Metaphysics, Universal Irony, and Richard Rorty’s “We Ironists”

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Airaksinen, T. Metaphysics, Universal Irony, and Richard Rorty’s “We Ironists”. Humanities 2021, 10, 106.

Title: Metaphysics, Universal Irony, and Richard Rorty’s “We Ironists”
Author: Airaksinen, Timo
Publisher: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
Date: 2021-09-23
Abstract: Richard Rorty speaks of “we ironists” who use irony as the primary tool in their scholarly work and life. We cannot approach irony in terms of truth, simply because, due to its ironies, the context no longer is metaphysical. This is <i>Rorty’s challenge</i>. <i>Rorty’s promise</i> focuses on top English Departments: they are hegemonic, they rule over the humanities, philosophy, and some social sciences using their superior method of ironizing dialectic. I refer to Hegel, Gerald Doherty’s “pornographic” writings, and Gore Vidal’s non-academic critique of academic literary criticism. My conclusion is that extensive use of irony is costly; an ironist must regulate her relevant ideas and speech acts—Hegel makes this clear. Irony is essentially confusing and contestable. Why would we want to use irony in a way that trumps metaphysics? Metaphysics, as defined by Rorty, is a problematic field, but irony can hardly replace it. At the same time, I admit that universal irony is possible, that is, everything can be seen in ironic light, or ironized. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate and criticize Rorty’s idea of irony by using his own methodology, that is, ironic redescription. We can see the shallowness of his approach to irony by contextualizing it. This also dictates the style of the essay.

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