It's All Just Talk
The Present Age:
On the Death of Rebellion (Harperperennial Modern Thought)
by Soren Kierkegaard
Harper Perennial Modern Classics
$10.00 List Price
If all thinkers are either foxes or hedgehogs, then Kierkegaard was decidedly a hedgehog. By his own emphatic acknowledgment, everything he wrote had a single purpose: to arouse a certain state of mind, or soul, in each of his readers. He called this state of mind "the consciousness of sin." What he meant by that is something like what Saint Augustine and Martin Luther meant, but not exactly. In the difference lie his originality and his importance for us.
The Present Age was written in 1846 and is newly reissued with a midcentury introduction by existentialist philosopher Walter Kaufmann. Now, one might reasonably expect that a book so titled would offer some clue to the age in which it was written, yet there is nary a word or phrase in The Present Age that allows us to infer with any confidence in which century or continent it was composed. It could have appeared anywhere in the Western Hemisphere at any time in the past two hundred years.
The Present Age is a stellar entry in the genre of antimodern manifesto, an early landmark in the still-far-from-exhausted intellectual backlash against democracy, science, and unbelief. Kierkegaard did not get around to railing at democracy or science very much—he died too young—but his hostility to secular rationalism was implacable and far subtler than that of most defenders of religious faith.
So subtle, admittedly, that it can be difficult to understand exactly what Kierkegaard is exercised about. "Our age is essentially one of understanding and reflection, without passion, momentarily bursting into enthusiasm, and shrewdly