While reading Søren Kierkegaard's "The Concept of Anxiety", I asked myself how much of the temporal interpretation of dialectic and the interaction between state and transition (leap) are original to Kierkegaard. I know that Kierkegaard understood quite well what Hegel had written, and intentionally used abstract Hegelian concepts in concrete contexts. So I ask myself whether these concepts already appear in the writings of Hegel, and are used by Kierkegaard as outlined there.

As an example of what I have in mind here, take the following quote from The concept of anxiety:

The history of the individual life proceeds in a movement from state to state. Every state is posited by a leap. As sin entered into the world, so it continues to enter into the world if it is not halted. Nevertheless, every such repetition is not a simple consequence but a new leap. Every such leap is preceded by a state as the closest psychological approximation. This state is the object of psychology. To the extent that in every state possibility is present, anxiety is also present. Such is the case after sin is posited, for only in the good is there a unity of state and transition.

I find the description of the interaction between state, transition and time (past, present and future) in Kierkegaard's book intriguing. It also reminds me of the wave particle dualism of quantum mechanics, where the wave nature corresponds more to the state (which normally cannot be measured directly), and the particle nature corresponds more to the transitions (which often have observable side effects). I also ask myself how much other authors after Kierkegaard have used these concepts in similar ways.

  • 1
    this is an interesting question, but I don't see the similarity between the process being described and the wave/particle dualism which you relate it to. Are you able to elaborate on why you think there is a similarity?
    – Dr Sister
    Jan 2, 2013 at 9:56
  • @DrSister The quote I gave is just an example. The link leads to more quotes, which will give a better impression how the book "feels". To simplify, let's take the quote from Matthew: "You will know them by their fruits" instead. The prophets are good or bad/false, but what really counts are their acts and the consequences of their acts. You can't know whether they are good or bad, but you can see their acts and the consequences. Similarly, we can't know (measure) the wave function of a particle, but we can see the consequences of it on the interactions of the particle with other particles. Jan 2, 2013 at 12:08
  • I see, a good clarification. This reminds me of what i've heard Zizek refer to as 'the impossibility of standing on one's own shoulders', the discontinuity between historically imbedded ways of appraising actions and their actual historical outcomes ..
    – Dr Sister
    Jan 3, 2013 at 8:12

1 Answer 1


My copy of the Concept of Anxiety is 7000 miles away, but I can answer more generall on this point. The basic idea is not original to Kierkegaard nor is his use of it singular to that particular text. Kierkegaard was especially fond of Diogenes the Cynic's response to one of Zeno's paradoxes.See here for more on the original case.

For Kierkegaard, the application of this is a critique of the completeness of the system. Thus, the role in Concept of Anxiety and if memory serves Sickness unto Death is that sin lies outside of the moments that we can comprehend (a classic point that goes back at least to Augustine). The specific difference is that Kierkegaard applies this to a Hegelian notion of understanding that encompasses everything. His point is that human comprehension is like motion insofar as it happens only as certain states arrive and by necessity has gaps. (But I wonder if I'm adding anything you don't already know?)

  • Almost everything you tell me in this answer is news for me. However, I will first try to verify your information a bit, before I upvote this answer. I won't mark it as accepted, because it doesn't answer my "real" question: "So I ask myself whether these concepts already appear in the writings of Hegel, and are used by Kierkegaard as outlined there." Feb 4, 2014 at 18:21
  • Hegel does not talk about Zeno's paradox or the Cynic's response as far as I am aware, but I have read less Hegel than Kierkegaard. There's quite a few long texts lying around that I cannot vouch for.
    – virmaior
    Feb 4, 2014 at 23:19
  • I now read the complete wikipedia article you linked, but it doesn't seem to confirm what you say. It even seems to imply that Zeno was a pupil of a pupil of Diogenes. However, I guess this can explained in that you refer to "Zeno of Elea", but the article refers to "Zeno of Citium". Anyway, it looks like I will have to do some more reading in order to verify your information. Feb 4, 2014 at 23:56
  • I'm sorry I referred to the wrong Zeno. Kierkegaard references in several places a response to a skeptic who denies motions that involves walking as a disproof of the skeptic. Not everyone buys that maneuver but Kierkegaard does and sees it as a disproof for an "assistant professor" sort of thinking (Kierkegaard disliked academics which may or may not have been due to them being Hegelian in Denmark). Consequently, he brings up motion quite a bit to disprove "the system"
    – virmaior
    Feb 5, 2014 at 0:41
  • I'd suggest the article by Jon Stewart in Kierkegaard and the Greek World: Aristotle and other Greek authors talking about motion. The volume also treats on motion in other places.
    – virmaior
    Feb 5, 2014 at 0:44

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