Freedom, Responsibility, and the Concept of Anxiety

While the concept of sin plays a pivotal role in the ethico-religious philosophies of Kierkegaard and Kant, both struggle to provide an adequate account of the nature of sin. Kant’s ethical interpretation improves signifi cantly on the traditional theological account by introducing the notion of individual responsibility, but it ultimately fails to provide an explanation of the psychological mechanisms of the fall. Kierkegaard tries to unite the Kantian conception of responsibility with an essentially Hegelian interpretation of the fall, using the concept of anxiety as the glue. Contrary to usual opinion, it is argued here that far from resolving the difficulties of the Kantian account, Kierkegaard’s interpretation only serves to multiply them. But it is also shown that Kierkegaard’s analysis of the phenomenon that he calls “anxiety about sin” does provide the materials for an alternative interpretation of the origin of moral evil in man
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