I don't really know specifically what I want to know. I don't really need definitions. I just find the concepts highly intriguing and want to know if anyone else has ever been so stuck on these peculiar occurrences.


  • 1
    Welcome to Phil.SE! If I recall rightly, Kierkegaard dissertation was on the Socratic irony in the Platonic dialogues. Sep 12, 2015 at 23:52
  • 1
    See on Richard Rorty's Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Sep 13, 2015 at 22:28
  • Also synchronicity, loosely identifiable with coincidence, in my experience. Irony and synchronicity (aka coincidence) are almost a daily occurrence for me.
    – Bread
    Mar 23, 2019 at 2:23

1 Answer 1


As the commenters to your question have pointed out there are for the notion of Irony but not afaik for Coincidence.

Irony has a specific meaning for philosophers. Socratic Irony is defined by the OED as “the dissimulation of ignorance practised by Socrates as a means of confuting an adversary”. What Socrates would do is play dumb to force his opponent to give a definition of the topic in question (Justice say) which he would then pick holes in. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Until the opponent would throw their hands up and say, "Well, it looks like I don't actually know what justice is Socrates, why don't you tell me?" Fun times. Also, true story.

A famous contemporary philosophical work by the American Richard Rorty is Contingency, Irony, Solidarity. In it he gives a definition:

I shall define an “ironist” as someone who fulfils three conditions: (1) She has radical and continuing doubts about the final vocabulary she currently uses, because she has been impressed by other vocabularies, vocabularies taken as final by people or books she has encountered; (2) she realizes that arguments phrased in her present vocabulary can neither underwrite nor dissolve these doubts; (3) insofar as she philosophizes about her situation, she does not think that her vocabulary is closer to reality than others, that it is in touch with a power not herself.

Of course that means we need a definition of final vocabulary which is given as:

All human beings carry about a set of words which they employ to justify their actions, their beliefs, and their lives. These are the words in which we formulate praise of our friends and contempt for our enemies, our long-term projects, our deepest self-doubts and our highest hopes. They are the words in which we tell, sometimes prospectively and sometimes retrospectively, the story of our lives. I shall call these words a person's "final vocabulary."

It is "final" in the sense that if doubt is cast on the worth of these words, their user has no noncircular argumentative recourse. Those words are as far as he can go with language; beyond them there is only helpless passivity or a resort to force. A small part of a final vocabulary is made up of thin, flexible, and ubiquitous terms such as "true," "good," "right," and "beautiful." The larger part contains thicker, more rigid, and more parochial terms, for example, "Christ," "England," "professional standards," "decency," "kindness," "the Revolution," "the Church," "progressive," "rigorous," "creative." The more parochial terms do most of the work.

You can get a sense of his project from these quotes.

If you were looking for something more akin to the literary device of irony I would suggest you look up a manual of technical literary terms. See here for a taster.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .