Kierkegaard's Writings, II, Volume 2: The Concept of Irony, with Continual Reference to Socrates/Notes of Schelling's Berlin Lectures: The Concept of Irony, ... of Schelling's Berlin Lectures Kindle Edition
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- Length: 663 pages
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1) It is Kierkegaard's doctoral thesis and he bears a great load of hostility against his professors. He works this out passive-aggressively, by writing in a near impenetrable style. They are testing him by making him defend a thesis and he, in his turn, is testing them to see whether they can figure out exactly what thesis he is defending. He claims that Irony, the concept he is explicating, is "infinite absolute negativity." Certainly his thesis is. The thesis is not just about Irony, it enacts Irony. The thesis shows him the master of Irony.
2) The thesis seems hostile to Socrates who, throughout his authorship he always speaks of with approval. This is because among the contemporary witnesses he chooses to credit Aristophanes above Xenophon and Plato. Aristophanes' portrayal is indeed negative. Aristophanes is clearly hostile to Socrates. Socrates even blames Aristophanes at his trial for poisoning the peoples' minds against him.
3) He later repudiated the idea that Irony is "infinite absolute negativity," claiming that at the time he was an "Hegelian fool." Kierkegaard claims he did not, in his thesis, appreciate certain positive aspects of Socratic Irony, qualities that made Socrates a great ethicist. Certainly, he would never have believed Aristophanes except that he confirms Hegel's view of Socrates.
4) This book does not belong with the other books of his authorship (starting with Either/Or). While it is brilliantly shrewd, it does not carry out Kierkegaard's program. While it illustrates a mastery of technique, it is not a mature work in the sense that it lacks the his characteristic questions and concerns. This is the source of a negativity absent from his later works.
If you want to read a classic on the subject, read this book. An acquaintance with Xenophon, Plato and Aristophanes is vital. Moreover, patience with Kierkegaard's infuriating style is also a must.
Bonnie W. Jones
2. On whether or not Irony is a mature work: the first part is not. The first part begins and ends with Hegel, with occasional allusions to what points he will hit in the second part. Want to skip the first part because it's long and doesn't seem to get to the point, or you don't know enough about Socrates? Forget the second part then, which won't make any sense at all without the working definition it takes until the discussion of Aristophanes to get to. And don't worry about not having a background on the Greeks. All you have to do is have a little working knowledge of the Apology of Plato, and know that Xenophon is a bit of a dimwit. Everything you wouldn't know and Kierkegaard doesn't tell you is said in the commentary, which is both repititious to those who know, and vexatious to those who don't, but is really helpful nonetheless.
3. The second part, especially in the discussion of Lucinde is a microcosm of the rest of Kierkegaard's philosophy. It just takes a little bit of a skewed lens (an ironic lens, if you will). Irony as infinite negativity? (which is probably an infuriating way of putting it since it really doesn't say anything about irony unless you understand the context provided by the discussion on Socrates in the first part... see why you can't just skip ahead?) alludes to concious despair, or at least if you're an ironist, and you see the emptiness of your position LEADS you to concious despair. The Ironic itself becomes sublimated somewhere between the aesthetic and the humorous, something unsustainable in it of itself, because after all, it is infinite negativity (once again,i refer you to the first part. It has something to do with Socrate's position that he was the wisest man in Athens because he knew nothing, and about the soul after death. See why Socrates is so necessary an ingredient now?).
4. The discussion on Lucinde in the second part is his descisive turn away from the Aesthetic and from Regine, not the Seducer's Diary as presented in EITHER/OR. In fact, EITHER/OR is his more direct explanation of his position that he first touched upon in Irony. Do you see the irony in that? He had to write a pseudonymonous work of an editor who finds a pile of papers in a desk in order to be more direct about a subject he indirectly touched upon in his dissertaition.
5. This is seminal Kierkegaard. This is the book that makes clear the infinite bottomless pit that Kierkegaard points you to in his later work is in fact, an infinite bottemless pit--WAAAUUGHHHH!
6. I hereby disclaim all my references to Kierkegaard. Especially this one.