PHILOSOPHY 201 (STOLZE) Notes on Thomas Wartenberg, Existentialism
Chapter Four: Anxiety Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken” The importance of anxiety Worry vs. anxiety The Leap of Faith Encountering Ourselves
Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken” (1920) Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
The Importance of Anxiety “For the Existentialists…is not just one emotion among others: it is the one that best reveals to us our nature as human beings. This means that anxiety has metaphysical significance: it allows humans to correctly understand the nature of the being that they are, but only if they have a full and complete experience of the emotion. For many people, anxiety is an emotion from which they flee, seeking in various ways to anesthetize themselves to its unpleasantness. But the Existentialists believe that paying attention to one’s anxiety is crucial because of the significance of what it signals” (p. 71).
Worry vs. Anxiety Worry is characterized by intentionality (it has an object) but anxiety appears to be “free floating” (it is objectless). Ex: a student who is going to take an exam Sartre’s criticism of Freud’s account of anxiety
The Leap of Faith Kierkegaard on belief in God Ex: Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac
Encountering Ourselves “Through the use of the phenomenological method, we ourselves are the object of our anxiety, because we have the freedom to make decisions about how to live our lives, indeed, we are, as Sartre puts it, condemned to be free. Since we have no rational grounds for making the fundamental decisions we must as free beings, anxiety is simply our way of registering in the depths of our being our difficult and upsetting situation” (p. 88).