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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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(p.85) Three Preacher-Prattle
The Chattering Mind

Samuel McCormick

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 3 follows Kierkegaard’s theory of chatter into his religious writings, paying special attention his outspoken critique of modern Christian discourse. Of particular concern to Kierkegaard was the “preacher-prattle” of his contemporaries—a quasi-religious form of chatter characterized by hasty expression, bustling loquacity, busy trifling, esthetic dabbling, probabilistic talk, revisionist narratives, and endless digressions of what he bemoaned as spiritual gibberish, fetishistic twaddle, and philosophical rigmarole. With these wayward forms of talk come several errant lines of thought, notably psychosocial flurries of alarm, anxiety, impatience, confusion, absentmindedness, equivocation, delusion, and spiritual dizziness. When these ways of speaking and thinking prevail in religious communities, preacher-prattle tends to displace religious address, causing congregations to devolve into gallery-publics, and their constituents to succumb to numerical chatter. In particular, would-be Christians fall prey to strength-in-numbers and more-is-better arguments, whereby prattling preachers convince them that the truth of Christianity has become more probable, and thus less paradoxical, since Jesus walked the earth. At issue here, Kierkegaard asserts, is a quasi-religious application of modernity’s fuzzy math, which Chapter 3 describes as epistemic probability—a paralogistic mode of talk and thought designed to cultivate and sustain reasonable degrees of belief in propositions supported by evidence.

Keywords:   Søren Kierkegaard, chatter, preacher-prattle, Christian discourse, bustling loquacity, epistemic probability, anxiety, impatience, confusion, Adler

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