Affliction and anguish

29 Oct

Those who have read The Being and Time attentively know that one of Heidegger’s important responses is what should be read in Kierkgaard were quick to witness the celebrated response of a thinker considered to be one of the most eminent philosophers of contemporary times.

It is, therefore, Heidegger himself who Kierkegaard separating him into so-called “edifying” teachings that would be more important than “theoretical” ones, except in one case that is anguish, in his treatise The concept of anguish, and that the “the forest philosopher” is keen to say that “from an ontological point of view” it remains “entirely tributary to Hegel and ancient philosophy seen through him”. (HEIDEGGER, 2012, p. 651, n. 6).

What Heidegger saw in this 1844 book, whose authorship is attributed to Vigilius Haufniensis, a Kierkegaardian pseudonym that translates as “Copenhagen Watcher”, since Kierkegaard was Danish and his first intention is to return Socratic wisdom, which for him contemplative knowledge (theory) with practical knowledge (phrónesis), the way of ancient Greek.

Although he called Socrates a “practical philosopher, he just wanted to focus the“ anguish ”dressing on the experience of what was reflected by the soul and this meant an approximation of psychology, it was“ the doctrine of the subjective spirit ”(KIERKEGAARD, 2010, p. 25), was one of the branches of Philosophy, and of a really dialectical philosophy in the Greek-Socratic sense since modern philosophy has fixed itself on the Kantian dualism thesis versus antithesis with an improbable synthesis.

The philosopher uses the expression “hereditary sin”, used by the author throughout the work, but as the one that corresponds to what theologians, called by him “dogmatic”, call the original sin, nomenclature apart, is the aspect that brings his theme closer to the anguish of that “soul” affliction, which can have a philosophical and psychological outline, but which is basically that affliction of those who feel outside a center, from a clear perspective of overcoming anguish.

What leads existence to a singular way, to a way of acting in such a way? This is where the notions of freedom and anguish emerge as “concepts” converge to this “anguish”, but without having a locus, neither in Aesthetics, in Metaphysics or even in Psychology, so the author does not say so, but there is something afflicted and tragic in this journey in this “anguish”.

Paul Ricoeur, reflecting on these expressions of Kierkegaard, establishes that evil is “what is the most opposite to the system”, precisely because it is absurd and scandalous, irrational and incomprehensible, situated on the margins of morality and reason, recalls Ricoeur (1996, p. 16), referring to the Kierkegaardian reflections, evil is “what is the most opposite to the system”, precisely because it is absurd and scandalous, irrational and incomprehensible, situated on the margins of morality and reason.

Ricoeur thus differentiates structural evil (we have already made a post), linked to anguish and sin and free will linked to personal decisions in the face of anguish.

The point that I consider essential in Kierkegaard’s thought on this existential aspect is that “only what has crossed the anguish of possibility, only this one is fully trained not to be distressed, not because it evades the horrors of life, but because they always become weak compared to those of possibility ”(KIERKEGAARD, 2010, p. 165-166), it is here that affliction can find its opposite and we can understand that there is a source of comfort in it.

Thus anguish and affliction are not exactly curses or sinful states or diseases of the “soul” or thoughts, they are phases of rupture or transition to other more mature phases when this stage involves reflection and overcoming.


HEIDEGGER, Martin (1957) Ser e tempo. Campinas: Editora da Unicamp, 2012. (Multilíngues de Filosofia Unicamp). JOLIVET, Régis. As doutrinas existencialistas: de Kierkegaard a Sartre. Portugal, Porto: Tavares Martins.

KIERKEGAARD, Sören (2010). O conceito de angústia: uma simples reflexão psicológico-demonstrativa direcionada ao problema dogmático do pecado hereditário de Vigilius Haufniensis. Tradução e notas Álvaro Luiz Montenegro Valls. 2. ed. Brazil, Petrópolis, RJ: Vozes.



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