Unconscious Despair

Anti-Climacus identifies several forms of despair based on their differing levels of intensity, which are directly proportionate to the increase in a person's consciousness of being in despair and having a self: 'the greater the degree of consciousness, the more intensive the despair' (SUD 42). The lowest level of despair is that of being unconscious of being in despair and having a self that is eternal or spiritual in nature. This form of despair is equivalent to what was earlier identified in The Concept of Anxiety as spiritlessness, which in Anti-Climacus's view is the most common form of despair, particularly in classical paganism and the natural human being in Christendom. Comparing the human being to a two-storey house with a basement, Anti-Climacus suggests that 'all too regrettably the sad and ludicrous truth about the majority of people is that in their own house they prefer to live in the basement', that is, entirely in sensate categories, and are indignant if anyone suggests they should move to the upper floor (43).

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