The significance of dread in the thought of Kierkaard and Heidegger
Tweedie, Donald Ferguson
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The problem of the dissertation is to determine the significance of the psychological state of dread in the existential philosophies of Soren Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger. The existentialists emphasize the priority of existence over essence, existential acts as free choices of men, cognitive facts as dependent upon a subject, existence as a human category, human finitude, and a critical emotional experience which conditions every existential act. These factors are observed to be integral to the philosophies of Kierkegaard and Heidegger, in spite of the fact that the latter repudiates the existentialist title. The individual man is the concern of both Kierkegaard and Heidegger. Kierkegaard regards the individual as a trichotomized being in accordance with biblical anthropology. Heidegger, on the other hand, repudiating both the biblical and Greek anthropologies, conceives the individual solely on the basis of a phenomenological analysis. Heidegger's method, after Husserl, is an attempt to analyze and describe the conceptual meanings of the phenomena of pure consciousness in order to discover the true metaphysical object-Being. Kierkegaard gives a similar analysis though the conceptual meanings are presupposed in religious concepts, and he interprets his data accordingly. Both Kierkegaard and Heidegger, in their phenomenological analysis of man, find dread to be central. Dread is a sickening dizziness that envelops one's consciousness and moves him to self-consciousness. As felt, it resembles fear yet one finds nothing to fear. Kierkegaard's extremely melancholic personality may account in part for his thesis that dread is the basic psychological element. Heidegger probably received his interest in dread from Kierkegaard. Both employ dread to defend their philosophic presuppositions. Kierkegaard's individual is ill. On the moral plane he is in a state of rebellion against God and on the philosophical level he cannot resolve the problem arising from the temporality of his soul and the externality of his spirit. Dread makes him aware of this illness and also creates the conditions which precipitate it. Dread, in an organic racial solidarity, imparts to every man original sin when he begins to use his freedom. Original sin gives him a bent fir subsequent acts of sinning. Each sin has an antecedent apprehension of dread. The act of sin is inscrutable psychologically, but it is seen philosophically as an effort on the part of the subject to be an object. This objectivity is an attempt to observe impartially one's thoughts and acts. It is a futile attempt to repudiate existence, which is the self-conscious regard of one's existence. Dread conditions the cure as well as the cause of the individual's malignancy. Dread reveals to man the freedom that differentiates him from the beasts. This freedom enables him to make leap of faith. Kierkegaard finds the solution of the individual's plight in faith which is a persistent belief in an absolute paradox-God became a man! The moral problem is solved, for God makes an infinite sacrifice of Himself as a propitiation for man's sin. The philosophical problem is resolved, for eternity is thus mediated through time. Heidegger believes the bane of the individual to be his 'everydayness'. In this the individual rejects his individuality. Dread is revealed in analysis and serves to structure the individual. A basic deterioration(Verfallenheit) is disclosed and several existentalia are discerned through the use of dread as the base phenomenon. The total conscious process finds its unity in a basic preoccupation, or Care. The solution of the problem of Heidegger's individual lies in the understanding of the structure of man, the recognition of this structure as deteriorating, and the resolute action to alleviate this condition. Heidegger states, however, that his primary philosophic concern is the discovering of Being. In resolute action, he believes he has a 'glimpse' of the 'horizon' of Being. The nature of the resolute act, except in so far as it is a realistic facing of death, is unclear in Heidegger's writings. Dread is defined as a dynamic factor in the thought of Kierkegaard and Heidegger. It is also functioning below the level of conscious awareness. Neither of the two philosophers develops an explicit psychology of the unconscious, however. Both Kierkegaard and Heidegger believe that an unconscious phase of dread is a necessary inference in order to explain its abrupt appearance in consciousness and also to justify it as a basic motivational force. This 'deep mood' is not a construct to expedite psychoanalytical therapy, however, but rather is the key to metaphysical therapy, Kierkegaard and Heidegger were found to agree in emphasizing individuality, encouraging subjectivity, and utilizing a phenomenological methodology which finds dread the most significant emotion of man. Kierkegaard differs from Heidegger in his religious perspective, for Heidegger reflects an atheistic tendency. Their anthropological presuppositions lead them apart. Kierkegaard believed man to be a Sein zum Ewigkeit and he sought to expend every effort to make choices that would expedite such a being on the way. On the other hand, Heidegger could see only a Sein zum Tode who must realize his fate. Their respective purposes in philosophizing were also divergent. Kierkegaard was seeking eternal happiness, while Heidegger was in quest of Being. It would seem that Kierkegaard's a whole reaction against system, and his diatribe against objectivity, was blunted by his acceptance of the objective propositions of the Bible as clues to the understanding of the metaphysical object. Kierkegaard ingeniously used his psychological insight to support his philosophy, but this support could not overcome the defects of a loose-jointed system. A philosophy in which the absurd is presented as both the goal and the means to the goal cannot be defended rationally nor accepted by anyone who insists that reality must be at least intelligible. Even if Kierkegaard had developed his philosophy as a coherent system, however, it is questionable whether dread will serve as the basic, universal, emotional state of man. On the basis of psychological analysis alone this seems doubtful. Furthermore, Kierkegaard seems to have regarded himself, and his rather pessimistic perspective, as the norms of a11 experience. He has a valid philosophical protest, but the dust that he raised up in reaction forced him to function as one who could not see. Heidegger likewise falls short in his philosophical attempt. His analysis of Dasein is admirable, and the direct attempt to systematize the data of experience is in many ways more satisfactory than the paradoxical method of Kierkegaard. In his concept of dread, Heidegger tries to make the experience of man a coherent whole. His quest of Being is not successful, however, for in the analysis of man he finds no way to reach Being. Both Kierkegaard and Heidegger made serious attempts to interpret reality purely in terms of the analysis of human experience. They succeeded in presenting cleverly fashioned concepts of dread as the presuppositions to and the basis for other psychological moods. This was an effort to make man's experience both adequate and plausible as the temporal starting point for their respective philosophies. This concept fails, however, to give sufficient coherence and verification to their stated purposes. Kierkegaard had to cling inconsistently to a propositional revelation in order to have a landing place from his paradoxical leap of faith, while Heidegger remained consistent to his method but could not, consequently, leap far enough to reach his goal. The dissertation has come to the following conclusions: (1) There is a common core by which the philosophies of existence may be characterized. This core reveals existentialism to be a protest rather than a clear-out system of philosophy. Existentialism emphasizes the priority of existence over essence, existential acts as free choices of man, cognitive facts as dependent upon a subject, existence as a human category, human finitude, and, finally, an experience of dread which conditions every existential act. (2) Kierkegaard's philosophy holds that dread is a state which is fundamental to the explanation of original sin, subsequent acts of sin, and guilt, which condition man for ennui, despair, and faith. Dread is basic to the dialectical leap of faith for Kierkegaard whose theory is framed in the Christian religion. (3) Heidegger's basic analytic concept is dread also. He takes Kierkegaard's concept out of its religious setting and uses it as the central aspect of a pure phenomenological analysis of man. (4)The dynamic characteristics of dread in the theories of Kierkegaard and Heidegger, and its activity below the level of conscious awareness, are points of contact with contemporary psychoanalysis. However, the similarities are incidental and the differences, both in structure and purpose, set the two theories in contrast with psychoanalysis. (5) Kierkegaard's concept of dread is inadequate in his philosophy at two important points: a. As the exclusive basis for psychological process and its motivation, dread is used inordinately and becomes for Kierkegaard a psychological panacea rather than a clearly defined element of phenomenological analysis. b. Dread may be an adequate explanation for the dialectical tension of subjectivity, but it is inadequate to support faith in the absurd, which is Kierkegaard's solution for man's problems. (6) Heidegger's concept of dread gives his analysis of man coherence and cogency from the perspective of a phenomenological analysis. Dread, however, fail s to serve as a 'stepping stone' to Being, for it only leads back to man. (7) The place of dread in the philosophy of Heidegger is similar to dread in Kierkegaard's thought and is conditioned by the theory of the latter, for Heidegger is influenced by Kierkegaard's philosophy. Dread brings them to diametrically opposed conclusions, however. For Kierkegaard man is a being preparing for eternity; for Heidegger he is preparing for death.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University