“Death withouth death: Kierkegaard and Cioran about agony” – Ştefan BOLEA

In: Adriana Teodorescu (Ed.), Death within the Text. Social, Philosophical and Aesthetic Approaches to Literature (pp.72-83). Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019.

Abstract: The following paper is concerned with the description of “agony” at Kierkegaard and Cioran. Taking into consideration that both authors have common traits as marginal philosophers and advocates of a mixture of existentialism and nihilism, I have compared Kierkegaard’s notion of “sickness unto death” (a powerful term, that combines the prestige of several other keywords such as “torture”, “death”, “anxiety” and so on) with Cioran’s description of “agony” from his first Romanian work, On The Heights of Despair. Both Kierkegaard and Cioran, with their emphasis on existential death seem to make a powerful case against Schopenhauer’s equation that pain and death are opposed, therefore imagining damnation to an immanent hell for the modern subject.

Keywords: agony, existentialism, nihilism, immanent hell.


Two marginal philosophers

The visionary Danish thinker Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) anticipated in his 19th century oeuvre almost all the tenets of existentialism. One can say that most of the existential philosophers (Lev Shestov, Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Paul Tillich, and others) have a deep connection with Kierkegaardian issues such as: anxiety, death, religious authenticity, spiritual freedom or the absurd. On the other hand, Emil Cioran (1911-1995) is arguably the greatest proponent of nihilism in the 20th century. The Romanian writer, like his Danish forerunner, can be described as crucified between a series of contradictions: he is a poet disguised in a philosopher, a mystic under the guise of anarchism and rebellion, a formidable stylist who transfigures his screams and writes with his blood, a musician describing the vibrations of impending apocalypse, a suicidal in passionate love with life. Not unlike Nietzsche, and even much more than him, Cioran uses philosophical essays and aphorisms to express his extremely pessimistic doctrine. Because he is writing at the margins of philosophy, his work is more is more accessible and perhaps more attractive. His philosophical “journal” can be read as a Post-Romantic poem or as a very intimate novel describing the intense horror of existence. One can compare the works of S. Kierkegaard and E. Cioran from at least three points of views… [PDF]

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