Sören Kierkegaard Research Seminar location:S. Kierkegaard Research Centre Copenhagen date:11-16 August 2008
This article investigates the relations between irony and the unhappy consciousness. Both are forms of subjectivity that move in the context of the uneasy incommensurability between individuality and actuality. But whereas irony as such seems to rescue itself, the unhappy consciousness doesn’t. My question is thus whether irony could be a model of relief for despair, and more particularly for the unhappy consciousness. I intend to show however that irony itself can be dialectically understood both as strength and as sickness. Consequently, it depends on the very appearance of irony whether it either removes or rather intensifies despair. Socratic irony will appear as the most authentic form of irony for it seems able to bear the disruption between itself and actuality and hence keeps despair at a subtle distance. Romantic irony, by contrast, is nothing but a way of exorcising evil by evil itself. Finally I will argue that Kierkegaard’s own resolution of controlled irony, as the absolute condition for a genuine and human life, will appear to fall victim to what it fights, in being precisely an unsteady and endless remembrance of despair and hence only a covering disguise of the unhappy consciousness.