07w42:5 Richard Rorty Selections

by timothy. 0 Comments

I found these initially in the compilation Philosophy and Social Hope (1999) and was very happy to find them both online in order to share. – Timothy

The Humanistic Intellectual: Eleven Theses | Richard Rorty (1989)
“If one asks what good these people do, what social function they perform, neither ‘teaching’ nor ‘research’ is a very good answer. Their idea of teaching—or at least of the sort of teaching they hope to do—is not exactly the communication of knowledge, but more like stirring the kids up. When they apply for a leave or a grant, they may have to fill out forms about the aims and methods of their so-called research projects, but all they really want to do is read a lot more books in the hope of becoming a different sort of person. So the real social function of the humanistic intellectuals is to instill doubts in the students about the students’ own self-images, and about the society to which they belong. These people are the teachers who help insure that the moral consciousness of each new generation is slightly different from that of the previous generation. […] Philosophers of education, well-intended committees, and governmental agencies have attempted to understand, define, and manage the humanities. The point, however, is to keep the humanities changing fast enough so that they remain indefinable and unmanageable. All we need to keep them changing that fast is good old-fashioned academic freedom. Given freedom to shrug off the heresy-hunters and their cries of “politicization!,” as well as freedom for each new batch of assistant professors to despise and repudiate the departmental Old Guard to whom they owe their jobs, the humanities will continue to be in good shape. If you don’t like the ideological weather in the local English department these days, wait a generation. Watch what happens to the Nietzscheanized left when it tries to replace itself, along about the year 2010. I’m willing to bet that the brightest new Ph.D.’s in English that year will be people who never want to hear the terms ‘binary opposition’ or ‘hegemonic discourse’ again as long as they live.” [emp mine]

Fraternity Reigns | Richard Rorty (1996)
“Our long, hesitant, painful recovery, over the last five decades, from the breakdown of democratic institutions during the Dark Years (2014-2044) has changed our political vocabulary, as well as our sense of the relation between the moral order and the economic order. Just as 20th-century Americans had trouble imagining how their pre-Civil War ancestors could have stomached slavery, so we at the end of the 21st century have trouble imagining how our great-grandparents could have legally permitted a C.E.O. to get 20 times more than her lowest-paid employees. We cannot understand how Americans a hundred years ago could have tolerated the horrific contrast between a childhood spent in the suburbs and one spent in the ghettos. Such inequalities seem to us evident moral abominations, but the vast majority of our ancestors took them to be regrettable necessities. […] H ere, in the late 21st century, as talk of fraternity and unselfishness has replaced talk of rights, American political discourse has come to be dominated by quotations from Scripture and literature, rather than from political theorists or social scientists. Fraternity, like friendship, was not a concept that either philosophers or lawyers knew how to handle.”[emp mine]
// In the above named book, this was reprinted as ‘Looking Backwards from the Year 2096’.

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