Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Case for Irony

Here’s a review of Jonathan Lear’s book A Case for Irony which I wrote for the Times Higher.  Lear follows Kierkegaard in thinking that ‘To become human does not come that easily”, but Lear’s interesting claim is not the familiar one in this connection, that living up to one’s ideals is hard.  Instead, he argues that no genuinely human life is possible without irony.  Irony, he argues, is not just an amusing turn of phrase, but a feeling of displacement you might experience when a gap opens up between social pretense and aspiration, and in that moment you see that you don’t really understand what it means to be the person you’re committed to being.  Interesting stuff, and some good exchanges with a number of philosophers and psychoanalysts — as well as one of the best puns I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a Tanner Lecture.


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Filed under ethics, journalism, philosophy

Guardians of the future

I attended the launch of a report for the thinktank Greenhouse, called ‘Guardians of the Future’, authored by the philosopher and green campaigner Ruper Read.  You can read it here.  The idea is that democracy means government by the people, and we shouldn’t think of ‘the people’ as just those who happen to be alive now.  Future people are, in a sense, part of our democracy.  The report argues that future generations ought to be represented in parliment, in the form of a jury casting an eye over proposed legislation, with the power to veto decisions that might harm future people.  What a fine idea.

Before you say that’s ridiculous pie in the sky stuff, note that Hungary has an Ombudsman for Future Generations, and other initiatives are underway in several countries.  The launch itself took place in a committee room in the House of Commons.  It was something to hear in a discussion like this in the very centre of UK politics.  The MPs in attendance were reluctant to support it wholesale, but the fact that they discussed it and felt the need to find some solution to the question of harm to future people was, in itself, a kind of leap forward from the short termism that strangles so much green thinking.

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Filed under climate change, politics, talks/events