Spirit of irony and the problem of negativity
Colfer, Patrick W.
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This essay argues that irony is a necessary and central part of the spirit that animates principled speech. The notion that irony is negative, especially as expressed by Kierkegaard, is examined from within by re-presenting the negative ironist in dialogue. This presentation has as its purpose the discovery and elucidation of the crisis of negative irony. The crisis is then developed as initiating reflection on the problems of temperance and justice. The problem of temperance is raised through the negative ironists experience of anger. Anger raises the problem of speech's relationship to nature. Temperance as self-mastery in our relation to nature is developed through the notion of the mastery of anger. Through an examination of Plato's Charmides the argument is advanced that the development of justice depends upon temperance, since, ironically, justice tends to originate in a type of intemperance. Temperance educates justice by nurturing its Desire for value. It enables justice to mature through the work of re-enlivening and re-valuing inheritance. Temperate justice is the positive development of resource towards the realization of value. It is embodied in Socrates' ironic relation to nature. The problem of justice is raised through the negative ironist's rejection of awe. Awe raises the problem of speech's relationship to the polis. Justice as the demand for satisfaction in the midst of names is developed through the notion of the consummation of Desire. Through further examination of Plato's Gharmides, the argument is advanced that the development of temperance depends upon justice, since, ironically, temperance tends to originate in a type of injustice. Justice educates temperance by giving to it a grasp of what is necessary to it. The work of justice is to develop the ideal speaker's conviction, that is, his capacity to maintain the motion of development. Just temperance is embodied in Socrates' ironic relation to names.