The Abyss

Angst = uneasiness; malaise; dread; not fear.
Fear= your hair stands on end; angst hits your stomach and entrails and heart.
Angine in Latin= to be squeezed.
Angst= apprehension and anguish; thus not only ‘biting’ nervousness, but also ‘searing’ pain.

Angst reveals the human condition; the fundamental clue to human existence. Kierkegaard= “If a man were a beast or an angel, he would not be able to be in dread.”

There is no reason for this sense of dread.. Nothing is its object.

Everything becomes unreal, or uncanny; we are ejected from our ordinary feeling of being at home with everything. Now, we are no longer at home in the world. We step back from it..

We become aware of the nothing. The nothing — which is an absence, a lack, a privation of being — becomes ever more real to us, the only reality our heart can fix upon. “We do not know what makes us anxious and we cannot point to anything. That which arouses anxiety is nothing, and it is nowhere. Yet it is so close, as to be oppressive and stifling. ‘Angine’: it squeezes the heart” [pp 168-169, Ernest Becker, ‘The Denial of Death’, 1973].

Kierkegaard= “..things fill me with a sense of anguish.. all is entirely unintelligible to me, and particularly my own person. Great is my sorrow, without limits. None knows of it, except God in Heaven, and he cannot have pity” [p 67, quoted in Becker, ibid].

Ernest Becker [p 87, ibid]= “Anxiety is the result of the perception of the truth of one’s condition.”

For Plato, philosophy was the search for Essence, because Essence is immutable. Essence is wired in to the Infinite, the Eternal, the Highest Source of Being. In every ontological system, existence vanishes.

Kierkegaard did not want to create a philosophy. He believed only in an expression of existence.

Death is not just the end of the story, but enters in to the story. An anticipation of death is forced on us by Angst.

Alexandre Koyre= “Existence is subjected to Anxiety; not the multiple anxieties of daily life, but to Anxiety as such. Existence is dominated in its entirety by the fact of Anxiety. This, for the very simple reason that existence is.. finite.. This finitude means death.. The human being exists as a mortal and is the only being who knows — who can know — that he is mortal. It is this inexorable limit — mortality, finitude, death — which.. characterises him, plus the fact that he knows it.. ..we must reveal what we truly are, without dissimulating to ourselves by all the artifices and masks of the distraction of life itself. It is this awareness of our mortality that constitutes decision and acceptance. ..Wisdom is always the acceptance of what is. If we have done that.. then we arrive at the authenticity which reveals itself to ourself and.. permits us to reveal what we are. ..If I am authentic, then I am true. If I am unaware of all this, I fall into the inauthentic, [the untrue]. I disguise my reality.. from myself, and therefore become incapable of perceiving and revealing reality as it really is. To say.. ‘One must not think of death, one must think of life; as Spinoza said, of hope. But Spinoza’s ‘life’, Spinoza’s ‘hope’, rest on a metaphysics or a theology. [But] man is without metaphysics, without theology.. Man.. finds himself flung into the world. I am there such as I am, and I neither know why nor how; the only thing I know truly, and inexorably, is someday I am going to die. And that is what limits all my possibilities and my future.”

“Man is in this world, a world limited by death and experienced in anguish; [man] is burdened by his solitude within the horizon of his [limited time]” [p 31, Wahl, on Heidegger].

Ernest Becker [p 281, ibid]= “Men are doomed to live in an overwhelmingly tragic and demonic world.”

Heidegger= through Angst we sense the Nothingness, from which erupts everything that has existence, and into which everything threatens at every instant to crumble and collapse.

Nothingness ‘naughtens’ everything.. It is an active Nothingness which causes the world which erupts from it to tremble to the foundations.

Angst reveals us to ourselves as out in the world forlorn, without refuge or recourse to rescue; why we are flung into the world we do not know. We exist, without our finding any reason for our existing. Thus we exist without any essence. We exist over Nothingness.

“I know that my existence is precarious and short, and that I can lose it. This is the only thing that I have, and I can lose it at any moment; that is why there is a ‘substratum’ of anxiety.. and anguish..” [pp 40-42, Wahl, ibid].

“..the fact of disappearance and end.. remains an agonizing fact. ..Through anguish, we discover the foundation of Nothingness on which we are perched, or from which we are come– an ocean of Nothingness, from which we painfully emerge for a time, but which is always there to swallow us, and in which we are always about to sink” [Alexander Koyre, ibid].

Jose Ortega Y Gasset= “Life is fired at us point blank.”