Kierkegaard on Mastered Irony

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