Kierkegaard on Mastered Irony

International Philosophical Quarterly 44 (4):465-479 (2004)
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Abstract

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.

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