Kierkegaard’s Concept of Despair in The Filipino Context

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2580 words

Downloads: 44

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Pagod: the human exhaustion
    Ginhawa: the relief
  3. The problem of solitude
  4. Conclusion
  5. References


While browsing daily on social media accounts, one can see a lot of news headlines that subjects one of the main problems of society today: mental health. It becomes normalize as time passes by, to the extent that it is often being misconceptualize. In example, there are a lot of memes that points on the disturbing concept of depression, existential angst, self-harm, and suicide. Hence, it follows the subjective truth about what is up in our age: the age of despair. On Kierkegaard’s famous work The Sickness unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition for Upbuilding and Awakening under his pseudonym Anti-Climacus, he explored the fixed structure of self. Self, as what can be read from the text, is a synthesized relation that relates itself to itself — namely the positive unity of finitude and infinitude, of temporal and eternal, of possibility and necessity. However, this moving relation has its erroneous flow thus giving the way to despair: the sickness that causes man to be hopeful to death, yet cannot still die because the said disease have been consummated by itself. This sickness has three different forms: the first one is the ignorance to despair of one’s self, second is the not having a will to be oneself, and the last is the will to be oneself. The first form comes with the minimum state of despair, thereby it is also called the not strict type of despair. On the contrary, the second and third form comes with moderate to severe type of sickness, ergo leads to path of what Kierkegaard called as demonization. With that being said, this paper aims to tackle only the exposition of conscious despair — specifically the second form and its relation to the Filipino concept of ginhawa whereby leads to the Kierkegaardian theological self. It will also argue that due to the lack of passion of an individual who is in his conscious state, he has the capacity to create his own concept of God in order to surpass his existential problem. Consequently, this paper will expose the different faces of pahinga and ginhawa that can be thoroughly be seen from the Kierkegaardian concept of despair, thus will be hopefully essential to next studies of self in relation with the current age of existentialism.

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Pagod: the human exhaustion

On the third division from the first part of his work, Anti-Climacus acknowledges the conscious despair: despair of having no will to be oneself and the despair of having will to be oneself, wherein the intensification of despair can thoroughly be seen alongside with his claim that the more a man is conscious of himself, the more intense will be the despair. To elaborate, this first section of my paper will first focus on the first type of conscious despair: the despair of having no will to be oneself, and afterwards will focus on the concept of pagod — the human exhaustion. The Man of Immediacy Man is struggling in the middle of its constituents. It is evident, as time passes by, that man is not just designed to live unexhausted. In fact, it is the other way around. Man is like an animal who is always hungry out of pleasure, out of something that will make him satisfy out of aestheticism. As a result, as he wishes to be someone else simply because he is not that someone who is capable of things he wishes he could, the feeling of despair would be visible than he ever realized. It will soon drain him through the reality of his fate — of his imperfect life. Take, for example, the current fanaticism over the internet: people seem to have everything as what have been posted in different social media sites. Consequently, a man who is in negation of participant’s luxurious life would be exhausted. He will suddenly feel the fantasy from possibilities and the magic of infinite hopes and dreams. This is the nature of pagod: it is the human exhaustion and tiredness to dream out of immediacy. The moment man realizes his incapacity to be someone, or even something else, he will later on feel the eternal exhaustion that will cause him to be drown in despair. It is a type of pagod that lives deep within and more painful than the physical exhaustion made by the draining crisis of transportation and traffic jam. Hence, this man of immediacy that is consummated by the earthly necessities thus experiences pagod is in necessity of help: either from someone or from himself alone. And 1 It must be noted that Søren Kierkegaard is also known as a master of irony, in line with his greatest influencer, Socrates. In this work, The Sickness unto Death, Kierkegaard used Anti-Climacus which means “higher rank”. This pseudonym was also used in his work Practice in Christianity. since this pagod is just based upon his earthly cravings, the kind of help that he will acquire will not fall to his real longing: the pahinga.

Anti-Climacus continues to tackle the nature of man when he is in his conscious despair. A man who is in despair of not having a will to be himself seems like he is just sitting around the corner, watching his own self, pre-occupied of time, and in the state of contradiction: although he do not want to be himself, he still loves himself enough to enter his pahinga. The Abstract Self Pahinga, in Kierkegaardian concept, is something that binds an individual to his own self. It is just with himself alone, self-realizing everything that has had happened — it is commonly called as the inclosing reserve. For man who is in the state of inclosing reserve or pahinga, he sees the necessity of solitude. More than anything else, this is what he needed right after he realizes his responsibility out of his consciousness that he is in despair. He needs it; he longs for it. He needs a kind of help that he knows for sure, only himself can help him. He does not see the necessity of being with anyone, for then again, solitude is what he needed after he saw the earthly externalities and necessity. And with solitude, he could see his eternality, his abstract self. That Solitude A man who is in his inclosing reserve — that solitude will be his pahinga. It would be a complete silence that will give him rest. Finally, after facing all the banality of this cruelsome world, he will find rest. In the daily Filipino concept of pahinga, it means “to rest” after being exposed to some draining activities that eventually leads to pagod. One can either sleep, sit, or just stare blankly in the sky as he starts to ponder things. It is also the same type of solitude that Kierkegaard stated. A man who is in the state of pahinga does not want any noise or any companion. It is just as is, a philosophy of loneliness through the use of silence. Hence, this kind of view in solitude can also be seen in the work of Emil Cioran, On the Heights of Despair.

Ginhawa: the relief

Soon enough, the dialectical process of man amid the wordly chaos will soon end as its phase. From pagod, there will come his pahinga. Obviously, a man who had finally has his solitude out of silence will feel that relief he once longed for. The Concept of Ginhawa Ginhawa does not only mean a mere relief. Back on its past studies, ginhawa means “the internal relief from within”. It is also often correlated with “breathe” or hininga that comes directly from intestine, stomach and liver from different Filipino natives, particularly Cebuano. Hence, this anthropological view of self who has ginhawa can be seen as linkage with Kierkegaard’s aftermath of solitude. To further elaborate, for a man who has finally endured all the havoc from his externalities and soon overcomes it by means of pahinga (solitude), his breathe, from the anthropological context of ginhawa, from his stomach will have its smooth flow; it is expected to lose all the chest pains and burden that he felt due to his own self exhaustion. In solitude, in silence, he will feel that complete freedom to be himself. In his pahinga, he can feel that uniqueness in himself; his true self and real frustrations. He has the capacity and freedom to cry and to shout. However, this solitude that is expected to have an outcome of relief also has its own problem: the problem of death.

The problem of solitude

By means of solitude, man will feel that refreshing atmosphere upon himself. Just like a husband who was drain enough to ask for loneliness in order to realize the potential “After having struggled madly to solve all problems, after having suffered on the heights of despair, in the supreme hour of revelation, you will find that the only reality, is silence.” Problems and thoughts that must be pondered, he will soon come out from his shelf and act as if nothing happened. After that hours of silence and that wet shirt due to his own tears, he will feel fresh and joy. The ginhawa is visible, not just in his face but also from within. However, Kierkegaard claims that too much complete solitude will cause the problem of death: the suicide. It is evident in a recent study that was accepted in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The researchers conducted a research study that aims to see the relationship between the preference for solitude and suicide. Its results have an affirmative hypothesis thus signifies that most individuals who prefers to be alone tends to commit suicide. On the other hand, they may also commit self-harming. Moreover, this claim of Kierkegaard has other side: a man who is in solitude might ask for help. He does not need that group of people who will listen — all he need is that single person who can give him that relaxing comfortability. However, his despair will not stop, for the reality will eat him again: he feels that he opened to a wrong person, or even that person did not really help him in a long span of time — thus will lead him even more to the danger of suicide. The Two Faces of Pahinga and Ginhawa From the given situation, the variation of pahinga and ginhawa can be thoroughly seen. One can find comfort by this concept: the comfort of being able to surpass his problem. Through that anxious feeling and fear that is brought by the havoc of externalities, he finds realizations and positive potentialities that must be actualized because he has already reached the ginhawa of his pahinga. To put in a short manner, he chooses to actualize his potentialities that he acquired during the times of solitude. “If this inclosing reserve is maintained completely, omnibus numeris absoluta [completely in every respect], then his greater danger is suicide. Most men, of course, have no intimation of what such a person of inclosing reserve can endure; if they knew, they would be amazed. The danger, then, for the completely inclosed person is suicide.”

On the contrary, a man who is in his inclosing reserve — as what Kierkegaard puts in, may find his ginhawa by the means of another context of pahinga: ang maihimlay. Himlay, in its daily usage of term, is an infinite rest: death. In this area, a man who is in solitude chooses to kill himself. He has a hope for death; in that way, he probably gets rid of that consuming despair of chaotic reality by the constituents of synthesis itself. In this manner, his himlayan is the infinite implication of his ginhawa.


In conclusion, the man who chooses to kill himself, in reality, will not get what he wanted. He may feel that he finally attained his ginhawa, but little does he know, as Kierkegaard states, he removes his capacity to be free. For it follows that the reality of despair is also its problem: Despair alone cannot consummate itself. It is like a virus that is in need of host, of someone whom can be consummated. And when it happens, it cannot be cured. There is no way that man — who is in despair, can get rid of it. Henceforth, it can be seen that the problem of man in relation of despair has its dead end: despair is despair and cannot be avoided. If one chooses to avoid it by killing himself, the despair itself continues in a sense that he was completely eaten up by the constituents of synthesis; by which is another form of despair. Furthermore, that sickness — the despair that causes pagod makes an individual to feel the absurd. According to Kierkegaard, in his Fear and Trembling, states that through leap of faith in the middle of absurdity, man can surpass that anxious state. He will have an inward “If a person were to die of despair as one dies of a sickness, then the eternal in him, the self, must be able to die in the same sense as the body dies of sickness. But this is impossible; the dying of despair continually converts itself into a living. The person in despair cannot die; “no more than the dagger can slaughter thoughts” can despair consume the eternal, the self as the root of despair, whose worm does not die and whose fire is not quenched.”On the Different Faces of Ginhawa passion as long as he has a personal and genuine relationship with God. Hence it follows that that certain misrelation in the constituents of synthesis, namely, the despair can be endured through faith. Without asking anything complex, faith to man’s concept of God will bring him that inner peace that he has been longing for during his times of solitude.

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To finally end this paper, it is evident that there is still a necessity of God — as what Kierkegaard offers in his formula of self and despair: for God is the power relation of all relations, ergo the self must relate itself to Itself. In this manner, that incomprehensible leap of faith will give him an inward passion and eternal pahinga. Therefore, with that respect, since despair imposes a dead end for each and every single individual — man must come with the third and higher form face of pahinga and ginhawa: God that brings a triggering state of passion, whether it is the Christian God, as what Kierkegaard believes in, or the God/s of other religion, by which man will find comfort and peace. But the question in my head still lingers: isn’t it also a despair to not know the nature of God himself?


  • Cioran, E. (1934). On the heights of despair. (I. Zarifopol-Johnson, Trans.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. (Translated word published on 1992).
  • Kierkegaard, S. (1849). The sickness unto death: A Christian psychological exposition for upbuilding and awakening. H. & E. Hong (Ed.). United Kingdom: Princeton University Press. (Edited work published on 1980)
  • Gupta, A. Kierkegaard’s romantic legacy: Two theories of self. Canada: University of Ottawa Press.
  • Soccio, D. (2009). Archetypes of wisdom: An introduction of philosophy. 7th Ed. Chicago: Wadsworth.
  • Endo, K. et al. (2017). Preference for solitude, social isolation, suicidal ideation, and self-harm in adoloscents. Journal of Adolescent and Health. 1-5.
  • Lopez, M. (2019). Dama at damdamin: Ang tropikalidad ng ginhawa sa epikong kudaman. Katipunan: Journal ng mga Pag-aaral sa Wika, Panitikan, Sining at Kulturang Filipino. No. 4, 159-186.
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Kierkegaard’s Concept Of Despair In The Filipino Context. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 26, 2023, from
“Kierkegaard’s Concept Of Despair In The Filipino Context.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
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