Anxiety as the Precondition of Hereditary

Of primary interest to Vigilius is the question of how innocence is lost, which brings him at last to the psychological explanation of the Fall promised at the beginning of his deliberation. Reminding the reader that no science can explain sin, which comes into existence suddenly and inexplicably through a qualitative leap, Vigilius aims to stay within the boundary of what psychology can explain, namely the psychological preconditions that lead up to but do not cause or explain sin itself. He briefly notes the failure of other attempts to provide an adequate psychological explanation of the Fall through the notions of prohibition, temptation, and concupiscence, which in his view lack the moral ambiguity required of a psychological explanation (CA 39-41).34 The factor Vigilius regards as providing the only satisfactory psychological explanation of the possibility of sin and guilt is anxiety (Angest or Angst), which is a qualification of the unconscious or 'dreaming spirit' in the human psyche and thus is an appropriate subject for psychological treatment (42, 48).35 Vigilius correctly observes that this concept 'is almost never treated in psychology' (42). But it is a concept that was at least mentioned in a number of psychological studies and philosophical anthropologies by authors with whom his alter ego Kierkegaard was familiar, including Kant, Hamann, Hegel, Michelet, Erdmann, Rosenkranz, Daub, Sibbern, and Schelling, among others (SKS K iv. 408-10; CA 59; JP i. 96). Of these, Kant and Schelling stand out as the thinkers who most likely stimulated Kierkegaard's association of the concept of anxiety with original sin and human freedom, although his own deep-seated melancholy undoubtedly also attuned him to discern the spiritual significance of this phenomenon in human existence. In an essay on the 'Conjectural Beginning of Human History', Kant makes the following observation:

He [man] discovered in himself a power of choosing for himself a way of life, of not being bound without alternative to a single way, like the animals. Perhaps the discovery of this advantage created a moment of delight. But of necessity, anxiety and alarm as to how he was to deal with this newly discovered power quickly

34 On Kierkegaard's critique of Franz von Baader's theory of temptation, see Koslowski (2007).

35 On Kierkegaard's anticipation of Freud's psychology of the unconscious, see Evans (2006b: 277-98); Nordentoft (1978: 142-65, 176-80); Cole (1971).

followed; for man was a being who did not yet know either the secret properties or the remote effects of anything. He stood, as it were, at the brink of an abyss. Until that moment, instinct had directed him toward specific objects of desire. But from these there now opened up an infinity of such objects, and he did not yet know how to choose between them. On the other hand, it was impossible for him to return to the state of servitude (i.e., subjection to instinct) from the state of freedom, once he had tasted the latter.36

Like Kant (and Schelling), Vigilius associates the phenomenon of anxiety with the possibility of freedom in human beings, but he makes much more of it than Kant does. To begin with, he conceives anxiety as being 'altogether different from fear', which is generally how Kant and other thinkers of Kierkegaard's time understood it (CA 42).37 In a journal entry from 1844 Kierkegaard observes: 'The word anxiety (Angst) has until now been territory open for the taking; we shall attempt to prescribe to it a definite meaning or, better, to affirm it in its definite meaning' (JP i. 98). More precisely defined, then, anxiety is 'a sympathetic antipathy and an antipathetic sympathy' that is ambiguously related to fear in that one both desires what one fears and fears what one desires (CA 42; cf. JP i. 94).38 This simultaneous feeling of attraction and repulsion toward the possibility of freedom is a common experience in human life.39 According to Vigilius, anxiety is first posited in the state of innocence as a 'foreign power' that lays hold of a person in relation to the possibility of being able to do something, although at this stage one has no conception of what one is able to do and thus is anxious about nothing rather than something definite (CA 42-4). In the grip of this ambiguous power the human spirit looks down 'into the yawning abyss' (shades of Kant here) of its own possibility as freedom, of being able to choose itself as a synthesis of the physical (body) and the psychical (soul/mind) (43, 61). Then, as if in a spell of dizziness, 'freedom faints' and succumbs to sin by making the qualitative leap from innocence to guilt in the failure to posit itself as the spiritual synthesis it essentially is. In associating anxiety with dizziness, Vigilius echoes Kant's remark that 'the person who looks into an abyss is overcome by dizziness' and Schelling's statement that 'the will... awakes in freedom the appetite for what is creaturely just as he who is seized by dizziness on a high and steep summit seems to be beckoned to plunge downward by a hidden

37 Kant (1978: 161); see also Hoberman (1987: 186-9), and SKSK iv 408-11.

38 See SKS K iv 409-10 and Poole (2001: 206-7), on Kierkegaard's indebtedness to his psychology teacher F. C. Sibbern for this definition, although Sibbern, like Kant, viewed anxiety as an intensified form of fear.

39 See Pattison (2005: 55-61), on anxiety in adolescence.

voice'.40 Further than this, Vigilius contends, psychology cannot go in explaining how innocence is lost and sin comes into the world. Anxiety is the psychological presupposition or precondition of hereditary sin but does not explain the qualitative leap into sin. In becoming guilty through anxiety, however, the human spirit becomes ambiguously guilty, that is, both innocent and guilty, inasmuch as 'the fall into sin always takes place in weakness' as a result of freedom becoming entangled in itself in anxiety and thus not really free (61, 49).

Vigilius also maintains that sin does not come into the world through the exercise of an abstract liberum arbitrium or equal and unfettered ability to choose either good or evil, since the distinction between good and evil itself only comes into existence through freedom or the capacity to choose (CA 49; cf. JP ii. 1249). Nor does sin happen by necessity, as claimed by Hegel, who finds the schism between nature and spirit in humankind's natural state, which he regards as evil, to be 'part of the concept of spirit' and cannot be otherwise.41 But if sin happens by necessity, which in Vig-ilius's view is a contradiction, 'there can be no anxiety' (49). Hegel associates anxiety or anguish (Schmerz) with the awareness of the contradiction between what one ought to be and what one is as a natural being. 42 He thus presupposes knowledge of good and evil as the basis of anxiety rather than vice versa as in Vigilius's view.

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