Re: MD Rorty

Date: Sun Aug 17 2003 - 01:30:48 BST

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    Steve, Platt, Andy,

    Steve said:
    He also often comments on how the conservatives hate his philosophy and the liberals hate his politics. Do you know what is contrary to typical leftists views in Rorty's politics?

    I think its actually a little of everything from everybody. Conservatives hate his philosophy because right now a lot of conservatives are under the thrall of Christian Coalition, who take so-called "post-moderns" as being nihilists. One notable exception: Michael Oakshott was a huge conservative from England and he actually would have agreed quite a lot with Rorty's philosophy. And, naturally, conservatives hate his politics because, well, he's not a conservative.

    Liberals have a little of everything. Some like his philosophy because he's "post-modern". These post-moderns, however, typically hate his politics because he isn't Marxist or Foucaultian enough. These post-moderns (like Fredric Jameson, Terry Eagleton, and Jonathon Culler), in Bernard Yack's phrase, "long for total revolution." They think we need a revolution, where Rorty thinks we need only piecemeal nudges. Other liberals, however, aren't post-modern enough. These liberals (like John Searle) like his politics, but wonder how he can have preferences since post-moderism are so obviously vacuous and nihilistic (to use the current slam against me).

    Platt said:
    What's the difference between a reformist leftist and a Utopian Socialist?

    As Andy said, "There are many ways to define socialism and communism, but economically the simplest way might be to say the means of production are not owned by private individuals but rather public entities representing workers (in theory) or, in other words, government (in fact). This is not the solutions most modern leftists (which includes moderate democrats, liberal democrats, and reformists) are looking for when acknowledging real problems facing the world today."

    As a means-oriented description of socialism v. capitalism, it cuts to the quick. But here's another way to decribe socialism: socialism is the striving for a classless, egalitarian society where people are free to do what they may as long as it doesn't infringe on other people. That's conflating Mills with Marx. And there's nothing about the means we will use towards that utopia either. I would define a reformist leftist as a utopian socialist because the reformist has learned from the mistakes of Lenin, but still thinks the goals of Trotsky are worthwhile: the alleviation of cruelty and suffering. In this sense, utopian socialism looks a lot like the message Jesus was spreading. I think everyone has learned that state-run economies are bad economies and state-run lives are bad lives. So I think we should move on from the Marxism bashing and onto the reconstruction and salvaging of Marx. His philosophy was bad, his plan for how socialism would occur was bad, but his
     goals were admirable and his descriptions of the plight of the working class are unforgettable. In this sense, I follow Rorty in thinking the New Testament and the Communist Manifesto are two books that should live on, serving as a moral reminder of the goals we should be striving for, even if we don't buy into a lot of the other nitty-gritty details in those books. Those two books give us the hope that Andy mentioned, the hope to "lessen cruelty and suffering in the world."


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