The Present Age

“In our own day anonymity has acquired a far more pregnant significance than is perhaps realized: it has an almost epigrammatic significance. People not only write anonymously, they sign their anonymous works: they even talk anonymously…Nowadays one can talk with any one, and it must be admitted that people’s opinions are exceedingly sensible, yet the conversation leaves one with the impression of having talked to an anonymity. The same person will say the most contradictory things and, with the utmost calm, make a remark, which coming from him is a bitter satire on his own life. The remark itself may be sensible enough, and of the kind that sounds well at a meeting, and may serve in a discussion preliminary to coming to a decision, in much the same way that paper is made out of rags. But all these opinions put together do not make one human, personal opinion such as you may hear from quite a simple man who talks about very little but really does talk. People’s remarks are so objective, so all all-inclusive, that it is a matter of complete indifference who expresses them, and where human speech is concerned that is the same as acting ‘on principle’. And so our talk becomes like the public, a pure abstraction. There is no longer any one who knows how to talk, and instead, objective thought produces an atmosphere, an abstract sound, which makes human speech superfluous, just as machinery makes man superfluous. In Germany they even have phrase-books for the use of lovers, and it will end with lovers sitting together talking anonymously. In fact there are hand-books for everything, and very soon education, all the world over, will consist in learning a greater or lesser number of comments by heart, and people will excel according to their capacity for singling out the various facts like a printer singling out the letters, but completely ignorant of the meaning of anything.”
― Søren Kierkegaard, The Present Age

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