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The Chattering MindA Conceptual History of Everyday Talk$
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Samuel McCormick

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226677637

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226677804.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

Barbers and Philosophers

Barbers and Philosophers

(p.15) One Barbers and Philosophers
The Chattering Mind

Samuel McCormick

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 1 traces Kierkegaard’s reflections on chatter to its modern literary origin: Ludvig Holberg’s 1722 comedy on Master Gert Westphaler or The Talkative Barber.Many of Kierkegaard’s reflections on chatter occurred with reference to Holberg’s talkative barber, and many of these references, in turn, sent him sprawling across the history of Greek, German, English, and Danish literature and philosophy, discovering analogous modes of discourse in the works of Aristophanes, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Shakespeare, Schopenhauer, Hegel, the Brothers Grimm, and a host of Danish contemporaries. In the delusions of ancient barbers, the deceits of their sophistic peers, the distractions of Master Gert, the windbagging of German idealists, the windsucking of their Danish disciples, and the gossipmongering of modern journalists and literary reviewers—to say nothing of the prattling publics sustained by these figures—Kierkegaard encountered many literary figures, linguistic forms, and rhetorical functions of chatter. And at every step of the way, he also observed a particularly chatty state of mind at work: prideful knowledge coupled with profound self-ignorance. Barbers and sophists, windbags and windsucks, journalists and reviewers—all suffer from delusions of grandeur, Kierkegaard argues. Guiding readers through this thicket of figures, forms, functions, and mindsets is the primary task of chapter 1.

Keywords:   chatter, gossip, Søren Kierkegaard, Gert Westphaler, delusion, distraction, Aristophanes, Plato, Plutarch, Heiberg

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