PHIL 341 Kierkegaard's Ironic Socrates
Irony is classically defined as saying the opposite of what you mean. But what if your whole outlook on life was ironic such that when you appeared earnest you were actually joking and when you appeared to be joking you were deadly serious? What would be the point of such a life and how would we ever tell if we had a full-blown ironist in our midst? The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard's first major work, The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, develops the radical thesis that the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was just such an ironist, someone who consistently maintained an ironic standpoint towards his fellow citizens and everything that made up Athenian society. In the process of arguing for this view, Kierkegaard takes his readers on a whirlwind tour of the main classical texts about Socrates (by Xenophon, Plato, and Aristophanes), offers up some searching reflections about the nature of irony more generally, and sets himself against Hegel's reading of Socrates while joining Hegel in his criticism of the German romantics and the modern manifestation of irony. To make matters more complicated, a number of recent scholars have argued that Kierkegaard's work about irony is itself thoroughly ironic. Is this a book that defends a serious philosophical thesis or a work designed to reduce the entire philosophical enterprise to rubble? Our aim in this course will be to give this very unusual, arguably profound meditation on Socrates and the nature of irony a thorough and searching examination. Format: seminar. Requirements: several short writing assignments, active class participation, and a final paper (10-15 pages). Prerequisites: Philosophy 101 or 102 or 205 or permission of instructor. Enrollment limit: 19 (expected: 5-15). Preference given to Philosophy majors and those considering majoring in Philosophy.