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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 55, Issue 1, March 2015

Daniel Bradley
Pages 85-100

Ligatio ex Nihilo: Original Sin and the Hope for Redemption
An Alternate Path through the Darkness of Kierkegaard’s Phenomenology of Anxiety

In pointing out the strange phenomenological structure of anxiety, Kierkegaard re-opens the door to reflection on “nothingness.” This tradition has been fruitful, but it has remained wedded to interpreting this nothingness in light of the distinction between anxiety and fear. Thus, anxiety is understood exclusively as the transcendence of this or that possibility towards an encounter with the freedom of possibility itself. Kierkegaard’s original formulation, however, states that anxiety is “altogether different than fear and similar concepts.” In this article I take up Kierkegaard’s hint and argue that, interpreted in the light of guilt, his distinction is revelatory in ways that he himself did not anticipate. While we may be guilty for this or that sin, in anxiety we stand before our sinfulness itself. Anxiety ought to counsel us to be resolute in the face of possibility, but also to make a genealogical critique of our entanglement in the illusions of our past.

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