Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Ian G. Weeks
This dissertation is a commentary on one of Spren Kierkegaard's most difficult works, The Concept of Anxiety. Its aim is to show that Kierkegaard does not have a modern existentialist understanding of the self. It is in his treatment of the problems of freedom and time in The Concept of Anxiety that the differences of his thought from the tradition of existentialism can "be most clearly seen. The doctrine width is central to existentialism, according to which man makes himself and is therefore the creator of all meaning and value, is often attributed by some commentators to the thought of Kierkegaard. It is my claim that such a doctrine is incompatible with the religious basis of Kierkegaard's view of the self. For Kierkegaard the freedom of the self does not consist in the fact that the possibilities for choice are unlimited. The self becomes free only by acknowledging its dependence on a reality which is external to the self and which eternally defines it. Kierkegaard's view of freedom and the self is closer to that of Augustine's, according to which the self becomes free by being bound to God. Freedom is therefore not an immediate possession of the self but something which must be acquired by virtue of the supernatural action of grace, the origin of which is God.
A corollary of the existentialist view of the self is that the self is inextricably caught within time relations, and therefore perpetually divided from the presence of the external. Kierkegaard's argument, as it is presented in The Concept of Anxiety, assumes, on the contrary, that for the self to be a self it must come into a real relation to the eternal in what he calls the "Moment". I will argue on the basis of this interpretation that Kierkegaard's articulation of the self's relation to time further differentiates him from the existentialist tradition. This conclusion also flows from the fact that Kierkegaard's understanding of the self is a theological one.
Though it is quite widely held that Kierkegaard was the founder of the existentialist movement, it will be my argument that such an assumption is based on a misconception. Though certain writers of twentieth century adopted Kierkegaard as their own, they did so only by truncating the basic elements of his View of the self.
Humbert, John David James, "Freedom and Time in Kierkegaard's The Concept of Anxiety" (1983). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1453.