Does anyone take postmodern philosophers seriously


“Car le but de l'ironie n'était pas de nous laisser macérer dans le vinaigre des sarcasmes ni, ayant massacré tous les fantoches, d'en dresser un autre à la place, mais de restaurer ce sans quoi l'ironie ne serait même pas ironique: un esprit innocent et un coeur inspiré. ” (Vladimir Jankélévitch: L’ironie. Paris 1964, p. 186.)


As one can read in the textbooks of rhetoric, irony is the form of speech "with which we say the opposite of what we mean" (1). A prime literary example is Antony's funeral oration in Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar”. The irony can either serve to reveal the speaker's intention only to certain people - it is thus a form of deception - or it should be recognized by everyone, thus making it a mocking speech. This common definition is only a caricature of the nuanced facets that this term has in philosophy and literature (2).

In the following I will limit myself to the discussion of irony as a philosophical term, although the interrelationships with the literary examples - think of Musil and Thomas Mann in relation to Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard - are particularly instructive. The home of philosophical irony is antiquity.


a) Socratic irony

The fact that irony occupies a special position in the Platonic dialogues, indeed that it emerges as the main characteristic of Socrates 'character, must be seen in connection with Plato's or Socrates' discussion with the Sophists, i.e. with the question of the nature of dialectics (3).

This discussion begins with the questioning of the sophistic claim to a (rhetorical) general knowledge, which should be formally teachable like any usual techne, in that its content is based on the changing (political) phenomena. In contrast, Plato portrays the ironic Socrates, who, although he does not show that he knows anything, in truth represents the superior claim of the Platonic dialectic. As a living embodiment of this contradiction, Socrates is an ironic figure par excellence. However, this contradiction between not-knowing and true knowledge is ultimately an apparent one, because not-knowing is not an empty state, but the condition for the soul to make its way to ontos on, i.e. to the true reality that it once was seen later but forgot. So the Platonic Socrates cannot force the soul trapped in the body to remember, but he can try to point out that dimension that is hidden by the sensory perception. In other words, Plato must ironically reinterpret what the real world is for the sophists.

As an example of this Platonic confrontation with the sophists, we can use the "Charmides" dialogue, where Socrates tries to find the self-contradiction of a formal sophist techne, in the sense of episteme epistemesto question. Already at the beginning of the dialogue that metaphysical reversal of the soul is announced, in the sense of a detachment from the sensual and physical, which is the prerequisite for the vision of the ideas. It is then ultimately through the primacy of the idea of ​​the good in the sense of an absolute standard or as the only norm of action and knowledge that distinguishes the Platonic dialectic from the relativistic techne of the sophists. So, right at the beginning of the dialogue, the encounter between Socrates, who has returned from the battle of Potidaia, and the beautiful Charmides culminates in the ironic question of a "small addition" (smikron ti) (Charm. 154 d) compared to the formation of a beautiful body, i.e. in the question of sophrosyne in the sense of the beauty of the soul, whereby Socrates initiates the transition from the sensual to the noetic. It is again the same ironic remark that made at the end of the dialogue - after Socrates tried to convince the sophist Critias of the absurdity of his excessive techne to prove - can be heard again. Because, according to Socrates, if we were to do everything “technically”, we would be physically healthier, if we had better clothes, etc., but the doubt would remain whether we would act well. It would be that "little thing" (smikron toinun) (Charm. 173 d) are missing, the absolute standard of the good or of the one, that is, whereby the 'indifference' of the purposes can only be formed in a hierarchy from an ultimate purpose without any preconditions.

Ironically, Socrates expresses his skepticism towards the sophistic omniscience in the form of a dream, leaving open whether this dream came to him through the ivory or through the horned gate of the underworld. It is through the latter, according to Homer (Od. 19, 560), that true dreams come. In the early dialogues, however, Plato says nothing directly about the "trifles". Plato's intention, namely, that concept, is highly ironic technewho like no other the intellectual ideal of the sophists versus the old noble ones aretá embodied reversing exactly into the opposite of a merely formal all-science.

This "little thing" occurs in many variations in other Platonic dialogues. For example in “Protagoras”. After the sophist Protagoras justified the teachability of virtue on the basis of the myth of Epimetheus and Prometheus, Socrates expressed himself as follows:

"How grateful I am to you, son of Apollodorus, that you made me come here with you. For I consider it a great gain to have heard what I have just heard from Protagoras. I was of the opinion so far "It was not human care that would make the good good; but now I am convinced of it. There is only one little thing in my way about which Protagoras will easily enlighten me, since he has given me so much information." (Prot. 328 e).

The question is in what sense virtue is "a unit". This question is again in an ironic context in that Socrates praises Protagoras' long speech in comparison to the long speeches of the politicians, but at the same time refers to the missing "trifle", namely that of the unity of virtue. The following short answer by Protagoras forms the starting point for the dialectic of question and answer, which ultimately leads to an ironic change of viewpoint at the end of the dialogue.

In the "Apology" this "trifle" (Apol. 21 d) is Socrates' superior ignorance - according to the saying of the Pythia, namely that there is no one wiser than he - which he puts to the test against the knowledge of politicians, poets and craftsmen and comes to the conclusion that wisdom (sophia) is due to the deity and not to him alone. In other words, not external images of gods, but a spiritual and wise god, a new god, is the standard of the Platonic Socrates.

In the "banquet", Socrates asks Agathon, before he ironically has Diotima represent his speech about beauty, whether he (Agathon) could not answer a "small thing", namely whether the good is not at the same time beautiful (Symp. 201 c), a question which in "Philebos" reads as follows:

"Sokr .: Let's come to an agreement on a few small things beforehand.
Protarchus: About which?
Socr .: Does good by its nature necessarily have to be perfect or not perfect? ​​"(Phil. 20 c)

How serious the irony is ultimately meant for the Platonic Socrates is expressed in the first book of “Politeia”. In connection with the remark of Socrates that neither he nor Polemarchus had the strength to answer the question of justice clearly and precisely, in accordance with the request of Thasymachus, Thrasymachus scoffs at this pretense:

"At these words he offered a scornful laugh and said: Thrasymachus: With Heracles, we have the usual disguise (irony) of Socrates" (eironeia Sokratous) (Pol. 337 a)

To which Socrates typically replies with a mathematical parable: to the question of how many twelve is, one cannot reject those answers that say something like: twelve is twice six or three times four. Because, according to Socrates, "what should I say other than the truth?" (Polit. 337 c).

In summary, we can say that the Socratic-Platonic irony takes place in that dialectic where the apparently ignorant sender exposes his ignorance to the apparently knower, namely the knower, by constantly disguising himself, namely the apparently non-knower With the aim of enlightening the soul trapped in the body about the deceptive character of the visible world in order to preserve the prerequisites for its turning and to create eternal reality. The Socratic-Platonic irony thus has an advertising and preparatory character. Because, so the beautiful Alkybiades in his praise of Socrates, his refusal to be in possession of knowledge is only the "outer shell":

"But if you open it, what abundance of spiritual power shows the inside! Hard to believe, you table mates!" (Symp. 216 e).

For it is not wealth or honor or physical beauty or similar goods that are valuable to Socrates. According to Alkybiades, his life is

"a continuous ironic game of disguise and teasing of people. But whether anyone else has looked at the idols inside him, if he was serious and opened up, I don't know; but I've seen them before, and appeared to me it was so divine and so golden, so incomparably beautiful and wonderful that I simply believed I had to do everything that Socrates asked of me. " (Symp. 216 e - 217 a).

The contrast between the spirit and the external figure of Socrates, which Alkybiades compares with an “artificial” Silenus - that is, with a two-legged horse-man, with funny features, leader of the satyr choir and educator of Dionysius - cannot be greater. Alkybiades' unsuccessful seduction of Socrates provides clear evidence of what Socrates really was about.

In other words, the Socratic irony - and one must underline 'Socratic' here, since Plato 'used' Socrates for his purposes but without exhausting the meaning of Socrates' attitude - is a satyrical mask behind which the seriousness of true spiritual reality is hides:

"Believe me," said Socrates to Alkybiades, "the eye of the spirit (tes dianoias opsis) only begins to see sharply when that of the body begins to lose its sharpness. You are still a long way from that. "(Symp. 219 a)

The Socratic understatement irony is entirely at the service of the delivery of the spirit; it is, as Socrates metaphorically called his method, Mayutics, delivery of souls or serious examination of thoughts for authenticity and truth, without, however, imagining the examiner himself as the author of the knowledge sought. For it is not wisdom itself, but the delivery, according to Socrates, "of God and my work" (Theät. 150 e):

b) Aristotle: irony as a virtue of the wise

In the "Nicomachean Ethics", Aristotle gives an exact description of irony in the sense of an attitude that deviates from a moral virtue. With regard to the virtue of truthfulness, he distinguishes between two extreme deviations, namely pretense (prospoiesis) through exaggeration, namely bragging (alazoneia) and those by understatement (eironeia kai eiron). (NE 1108 a 14-15). This general provision is put into perspective insofar as it is stated in the 4th book that although both forms of adjustment are reprehensible, "especially" but the braggart (NE 1127 a 31-32) (4).

The reason for this is that even the sincere "prefers to deviate from the true facts in such a way that he says too little: that seems more tactful, because exaggeration is upset." Furthermore, however, that while the braggart wants to make an impression because of reputation or also because of money, the ironic does not aim at profit and rejects precisely that which brings reputation. Aristotle uses Socrates as an example, and distinguishes him from those "ironics" who do not disguise themselves with regard to values ​​such as prestige or wealth, but also with regard to trifles. Aristotle mentions Spartan clothing as an example of this exaggerated modesty. So the Socratic irony appears as moderation, and the boastful as the real opposite of the sincere. It should be emphasized in this context that Aristotle understands the so interpreted virtue of moderate irony as an "ethical" virtue, and thus therefore belonging to the "irrational" part of the soul, while for Socrates and Plato it is entirely in the realm and in the service of Logos stood. In other words, while for Aristotle it is a matter of showing that through a certain disguise the virtuous person can achieve a "medium" distance from the exaggerated tendency towards material and external values, Socrates is concerned with the ironic disguise of the spiritual show that only in turning away from the sensual in general and in submitting the ethical to the dianoethical can the perfection of truth be sought in human beings. In this sense, Aristotle rightly notes that Socrates, in identifying the knowledge of virtue with virtue itself, and identifying the virtues as particular kinds of phronesis made, this thus intellectualized (NE 1144 b 25-33; Magna Moralia 1182 a 10 ff).

From this it can be deduced that while for Aristotle moderate irony is an ethical one, for Socrates this is a dianoetic virtue. The meaning and character of the dissimulation are completely different, because while Socrates and Plato are concerned with the knowledge of the absolute spiritual standard, Aristotle separates theoretical and practical philosophy, so that irony only finds a place in the latter. It is no longer a methodical passage of knowledge, but a possible realization of practical-ethical life. The disguise of the wise man is a sign of his ethical modesty or his moderate behavior. Although Aristotle's theoretical stance sophia separating it from ethical practice (NE, VI. book), he allows Socratic irony to be regarded as a possibly specific ethical attitude of the wise. But not irony, but truthfulness, belongs alongside the other ethical virtues to the concrete practical ideal to be striven for by all people.

c) Cicero: The rhetorical irony

In the subsequent development, the rhetorical term of irony becomes predominant, for example in Cicero, who used the Greek term eironeia translated as "simulatio" or "dissimulatio". In a not exactly modest way, Cicero compares his approach in the "Talks in Tuskulum" with the ironic method of Socrates and at the same time distorts or trivializes it in the sense of not revealing one's own opinion. He writes:

“His (that is, Socrates, RC) multifaceted method of discussion, the diversity of things and the greatness of his mind, sanctified by Plato's memorials and writings, brought into being several kinds of divergent philosophers, of which we have mainly followed which Socrates himself applied in our opinion, namely that we ourselves concealed our opinion ("ut nostram ipsi sententiam tegeremus"), freed others from error and asked each discussion what would be most likely. "(Cicero: Conversations in Tuskulum. Munich: dtv 1976, 5, 10)

Correspondingly, irony falls entirely outside of the realm of both dianoetic and ethical virtues, and remains merely a rhetorical figure. In "" De oratore "Cicero writes, only apparently in the sense of the Aristotelian idea of ​​an ethical or political virtue (" urbana dissimulatio "), the following:

"The irony in which one speaks differently than one thinks (" cum alia dicuntur ac sentias ") also testifies to fine wit (" urbana dissimulatio "), not in the sense indicated above, that one says the opposite, as Crassus said Lamia, but in mock seriousness of the whole style of speech, whereby one thinks differently than one speaks. (...) According to the testimony of people who are more familiar with it, Socrates probably has in this art of irony and pretense ( "ironia dissimulantiaque") surpassed all. It is a style of high elegance that combines seriousness with wit ("genus est perelegans et cum gravitate salsum") and corresponds to both oratory expression and cultivated chat. " (De oratore 2, 269-270).

It is easy to see here that the philosophical seriousness of Socratic irony has turned into the elegant and witty chat of an elegant Roman rhetorician! In this rhetorical sense, irony is used in the follow-up period, Quintilian, retained and that up to the 18th century in the French encyclopedia (cf. H. Weinrich, Art. Ironie, loc. cit.). Before we go into the modern age, let us turn to the reception of Aristotelian irony in the Middle Ages for a moment.

2. Middle Ages: irony as sin

How much irony fell out of the realm of dianoethical or ethical virtue in the Middle Ages is shown by the discussion of "ironia" in connection with vices against truth in Thomas Aquinas "Summa theologica" (ST 2, 2, q. 110 , a. 2, c.). Because Thomas retains the Aristotelian view of irony in the context of ethics, but although he refers explicitly to the 4th book of the Nicomachean Ethics, for him the irony, in contrast to "jactantia", consists in a "lie towards the inferior “(" Mendacium, quod deficit veritate in minus "), ie it is determined exclusively in the sense of hypocritical modesty, as it was initially interpreted by Aristotle in Book 2. Because, according to Thomas in a quaestio dedicated to irony (ST 2, 2, q. 113), if the understatement takes place in such a way that it does not offend against the truth ("salva veritate"), then it is not irony, but offends it against truth, for example by claiming something bad about oneself without recognizing this in oneself, then it is irony, ie it is a lie ("mendacium") and thus also a sin ("peccatum"). Thomas also interprets the Aristotelian appreciation of Socratic irony as a sin, even possibly in the case of deceitful betrayal, as a greater than the bragging rights. In addition, Thomas ignores the Aristotelian conclusion that the real antithesis to honesty is bragging and not irony. All traces of Socratic irony have now been made completely unrecognizable with the help of a theological overpainting.

At the end of the Middle Ages or at the beginning of the modern era, a transformed "Don Quixote", this masterpiece of irony, looks at the metaphysical dreams of his squire Sancho Panza, who, at the hour of his master's death, is converted to idealism. Another master of irony in the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern age, namely Erasmus, should not go unmentioned here (cf. L. Halkin: Erasmus von Rotterdam. Zurich: Benziger 1989). Both cases herald the new discovery of the philosophical depth of irony that is flourishing in modern times and will reach its climax in the 19th century.

3. From romantic to postmodern irony

Already in a forerunner of the German Classical and Romantic periods, namely Hamann, we find the first indications of the subsequent development. He writes:

"I wrote about Socrates in a Socratic way. The analogy was the soul of his conclusions, and he gave them those irony to her body. Uncertainty and confidence may be as peculiar to me as they will; so they must be viewed here as aesthetic imitations. "(J.G. Hamann: Schriften zur Sprach. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1967, p. 85).

Analogy and irony revolve around the problem of, as we say today, translating from one "language game" to another, or around the hermeneutical problem of how expressions of language can be transferred to another within a certain prior understanding, although this is not a logical one, but one Expansion of meaning takes place. In this sense, see J. Simon's comment on Hamann's text, in: J.G. Hamann (loc. Cit. P. 231). For Hamann this has explosive power that is critical of society insofar as certain public language rules ("political arithmetic"), such as those of an absolutizing "enlightened" reason, are exposed by showing apparently serious categories in their lack of seriousness or in their cultural-historical relativity (See J. Simon: Introduction to JG Hamannn: Schriften, loc. Cit. Pp. 50-56).

At the beginning of the 19th century, namely in Jean Paul's "Preschool of Aesthetics" (1813), all essential characteristics of literary irony are presented, especially in contrast to humor (cf. Jean Paul: Preschool of Aesthetics. In: ibid .: Works, Munich: Hanser 1987, Vol. 5, pp. 124-160). For while in humor, "the sublime reversed", the great is humbled and the small is exalted in order to destroy both, "because before infinity everything is the same and nothing", irony increases the small, "without giving it the great Side to put. " (ibid. p. 125). In this elevation of the low, behind the "appearance of seriousness" it is about the "seriousness of appearance" or the "ironic coldness and calm", in which it is not the subjectivity of the poet but the subject itself that is in the foreground. If the seriousness is too weak or too "fun", then we have a bad irony. Swift, think of Gulliver's travels, is a prime example of good or serious irony for Jean Paul. The irony differs from the "cheerful charm of laughter" as well as from the "moral seriousness of satire" (op. Cit. Pp. 148-156) -

On the basis of the Kantian critique of metaphysics, romanticism, here using the example of Fr. Schlegel and K.W.F. Solger, a theory of irony that is linked to antiquity and deals with it, which is critically restricted by Hegel in the sense of the highest form of morality. This dispute reached a climax with Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. In the 20th century, irony was first discussed in the literary (Musil, Th. Mann) but then also in the philosophical field (Jankélévitch, Bollnow, Allemann, Weinrich). With postmodernism, it comes back to the fore of the discussion.

a) The romantic irony: Fr. Schlegel and K.W.F. Solger

"Philosophy", according to Friedrich Schlegel, "is the real home of irony, which one would like to define logical beauty: because wherever in oral or written conversations, and only not completely systematically philosophized, one should perform and demand irony; and even The Stoics considered urbanity a virtue. Of course there is also a rhetorical irony which, when used sparingly, has an excellent effect, especially in polemics; but it is against the sublime urbanity of the Socratic Muse, what the splendor of the most brilliant artistic speech in comparison to an old tragedy high style. " (Quote from: H.-J. Schmitt, Ed .: Romantik I, Stuttgart: Reclam 1986, p. 102, Lyzeums Fr. 42).

With this double statement, i.e. with the introduction of irony to his "home", i.e. to the Platonic dialogues, and with the simultaneous revaluation of rhetorical irony, Schlegel makes the lost connection with the philosophical problematic of irony. This problem is initially outlined with the term "logical beauty". Because irony is on the one hand, according to a further attempt at definition, "the form of the paradox" (Lyc.-Frag. 48, quotation from Allemann, op.cit. P. 60), on the other hand, irony does not include the mere logical form of contradiction, but beauty too. But the realm of beauty is that of poetry. It is characteristic of Schlegel that on the one hand, following the passage quoted above, he sharply separates rhetoric and poetry from one another, while on the other hand he arranges poetry in terms of philosophy: "Romantic poetry is a progressive universal poetry" . (F. Schlegel: "Athenäums" -Fragmente (ibid .: Kritische und theoretical Schriften, Stuttgart: Reclam 1984, p. 90). And when Schlegel speaks of "transcendental Buffonerie" and of irony as a "mood that overlooks everything, and rises above everything that is conditioned, including his own art, virtue or genius ", then the figure of Socrates in the costume of an Italian buffalo is unmistakable (Lyz.-Frag. 42).

The characteristic of irony as a philosophical mood is for Schegel, in connection with the romantic Socrates, the endurance of the opposites, namely between the finite and the infinite, the unconditioned and the conditional, idealism and realism. A synthesis in the static form of a system cannot succeed. Therefore, one cannot actually define the irony. Rather, it is about a "constant alternation between self-creation and self-destruction" ("Athenäums" fragments, in: F. Schlegel: Kritische und theoretical Schriften, op. Cit. P. 82). For while on the one hand the irony corresponds to the mood that overlooks everything and rises above everything, on the other hand it testifies to the feeling of the "impossibility and necessity of complete communication" (Lyc.-Frag. 108, quotation from Allemann, op. Cit., P. 70-71).

In the "Critique of Judgment" Kant writes that talent "finds ideas for a given concept and, on the other hand, for these ideas Expression through which the resulting subjective mood can be communicated to others as an accompaniment to a concept ", that is what is called" spirit "(Kant: Critique of Judgment. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1974, A 195-196). Spirit" in aesthetic meaning "is, again according to Kant," the invigorating principle in man ", the same as" wit "and" esprit "(I. Kant: Anthropologie, Darmstadt: Wiss.Buchges. 1975, BA 161). Witz is so Schlegel, "Principle and organ of universal philosophy", because the spirit comes to universality in a constant game of thoughts, in constant intermingling, in a kind of "logical chemistry." But this is not what we do with a game that does not dissolve into anything have to do as in the case of the poetic joke - one thinks of Kant's determination of laughter in view of a joking or absurd game of thoughts or as "an affect from the sudden transformation of a tense expectation into nothing (I. Kant: Critique of Judgment, loc. cit. A 222-223), but the best scientific discoveries are, according to Schlegel, "echappées de vue ins infinite "(Fr. Schlegel: Critical and theoretical writings," Athenaeum "fragments, op. cit. p. 101).

So philosophers are masters of syncretism, i.e. they bring divergent thoughts into a fragmentary unity. For Schlegel Leibniz and Kant are prime examples of this witty spirit: "Kant, the Copernicus of philosophy, may by nature have a more syncretistic spirit and critical wit than Leibniz: but his situation and his education is not so funny; his ideas are also like popular melodies : the Kantians sang them dead; therefore one can easily do him an injustice and consider him less funny than he is. " (ibid.) Because the joke that is "assimilated" "heterogeneous ideas", according to Kant, is either the "comparative" or "productive" or the "reasonable" one. The joke that does not know how to "awaken" or "enliven" any "ideas of reason" remains superficial or "shallow" (I. Kant: Anthropologie, loc. Cit. BA 156-158). So if this awakening is the main task of philosophy, then it is essentially "funny". However, afterwards, according to Kant, the joke "needs the power of judgment in order to determine the particular under the general, and the ability to think Detect apply. "(loc. cit. BA 154)

Schlegel treats the "coarse irony" which is "really at home" "in the history of mankind" as "excellent types" of irony. The "fine or the delicate irony" as well as the "extra fine". Example: Skaramuz, a braggart from the "Commedia dell'arte" who seems to be talking seriously to someone, but is really waiting "where he will be able to kick the butt with a good way". Then the "honest irony", whereby e.g. the "soulful friend of nature" is lured through a lovely grotto, where he is sprayed with water. The "dramatic irony" where two lines of irony run parallel. And finally the "irony of irony", where you notice that you can't talk about irony without irony, so that ironically you can't get out of irony (Fr. Schlegel: "Athenäums" question., In: H .-J. Schmitt, Ed .: Romantik I, op. Cit. P. 103).

Ironically, however, Schlegel fails to make irony the focus of his literary work when he himself writes a novel, as in the case of "Lucinde". The power of love and not the limbo of irony wins the upper hand. Schlegel seeks a synthesis in the formula "irony of love", because philosophy is not wisdom, but love of wisdom, i.e., according to Schlegel, it proceeds "entirely from love". In his later lectures, however, he also emphasizes that the disadvantages of a "strong" misguided reason "for our time" are greater than those of an exuberantly ironic fantasy (5).

A further definition of romantic irony, namely in Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand Solger (1780-1819), is based on this difference between a mocking (Lukian, Wieland) or dangerous and a true or sublime or tragic irony (Sophocles, Shakespeare). For Solger, irony is:

"That mood in which the contradictions are annihilated and yet contain the essentials for us (...) or in the comic also probably Whim and humor". (K.W.F. Solger: Postponed writings and correspondence (Heidelberg: Schneider 1973, Vol. 2, p. 513)

The contradictions that are annihilated here are those of seriousness and joke as the alleged characteristics of tragedy and comedy. In truth, however, according to Solger, what the true tragic and comic masterpieces have in common is that there the "whole conflict between the imperfect in man and his higher destiny" appears "as something insignificant". What tragedy and comedy do is not a "dissolution", but a "cutting of the knot". The irony is the mood of this "chopping up".

These Irony, however, is not mere negativity or it is not "a nice setting aside over everything that is essential and seriously interested in man", but rather the "true irony" starts from the point of view that man, as long as he is present in this point The world is alive, its destiny, even in the highest sense of the word, can only be fulfilled in this world. (...) Everything with which we believe we are going beyond finite purposes is vain and empty imagination. Even the highest is for our actions ” only there in limited finite form ”(loc. cit. pp. 514-515).

Neither escape into the infinite nor abandonment of this striving, but the "immediate presence of this divine" in the finite, whereby "our reality" disappears, is the mark of tragic but also comic irony. Latter

"shows us the best, yes the divine, in human nature, how it is fully approached in this life of dismemberment, contradictions, and nothingness, and that is precisely why we recover from it, because it has become familiar to us and completely in our sphere is transplanted "(loc. cit. p. 516).

Accordingly, we can say that the irony for Solger is the mood that arises from the transplantation of the infinite into the finite, through which we can recognize the nothingness of the finite and at the same time, because the divine has become home, we can recover from it. Solger differentiates this kind of human happiness from both religiosity and morality. The mood of irony is an aesthetic mood and it has its right and its own dignity. No less a figure than Hegel attacked romantic irony in all sharpness, and no less a figure than Kierkegaard has again questioned this attack.

b) Hegel's Critique of Romantic Irony

In the "Basics of the Philosophy of Law", Hegel ties in directly to Schlegel and Solger in that he considers Solger's definition of irony to be better than Schlegel's, as that "the side of the real dialectical, the moving pulse of speculative consideration" should have recorded (GWF Hegel: Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1976, p. 277). However, according to Hegel, this higher dialectical sense of irony does not emerge very clearly in Solger. He explains this ambiguity on the basis of the above-mentioned passage in which Solger speaks of the "limited finite configuration" of the "highest", whereby going beyond "finite purposes" is vain imagination. For Hegel it is correct that the highest is shown in "finite form", but it is wrong that the contents or the "finite purposes" would thereby lose some of their infinity. For Hegel, this leads to the conclusion that it is unclear to assert that the highest would "perish" with our nothingness or reveal itself in the disappearance of our reality. Because in this "collision" right and wrong are lifted in the on: It is not the highest that "goes down" and it is not we who rise up at the downfall of the best. We do not rise up at the downfall, but at the "triumph of the true". What goes down is, in other words, the one-sidedness of finite subjectivity in the sphere of morality, of which irony is the highest form for Hegel. What emerges is the sphere of morality orof the state, where “the highest” does not present itself as a “nothing” but in its “reality”.

Accordingly, it applies to Hegel that the Socratic irony, "because only the name is from Plato taken "- not the idea of ​​truth, but only the relation of Socrates to the" sophistic consciousness "concerns:" The irony concerns only a behavior of the conversation against people"(op. cit., p. 277), but Hegel also says the following about Socratic irony. It" contains this greatness in itself, which leads to the development of the abstract ideas. "(GWF Hegel: Vorlesungen über the history of philosophy (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1986, p.459). It is thus a way or a method, albeit one peculiar to Socrates, and "in this respect", according to Hegel, "cannot be called a method" (op. cit. p. 456) that is, it cannot be made a general principle, as the romantics have tried.

But if, in the seriousness of knowing about the idea, subjectivity does not forget itself, but pretends to "just as well wanting and deciding otherwise, "then it is not" the thing ", but" I am the excellent one. "So the irony is no longer the methodical-Socratic, but the romantic irony, which is a goal Game of "subjective Vanity ", known as the so-called"beautiful soul", individually or as a" community "believes to be fulfilled only in the area of" good intentions "(G.W.F. Hegel: Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, op. cit. p. 179). In the" Phenomenologie des Geistes "Hegel writes:

"It lacks (the" unhappy consciousness ", RC) the power of alienation, the power to make itself into things and to endure being. It lives in the fear of tainting the glory of its interior through action and existence; and around To preserve the purity of the heart, it flees the touch of reality and persists in the stubborn powerlessness of renouncing its self, which has come to an end towards the ultimate abstraction, and giving itself substantiality or transforming its thinking into being and entrusting itself to absolute difference. " (G.W.F. Hegel: Phenomenology of Spirit. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1975, pp. 483-484.)

The ironic-unhappy consciousness is a "nobler subjectivity that glows in the unreality of itself" (GWF Hegel: Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, op.cit. P. 279). In the "Lectures on Aesthetics" Hegel points to the origin of the Schlegel's irony in Fichte, who made the ego "and the thoroughly abstract and formal ego" "the absolute principle of all knowledge, of all reason and cognition" (GWF Hegel: Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1986, p. 93 ). It follows that nothing "in and of itself and in itself is valuable ", but only" as produced by the subjectivity of the I "(op. cit. p. 94).Sham is, there is no "truer one serious"more, no" substantial interest ", no truth and morality." It is the artist's point of view to see everything as a "product of his own power of liking." "And now this virtuosity of an ironic-artistic life grasps itself as a"divine genius"In order to look down" nobly "from this point of view" on all other people ". This irony of the artist, who lives in this" bliss of self-enjoyment ", this irony, according to Hegel," was invented by Mr. Friedrich von Schlegel, and many others have chattered or chattered again. "(op. cit., p. 95). In contrast, that means against this form of irony as"vanity everything factual, moral and inherently rich in content, the nullity of everything objective and valid in and for itself ", the other already mentioned form of irony of the" beautiful soul "arises Nor do they find self-enjoyment satisfied, but [must] become deficient in themselves, so that they now feel the thirst for the solid and substantial, for specific and essential interests. "(Op. Cit. P. 96). And finally:" The lack of satisfaction in this silence and Lack of strength - which does not like to act and does not want to touch anything in order not to give up the inner harmony, and with the desire for reality and the absolute nonetheless unreal and empty, even if it remains pure in itself - gives rise to the pathological beauty and longing "(op. Cit. P. 96 ). But not this pathological one so-called "beautiful soul" but "a truly beautiful soul acts and is real." (loc. cit. p. 96). Solger's "dialectical unrest" can for Hegel "just a moment"not but" the "whole idea"to be (op. cit. p. 99): The ironic" dissolving of the particular "is one-sided (op. cit. p. 99). So it is true for Hegel that the Socratic irony is serious, the romantic irony is merely play. The first is a behavior as well one method, the second goal: irony as a form of consciousness belongs to the sphere of morality.

c) Kierkegaard: Hegelian irony "with constant consideration for Socrates"

Kierkeggard's dissertation "On the concept of irony with constant consideration for Socrates" from 1841 (Sören Kierkegaard: On the concept of irony with constant consideration for Socrates. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verl. Mohn 1984) is indeed an examination of romantic irony against the background of the Hegelian criticism, but it also distinguishes its own existential position against the claims of the system. But although Kierkegaard at the beginning of the second chapter of the first part expresses himself very praiseworthy about "the great conciseness of the thought", with which Hegel interprets the demonic in Socrates in the sense of the "principle of the free decision of the mind from itself", it comes afterwards to a clear reevaluation of the Socratic irony which for Hegel embodied the attitude of a "particular personality". For what was not a method for Hegel with regard to the dialectical or speculative method, from the "standpoint of the system", is now what Kirkegaard actually differs from, from the "standpoint of life" in his in the system revocable dimension highlighted. He writes:

"But one does not remember that irony, like every other point of view in life, has its temptations, its struggles, its relapses, its victories. Thus, for example, doubt is also a vanishing moment in the system; in reality, however, it takes place Doubts in constant conflict with everything that wants to stand up and stand against it (...) But whatever it may be, science may do the right thing by ignoring such things: whoever wants to understand individual life is allowed to do so Not. And since Hegel himself says somewhere that Socrates is not so much a matter of speculation as of individual life, I can see in this an empowerment for the procedure followed in my whole attempt, may this attempt even with my weakness turn out to be so imperfect. ”(loc. cit. pp. 171-172).

Nevertheless, Kierkegaard remains in Hegelian tracks when he calls the Socratic irony "the negativitywhich has not yet produced positivity ", ie as a standpoint of subjectivity that has only reached the limit of the idea. If later, so Kierkegaard, alluding to romanticism, after the ideas have become reality, subjectivity itself Nevertheless, if it is encapsulated by them, the irony takes on a "more dubious form" (op. cit., p. 203). In other words, Socratic irony, according to Kierkegaard, does not yet possess "the sickly and egoistic" of later times (ibid. p. 220 It shows "the subjectivity" which "asserts its rights for the first time in world history" (ibid. P. 246). By making subjectivity "universal", he was, so Kierkegaard in his Presentation of the Hegelian interpretation, the "founder of morality" (op. Cit., P. 233). Socrates' position is that of "infinite negativity" in relation to the positivity of the sophists but also in relation to "substantial life in the state" (op. Cit., P. 224). It is the standpoint of morality and not morality.

In the second part of his dissertation, Kierkegaard highlights the irony as "the infinite absolute negativity", as position thus, opposite to that of the prophet, of irony as Way of speaking from. About this last form of irony, which either cancels itself or is a figure of vanity, Kierkegaard expresses himself in a mocking way. Regarding irony as a point of view, Kierkegaard's accusation against Hegel is that he equates Socratic and Platonic irony, that is, interprets irony as a mere "manner of conversation", then he has the point of view ”of Socrates misunderstood: the Hegelian reference that Socrates tried to make abstract ideas concrete is "so modern" that "it hardly reminds of Socrates" (op. cit. p. 272). With regard to the romantic irony, Kierkegaard emphasizes its ambiguity: on the one hand it is "the infinitely easy game with nothing", on the other hand it is her "Serious about 'nothing'unless that is the "Serious about 'something' is "(op. cit. p. 275). The irony of Schlegel and Tieck, which is based on Fichte's subjectivity, is understood in the sense of a figure that disregards morality and morality or as a poeticization of life that is detached from religious seriousness (op. cit. p. 286 ff). The aesthetic or poetic infinity is merely an "external infinity". Only "the religious" brings the "true reconciliation" (op. cit. p. 303). Kierkegaard Schlegel's novel "Lucinde" provides an example of this poetic life that abolishes morality "Ironically, this is exactly the example that Schlegel said should not be understood ironically.

d) Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: irony as imagination and mask

In the first book of his main work "The world as will and conception", Schopenhauer presents his "theory of the ridiculous" in connection with the discussion of reason as "abstract knowledge" (A. Schopenhauer: The world as will and conception (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1986. Chapter 8) According to Schopenhauer, the ridiculous is based on the opposition between the abstract and the visual or on the incongruence between a concept and the object to be subsumed with it intentionally The ridiculous one is joke", its opposite seriousness. The irony arises when "the joke" hides behind seriousness ",

"E.g. when we simulate the opinions of the other, which are the opposite of ours, with apparent seriousness and share them with him; until finally the result confuses him about us and you." (loc. cit. pp. 132-133.)

So with Socrates. Schopenhauer has nothing but ridicule for the romantic irony: "Explanations such as" humor is the interpenetration of the finite and the infinite "express nothing more than the complete inability to think of those who are satisfied with such empty empty phrases" (ders.) Der For Schopenhauer, the difference between irony and humor lies in the fact that irony is objective, "namely calculated on the other", while humor is subjective, "namely only there for one's own self at first". So irony is more a matter of the ancients or antiquity, humor of the modern age. The irony begins "with a serious face and ends with a smiling face", with humor it is the other way round. Schopenhauer's examples are from Shakespeare, Jean Paul and Heinrich Heine.

Just as for Schopenhauer irony is an abstract gimmick that remains within the boundaries of the world as an idea and in no way serves as a guide for metaphysical knowledge or for the intuitive view of the "thing in itself", as was the case with Platonic Socrates For the Schopenhauerian Nietzsche, too, irony initially presents itself as a "dangerous mood". So he writes with regard to the "oversaturation" or the "excess" "of a time in history" that becomes hostile to life: "through this." For a time, excess gets into the dangerous mood of irony about itself and from it into the even more dangerous one of cynicism. In this it matures more and more towards a clever egoistic practice through which the vital forces are paralyzed and ultimately destroyed. " Instead of the people, "masked" or "educated" people, "all fearfully veiled universal people" appear. The result is "just stories", but not "events". The philosophy goes to waste, its "nudity" has to be disguised "shamefully".

Irony is the sign of "impotentia", it reveals "the weakness of modern personality" (F. Nietzsche: Untimely Considerations, Second Piece, 5th In: ders .: Works, G. Colli, M. Montinari, eds., Berlin 1972 ff). This explains the "enigmatic meaning" of Hegel's philosophy for Nietzsche, in good Schopenhauer style:

"Truly, paralyzing and disgruntled is the belief to be a latecomer of the times: it must appear terrible and destructive, however, if such a belief one day with a cheeky inversion adores this latecomer as the true meaning and purpose of everything that happened earlier, when his knowing misery a completion of world history is equated. " (ibid. Section 8)

Two years later, namely in 1878, irony gradually assumed a different function for Nietzsche, who broke away from Schopenhauer. This is because it is an “educational tool”. However, it remains just limited to this area, i.e. limited to the teacher-student relationship or it must not become a character trait. In other words, the irony only serves to optimize the communication of knowledge. Ethically, it is entirely negative. In this sense Nietzsche writes in "Human, All Too Human":

"Irony is only in place as a pedagogical means, on the part of a teacher in dealings with students of any kind: its purpose is humiliation, shame, but of that wholesome kind that awakens good intentions and devotion to those who treated us in this way, To show gratitude as a doctor means. (...) Getting used to irony, as well as to sarcasm, by the way spoils the character, it gradually gives the quality of a gleeful superiority: in the end one is like a vicious dog that has still learned to laugh except for biting. " (F. Nietzsche: Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, I, No. 372. In: ders .: Werke, op. Cit.)

Socrates, which is well meant here but not explicitly mentioned, the comparison with the doctor gives clear evidence of this, is, if the irony is interpreted merely as a means, a Socrates halved. As a result, it gains more platonic traits, but these are also halved, since it is not a means for metaphysical knowledge. Because, according to Nietzsche when discussing the aphorism "The pleasure of knowing" (F. Nietzsche: Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, I, No. 252, op. Cit.), Knowing is linked to pleasure because, firstly, one becomes "conscious of his power" ", secondly because you are" victorious "over older ideas and thirdly because we" override "the smallest knowledge all Nietzsche now finds these and other reasons not only in the emergence of artists, philosophers and moral geniuses, but also in that of the "scholar", that is to say, in the figure that he found in the third "Untimely Contemplation" ("Schopenhauer as educator "), of the des philosophical Educator sharply delineated. Now it is the case that the drives, stimuli and motives in the emergence of the "scholar", such as "new greed", "close-sightedness", "sobriety", "poverty of feeling", "loyalty to their teacher and leader "," habitual running on the track "," earning a living "," respect for fellow scholars "," vanity "," play instinct "," justice ", all these" urges and instincts "that is, not just for the" scholars ", but also for all, according to Nietzsche, "great names glorified in that script" apply. Accordingly, it applies that when everything No other relationship is possible for human beings than that of irony, i.e. an attitude whereby one always sees through what apparently only applies to some. But if irony is understood as generally necessary, then it is nothing special or, as something special, it is superfluous, or to put it another way: the human is already ironic in itself. Nietzsche therefore writes:

"Everything Human deserves in terms of his Emergence the ironic consideration: this is why irony is so superfluous in the world "(ders.)

In his later writings, for example in "Beyond Good and Evil", Nietzsche falls back on Socratic irony, but contrasts it with "being noble". Because, according to Nietzsche, it was part of the "greatness of the soul" to behave ironically towards the noble Athenians in order to show them with certainty that in one decisive respect all people were equal. But now, i.e. when the "herd animal" rules in Europe, we have the opposite situation:

"Today being noble, wanting to be for oneself, being able to be different, standing alone and living on one's own is part of the concept of" greatness "." (F. Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil, No. 213. In: ibid. Works, op. Cit.)

The irony would be "today" a reinforcement of the "decadence morality":

"Is the irony of Socrates an expression of revolt? Of rabble resentment? Does he, as an oppressed man, enjoy his own ferociousness in the stabbing of the syllogism?" Does he take revenge on the gentlemen whom he fascinates? - As a dialectician, one has a ruthless one Tool in hand; one can make a tyrant with him; one embarrasses by winning. The dialectician leaves his opponent to prove that he is not an idiot: he makes angry, he makes you helpless at the same time depotent the intellect of his opponent. - How? is just a form of dialectic revenge at Sokrates? "(F. Nietzsche: Götzen-Dämmerung, Das Problem des Sokrates, No. 7. In: ders .: Werke, op. cit.)

So Socratic irony is both a cure for ancient society and a means of vengeance. But if Nietzsche certifies to Socrates that he only "ironice married "(F. Nietzsche: Zur Genealogie der Moral, 3rd Abh., 7th In: ibid .: Werke, op.cit.) then it can be concluded, among other things, that despite all mistrust of Socratic irony, he Socrates thinks he can see through the ironic game, but ultimately in him the appearance of one total Fear of unmasking, i.e. the metaphysical appearance. He wants to increase the irony to a certain extent, because for the Socratic-Platonic irony it is ultimately the "true world" that counts, for Nietzsche this became a fable, and with the "true world" the "apparent" is also abolished. But it is

"Strong, highly educated, skilled in all bodily forms, self-contained, self-respecting, who dare to indulge in the full extent and richness of naturalness, who is strong enough for this freedom; the person of tolerance, not out of weakness, but out of strength "(F. Nietzsche: Götzen-Dämmerung, Wanderings of an Untimely, No. 49, in: ders .: Werke, loc. cit.)

So is this person, not a highly ironic one, I mean one strongly ironicshape? (Cf. B. Allemann, Ironie und Dichtung, op.cit. Pp. 47-49). For the feisty Nietzsche, irony was reprehensible and hostile to life maskFor the late Nietzsche, the mask-like is represented as a positive expression of the "buon temperamento" of the human being recovering from metaphysics. In contrast to the metaphysical irony of weakness, an irony of strength arises after the "death of God". Nietzsche's "Zarathustra" alludes to this person when he says:

"No longer a shepherd, no longer a man - a changed, a shrouded one, who laughed! Never on earth has a person ever laughed like that he laughed! "(F. Nietzsche: Thus spoke Zarathustra, 3rd part: On the face and riddle, 2nd In: ders .: Works, op. Cit.)

Isn't this freely laughing "transformed" figure a counter-figure to the "snappy, laughing dog"? The old irony persisted a metaphysical or scientific interpretation of the world. The new higher irony, on the other hand, is atheistic, creative and perspective, i.e. the view of the world from the human intellect is relativized or ironicized, but without us claiming to know

"what other kinds of intellect and perspective there are could. (...) But I think ", so Nietzsche in" Diejoyliche Wissenschaft "," today we are at least far from the ridiculous immodesty of decreeing from our corner that one only has perspectives from this corner should. Rather, the world has once again become "infinite" for us: insofar as we cannot reject the possibility that it includes infinite interpretations. "(F. Nietzsche: The happy science, 5th book, No. 374. In: ders .: Werke, op. Cit.)

But who would like, adds Nietzsche, to divine this infinity again? So it is important to affirm our perspective intellect in its "infinite" possibilities, without the human being, as with romantic irony, reaching for the "old" infinite. Nietzsche's ironic affirmation of the "new" infinite is the outcome of the ancient as well as the modern and modern absolutizations of reason, which claimed the monopoly of irony, with the simultaneous prohibition of applying irony to oneself. Is Nietzsche's ironization of reason the beginning of "postmodernism"?