Existential Fear   3 comments


Let’s not join the chorus of those predicting our economic end.  It is easy to succumb to the siren song of fear.

Twentieth-century existential philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, Being and Nothingness. In it, Sartre takes the position that “self” exist in a material universe (Being), but our consciousness does not exist in a state of cohabitation with the body.  Consciousness provides freedom, which gives us an infinite potential for the future.  However, it is our presence in time that makes us finite and ignorant.  As a result, our consciousness can perceive that which is not but could be (Nothingness).  Sartre believed that human existence is a condition of nothingness, which allows for conscious choices within our being.

It is this dichotomy that causes fear (existential fear or “angst” – a Kierkegaard term) since our subjective choices (in the present) represents a limit to our conscious thoughts.  As a result, we (humans) tend to free our fear through activities designed to take us toward some meaningful end.  This freeing can take on many forms, all of which involve immersing oneself into things in our day-to-day experience (being).  We, therefore, escape this threat of non-being by immersing oneself in being, i.e., reading a book, watching TV, listening to music, etc.  Doing so doesn’t create a state of being fearless, but serves as a rest area in our existential fear.

To be without fear would suggest the worse possible existence (psychological).  The more we try to reduce or eliminate fear, the more we become aware of fear, a form of fear about fear. So, the proper response to fear is to stop being fearful of fear.  Another well-known existentialist, Soren Kierkegaard, believed that the best way to deal with fear is to learn to face it courageously.  “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  (FDR’s First Inaugural Address)

The question is, “Do we have the courage to be?” Only each individual can truly answer this question.



3 responses to “Existential Fear

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  1. Great stuff…I hope this is well read and repeated!


    Bob McNeilybobmcneily@earthlink.net
  2. Reblogged this on Becoming is Superior to Being and commented:

    First posted on this blog ten years ago. The cat pictured is Kiko, our cat of 17 years. — kenne


  3. Timely wisdom – thank you.
    Also incredible images!

    Liked by 1 person

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