Kierkegaard on the Present (Passionless) Age

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Do you ever feel like the time we live in feels flat, complacent, timid, conformist, populated by people who are focused on playing it safe and are inwardly empty? A century and a half ago, the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard felt the same way about the period in which he lived, and posited that there are two kinds of ages: the revolutionary, decisive, and passionate, and the sensible, rational, and reflective. Here to unpack Kierkegaard’s ideas on these two kinds of ages is Jacob Howland, retired professor of philosophy and author of Kierkegaard and Socrates. Today on the show, Jacob and I first discuss some background on Kierkegaard and his existential philosophy. We then get into the differences between an age of passion and an age of reflection. We discuss how in a passionate age, an individual stands as an individual, possesses an energy which focuses on truth and ideals, and has the courage to take bold leaps of faith, while in a reflective age, the individual is subsumed by the crowd, is afraid of public opinion, and gets so lost in analysis and abstraction that he never makes a decisive move. All along the way, we delve into how Kierkegaard’s description of his age parallels our own, and Kierkegaard’s evergreen call to be an individual, embrace risk, and own your opinions and actions.

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