General Irony has been described by Kierkegaard: Irony in the eminent sense directs itself not against this or that particular existence but against the whole given actuality of a certain time and situation. 'Objectively', General Irony lies in those contradictions, apparently fundamental and irremediable, that confront men when they speculate upon such topics as the origin and purpose of the universe, free will and determinism, reason and instinct, the scientific and the imaginative, ends and means, society and the individual, art and life, knowing and being, self-consciousness, the meaning of meaning, and the value of value. The consolations of religion and philosophy were not altogether efficacious. From the sixteenth century onwards, at first slowly and then with ever-increasing speed, men became more and more aware of fundamental contradictions in life.