cover image Anxiety: A Philosophical Guide

Anxiety: A Philosophical Guide

Samir Chopra. Princeton Univ, $27.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-691-21067-4

Brooklyn College philosophy professor Chopra (Shyam Benegal) surveys philosophical interpretations of anxiety and its root causes in this comprehensive study. After both his parents died young, 26-year-old Chopra slipped into a haze of “doom and gloom” that counseling helped him to identify as anxiety. Real relief, however, came from his doctoral work, as he grappled with philosophical texts that explored what the condition is and why feeling it “is to receive confirmation of our humanity and personhood.” He explains that in Buddhist tradition, anxiety is attributed to a sense of isolated individualism and can be remedied through mindfulness, while Kierkegaard and other existentialists framed it as a product of “the ineluctable uncertainty of the future” and “our inability to construct and define its contours with precision.” Elsewhere, Chopra discusses how Freudians interpret anxiety as desire repressed in response to society’s “associated realistic constraints and moral demands,” while Marxism holds that capitalism fosters anxiety by alienating people from “life, from ourselves, from our fellow humans.” Readers will appreciate Chopra’s lucid explanations and refreshing assertion that anxiety is an inherent part of being human that doesn’t necessarily need fixing, even if his occasional skepticism of psychiatric medications can take things off track. This carefully considered assessment of a “universal, perennial human condition” provides plenty of food for thought. (Mar.)