What bothered Kierkegaard about modern democratic culture, chapter two argues, was the discursive shift from speaking (tale) to counting (tælle) that it ushered in. Individuals began counting each other’s statements, calculating their combined meanings, and aggregating the results, as well as themselves, in an abstract social sum Kierkegaard calls “the gallery-public.”As a totalizing entity, the gallery-public is thought to be logically superior to any and all of its constitutive elements, and thus fit to serve as their common denominator—a numerical figure of their total population in terms of which the statistical value of each can be expressed. Shoring up this modern social arithmetic, Kierkegaard notes, is a curious form of chatter, in which general orders of significance are made to appear greater than the sum of their parts. Kierkegaard attributes this fuzzy math to several interrelated habits of mind -- notably prudence, reflection, common sense, and equivocation -- but he ultimately traces its origin to sorites reasoning, a spurious line of thought extending from Aristotle to Hegel and premised on the two-part belief that quantitative accumulation can yield qualitative change and, more archaically, that wholes are always greater than the sum of their parts.
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