Socratic Irony, Plato's Apology, and Kierkegaard's On the Concept of Irony

In Niels Jørgen Cappelørn, Hermann Deuser & K. Brian Söderquist (eds.), Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook. de Gruyter. pp. 71-125 (2009)
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In this paper I argue that Plato's Apology is the principal text on which Kierkegaard relies in arguing for the idea that Socrates is fundamentally an ironist. After providing an overview of the structure of this argument, I then consider Kierkegaard's more general discussion of irony, unpacking the distinction he draws between irony as a figure of speech and irony as a standpoint. I conclude by examining Kierkegaard's claim that the Apology itself is “splendidly suited for obtaining a clear concept of Socrates' ironic activity,” considering in particular Kierkegaard's discussion of Socrates' remarks about death and his use of Friedrich Ast's commentary to help his readers to discover the irony that he contends runs throughout Socrates' defense speech.

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Paul Muench
University of Montana


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