Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches), subtitled A Book for Free Spirits (Ein Buch für freie Geister).

First published in 1878.   A second part, Assorted Opinions and Maxims (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche), was published in 1879, and a third part, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten), followed in 1880.

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Previous Section   372. IRONY   Next Section

IRONY.  Irony is only permissible as a pedagogic expedient, on the part of a teacher when dealing with his pupils; its purpose is to humble and to shame, but in the wholesome way that causes good resolutions to spring up and teaches people to show honour and gratitude, as they would to a doctor, to him who has so treated them.  The ironical man pretends to be ignorant, and does it so well that the pupils conversing with him are deceived, and in their firm belief in their own superior knowledge they grow bold and expose all their weak points; they lose their cautiousness and reveal themselves as they are, until all of a sudden the light which they have held up to the teacher's face casts its rays back very humiliatingly upon themselves.  Where such a relation, as that between teacher and pupil, does not exist, irony is a rudeness and a vulgar conceit.  All ironical writers count on the silly species of human beings, who like to feel themselves superior to all others in common with the author himself, whom they look upon as the mouthpiece of their arrogance.  Moreover, the habit of irony, like that of sarcasm, spoils the character; it gradually fosters the quality of a malicious superiority; one finally grows like a snappy dog, that has learnt to laugh as well as to bite.  

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