90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
A Case For Irony

Whatever happened to irony? Not sarcasm, not snark. Jonathan Lear on why we need real irony, now.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

When the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001, a prominent American essayist wrote in a widely-quoted piece that the age of irony was over.  The world had become all too real.  The end of irony was at hand.  And hallelujah.  My guest today, University of Chicago philosopher Jonathan Lear, says hold on.

We need irony, he says, maybe now more than ever.  Not simple eye-rolling detachment.  Not snark.  Not sarcasm.  But the irony that makes us step back and profoundly question how close we are really coming to our ideals.

This hour, On Point: the case for irony.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Jonathan Lear, a professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago. He’s the author of A Case For Irony. This speech, given recently at the University of Kansas, outlines some of the ideas developed for the book A Case For Irony.

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

Salon “One of the points of these questions that I think is very important in the central usage of irony is that it is not the opposite of earnestness. When you’re asking these questions, you’re not just being a smartass, or saying the opposite of what you mean in order to be recognized as saying the opposite of what you mean.”

Time “One good thing could come from this horror: it could spell the end of the age of irony. For some 30 years–roughly as long as the Twin Towers were upright–the good folks in charge of America’s intellectual life have insisted that nothing was to be believed in or taken seriously. Nothing was real. With a giggle and a smirk, our chattering classes–our columnists and pop culture makers–declared that detachment and personal whimsy were the necessary tools for an oh-so-cool life. Who but a slobbering bumpkin would think, “I feel your pain”? The ironists, seeing through everything, made it difficult for anyone to see anything. The consequence of thinking that nothing is real–apart from prancing around in an air of vain stupidity–is that one will not know the difference between a joke and a menace.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 23, 2014
Specialist Ronnie Howard, center, calls out prices as he works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Beyond the turmoil shaking financial markets, the U.S. economy remains sturdier than many seem to fear. (AP)

The global economic wobble. Europe weakness. China fears. Wild markets. We’ll lay out the global economy now.

Oct 23, 2014
A screenshot from the interactive game, "Depression Quest," the game at the root of the ongoing #GamerGate controversy. (Courtesy  "Depression Quest")

#GamerGate. Sexism, misogyny and rough stuff in a video game world culture clash.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 22, 2014
Authors Nicholas Kristof and wife Sheryl WuDunn attend the premiere of "Meena" at the AMC Loews Theater on Thursday, June 26, 2014 in New York.

Author and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof says regular folks like us can change the world. He explains how. Plus: we remember the late, great Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee.

 
Oct 22, 2014
Health workers carry the body of a woman suspected of contracting the Ebola virus in Bomi county situated on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. (AP)

We’ll go to Liberia, and hear from a pastor and a physician at the epicenter of the Ebola crisis.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Introducing The Explicast: A New Podcast From On Point Radio
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Confused about the news? Don’t worry: so are we sometimes! Introducing a new On Point Radio podcast: The Explicast. You can find Episode One right here.

More »
1 Comment
 
Two LIVE Tracks From Jazz Violinist Regina Carter
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Regina Carter shares two live tracks — one arrangement, and one original composition — with Tom Ashbrook in the On Point studio.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: October 17, 2014
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

We talk Facebook mishaps, whether Katy Perry was actually right and the glory of architectural giants and their iconic windows.

More »
Comment