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By sarcasm I mean an ironic statement which is, in its non literal meaning, meant to undermine.

Irony means the opposite to what is said; it can have different meanings in the same context. e.g. the opening of Pride and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

can be read as ironic, but only if we abandon the economic norms involving bourgeois marriage.


Are there any problems with sarcastic statements which address who we are undermining and are meant to be misunderstood by them? These seem to fail to mean unless misunderstood, which seems, if not paradoxical, then at least strained.

It seems to me it would belong to something like the liar sentences. I think that such an insult expresses something which isn't made sense of. Which looks a bit like the liar paradox: that this expression makes no sense is true.

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    I didn't understand your question. But I'm reminded of how sarcasm can be deliberately misunderstood to score a debating point. When Trump said Putin should release Hillary's emails, he was making a sarcastic remark. The Dems chose to "play dumb" and take his remark as literally advocating that Putin spy on the US. [Of course the DNC had notoriously lax security and probably got hacked by a 12 year old]. Point being that sarcasm can be deliberately misconstrued as a rhetorical tactic. Which I take as an answer to your question, if I properly understood it. – user4894 Sep 13 '16 at 22:08
  • i'm not sure if you understood. the first three lines and quote explain the terms. do you follow that section? then i ask whether sarcasm, "irony meant to wound", can do so via being misunderstood by who is wounded. i then add that i think it would be a paradox, similar to the liar / truth teller ones – user6917 Sep 13 '16 at 22:11
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    You are unclear. Can you give an example? Suppose X wishes to mock Y. ("Mock" is part of the dictionary def, "wound" is not and I don't believe wound is correct. If I mean to mock someone I don't care if their feelings are hurt, I am making an intellectual point not an emotional one). So X says, "Y, You are such a smart guy." Meaning that Y is actually not a smart guy. Now using this example can you tell me what you are asking? – user4894 Sep 14 '16 at 0:05
  • i thought i had replied to this? @user4894 it's not a great example because calling Y stupid and saying they don't understand are close enough to further confuse the issue. let's change it to X saying "Y, your shirt looks great". if X wants Y to misunderstand the statement as literal, while Z looks on and laughs, then perhaps "such an insult expresses something which isn't made sense of. Which looks a bit like [it is asserting] the liar paradox: that this expression [about the shirt also] makes no sense" – user6917 Sep 18 '16 at 11:12
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I don't think so.

  • does a proposition we want to be misunderstood refer to itself as meaningless?

Seems very close to

  • does a proposition we want to be believed refer to itself as true?

Which is likely not the case. So even-though

The self referential use of "is meaningless" produces the same effect that is produced by the self referential use of "is false" (New Studies in the Philosophy of Roman Ingarden, p188, by Wolenski)

it seems I'm mistaken about the proper extent of "self referentiality" in the question.

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