Monday, November 11, 2013

No genuinely human life is possible without irony

In our age there has been much talk about the importance of doubt for science and scholarship, but what doubt is to science, irony is to personal life. Just as scientists maintain that there is no true science without doubt, so it may be maintained with the same right that no genuinely human life is possible without irony. Irony limits, finitizes, and circumscribes and thereby yields truth, actuality, content; it disciplines and punishes and thereby yields balance and consistency. Irony is a disciplinarian feared only by those who do not know it but loved by those who do. Anyone who does not understand irony at all, who has no ear for its whispering, lacks eo ipso [precisely thereby] what could be called the absolute beginning of personal life; he lacks what momentarily is indispensable for personal life; he lacks the bath of regeneration and rejuvenation, irony's baptism of purification that rescues the soul from having its life in finitude even though it is living energetically and robustly in it. He does not know the refreshment and strengthening that come with undressing when the air gets too hot and heavy and diving into the sea of irony, not in order to stay there, of course, but in order to come out healthy, happy, and buoyant and to dress again.

Therefore, if at times someone is heard talking with great superiority about irony in the infinite striving in which it runs wild, one may certainly agree with him, but insofar as he does not perceive the infinity that moves in irony, he stands not above but below irony. So it is always wherever we disregard the dialectic of life.

— from The Concept of Irony, by Søren Kierkegaard.

(Which is weirdly both unscholarly yet pretentious.)

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