2008 Abstracts Stage 3

Anxiety and the Loss of Meaning

Robert Challens, 2008, Stage 3

Outline: I aim to explore the concept of anxiety, loss of meaning and absurdity of life as presented within “Existentialist” narrative. In evoking these ideas from specific novels I will analyse them more precisely with relation to Martin Heidegger’s concept of anxiety. Territory: In particular I will be studying Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea, Albert Camus’ The Outsider, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, and Leo Tolstoy’s A Confession. In examining these texts I hope to explore how the idea of loss of meaning is presented and focus particularly upon the individual’s coming to terms with the absurdity of life. Philosophical Material: The philosopher that I have chosen to focus on is Martin Heidegger and particularly his concept of anxiety within his work What is Metaphysics? Here Heidegger produces an account which indicates how the individual is able to think about and question their own existence and how, through the state of anxiety, they are able to reflect upon “the nothing” that appears on their horizon of thought. As well as analysing What is Metaphysics? I shall also use Heidegger’s Being and Time, On the Essence of Truth and The Origin of the Work of Art to indicate the significant role that this concept of anxiety plays within his greater philosophy. Where Heidegger builds upon a philosophy considering the individual I shall also look at the work of Emmanuel Levinas, who concentrates on a more social philosophy, in order to bring contrast to Heidegger’s thought. In his struggle to come to terms with a finite existence Leo Tolstoy was torn between suicide and religion. The struggle of the individual’s existence is the concept that lies at the heart of my project.

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