sickness unto death

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From the book The Sickness Unto Death (1849) by Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855).

Noun[edit]

sickness unto death (usually uncountable, plural sicknesses unto death)

  1. (philosophy, existentialism, Kierkegaardianism) Personal despair over the disquieting circumstances of human existence.
  2. (by extension) Despair, profound discontent, or a similar persistent debilitating malaise of the mind, spirit, or soul that produces a decline in mental, physical, or societal health and that may culminate in death or dissolution.
    • 1987 Sep. 13, Donal Henahan, "Music View: Our Orchestras are Splintering," New York Times (retrieved 19 July 2015):
      Still, many observers of the orchestra, including some players themselves, continue to detect a malaise in the institution. Many critics, especially those deeply involved as composers and performers of new music, diagnose the trouble as a sickness unto death.
    • 1993 Dec. 1, Brian Appleyard, "Censorship is a dirty word, but unrelentingly violent films have made it a necessary evil ," The Independent (UK) (retrieved 19 July 2015):
      These films . . . are evidence of a deep cultural malaise. The need to make them and the desire to consume them are symptoms of a contemporary sickness unto death.
    • 2007, Frederick Turner, Culture of Hope: A New Birth of the Classical Spirit, →ISBN, p. 1 (Google preview):
      [O]ur "high" or "academic" or "avant-garde" culture is in a state of crisis. This crisis is not a healthy one, but a sickness unto death, a decadence that threatens to destroy our society.