Anxiety and the Incarnate Spirit: Michel Henry's Analysis of Kierkegaard's 'The Concept of Anxiety' by Jeffrey Hanson [Cambridge University]

June 16, 2021

Join our Senior Philosopher Jeffrey Hanson present “Anxiety and the Incarnate Spirit: Michel Henry’s Analysis of Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety”. 18 June 15.00 - 17.00 (BST).

This presentation revisits Michel Henry’s evolving responses to Søren Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety, which early in his career he dismissed but came eventually to regard much more appreciatively. Focusing on his late discussion of the Dane’s influential text in Incarnation, I show how Henry perceptively identifies Kierkegaard’s linkages between anxiety and generation, a term that at once denotes sexual propagation and successive temporal epochs. Henry also rightly averts to the theme of language at the end of his book, but I argue that Kierkegaard ties this theme even more strongly to his philosophical anthropology than Henry seems to acknowledge. For Kierkegaard, language contains everything that is necessary for spirit, which transforms and elevates body and soul. Language is closely tied to the anxiety of sexuality, inasmuch as it requires embodiment, a plurality of speakers, and the unfolding of time. Kierkegaard’s claim that all spiritual language is metaphorical suggests that Henry should consider the possibility that language could be not always necessarily mendacious but a potential site of Life’s speaking itself into the world, the vehicle for the word of God to be heard in human words.