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"The Concept of Anxiety", Guilt and Sin (1)

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  • Jim Stuart
    Dear Jim, I have re-read my notes on CoA, and I am struck by how similar in content the book is to both CUP and SUD. The similarities with SUD are particularly
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2005
      Dear Jim,

      I have re-read my notes on CoA, and I am struck by how similar in content the book is to both CUP and SUD.

      The similarities with SUD are particularly striking - SUD could be subtitled "Varieties of Despair", while CoA could be subtitled "Varieties of Anxiety". Both texts involve a characterisation of different categories of individuals who exemplify different varieties of anxiety/despair. The progress is from the shallowest form to the deep forms, culminating with an account of how the individual makes the leap into faith, and how the life of faith contrasts with the way of existing without faith, in relation to anxiety/despair. While both anxiety and despair are seen as negative, K does argue that all individuals should, if they are to progress from sin to faith, face up honestly to their anxieties and despairs and work through them. Anxiety comes across as less negative than despair (e.g. "Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate", CoA, Thomte, p. 155), and it is not clear to me, from re-reading my notes, whether the person of faith still suffers anxiety. Clearly, the person of faith does not still suffer despair, as despair is sin, and sin is the opposite of faith.

      In CoA the varieties of anxiety discussed are clearly demarcated by the way K structures the book. Chapter 3 contains three varieties of anxiety where consciousness of sin is absent, Chapter 4 contains two varieties of anxiety where consciousness of sin is present, whilst Chapter 5 describes the existence of the person of faith and her relation to anxiety.

      The three varieties of anxiety in Chapter 3 are discussed in the three sections which make up Chapter 3: (1) the anxiety of spiritlessness; (2) the anxiety concerning fate; and (3) the anxiety about guilt. The former two varieties of anxiety fit two different ways of existing as an aesthetic individual. The latter variety of anxiety is the anxiety of the ethical (or, possibly, the religiousness A) individual.

      The two varieties of anxiety in Chapter 4 are two ways in which the individual who has consciousness of sin can be anxious. There are similar sections in SUD where there are descriptions of how the individual with consciousness of sin can be in despair. I find these sections of K's texts extremely difficult and troubling. Individuals who have made progress towards the good and the goal of salvation by gaining depth of character and a significant amount of self-knowledge succumb to terrible temptations and self-deceptions when on the brink of victory. Their falls are great because they are falling from a great height.

      In CoA, K clearly does distinguish between guilt and sin, as he does in CUP and SUD. Anxiety about guilt is discussed in Chapter 3, Section 3, where consciousness of sin is absent. Chapter 4 discusses categories of anxiety where consciousness of sin is present. Thus, just as in CUP and SUD, consciousness of guilt comes first, and consciousness of sin is a further achievement only possible for the person who stands before God.

      As you agree, it is vitally important to distinguish between the consciousness of guilt and the consciousness of sin, on the one hand, and guilt and sin as first-order states of the individual, on the other hand. The leap from innocence to guilt occurs when the individual sins for the first time. Thereafter the individual is in a state of sin and is guilty before God. The leap into faith is a leap out of the state of sin in which the individual, by having faith in the saving effect of the Atonement, is freed from the consequences of his sin and his guilt. So the chronological order goes as follows: innocence -> sin and guilt -> consciousnes of guilt -> consciousness of sin -> faith, involving the removal of the consequences of sin and guilt. K claims that most individuals do not get past the sin and guilt stage.

      My own view of the pseudonyms is this: Vigilius Haufniensis, Johannes Climacus and Anti-Climacus are saying the same things, but are writing from different perspectives. Johannes Climacus is not a Christian, Anti-Climacus is a Christian. K, in his papers, describes himself as higher than Johannes Climacus both lower than Anti-Climacus.

      I find some of the things Vigilius Haufniensis writes "un-Kierkegaardian". For example, VH uses the term 'concept' in a positive way, whilst elsewhere K is disparaging about the use of this term (or so others have told me).

      A companion post contains quotes from CoA supporting my claims here and in my last post in the "Of Cabbages and Ontology" thread.


      Jim Stuart

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