The Concept of Anxiety

  • by Soren Kierkegaard, Alastair Hannay (translator)
  • Narrated by David Rapkin
  • 6 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

This first new translation of Kierkegaard's masterwork in a generation brings an essential work of modern philosophy to vivid life.
Although Soren Kierkegaard's death in the fall of 1855 foreshadowed a lasting split between conservative Christians and young contemporaries who saw him as a revolutionary thinker, it was not until the turn of the 20th century - and beyond the borders of his native Denmark - that his lasting significance came to be felt. By transcending distinctions of genre, Kierkegaard brought traditionally separated disciplines to bear on deep human concerns and was able, through his profound self-insight, to uncover the strategies with which we try to deal with them. As a result, he is hailed today as no less than the father of modern psychology and existentialism.
While the majority of Kierkegaard's work leading up to The Concept of Anxiety dealt with the intersection of faith and knowledge, here the renowned Danish philosopher turns to the perennial question of sin and guilt. First published in 1844, this concise treatise identified - long before Freud - anxiety as a deep-seated human state, one that embodies the endless struggle with our own spiritual identities. Ably synthesizing human insights with Christian dogma, Kierkegaard's "psychological deliberation" suggests that our only hope in overcoming anxiety is not through "powder and pills" but by embracing it with open arms. Indeed, for Kierkegaard, it is only through our experiences with anxiety that we are able to become truly aware of ourselves and the freedoms and limitations of our own existence.
While Kierkegaard's Danish prose is surprisingly rich, previous translations - the most recent in 1980 - have tended either to deaden its impact by being excessively literal or to furnish it with a florid tone foreign to its original directness. In this new edition, Alastair Hannay re-creates its natural rhythm in a way that will finally allow this overlooked classic not only to become as celebrated as Fear and Trembling, The Sickness unto Death, and Either/Or but also to earn a place as the seminal work of existentialism and moral psychology that it is.

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Customer Reviews

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A book about nothing

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.


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- Gary

A deeply positive account of anxiety

A dense work that requires multiple listens, but will reward with insight over many years. Surprisingly helpful to hear it in addition to just reading.
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- AP

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-29-2014
  • Publisher: Audible Studios