Passionate & Reflective Ages

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Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 08:18 am
"The present reflective age is one of understanding, of reflection, devoid of passion, an age which flies into enthusiasm for a moment only to decline back into indolence." - Kierkegaard, 1846

In Kierkegaard's social analysis, he distinguishes between two kinds of ages, a passionate age and a reflective age. In the latter, a passionate age "pushes forward, establishing new things and destroying others" while a reflective, passionless age "does the opposite, it stifles and hinders."

In a passionate age, strength, will, and excellence are lauded and valued. People admire, hate, love, feel, sorrow over each other and the world around them. Revolutions are born and people act by creating and destroying as they please.

In a reflective age, strength, will, and excellence are repressed and hindered. Men who act, dare, and risk are envied by those who don't. Revolutions and revolt are unthinkable acts because "such a display of strength would confuse the calculating cleverness of the times."

Kierkegaard analysis of the two ages leads him to conclude the passionate age, with its faults, is still better than the reflective age. One of the most important consequence is that the reflective age "nullifies the principle of contradiction": "The creative omnipotence implicit in the passion of absolute disjunction that leads the individual resolutely to make up his mind is transformed into the extensity of prudence and reflection - that is, by knowing and being everything possible to be in contradiction to oneself, that is, to be nothing at all". Knowing something is different from doing something.

Kierkegaard uses an example to describe the attitudes of the passionate and reflective ages towards a man who dares to act:

"If a precious jewel, which all desired, lay out on a frozen lake, where the ice was perilously thin, where death threatened one who went out too far while the ice near the shore was safe, in a passionate age the crowds would cheer the courage of the man who went out on the ice; they would fear for him and with him in his resolute action; they would sorrow over him if he went under; they would consider him divine if he returned with the jewel. In this passionless, reflective age, things would be different. People would think themselves very intelligent in figuring out the foolishness and worthlessness of going out on the ice, indeed, that it would be incomprehensible and laughable; and thereby they would transform passionate daring into a display of skill...."
 
Jacques Maritain
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 02:14 pm
@Victor Eremita,
I have yet to fully read The Present Age; but thus far from what I've read Kierkegaard is right on target with much what's wrong with our age.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 03:11 pm
@Jacques Maritain,
One wonders if Two Ages the book, not K's review is worth reading. Written by a woman as it turns out.



We are in a reflective age. Is a reflective age also a reactionary counter-revolutionary age?

The 1960's was a revolutionary decade even if it was a flop...(but see there I just had to add that they were a flop. Was it a flop? Was it really? Or is that just my envy talking?)

Also it would seem that competition has something to do with it. In a dog-eat-dog reflective age we are less likely to cheer on the hero because their win is our loss. Well its the way competition is thought of perhaps rather than competition itself. It's a mindset. The reflective focuses more on denigrating the loser than on glorifying the winner. In the passionate age there is more focus on glorifying the winner. But I'm not sure if this is in line with K's description.
 
attano
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 04:08 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita;172957 wrote:
"The present reflective age is one of understanding, of reflection, devoid of passion, an age which flies into enthusiasm for a moment only to decline back into indolence." - Kierkegaard, 1846

In Kierkegaard's social analysis, he distinguishes between two kinds of ages, a passionate age and a reflective age. In the latter, a passionate age "pushes forward, establishing new things and destroying others" while a reflective, passionless age "does the opposite, it stifles and hinders."

In a passionate age, strength, will, and excellence are lauded and valued. People admire, hate, love, feel, sorrow over each other and the world around them. Revolutions are born and people act by creating and destroying as they please.

In a reflective age, strength, will, and excellence are repressed and hindered. Men who act, dare, and risk are envied by those who don't. Revolutions and revolt are unthinkable acts because "such a display of strength would confuse the calculating cleverness of the times."

Kierkegaard analysis of the two ages leads him to conclude the passionate age, with its faults, is still better than the reflective age. One of the most important consequence is that the reflective age "nullifies the principle of contradiction": "The creative omnipotence implicit in the passion of absolute disjunction that leads the individual resolutely to make up his mind is transformed into the extensity of prudence and reflection - that is, by knowing and being everything possible to be in contradiction to oneself, that is, to be nothing at all". Knowing something is different from doing something.

Kierkegaard uses an example to describe the attitudes of the passionate and reflective ages towards a man who dares to act:

"If a precious jewel, which all desired, lay out on a frozen lake, where the ice was perilously thin, where death threatened one who went out too far while the ice near the shore was safe, in a passionate age the crowds would cheer the courage of the man who went out on the ice; they would fear for him and with him in his resolute action; they would sorrow over him if he went under; they would consider him divine if he returned with the jewel. In this passionless, reflective age, things would be different. People would think themselves very intelligent in figuring out the foolishness and worthlessness of going out on the ice, indeed, that it would be incomprehensible and laughable; and thereby they would transform passionate daring into a display of skill...."
passionless reflective age).

Probably we do not live in a passionate part of the world. On the contrary, some societies in emerging country could be very passionate. Maybe my Aramean neighbours live in a totally passionate age, a few yards away from my doorstep...

I guess that according to this theory Greece at the time of Homer was passionate, while Greeks of the V century BC, after all those philosophers, were no longer such. I wonder what Leonidas would have thought of that at the Thermopylae.

I still believe that the optimum is that sort of man Machiavelli describes in Il Principe, both lion and fox, both passionate and reflective, knowing when it is time is for the former and when it is time for the latter. And some ages too seem to behave in that way, expanding understanding and reflection, while appearing very passionate. Examples: the Italian Renaissance, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 04:51 pm
@Victor Eremita,
"The weak in courage is strong in cunning."
 
Jacques Maritain
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 08:55 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;173059 wrote:

We are in a reflective age. Is a reflective age also a reactionary counter-revolutionary age?


If meant in the sense of trying to preserve the status quo at all costs, then yes.
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Sat 5 Jun, 2010 01:46 am
@Jacques Maritain,
How would K relate to say a Taoist?
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sat 5 Jun, 2010 01:42 pm
@GoshisDead,
Quote:
"If a precious jewel, which all desired, lay out on a frozen lake, where the ice was perilously thin, where death threatened one who went out too far while the ice near the shore was safe, in a passionate age the crowds would cheer the courage of the man who went out on the ice; they would fear for him and with him in his resolute action; they would sorrow over him if he went under; they would consider him divine if he returned with the jewel. In this passionless, reflective age, things would be different. People would think themselves very intelligent in figuring out the foolishness and worthlessness of going out on the ice, indeed, that it would be incomprehensible and laughable; and thereby they would transform passionate daring into a display of skill...."


Given this description, I'm a bit baffled as to why he is all in favor of the passionate age and not the reflective one. Not that I agree with his division.

Speaking of precious jewels, I suppose the "passionate" people boldly buy $20,000 diamond rings as symbols of their love, and the "reflective" people say "this commercial is stupid, every kiss doesn't begin with K" and love their spouse just as much. Maybe the spend the money on a longer honeymoon instead (which is no doubt stifled since they obviously have no passion).

A lot of revolutions have been bad in retrospect haven't they?
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2010 12:32 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Even Hume said "reason is the slave of passion".
Some might think he was saying that in frustration, but I think it was an acknowledgment of human nature.
Individuals without passion, nations without vision, are mostly second rate. It is a matter of balance but reason without passion is little better than passion without reason.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Wed 9 Jun, 2010 11:09 pm
@prothero,
Kierkegaard and Hume do agree on many philosophical points. I think MacIntyre does discuss the relationship between Hume-Kant-Kierkegaard in After Virtue, regarding passion, reason, and moral choices.
 
 

 
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