Angst means fear or anxiety (anguish is its Latinate equivalent, and anxious, anxiety are of similar origin). The word angst was introduced into English from the Danish, Norwegian and Dutch word angst and the German word Angst. It is attested since the 19th century in English translations of the works of Kierkegaard and Freud. It is used in English to describe an intense feeling of apprehension, anxiety, or inner turmoil.
In German, the technical terminology of psychology and philosophy distinguishes between Angst and Furcht in that Furcht is a negative anticipation regarding a concrete threat, while Angst is a non-directional and unmotivated emotion. In common language, however, Angst is the normal word for “fear”, while Furcht is an elevated synonym.
In other languages having the meaning of the Latin word pavor for “fear”, the derived words differ in meaning, e.g. as in the French anxiété and peur. The word Angst has existed since the 8th century, from the Proto-Indo-European root*anghu-, “restraint” from which Old High German angust developed. It is pre-cognate with the Latin angustia, “tensity, tightness” and angor, “choking, clogging”; compare to the Ancient Greek ἄγχω (ankho) “strangle”.
I am one who counts myself a part of Generation X. As such, perhaps I have had a generational predisposition toward “Angst”. In so many of the cultural endeavours & thoughts of my generation – not to mention the Philosophies I studied at University – this idea of “Angst” has predominated. From the Grunge music I listened to, to the philosophical ideas of the Existentialists – this idea coursed through my final years of formal education.
So am I filled with Angst?
“To be comprehended: That every kind of decay and sickness has continually
helped to form overall value judgments;
that decadence has actually gained
predominance in the value judgments
that have become accepted; that we not
only have to fight against the
consequences of all present misery of
degeneration, but that all previous
decadence is still residual, i. e.,
survives. Such a total aberration of
mankind from its basic instincts, such a
total decadence of value judgments–that is the question mark par
excellence, the real riddle that the
animal “man” poses for the
From The Will To Power
It is a rather interesting occurrence that I find myself a Nietzschian Nihilist. After all, Friedrich Nietzsche is famous for proclaiming that “God is dead.” He was always quick to point out the problems he had with spirituality. Yet I find, as someone who is a deeply spiritual person, that his atheist and anti-spiritualist philosophy adds a great depth to my own mysticism. Is this a paradox? Or a misunderstanding of Nietzschian philosophy on my part? Perhaps…
Yet, if we put aside this difference in philosophy, there is much to learn from the 19th century’s most misunderstood philosopher. The two central themes of his philosophy are The Will To Power & the idea of the Übermensche (usually translated as “Superman” or “Overman”). Through the Will to Power, Individuals can push themselves above the mediocrity of the normal human existence & live a life of greatness – a life better connected to nature & the universe that surrounds us all. This better life of greater connectedness is what Nietzsche termed the Übermensche.
There is a great selection of Nietzsche’s works on the internet. One place to start is The Internet Archive which houses the Internet’s greatest collection of free media in the hopes of offering “Universal access to all knowledge.” It’s a great resource for any type of research you might undertake. And if you have your own Will to Power, you might use it to help you in becoming an Übermensche!
Leave me a comment below & let me know your thoughts on this topic – or any other that happens to be on your mind.