RE: MD NAZIs and Pragmatism

From: Kevin (
Date: Tue Feb 11 2003 - 18:34:53 GMT

  • Next message: Erin N.: "RE: MD NAZIs and Pragmatism"

    Erin asks:
    Well I do have Rorty on my reading list and
    do like a lot of what I hear about him.
    But I am still lost about this call for action.
    Can you give me examples of the actual action?
    The whole public private split AND the call
    to stop debating and take this out to the public sincerely confuses me.
    Right now the call for action without any concrete examples of the
    action being done by the callers are leaving me with the same
    feeling of when I hear a Jehovah Witness knocking at
    my door.

    As I read him, I hear the call to be simply his determination to empower
    people to stop looking for the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and
    Everything _before_ they start working towards their vision of a better
    society, particularly Intellectuals.

    Why Intellectuals? Because they are too often guilty of endlessly
    debating the finer points of metaphysics in search of the Ultimate
    Foundation before they become actively engaged in performing good works.
    It's the endless search for the Ultimate Context, the Final Secret that
    will tell us how everything fits together so we know what do with
    ourselves that keeps us from actually _doing_ something with ourselves.

    Despite Platt's protestations, I see nothing in Rorty's call to action
    to be an endorsement of Marxism. As I read it, he's saying if you share
    Wilde's vision of Utopia, start building it. If you share Rawls' vision,
    get to it. If you share Mill's vision....and so on.

    In the essay in question (and a couple others I've read) he speaks
    highly of Authenticity. The old notion of "Choose Thyself". To look at
    all the options for human vision and pick one. His endorsement of a
    Literary Culture is based on the fact that Intellectuals read books to
    tell them what is possible for humans. Through Literature we see an
    endless variety of human choices and we enjoy the luxury of passing
    judgment and deciding with of those choices suits us as well. The
    endless exploration of Literature (and other artistic endeavors) points
    to the endless exploration of what we can do with ourselves. Our endless
    search for Context, for Meaning, for Truth. Literature can now serve
    this function in place of Religion or Philosophy.

    Instead of expecting a Terminus to this Inquiry or Quest, we can simply
    expect to discover endlessly new ways of coping. New choices. New
    visions. New Truths.

    In this regard, I think Rorty's theme (as laid out in the essay in
    questions and others I've read--he obviously has mountains of work that
    I've yet to read) is very similar to Pirsig's theme.

    If I can be so bold as to quote myself from the Thread on Absolutism
    (where Nazism came up again, interestingly enough):

    Kevin said in that thread:
    As I see it, the real power of Pirsig's ideas is to empower us as
    fallible humans with incomplete data to stop being dominated by our
    doubts and start choosing. Exploding the notions that we are somehow
    distant from some Ultimate Reality and therefore incapable of Ultimate
    Knowledge is one of the central themes of his project. He says (as you
    are always wise to point out) that our immediate experience _IS_
    reality. In fact, it's all the reality we need to make all of these
    tough decisions. Not only can we feel comfortable that our immediate
    experience is enough to choose what is Best, but we can rationally
    justify such choices because reality itself is constituted of such
    choices. Pirsig provides a means of learning to trust our choices in
    spite of doubt.

    Waiting for the absence of doubt is moral paralysis.

    The absence of doubt is NOT the realization of Absolute Truth. It's
    merely an exercise in delusion. To lack doubt is to refuse to accept
    additional data. It's a closed system. It's incapable of change. It's
    unresponsive to DQ. It's dead. To assume Absolute Truth from all
    available data is folly at best and tyranny at worst.

    Kevin now says:
    I think it would be a mistake to ask Rorty for a list of 10 commandments
    or for the recipe for Perfect Living. I suspect his answer would echo
    Pirsig's--only you know the answer to that and no one needs to tell you.

    So Platt might think Rorty shares Wilde's vision of a Socialist Utopia
    (although I'm not convinced that he does share it). That doesn't mean
    it's a prescription for the rest of us. Platt is interested in finding
    the One Size Fits All Metaphysical Construct. Rorty isn't. I don't think
    Pirsig is either. I know that I certainly am not.


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