Søren Kierkegaard's thesis, "The Concept of Irony", contains an interesting critique of pure irony. Kierkegaard's critique turns on two main claims: (a) pure irony is an incoherent and thus, unrealizable stance; (b) the pursuit of pure irony is morally enervating, psychologically destructive, and culminates in bondage to moods. In this essay, first I attempt to clarify Kierkegaard's understanding of pure irony as "infinite absolute negativity." Then I set forth his multilayered critique of pure irony. Finally, I consider briefly a distinctly (...) theological component in Kierkegaard's critique. I argue that this feature of Kierkegaard's account can and should be distinguished from the broadly ethical critique of pure irony that I sketch in the second section, even if these components of Kierkegaard's position are found together as a unified whole in "The Concept of Irony". My overall goal in this essay is to reveal the subtlety and plausibility of Kierkegaard's critique of pure irony. I also attempt to disclose the richness of the Hegelian account of ethical life to which Kierkegaard recurs in his thesis. (shrink)
This book seeks to clarify the concept of irony and its relation to moral commitment. Frazier provides a discussion of the contrasting accounts of Richard Rorty and Søren Kierkegaard. He argues that, while Rorty's position is much more defensible and thoughtful than his detractors tend to recognize, it turns out to be surprisingly more parochial than Kierkegaard's.
After extensively critiquing the stance of pure irony in the second half of The Concept of Irony, Kierkegaard attempts to recover the “truth of irony,” as he puts it, in a brief but suggestive conclusion. A main feature of the “truth of irony” turns out to be that irony, when mastered, is an indispensable component in an ethical way of life. In this paper I attempt to clarify Kierkegaard’s account of mastered irony. I discuss the analogy that Kierkegaard offers between (...) poets who skillfully use mastered irony in their work and persons who gainfully employ irony in their “individual existence.” Then I analyze four metaphors that Kierkegaard uses to clarify the advantages of mastered irony in ethical life. I also argue that, for Kierkegaard, irony is properly mastered through moral commitment. (shrink)
Certain features of Richard Rorty's account of liberal irony have provoked serious moral criticisms from some of his peers. In particular, Rorty's claim that anything can be made to look good or bad by being redescribed has struck some philosophers, such as Richard Bernstein and Jean Bethke Elshtain, for instance, as morally outrageous. In this article, I examine these criticisms and clarify the meaning and implications of Rorty's position. I argue that a more careful reading of Rorty reveals that his (...) position is not morally objectionable or depraved. Instead, the idea that anything can be made to look good or bad by being redescribed is an important insight that fosters tolerance, moral imagination and novel self-creation. In the concluding sections of this article, I address as well possible tensions between Rorty's account of redescription and his endorsement of truthfulness and the role that his privatepublic split plays in alleviating these tensions. Key Words: contingency democracy irony publicprivate distinction redescription Richard Rorty self-creation truthfulness. (shrink)