of irony is common sense. For that is the watchword of
those who unselfconsciously describe everything important
in terms of the final vocabulary to which they and those around
them are habituated. To be common-sensical is to take for
granted that statements formulated in that final vocabulary
suffice to describe and judge the beliefs, actions and lives
of those who employ alternative final vocabularies.
The ironist, by contrast,
is a nominalist and a historicist; She thinks nothing has
an intrinsic nature, a real essence. So she thinks that
the occurrence of a term like "just" or "scientific"
or "rational" in the final vocabulary of the day
is no reason to think that Socratic inquiry into the essence
of justice or science or rationality will take one much beyond
the language games of one's time. The ironist spends her time
worrying about the possibility that she has been initiated
into the wrong tribe, taught to play the wrong language game.
She worries that the process of socialization which turned
her into a human being by giving her a language may have given
her the wrong language, and so turned her into the wrong
kind of human being. But she cannot give a criterion of
wrongness. So, the more she is driven to articulate her situation
in philosophical terms, the more she reminds hetself of her
rootlessness by constantly using terms like "Weltanschauung,"
"perspective," "dialectic, conceptual framework,"
"historical epoch," "language game," "redescription,
"vocabulary," and "irony.
from Private Irony
and Liberal Hope, by Richard Rorty