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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