Today marks two noteworth philosophical birthdays:
The first is one of the founders of existential philosophy, the Danish Philosopher and Theologian Søren Kierkegaard, who turns 200 today.
“Be cautious with an abstract thinker who not only wants to remain in abstraction’s pure being but wants this to be the highest for a human being, and wants such thinking, which results in the ignoring of the ethical and a misunderstanding of the religious, to be the highest human thinking.” –Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments
The Second is the philosopher, economic theorist, and political revolutionary, Karl Marx, who turns 195 today.
Celebrate these two groundbreaking and revolutionary thinkers today.
The philosophic value of irony has been a topic of investigation from Kierkegaard’s On the Concept of Irony With Continual Reference to Socrates, if not all the way back to Plato’s dialogues themselves. Yet, seemingly unaware of the long philosophical tradition of practiced irony, Christy Wampole’s recent article “How to Live Without Irony,” through an irredeemably surface reading of so-called “hipster” culture, advocates a total rejection of irony, a self-conscious cleansing of the inauthenticity of ironic self-reference. Yet, is such a radical position vis-a-vis irony necessary? Is there no possible value to be gained from the use of irony in discourse or even life?
In Slavoj Zizek’s Are We Allowed to Enjoy Daphnée du Maurier?, he offers the seemingly paradoxical assertion that, not only does feminine masochism fail to support patriarchy and its most heinous manifestation in sexual violence, but that feminine masochism is subversive of this patriarchy itself.
“What this means is that, paradoxically, the staging of what appears to be a masochist scenario is the first act of liberation: by means of it, the servant’s masochistic libidinal attachment to his[sic] master is brought into the light of day, and the servant thus achieves a minimal distance towards it. In his essay on Sacher-Masoch, Gilles Deleuze elaborated this aspect in detail: far from bringing any satisfaction to the sadistic witness, the masochist’s self-torture frustrates the sadist, depriving him of his power over the masochist. Sadism involves a relationship of domination, while masochism is necessarily the first step towards liberation.”
In essence, through the overt enactment of patriarchal power relations, the frailty and fiction of this power structure is made manifest. The apparent acting out of this problematic structure, in reality functions as its very undermining. By playing out the structure as fiction, it is revealed to already be fiction.*
Could not irony, even “hipster” irony, provide such a necessary acting out. Does ironic fashion not reveal the vacuous nature of fashion? Does ironic language not reveal the artificiality of language? Rather than reject irony, perhaps it is the role of the philosopher to live out irony, to live it out as radically as Kierkegaard or Socrates. Perhaps it is the destiny of philosophers to become hipsters.
EDIT 12/06/12: [Check out THIS response to Wampole by The Atlantic‘s Jonathan D. Fitzgerald]
*Special thanks to Noelle Vahanian’s “Theology ‘after’ Lacan”. Presented at SPEP 2012