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Subjectivity out of irony.


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Louis de Saussure and Peter Schulz. 2009. Semiotica 173–1/4 (2009), 397–416.

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Subjectivity out of irony.

  1. 1. 1 Subjectivity out of irony 2 3 4 5 LOUIS DE SAUSSURE and PETER SCHULZ 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Abstract 13 14 Subjectivity plays an important role in how meaning is created and 15 construed. It concerns the expression of self and the representation of a 16 speaker’s perspective or point of view in the interaction with somebody 17 else. The subjectivity explored in this article concerns mainly one special 18 form of self-awareness insofar as it is related to irony. The argument of 19 this article will be carried out in three steps: We first will deal with the 20 main linguistic theories regarding irony. This will lead us to the conclusion 21 that irony — at least in some cases — involves a form of non-propositional 22 knowledge that needs to be identified and captured for irony. In a second 23 step, we will describe this type of non-propositional knowledge, in particular 24 distinguishing it from propositional knowledge. The discussion of non- 25 propositional knowledge as one marker of subjectivity will then lead us to 26 discuss irony — beyond its semantic utterances — as a personal disposition. 27 When we call utterances ironic we are referring to them as linguistic 28 constructs and we deal with the respective content of their declarative 29 statements, technically speaking, the proposition. In this contribution we 30 are interested in showing how ironic utterances lead back to a personal dis- 31 position. This move back should enrich, in some respects and to a certain 32 extent, our understanding of ironic utterances. 33 34 Keywords: irony; subjectivity; interpersoinal communication; deixis; in- 35 tentionality; Sperber and Wilson. 36 37 38 1. Irony in linguistic (pragmatic) theories 39 40 Within the study of language and language use, classical works on irony 41 before the twentieth century focused on the Aristotelian idea that irony 42 is an ‘antiphrastic’ literary figure, where the speaker says A when s/he Semiotica 173–1/4 (2009), 397–416 0037–1998/09/0173–0397 DOI 10.1515/SEMI.2009.018 6 Walter de Gruyter (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 397)
  2. 2. 398 L. de Saussure and P. Schulz 1 intends to convey B, and where B implies non-A. Unsurprisingly, a num- 2 ber of classical works on irony in speech communication can be found in 3 studies concerned with literature and rhetoric (in the sense of ‘style,’ ‘abil- 4 ity to use the resources of the language’), where stylistic e¤ects were at- 5 tributed to irony. Old dictionaries and encyclopedias make subtle distinc- 6 tions between irony and related figures (sarcasm, etc.). But still, at this 7 early stage, some psychological or, as we would say, ‘attitudinal’ parame- 8 ters are central to the definition of these figures. As an example, for the 9 French pedagogue Jullien, in the volume dedicated to ‘grammar’ of his 10 ´ ‘complete course of education for ladies’ (Cours complet d’education pour 11 les filles) published in 1849, irony is, as expected, defined as a phrasal fig- 12 ure by means of which one communicates the contrary of what is said. 13 But, more interestingly, he explains that irony is used for some e¤ects 14 such as to ‘hurt a person’ (in particular with sarcasm, which he calls a 15 ‘cruel’ irony), to ‘fake’ an attitude in order to subtly communicate the op- 16 posite one, to despise, etc. (Jullien 1849: 114–116). In other words, if we 17 take this book as an appropriate document for standard thinking in the 18 nineteenth century — and it appears that if standard views of irony in 19 the nineteenth century were interested in types rather than in theory, and 20 were not putting to question the idea that irony is an ‘antiphrastic figure’ 21 — it was already attributing psychological e¤ects to ironical utterances. 22 However such thinking did not explain precisely why one uses a ‘figure’ 23 like irony instead of saying things non-ironically, i.e., it does not explain 24 why an ironic utterance can be identified as such by a hearer and not as 25 just a mistake, nor why and under which conditions false utterances can 26 trigger the psychological e¤ects they list. 27 A turning point in the study of irony and related figures from a linguis- 28 tic point of view arose when the notion of subjectivity was integrated as a 29 parameter for the analysis of linguistic forms; the study of figures of 30 speech became then a concern for linguistics, since linguistics became, 31 more generally, concerned with more than just the ‘linguistic system.’ In 32 the Continental world, this point of departure is marked by the works of 33 Charles Bally and of Emile Benveniste (1966, 1974). 34 The Swiss linguist Charles Bally was the first to systematically intro- 35 duce a notion of subject-specificity in linguistics when he founded the 36 approach of language-use he called stylistics (see notably Bally 1926, 37 1941, and 1965). He distinguished between the dictum — what we could 38 call today the ‘propositional content’ — and the modus, corresponding to 39 the way the dictum is presented. Given that the same conceptual meaning 40 — or propositional content — can be conveyed in various formats, Bally 41 assumes that the formatting of propositions is the main indication of sub- 42 jectivity in language. He thus analyzes through this distinction not only (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 398)
  3. 3. Subjectivity out of irony 399 1 obvious cases of modality but a number of other e¤ects produced by the 2 specific choice of a wording by the speaker. The more influential French 3 linguist Emile Benveniste considered that the speaker’s identity is shaped 4 through interaction; a standpoint that opened up in the Continental tradi- 5 tion the integration into linguistic description of Freudian concepts to do 6 with the ‘self.’ Irony has, of course, a special place in this picture, directly 7 linked to the speaker’s relation to the interlocutor. 8 As for speech act theory (Austin 1962; Searle 1969), irony is a violation 9 of the classical sincerity conditions; however, being ironic does not neces- 10 sarily mean being insincere, since the actual communicated content is 11 made accessible through the utterance, however inadequate the sentence 12 itself is with regard to this actual communicated content. Without any ap- 13 peal to subjectivity, Grice (1975) says that an ironic utterance is an ex- 14 ploitation of the maxim of quality, which is made manifest through voic- 15 ing, intonation, gestures, etc., in order to communicate a conversational 16 implicature corresponding to the contrary of the propositional content. 17 In that sense, irony overtly violates one of the conventions on which con- 18 versation regularly relies; this is a point worthy of attention, and we will 19 return to it at the end of the paper. 20 The Gricean idea — as well as the background idea that irony is an 21 ‘antiphrastic’ figure in general — was seriously opposed first by Sperber 22 and Wilson in a well-known paper (1978, 1981 [English version]), where 23 they showed the defects of the Gricean way of dealing with irony, and 24 where they made substantial propositions to solve them (see also Sperber 25 and Wilson 1995). They notably opposed the classical (and thus the Gri- 26 cean) view precisely with the worries we expressed before: neither the 27 classical approach nor the Gricean version of it explains the exact kind 28 of meaning conveyed by ironical utterances, nor the way an utterance is 29 identified as ironical. An example they give is a situation taking place in a 30 car, with a passenger saying to the driver ‘attention!’ when there is in fact 31 no danger. In such a case, the conventions of speech should, along the 32 Gricean lines, end up with the driver concluding that the utterance was 33 in fact ironical and meant ‘go on, there is no danger.’ Sperber and Wilson 34 rightly conclude that this explanation is intuitively inaccurate since it 35 wouldn’t come to the mind of a passenger to shout ‘attention’ in order 36 to simply communicate that there is no danger. They take this as a hint 37 that there is something else taking place in ironical uses of language that 38 must further be explained. They also show examples where the utterance 39 is not simply ‘false,’ therefore contradicting the classical ‘antiphrastic’ 40 view. In particular, they quote an example from Voltaire’s Candide where 41 the two kings of two countries at war are described celebrating at the 42 same time their ‘victory’ after the battle. Since irony is not simply an (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 399)
  4. 4. 400 L. de Saussure and P. Schulz 1 antiphrastic device, it implies another parameter. What they propose is a 2 threefold explanatory device. First, they suggest that the ironical use is 3 hypothesized by the hearer on the basis of the irrelevance of the literal in- 4 terpretation when confronted to the contextual facts mutually manifest to 5 the speaker and the hearer (for example, if it’s raining when someone says 6 ‘Good weather for a walk!’). Second — a very important point — Sperber 7 and Wilson suggest that an ironical utterance is a metarepresentational 8 one, in the particular sense that it is a representation (as any utterance is) 9 of another representation, as quotations are, for instance, whereas stan- 10 dard utterances are representations of (true or desirable) facts. This falls 11 quite well within the common intuition that irony creates a sort of imagi- 12 nary ‘scene’ where someone is represented and targeted as ridiculous (the 13 person, real or imaginary, who would actually say the considered utter- 14 ance non–ironically, whatever the circumstances, makes the propositional 15 content obviously wrong). This metarepresentational standpoint is there- 16 fore directly related to a specific — metarepresentational — ability of the 17 mind. For Sperber and Wilson, irony is a case of ‘mention’ (since the 18 speaker mentions a speech or thought attributed to someone else) and 19 not a case of ‘description.’ Third, they introduce the idea that an ironic 20 utterance implicitly conveys a propositional attitude that corresponds, 21 roughly, to the proposition being considered ridiculous by the speaker. 22 This attitude is counted in the theory as the key to the reward, or e¤ect, 23 for the supplementary cognitive e¤ort needed to achieve relevance on the 24 basis of an utterance that is obviously false. In this respect, irony com- 25 pares with other types of literally meaningless utterances, either by virtue 26 of their logical form, or by virtue of their redundancy with mutually 27 known information. For instance, tautological utterances are supple- 28 mented pragmatically with various kinds of enrichments (not attitude) 29 that give sense to them in a given situation (as when Men are men is 30 used to mean Your husband is as boring as all other members of the cate- 31 gory). Still, for instance, a trivial piece of information like Nice weather 32 can be enriched in various ways in order to make some sense of it that 33 would be labelled relevant by the interpretive system. This propositional 34 attitude is the necessary pragmatic enrichment that, in the end, distin- 35 guishes irony from 1) other types of erroneous utterances and 2) of other 36 types of metarepresentational utterances. 37 French linguist Oswald Ducrot (1984) developed his own theory of 38 irony that draws upon Benveniste’s ideas through what he calls (after the 39 works of Voloshinov) polyphony. His idea is that one utterance can give 40 access to several competing meanings, with regard to which the speaker 41 communicates his/her commitment or rejection. Ducrot’s analysis re- 42 quires a split of the ‘speaker’ into several subjective instances; in this (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 400)
  5. 5. Subjectivity out of irony 401 1 respect, Ducrot is in line with Benveniste’s view of the (Freudian or not) 2 self as constructed by interaction, a view also held by contemporary 3 approaches in Conversation Analysis. Ducrot, provocatively, rejects the 4 idea that the speaking subject should be considered a unique individual 5 and proposes to split the speaker into the Locutor as such (as being an 6 actor of discourse), the Speaker-as-a-being-in-the-world (the human per- 7 son), and one or several polyphonic Enunciators, i.e., existing or non- 8 existing instances (which are not defined in the theory) represented, or, 9 as Ducrot puts it, ‘put on stage’ by the utterance. As far as irony is con- 10 cerned, Ducrot says that the Locutor represents an Enunciator responsi- 11 ble for the literal meaning and, by means of making the concerned utter- 12 ance in the context, is in contradiction with the Enunciator (and, indeed, 13 makes fool of the Enunciator), an idea that recalls some psychoanalytic 14 concepts such as the dubbing of the self into several dialectical instances. 15 Ducrot says that the Enunciator targeted by the ironical utterance can be 16 a given individual, including the speaker at some past time, or an imagi- 17 nary individual ( just as Sperber and Wilson suggest as well). 18 On the epistemological side, Sperber and Wilson have over Ducrot the 19 advantage of elegance and simplicity, plus the fact that they don’t need 20 problematic objects like ‘Enunciators’ in their explanation of irony. How- 21 ever, one point can be considered more intuitively sound in Ducrot’s ver- 22 sion. For Sperber and Wilson, the speaker’s attitude has scope over a 23 proposition and not over an individual. Even though for them it is clear 24 that the speaker can express a judgment on an individual by means of 25 irony, this happens only through the mediation of some propositional at- 26 titude. Ducrot, by contrast, includes straightforwardly, as a necessary pa- 27 rameter of irony, that someone, real or fake, is targeted as responsible for 28 the ridiculous utterance. In other words, subjectivities are more directly 29 invoked in Ducrot’s model than in Sperber and Wilson’s one. This prob- 30 ably does not save Ducrot from the above criticism, but raises a more 31 fundamental question: should irony be viewed as targeting a proposi- 32 tional representation or a person? We think it is the latter. 33 We will try now to sustain this global view on irony through a number 34 of arguments before we address more crucial points about irony and sub- 35 jectivity. First, we notice that natural languages is typically associated 36 with ironic adjectives that talk about attitudes one can have over individ- 37 uals, not over abstract objects like representations or propositions. For 38 example, despite the fact that irony has informational properties such as 39 incongruity, it is a fact that someone can be hated for icy or cold irony, 40 for vicious irony, etc. In French, one finds typically ironie mordante (biting 41 irony) or ironie glaciale (icy irony). A quick survey signals similar types of 42 typical combinations in other languages ( pungente ironia in Italian, for (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 401)
  6. 6. 402 L. de Saussure and P. Schulz 1 example). Interestingly, these adjectives, when used to qualify an attitude, 2 apply categorial restrictions to the complements towards which the atti- 3 tude is directed: they allow animated individuals but combine with di‰- 4 culty with objects such as representations. In other words, it looks natural 5 that one is icy towards another individual, or biting, or vicious, but rather 6 bizarre that one harbors such attitudes towards words or paintings or to- 7 wards any other types of abstract objects. In other words, it looks intui- 8 tively sound that irony has to do with particular mental states, attitudes, 9 which are directed towards some individual, and not towards a proposi- 10 tion (although one may wish to maintain that the attitude can target the 11 individual only through a proposition). Actually, one could propose a 12 slightly more fine-grained analysis of irony where not only there is an at- 13 titude shown over a proposition, by means of which an attitude is shown 14 towards an individual, but through a ‘propositional attitude’ i.e. not the 15 fact that the proposition is ‘ridiculous’ but simply that it is ‘false.’ Besides 16 this, what is typically ridiculous is an individual, not a representation 17 (therefore not an utterance, not even a thought) by itself. In the same 18 view, we think it’s worth taking into consideration the intuition that 19 when an ironic attitude is attributed to an abstract object, an e¤ect of per- 20 sonalization is — still intuitively speaking — obtained, as in irony of fate, 21 where fate is represented as having an ironic intention. 22 Second, irony is not simply a non-literal utterance conveying implicitly 23 some other information that could be spelled out without loss. As a mat- 24 ter of fact, an ironical utterance cannot be ‘translated’ in a full-fledged 25 propositional format (Saussure in press). Reformulation (2) of (1) simply 26 loses the ironical content, although it conserves the informational 27 substance: 28 (1) What nice weather for a walk! (when it’s raining). 29 30 (2) It is raining and you said the weather would be nice, therefore you 31 are ridiculous. 32 It conforms to our opinion that irony involves a non-propositional con- 33 tent, dealing with emotions or attitudes, and which needs to be identified 34 and captured by a hearer for irony to exist at all. 35 Third, there are some examples of ironical utterances where the literal 36 utterance is not true; still, some components of it are indeed asserted by 37 the speaker. This happens in a number of situations, such as the follow- 38 ing. Suppose there is some negotiation going on between A and B; A 39 puts forward fallacious arguments, blu¤s, and lies; and as a consequence 40 of these fallacious arguments, B accepts in the end an unfair deal. Sup- 41 pose now A tells the story to his business partner C, and C says to A, 42 with admiration: (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 402)
  7. 7. Subjectivity out of irony 403 1 (3) You’re really a bad guy! 2 In such a case, not only is it both true and false at the same time that A is 3 a bad guy, but, we think, it is asserted that A is at the same time bad and 4 good. A is bad with respect to the conventional standards of morality, be- 5 cause he made use of unfair arguments. But A is good with respect to his 6 skills in promoting the interests of the company. 7 This case seems to us particularly interesting, and we will develop this 8 point later in this paper: in a way, in (3) the fact that A did not follow the 9 ‘good’ behavior — say, the conventions, that hold in a neutral, global 10 setting — is evaluated as ‘good’ in a particular setting, here the situation 11 of (economic) antagonism or war. Therefore, it seems to us that (3) deals 12 not only with truth and falsity, as many ironic utterances do, but also 13 with a complex thought involving opposing concepts at the same time 14 but at di¤erent levels of understanding: bad with respect to X implies 15 good with respect to Y. At first sight, an analysis of (3) as metarepresen- 16 tational could seem questionable, since the speaker seems to think ‘sin- 17 cerely’ that A is a ‘bad’ guy, simply implicating that A is therefore a 18 good guy. Now it is also true that (3), in this setting, is not interpreted as 19 simply ‘sincere’: the speaker should be disapprobative, not congratulating 20 as he is in our example. It su‰ces to think that C, saying (3), is also rais- 21 ing his finger and moving it back and forth like a mother does when a kid 22 behaves badly to see that, clearly, some instance is ‘put on the stage’ by 23 C, and ‘quoted’ in (3). (3) is still completely metarepresentational. 24 Irony is not necessarily a matter of uttering a false proposition. What 25 seems to remain necessary for irony is the presence of an implicit propo- 26 sitional attitude of disagreement, communicating that the speaker thinks 27 that, in such a context, this particular sentence would be ridiculous if ut- 28 tered sincerely. The person targeted as ridiculous in the case of (3) is the 29 imaginary individual who would condemn A’s attitude sincerely. Here, 30 that person is obeying the common principles of morality and of conven- 31 tional expectations. Later in this paper, we will suggest that irony in fact 32 always involve some discrepancy with standard conventions, and we will 33 suggest that this is precisely one of the keys to subjectivity in irony. This 34 leads us back to the question of what is central to irony. We would like to 35 observe in this respect that irony is not a ‘stand-alone’ phenomenon, 36 clearly separated from all other phenomena of speech. Notably, free indi- 37 rect speech utterances can present a very high similarity, at least intui- 38 tively, with ironical utterances, or call very strongly for ironical e¤ects. 39 An example of free indirect speech like (4) can bear a strong ironical load: 40 41 (4) I met John this morning. You know him: he can’t bear it anymore, 42 his wife is a nightmare, his job is a pain, and all that kind of thing. (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 403)
  8. 8. 404 L. de Saussure and P. Schulz 1 If (4) is intended to mean that the propositions he can’t bear it any more, 2 his wife is a nightmare, and his job is a pain map, literally or not, onto 3 what John actually expressed this morning, then we are looking at a case 4 of free indirect speech, thus a metarepresentation of the content to which 5 the speaker does not commit. Just like irony. And, indeed, here the quotes 6 look ironic. Irony can be absent of free indirect speech (attitudes like 7 compassion can exist in free indirect speech). But since irony is implicitly 8 metarepresentational, then it could well be analyzed as a specific case of 9 reported speech or thought, or ‘alleged’ reported speech, a case where the 10 speaker conveys an attitude of the type P is ridiculous. In this respect, 11 irony looks closer than ever to things like implicit quotation, or, as stated 12 before, implicit metarepresentation. 13 What shall we do, then, with utterances that would be called, intui- 14 tively, ‘ironical,’ but that at first glance do not seem to involve an ironical 15 propositional attitude? Let us briefly look at (5), uttered by an interviewer 16 provoking a job applicant with a dose of humor: 17 (5) I guess you are a laid-back person, as Australians are. 18 19 Here, the most important features of irony seem not to be met: the 20 speaker does not seem to provide a metarepresentation of someone utter- 21 ing the proposition, and it seems that there isn’t any ironical proposi- 22 tional attitude. In other words, the author simply seems to commit 23 himself to a proposition, to the extent authorized by the modalities, and 24 nothing else. Of course, this utterance could be completely ironic in a 25 marked context, for example when it’s mutually manifest that the speaker 26 fakes, or quotes, a judgment that is obviously ridiculous with regard to 27 other mutually manifest information, meaning that, of course, the desig- 28 nated person is anything but a laid-back person. 29 Yet besides this possibility, if a certain tone, or even a gesture, accom- 30 panies this utterance, the inference of an attitude closely related to irony 31 can be drawn. It is enough for this to happen that it is mutually manifest 32 that the speaker should not say this according to the standard conven- 33 tions in the particular setting. In the formal setting of a job interview, 34 the speaker, afterwards, would probably admit that he was, in one way 35 or another, being ironic when uttering (5). Actually, a contrast between 36 what should be said and what is said can, according to the setting, give 37 rise to an ironic e¤ect. Here, in the context, it is clear that the speaker 38 does not agree to the full meaning of laid-back person, since that is obvi- 39 ously exaggerated. However, we would like to emphasize the fact that in 40 such a case, the speaker, by the obvious discrepancy between what should 41 be said and what is said, communicates that he is taking some distance 42 with the actual propositional content of his utterance: he does not commit (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 404)
  9. 9. Subjectivity out of irony 405 1 himself to the propositional content in extenso. Thus, an explanation of 2 this e¤ect could be that the speaker, precisely, metarepresents the thought 3 (or speech) of a fictitious individual who would completely endorse the 4 propositional content of the utterance. In this respect, (5) belongs to a 5 category that is closely related to free indirect speech and irony: it is just 6 another type of metarepresentation; say, hyperbolic. But it need not to be 7 hyperbolic. It is enough that anything in the context makes obvious that 8 the speaker does not express his point of view for this kind of e¤ect to 9 arise; understatements are likewise. In the end, everything leads us to 10 think that there is indeed an ironic component in (5). This component is 11 based on the fact that (5) is said while it is mutually manifest that the 12 speaker cannot plausibly tell here his real thoughts about the hearer. An 13 argument for this analysis is that the setting of a job interview constrains 14 the hearer to avoid an o¤ended reaction, therefore, the hearer assumes 15 that there is an ironic component, on the basis of which is triggered the 16 provocative e¤ect that is automatically felt here. 17 Two observations need however to be added about (5). First, it is no- 18 ticeable that in this case, it is still possible for the hearer to suppose that 19 the speaker believes in P at a lower degree (in a weak sense), depending 20 upon other accessible information at the hearer’s disposal. Second, the 21 idea that the propositional content of (5) is presented together with an at- 22 titude needs to be questioned. If it is a consequence of the process of un- 23 derstanding of (5), in the aforementioned context, that the speaker does 24 not believe (in the strong sense) what he says, then it is unavoidable that 25 (5) will be understood together with a propositional attitude of rejection. 26 This attitude however doesn’t follow the scheme of a clear-cut distinction: 27 it is subject to degrees. The degree to which the attitude of rejection holds 28 towards the proposition should be directly determined by the di¤erence 29 between the degree to which (5) is actually thought by the hearer as be- 30 lieved (lower sense) by the speaker, and the higher degree of belief (stron- 31 ger sense) that expresses (5) in itself. 32 Maybe this attitude should be more fine-grained than ‘ridiculousness’ or 33 ‘rejection.’ If we admit a notion of degree for the strength of the ironic 34 attitude, it is likely that the analysis should end up with attitudes labelled 35 like ‘ridiculous to degree n.’ This task is not the focus of this paper. What 36 we want to stress here is that irony has to do with di¤erence between ex- 37 pected forms and actually realized forms, that it is about metarepresenting 38 a thought with a degree of non-commitment to what is said, which is under- 39 stood as an ironic attitude. There are strong ironies, where the whole of a 40 sentence embedded in an implicit quotation is made ridiculous in the con- 41 text, and there are cases like (5), where the quotation is actually about a spe- 42 cific lexical item (here laid-back), which we would like to call weak ironies. (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 405)
  10. 10. 406 L. de Saussure and P. Schulz 1 Looking at all these cases, we can see how the interpretive process goes: 2 the meaning is obtained by the speaker by supplementing information 3 (such as metarepresentation and propositional attitude) to the actual ma- 4 terial on the basis of contextual constraints, either the factual elements of 5 the deictic situation of speech (if it’s raining, in (1)) or the conventional 6 framework that holds in this particular deictic situation of speech, as in 7 (3). But all these elements do not su‰ce to explain the ironic e¤ect. If we 8 explain all this to a person who has no idea whatsoever about irony, that 9 person will have some knowledge about irony but will probably not be 10 capable of experiencing irony or, therefore, to understand exactly what 11 irony is. The reason for this was expressed before: an ironic utterance 12 cannot be translated into a full-fledged proposition without loosing its 13 ironic component. The conclusion we drew from this was that irony is 14 fundamentally a matter of non-propositional content. 15 In order to proceed further, we need now to turn to the notion of 16 non-propositional knowledge, which will be our link to the notion of 17 subjectivity. 18 19 20 2. Propositional knowledge versus non-propositional knowledge 21 22 Ironic utterances show something more about the subject, the individual 23 who utters the ironic statement; more precisely, it shows something about 24 the particular way the subject holds in a particular way this ‘opinion.’ 25 Ironic utterances, whenever they are not intended as simply ornamental 26 figures, do not say a lot the utterance itself, but about the way the subject 27 refers to the content of his utterance. More than other utterances, an 28 ironic one makes it intuitively evident that a specific subject refers in a 29 particular way to a certain proposition. The utterance refers back to the 30 specific way in which the subject stands to what he had said, knows about 31 that which he had said. 32 This brings us to the concept of ‘subjectivity.’ Among linguists, the 33 notion subjectivity concerns, for example, expression of self and the 34 representation of a speaker’s — or, more generally, a locutionary agent’s 35 — perspective or point of view in discourse (cf. for example Stein 36 and Wright 1995, besides references quoted in the above section). But 37 there are many approaches to subjectivity. Among other professional re- 38 searchers on language the word subject and its derivative subjectivity tend 39 to evoke a grammatical association: subject as distinct from direct object, 40 for example. In some contexts, subjectivity contrasts with objectivity in 41 suggesting something ‘soft,’ unverifiable, even suspicious. Indeed, it has 42 been observed (Lyons 1982: 101) that the notion of subjectivity plays var- (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 406)
  11. 11. Subjectivity out of irony 407 1 ious roles in European languages. While the English ‘subjectivity’ has re- 2 cently assumed — by virtue of its opposition with a positivistic interpre- 3 tation of ‘objectivity’ — a somehow pejorative connotation, the French 4 ´ ‘subjectivite’ and the German ‘Subjektivita do not necessarily carry this ¨t’ 5 pejorative connotation of unreliability and failure to correspond with the 6 facts. In the following, we’ll deal with ‘subjectivity’ as far as it concerns 7 the mind or the consciousness of oneself with respect to the world; thus 8 we need not here consider anything inherited from psychoanalysis, nor 9 the idea that subjectivity would be somehow ‘magical’ and therefore es- 10 caping analysis (an idea that often legitimates vague and metaphorical 11 explanations of subjectivity in some frameworks). Subjectivity plays an 12 important role in how meaning is created and construed. It concerns the 13 expression of self and the representation of a speaker’s perspective or 14 point of view in interaction with somebody else; it constitutes one special 15 form of self-awareness insofar as it is related to basic perceptions and at- 16 titudes. In this respect, subjectivity leads back to the way in which the 17 subject holds a certain opinion, belief, etc., about objects, how s/he knows 18 about them. In sum, subjectivity is a capacity of the human being to 19 know in a certain way, which is not made by a set of ‘assumptions,’ facts 20 about himself (through, in particular, proprioceptive abilities, that is, ca- 21 pacities to be aware of the position of my legs, of the attitude of my face, 22 etc.) and facts about the outer world (through, in particular, perceptive 23 abilities). Some say that perception and proprioception are inputs for 24 awareness of the concerned facts, they are not themselves these facts; 25 others say that there is nothing else than perception itself; we will not 26 enter this debate since it would take us too far from our main points, but 27 the first attitude seems to us the most reasonable one. 28 Now, whoever is interested in the general structure of knowledge will 29 be first inevitably confronted with the fact that knowledge always has to 30 do with how something is known about something. This fundamental pre- 31 supposition can be expanded to include the fact that knowing has an ob- 32 ject di¤erent from itself, at least formally. In other words, the content of 33 knowledge is necessarily di¤erent from its object. An additional distinc- 34 tion of knowledge is connected with this initial approach to the subject: 35 whoever wants to know about the structure and possible contents of 36 knowledge will be referred to the domain of sentences. Here, knowledge 37 (along with its contents) seems to be objectifiable in a form that can be 38 grasped like an object. The methodological advantages of the coupling 39 of knowledge with a linguistic entity, such as a statement, are easy to 40 perceive. Namely, a statement, as a linguistic entity, can always be objec- 41 tified and identified with no special di‰culty. With the help of a sign sys- 42 tem, statements are observable and evident. The advantages of that can (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 407)
  12. 12. 408 L. de Saussure and P. Schulz 1 be clearly seen by thinking of a comparable situation in which someone 2 tries to answer the question of the structures of knowledge not on the ba- 3 sis of statements but, on the basic of, for instance, the phenomena of con- 4 sciousness. These phenomena can not be objectified and identified in the 5 same way as propositional statements. As such, thus, they cannot be com- 6 municated to anyone else through propositional statements. So, a person 7 is never quite sure whether the other partner involved in the discussion is 8 really oriented to the same thing as s/he him/herself is. It is only in the 9 domain of statements that knowledge seems to be tangible, like an object: 10 it is expected of anyone who claims to know something that s/he can 11 present and communicate the contents of that knowledge in the form of 12 statements. This certainly applies not only to philosophy, but just as well 13 to every other positive science: here, especially, nothing that cannot be 14 represented and communicated in the form of statements is recognized 15 as a possible insight and admitted for discussion. For in the positive 16 approach to sciences, sentences and statements form the pivot of all 17 understanding. 18 The form of knowledge described thus far (that is representable and 19 communicable in statements) is generally called propositional knowledge 20 in philosophical discussions. Whoever has propositional knowledge knows 21 something about something. In regard to an object, he knows that some- 22 thing is definitely the case. Propositional knowledge always refers to an 23 identifiable object of knowledge. Furthermore, since it can be embodied 24 in a linguistic entity in the form of a statement, propositional knowledge 25 is always able to be communicated to others. 26 In order to describe how ironical utterances give information about the 27 personality itself of the speaker, one has to clarify how background ca- 28 pacities of the speaker or non-propositional knowledge is indeed knowl- 29 edge. Certainly, it is not easy to clarify its uniqueness in comparison 30 with other forms of knowledge. Non-propositional knowledge has been 31 reintroduced into the current philosophical discussion — and over and 32 beyond it — particularly by Gilbert Ryle. Ryle first introduced a distinc- 33 tion between knowledge in the sense of ‘knowing that’ and ‘knowing how’ 34 in his book The Concept of Mind (1986 [1949]: 25–61). In his formulation, 35 knowing-how (or, as it is also sometimes called, ‘embodied knowledge’) is 36 a characteristic of the expert: someone who acts, makes judgments, and 37 so forth without explicitly reflecting on the principles or rules involved in 38 this activity. The expert thus acts without having a systematic theory 39 about his or her actions; s/he just performs them skillfully without delib- 40 eration or focused attention. Knowing that, by contrast, involves full con- 41 sciously accessible knowledge that can be articulated. It is characteristic 42 of a person who is learning a skill through explicit instruction, recitation (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 408)
  13. 13. Subjectivity out of irony 409 1 of rules, attention to his/her movements, etc. While such declarative 2 knowledge may be needed for the acquisition of skills, the argument 3 goes, it is no longer necessary for practicing those skills once the novice 4 has become an expert. Indeed it does appear, as Polanyi (1974 [1958]) ar- 5 gued, that when we acquire a skill, we acquire a corresponding under- 6 standing that defies full articulation. 7 One may liken 1the special feature of this form of knowledge to the ex- 8 perience of a physician, craftsman or businessman. In this sense, experi- 9 ence means knowledge that does not easily lend itself to objectification. 10 In contrast to propositional knowledge, the type of knowledge repre- 11 sented by experience does not have an identifiable object of knowledge; 12 on the contrary, it is related to a field of knowledge or, in other words, it 13 is domain-specific. The person who possesses experience has thereby, con- 14 jointly, the ability to move about in the applicable field with certainty and 15 to adequately react to all situations with which s/he comes into contact. 16 Traditionally, this type of knowledge has always been relegated to the 17 categorical types of dispositions. Dispositions cannot be pinned down di- 18 rectly: although evident in their e¤ects, they are never totally manifested 19 by any of them. 20 We can thus distinguish between non-propositional knowledge and the 21 propositional type of knowledge by pointing out to the fact that the for- 22 mer does not represent simply the sum total of the knowledge of a certain 23 area. Experience is rather a practical familiarity with things which fall 24 into its area. Whoever possesses experience has the ability to move about 25 in a certain field of knowledge. The degree of experience manifests itself 26 in the ability of its bearer to rightly discern things in this area. The spe- 27 cific familiarity that one possesses with regard to functional things mani- 28 fests itself in the ability to deal with them in an adequate way. 29 In this perspective, still another characteristic of non-propositional 30 knowledge must be taken into consideration. Whereas ‘knowing that’ 31 hardly divulges anything about the bearer, non-propositional knowledge 32 is acutely dependent on its bearer. Because of its dispositional structure, 33 ‘knowing how’ is a form of knowledge that can exist only to the extent 34 that its bearer identifies him/herself with it. One can never dissociate one- 35 self from it in the same way as one can dissociate oneself from one’s own 36 statement and its contents. To be sure, propositional knowledge also re- 37 mains dependent on a possible conveyor, but such a conveyor need not 38 be defined individually. Therefore one can talk about a sentence, its con- 39 tents and its structure without having to speak about the individual 40 expressing the sentence. By contrast, it is certainly not possible to speak 41 about certain experience without, at the same time, taking into account 42 the authority who is the possessor of this experience. (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 409)
  14. 14. 410 L. de Saussure and P. Schulz 1 A further di¤erence between the propositional and non-propositional 2 forms of knowledge seems to lie in communicability. Propositional 3 knowledge is embodied in a linguistic expression and, in this form, can 4 be always communicated to others. More precisely, the hearer can always 5 raise a plausible hypothesis about the proposition(s) the speaker intends 6 to convey by means of the linguistic stimulus. Nothing comparable 7 applies to experiential knowledge. For experience cannot be simply 8 transferred from one person to another; one can only acquire it by one- 9 self. Experiential knowledge incorporates the process of acquisition as 10 its indispensable part. In order to acquire propositional knowledge, it is 11 always possible to extract subtasks and to delegate their completion to 12 others. The operation of modern institutionalized science is based on this 13 possibility. However, experience cannot be delegated. Although assis- 14 tance and guidance can save the learner detours and dead ends, the spe- 15 cific e¤orts required in order to gain an experience cannot be spared by 16 guidance and assistance. 17 The previous description of non-propositional knowledge had been de- 18 scribed on the basis of experience, but could be equally applied to other 19 forms of non-propositional knowledge such as abilities, talents or discern- 20 ment. Summarizing, it concerns (1) knowledge that, in the strict sense, 21 can be neither fully objectified nor (2) communicated, that is fully em- 22 bedded into a semantic structure; which (3) does not directly intend its 23 object and defy, therefore, the category of error; which, as a (4) disposi- 24 tional characteristic, is always related to the authority of the bearer and is 25 thus able to reveal reality to its possessor in an non-comparable way. As 26 to the last point, it should be emphasized that human familiarity with the 27 world is attained only in a limited measure by understanding true state- 28 ments about it. 29 30 3. Where does the reflection on non-propositional knowledge meet the 31 question of irony? 32 33 As stated earlier, the term ‘subjectivity’ can mean something like the 34 quality or condition of viewing things exclusively through the medium of 35 one’s own mind or individuality (cf. Oxford English Dictionary). For ex- 36 ample, in talking about films or novels we often employ such expressions 37 as ‘from our point of view.’ This is one way to introduce subjectivity. 38 Subjectivity here has something to do with our special idiosyncratic ‘per- 39 ceiving’ and also, perhaps, with ‘emotions.’ In this way we refer to some- 40 one’s perception: it is clear that the term is not used to describe primarily 41 what the film is about — a particular character, topic or theme, but 42 rather to describe in some way how the film presents itself to us. (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 410)
  15. 15. Subjectivity out of irony 411 1 The aforementioned description of non-propositional knowledge leads 2 us back to the question of how ironic utterances can be understood as a 3 semantic representation of mental processes or, more precisely, of a spe- 4 cific attitude. At this point, we are not interested in irony as merely a rhe- 5 torical technique that allows speakers to express something in an indirect 6 way that could have also been expressed in a direct way. Instead, we are 7 only interested in showing that ironic speech should not be understood 8 exclusively from its semantic reference to the utterance. One should also 9 consider the speaker’s intention as well as the e¤ects s/he wants to pro- 10 duce on the side of the addressee. S/he who chooses irony as a specific 11 form of utterance does not want to communicate by means of a specific 12 content, but through the medium or form of his/her speech. It is through 13 ironic speech that somebody refers by verbal means to something that lit- 14 erally could not be expressed, but that, however, has its own logic. Irony 15 seems to be a proper means by which one refers to certain logic that does 16 not follow the structure of a verbal argument, and, consequently, cannot 17 be communicated by means of entire sentences. Whoever uses or under- 18 stands irony in this way refers always to sensible elements in the situation 19 of speech that cannot be fully verbalized. With regard to the impossibility 20 of fully verbalizing some crucial contents of ironical utterances, irony can 21 be comparable to metaphors: when trying to translate metaphor into a 22 literal form, one ends up with a form that carries less meaning than the 23 metaphorical utterance. 24 The meaning and the function of a non-propositional knowledge, indis- 25 solubly linked with the one knowing, is exemplified in the person of 26 Plato’s Socrates. One paradigmatic example for his irony is Socrates’ to- 27 ken that he knows that he does not know anything. This sentence is ironic 28 insofar as it doesn’t harmonize with the knowledge that Socrates demon- 29 strates in many dialogues with other people. However, if one would con- 30 sider as a kind of knowledge only that which has been verbally expressed, 31 Socrates indeed seems to be a person with rather scarce knowledge. There 32 are only very few statements concerning some specific knowledge that he 33 utters. And he usually never maintains or proclaims to know things. His 34 knowledge would have to be considered quite modest indeed if it were to 35 be judged by the number of sentences that he endorsed as accurate. When 36 he admits his ignorance, he is not using irony of the trivial type, which 37 means the opposite of the wording expressed. The knowledge that sets 38 Socrates apart from all his dialogue partners is not at all the type that 39 can be represented and expressed as assertions. Rather, it is a kind of 40 ability that proves itself able to deal with assertions, to examine them in 41 relation to their obvious and concealed prerequisites and to refer them 42 back to their author. This knowledge can neither be disassociated from (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 411)
  16. 16. 412 L. de Saussure and P. Schulz 1 the person nor can it be objectified. It is manifested in a capacity for the- 2 oretical and practical discernment by which it is characterized, far exceed- 3 ing all its rivals. 4 5 6 7 4. Irony and the technique of deictic messages 8 9 Irony, at least in the broad sense in which this term had been introduced 10 previously, has much to do with subjectivity, itself having much to do 11 with the deictic situation of speech in its various aspects (physical, but 12 also conventional). Language is equipped with numerous devices dealing 13 with the situation of speech, in particular indexical (or deictic) expres- 14 sions. Whereas the Anglo-Saxon approach to indexicality focuses on ref- 15 erential problems (Perry 1979, 2000; Kaplan 1989; Castaneda 1967), the 16 French tradition has theorized deictic expressions through the idea that 17 they carry a very particular part of meaning that is lost when reformulat- 18 ing things non-deictically; this very part of meaning is about subjectivity. 19 This idea, of course, has also roots in the works of Buhler (1990 [1934]). ¨ 20 Benveniste expanded his linguistic theory to a global theory of subjectiv- 21 ity in interaction: through reference to the situation of speech, the hearer 22 and the speaker constitute themselves as ‘subjectivities’ (this time with 23 some psychoanalytical load in the meaning of ‘subjectivity’). More evi- 24 dently, it is the case that the situation of face-to-face interaction in a par- 25 ticular situation is the typical place where phatic communication is at 26 work; it is nothing new to suggest that deictic expressions have also a 27 phatic function in many circumstances. The phatic part of communica- 28 tion taking place is, as with irony, non-propositional: ‘phatic’ cannot be 29 reduced to a full-fledged adequate ‘translation’ of the phatic component. 30 With the term phatic communication, a technique of deictic messages, we 31 refer to all those features of a verbal argument by which it becomes 32 understandable for the addressee, except in its semantic representation. 33 Among such features we count here are the form, material and circum- 34 stances under which the verbal entity is uttered. 35 Nowadays we are inclined to elaborate the chances that the external- 36 ization of language and knowledge o¤ers us. We are accustomed to start 37 our analysis from the verbal forms. The advantage of this proceeding is 38 evident: It allows us to fix and determine knowledge and insights of ver- 39 bal forms even if the bearer of this utterance or the speaker is not present. 40 One might compare the underlying attitude with that of a mathematician: 41 Whoever analyses logical forms of verbal arguments behaves in a similar 42 way as a mathematician does with countable units and figures. (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 412)
  17. 17. Subjectivity out of irony 413 1 In contrast to all those direct communications, phatic components do 2 not have any predicative structure. Predicative assertions always underlie 3 truth conditions, they are necessarily true or false. Phatic components, 4 instead, usually do not have any predicative structure. The same holds 5 about parts of the meanings of indexicals, as argued in Saussure (forth- 6 coming). Utterances, besides describing a fact, can show something, imi- 7 tate something, or give semiotic access to something di¤erent. But these 8 utterances never do so by showing something as something. Conse- 9 quently, they do not refer to the principle of truth. One can show some- 10 body else a certain thing (imitating, for example, how a certain protago- 11 nist in a movie is walking), and one might also not show it. But it is 12 impossible to show somebody doing something ‘wrong.’ This is only pos- 13 sible insofar as the one doing so is inducing the addressee to certain infer- 14 ences. Phatic or deictic messages, and other types of messages anchored 15 in the deictic situation, cannot be a‰rmed or declined; one can only say, 16 whether they have been done or not. Of course, one might also speak 17 about these ‘deictic messages,’ but doing so one needs a direct form of 18 communication. However, these direct forms do not change at all the cat- 19 egorical structure of the ‘deictic messages.’ 20 Usually, in a normal conversation these deictic messages are not a part 21 of what the speaker intends to say. But in written texts, these deictic ele- 22 ments could become an important part of the narration itself. Leaving 23 language proper aside for a minute: answers can be given in a written 24 text, implicitly, by the very action it presents. Once again a reference to 25 Plato, although we might study several other authors of literary or philo- 26 sophical texts (the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard would be an- 27 other good example) who used these means intentionally. What usually 28 happens in Platonic dialogues and what constitutes their dramatic or mi- 29 metic quality is that the most that is told to the reader about the figure of 30 Socrates is given by Socrates’ actions. Of course, in many dialogues we 31 learn about Socrates by explicit statements of his dialogue partners. But 32 this is not to be compared with all what we learn about his experience 33 and procedural knowledge that can be communicated only by means of 34 these ‘deictic messages.’ Socrates’ ability to guide a conversation, bringing 35 his partners into an aporetic situation — this kind of knowledge could 36 never be completely verbalized. 37 38 39 5. Conclusion: Irony as a form departing from expected forms 40 41 At this stage, we can come back to the intuitions we presented at the end 42 of section 1. The approaches of irony we mentioned in the first section do (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 413)
  18. 18. 414 L. de Saussure and P. Schulz 1 not say much about the link between irony and convention, even though 2 Grice considers irony as a kind of non-respect of the convention he names 3 ‘maxim of quality,’ although he doesn’t go very far on this point. In fact, 4 we suggest that ironic utterances are such either because they depart from 5 a certain linguistic convention (such as ‘say what you believe is true’), 6 either by intentional flows upon the expected properly applied convention 7 or by misapplying certain convention to a given situation in which it is 8 not proper according to standards. 9 We find it notable that one can speak about irony in music (e.g., in 10 some pieces by Haydn) in the sense that the composer intentionally mis- 11 uses a given stylistic convention. For instance, he may use folk elements 12 in a minuet, although the minuet was a most aristocratic and elevated 13 type of dance. Or he may write a very aristocratic minuet but form cross- 14 rhythms at a given point that would cause a mismatch of dance-steps of 15 the elevated dancers if the minuet was really danced. It is interesting that 16 several authors have pointed to the fact that this sort of irony in music 17 allows the composer to expose his subjectivity because in this way he dis- 18 tances himself from conventions, instead of having his personality hidden 19 behind the strict respect of conventions (see Agawu and Mirka 2008). 20 This is close to the Romantic ideal of the author with a strong emphasis 21 upon subjectivity (all this issue has plenty to do with the concept of joke 22 in the aesthetics of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century). It is 23 highly interesting that the birth of subjectivity at the beginning of the 24 nineteenth century was really out of irony, as we say in our title. 25 Transposing this kind of irony onto language, one could say that the 26 irony of a given utterance — in addition to being about propositions and 27 persons — can be about conventions of a given language per se. We 28 mean, in particular, stylistic conventions of language use specific to cer- 29 tain circles or certain situations (e.g., scientific language, journalist jar- 30 gon, dialect, teenager slang, and so forth). By using a bit of slang or dia- 31 lect during a conference paper, the speaker may call forth an ironic e¤ect 32 as an example of irony not about any person but either about the situa- 33 tion of a conference panel or of the topic he discusses. 34 This discussion of non-propositional knowledge as one marker of sub- 35 jectivity leads us naturally to discuss irony — beyond its semantic content 36 — as a personal ‘disposition.’ In other words, at this point of our argu- 37 ment we would take the step of showing how, by an ironic use of conven- 38 tion, the speaker detaches him- or herself from a given convention in 39 order to show that, although informed about it and accepting it as a so- 40 cial contract, s/he is not in a relation of full dependency, or ‘identical’ 41 with a social contract but — as an individual — has his/her own particu- 42 lar position in front of it. In this perspective, irony is not an expertise in (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 414)
  19. 19. Subjectivity out of irony 415 1 some particular skill or ability (e.g., an ability to use convention) but an 2 ability of moving around in reality as such, that is to say, in his/her 3 understanding of reality, in his/her position in front of reality in its 4 entirety or taken in its particular segment. Irony, in this respect, is one 5 of the most important resources the human being has to show a kind of 6 independence, a kind of creative freedom, thanks to which s/he escapes 7 from the norm, which is always expected, by default, to be applied. 8 9 10 Note 11 12 1. One can already see an incipient clear indication of the di‰culty of adequately grasping 13 the uniqueness of this non-propositional knowledge by observing the German transla- 14 tor’s dilemma of how to express these terms in German. While ‘knowing that’ or ‘to 15 know that’ can be assigned to what we call propositional knowledge (expressed simply 16 as ‘knowledge’ by Ryle’s translator), there is no appropriate expression for ‘knowing how’ or ‘to know how.’ Therefore, when referring to this form of knowledge, the Ger- 17 man translation speaks of ‘ability.’ Perhaps the translator was thinking of Ludwig Witt- 18 genstein who, in his Philosophical Investigations, found that the semantics of the word 19 ‘know’ was obviously closely related to the semantics of words like ‘can,’ ‘be able to,’ 20 ‘be capable of ’ (1960: 356). In his examination of Greek texts, Bruno Snell (1924: 83) 21 had already noted that the expression episteme (as well as the verb epistamai) is not merely knowledge about a fact or a certain circumstance, but rather describes the under- 22 standing that an activity makes possible. 23 24 25 26 References 27 28 Agawu, Kofi and Mirka, Danuta (eds.) (2008). Communicative Strategies in Music of the Late Eighteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 29 Austin John L. (1962). How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 30 Bally Charles (1926). Le langage et la vie. Paris: Payot. 31 Bally, Charles (1941). Intonation et syntaxe. Cahiers Ferdinand de Saussure 1, 33–42. 32 ´ ´ Bally, Charles (1965). Linguistique generale et linguistique francaise. Berne: Francke. ¸ 33 ` ´ ´ Benveniste, Emile (1966). Problemes de linguistique generale vol. 1. Paris: Gallimard. ` ´ ´ Benveniste, Emile (1974). Problemes de linguistique generale, vol. 2. Paris: Gallimard. 34 Bu¨hler, Karl (1990 [1934]). Theory of Language. The Representational Function of Language. 35 Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 36 Castaneda H. N. (1967). Indicators and quasi-indicators. American Philosophy Quarterly ˜ 37 4, 85–100. 38 Ducrot, Oswald (1984). Le dire et le dit. Paris: Minuit. 39 Grice, Paul (1975). Logic and conversation. In Speech Acts: Syntax and Semantics, vol. 3, P. Cole and J.-L. Morgan (eds.), 41–58. New York: Academic Press. 40 ´ Jullien, B. (1849). Cours Complet d’Education pour les Filles. Paris: Hachette. 41 Kaplan, D. (1989). Demonstratives. In Themes from Kaplan, J. Almog, H. Wettstein, and 42 J. Perry (eds.), 481–563. New York: Oxford University Press. (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 415)
  20. 20. 416 L. de Saussure and P. Schulz 1 Lyons, John (1982). Deixis and subjectivity: Loquor, ergo sum? In Speech, Place, and 2 Action, R. J. Jarvella and W. Klein (eds.), 101–124. Chichester: John Wiley. Perry, J. (1979). The problem of the essential indexical. Nous 3, 3–21. 3 Perry, J. (2000). The Problem of the Essential Indexical and Other Essays. Stanford: CSLI. 4 Polanyi, Michael (1974 [1958]). Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. 5 Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 6 Ryle, Gilbert (1986 [1949]). The Concept of Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 7 ´ ´ ` ` ´ Saussure Louis de (in press). Quelle realite derriere l’hypothese polyphonique? In Melanges ` ´ o¤erts a Andre Rousseau, C. Muller (ed.), PAGE NUMBERS. PLACE: PUBLISHER. 8 Snell, B. (1924). Die Ausdrucke fur den Begri¤ des Wissens in der vorplatonischen Philoso- ¨ ¨ 9 phie Berlin (¼ Philological Investigations Heft 29), A. Kiessling and U. v. Wilamowitz- 10 Moellendor¤ (eds.). Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung. 11 Searle John (1969). Speech Acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 12 Sperber Dan and Wilson, Deirdre (1978). Les ironies comme mentions. Poetique 36, ´ 395–412. 13 Sperber Dan and Wilson, Deirdre (1981). Irony and the use-mention distinction. In Radical 14 Pragmatics, P. Cole (ed.), 295–318. New York: Academic Press. 15 Sperber Dan and Wilson, Deirdre (1995). Relevance: Communication and Cognition, 2nd ed. 16 Oxford: Blackwell. 17 Stein, Dieter and Wright, Susan (eds.) (1995). Subjectivity and Subjectivisation: Linguistic Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 18 Voloshinov Valentin N. (1986). Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: Har- 19 vard University Press. 20 Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1960). Philosophische Untersuchungen. In Schriften, vol. 1. Frankfurt: 21 Suhrkamp. 22 Louis De Saussure (b. 1967) is a Full Professor at University of Neuchatel 3louis.ˆ 23 desaussure@unine.ch4. His research interests include semantics, pragmatics, and discourse. 24 ´ ´ ´ ´ His publications include ‘Parallelisme et linearite de l’interpretation: remarques sur un cas 25 ´ de causalite inverse’ (2005); ‘Manipulation and cognitive pragmatics: Preliminary hypothe- 26 ses’ (2005); ‘Procedural pragmatics and the study of discourse’ (2007); and ‘Pragmatic issues 27 in discourse analysis’ (2007). 28 Peter Schulz (b. 1958) is a Professor at the University of Lugano 3Peter.Schulz@lu.unisi. 29 ch4. His research interests include health communication and sign theories regarding subjec- 30 tivity and inter-subjectivity. His publications include New Perspectives on Manipulative and 31 Ideological Discourse in Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis (with L. Saussure, 2004); Freund- 32 schaft und Selbstliebe bei Platon und Aristoteles. Semantische Studien zur Subjektivitat und ¨ Intersubjektivitat (2000) Geschichte und Vorgeschichte der modernen Subjektivita (with R. L. ¨ ¨t 33 Fetz and R. Hagenbuchle, 1998). ¨ 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 (AutoPDF V7 26/11/08 13:25) WDG (148Â225mm) TimesM J-2048 Semiotica, 173 PMU:(CKN[W])26/11/2008 pp. 397–416 2048_173_18 (p. 416)