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Durham e-Theses
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Anxiety’s ambiguity: an investigation into the meaning of anxiety in existentialist philosophy and literature

Hanscomb, Stuart Roy (1997) Anxiety’s ambiguity: an investigation into the meaning of anxiety in existentialist philosophy and literature. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The dissertation has two primary aims: 1) To investigate the significance and role of anxiety in the work of existentialist writers; 2) To synthesize a unified account of its meaning within this tradition. There are seven substantial chapters, the first concerning the divergence between clinical anxiety and the existential version using the fear-anxiety distinction as a foil. Existential anxiety is Thai defined in terms of anxiety A (before the world as contingent), anxiety B (before the self as free), and urangst (an unappropriable disquiet caused by the incommensurability of anxieties A and B). Chapter 2 concerns Kierkegaard's The Concept of Anxiety. His emphasis on choice, guilt and ambiguity lay the foundations for existentialism, but the suggestion that anxiety can be overcome in faith distances him from later existentialists. Chapter 3 reads Heidegger as secularizing Kierkegaard's ideas. Here we find the origins of the anxiety A/B structure, but I find that his attempt to define an 'authentic' comportment which embraces these two sources fails. In Chapter 4 Sartre's anxiety before the 'nothingness' of a self responsible for creating values is discussed and found wanting. However, his ideas on bad faith and authenticity seem to be more alive to the ambiguity of existence that anxiety reveals. The relation between anxiety and death is a primary concern of Chapter 5 (on Tillich). I contend that death is important (though not in the way Tillich thinks it is), but that otherwise he underplays urangst and die dynamism required in an authoitic response to anxiety. The complexities of this process are further explored in Chapter 6 with respect to Rorty's version of 'irony'; and in the final chapter where two novels (Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Camus' The Fall) are read as demonstrating the subjective dynamics of authenticity in terms of the anxiety structure that has been developed.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1997
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Oct 2012 11:41

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