Anxiety: A Philosophical History




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2021.11.02 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews
Bettina Bergo, Anxiety: A Philosophical History, Oxford University Press, 2020, 538pp., $49.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780197539712.
Reviewed by David R. Cerbone, West Virginia University
More than once in the introduction to this book, Bettina Bergo warns that she will be offering a “simplified narrative” (4, 33). By the time I reached page 478—the last page of the text proper, which is followed by a nearly twenty page bibliography—I found myself wondering, “With simplification like this, who needs complicated?” While perhaps simplified, this is by no means a simple book, as the reader is led through a thicket of philosophical figures, whose work spans several centuries, along with assorted figures and work in medicine, psychiatry, and the life-sciences. To be fair, there is some merit in Bergo’s characterization of her narrative: after briefly acknowledging anxiety’s appearance in early Greek and Roman philosophy (e.g., Plato’s Symposium and the writings…

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