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Ironism (n. ironist; from Greek: eiron, eironeia) is a term coined by Richard Rorty, for the concept that allows rhetorical scholars to actively participate in political practices.[1] It is described as a modernist literary intellectual's project of fashioning the best possible self through continual redescription.[2] With this concept, Rorty argues for a contingency which rejects necessity and universality in relation to the ideas of language, self, and community.[3]


In his writings, Rorty cited three conditions that constitute the ironist perspective and these show how the notion undercuts the rationality of conservative, reactionary, and totalitarian positions by maintaining the contingency of all beliefs.[1] These conditions are:

  1. He has radical and continuing doubts about the final vocabulary he currently uses, because he has been impressed by other vocabularies, vocabularies taken as final by people or books he has encountered;
  2. He realizes that argument phrased in his present vocabulary can neither underwrite nor dissolve these doubts;
  3. Insofar as he philosophizes about his situation, he does not think that his vocabulary is closer to reality than others, that it is in touch with a power not himself.
    — Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, p.73

In Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Rorty argues that Proust, Nietzsche, Foucault, Heidegger, Derrida, and Nabokov, among others, all exemplify ironism to different extents. It is also said that ironism and liberalism are compatible, particularly if such liberalism has been altered by pragmatic reductionism.[4]


  1. ^ a b Swartz, Omar (1997). Conducting Socially Responsible Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. p. 45. ISBN 0761904980.
  2. ^ Fraser, Nancy (1989). Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. p. 98. ISBN 0816617775.
  3. ^ Huang, Yong (2009). Rorty, Pragmatism, and Confucianism: With Responses by Richard Rorty. New York: State University of New York Press. p. 45. ISBN 9780791476833.
  4. ^ Reece, Gregory (2002). Irony and Religious Belief. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck. p. 122. ISBN 3161477790.