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