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Category: Richard Rorty

You can’t see there from here

“No description of how things are from a God’s-eye point of view, no skyhook provided by some contemporary or yet-to-be-developed science, is going to free us from the contingency of having been acculturated as we were. Our acculturation is what makes certain options live, or momentous, or forced, while leaving others dead, or trivial, or optional.” – Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth

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And here is what happened when we threw all that away

“I think that the rhetoric we Westerners use in trying to get everybody to be more like us would be improved if we were more frankly ethnocentric and less professedly universal. It would be better to say, ‘here is what we in the West look like as a result of ceasing to hold slaves, beginning to educate women, separating church and state, and so on. Here is what happened after we began treating certain distinctions between people as arbitrary rather than fraught with moral significance. If you would try treating them that way, you might like the result’. Saying that sort of thing seems preferable to saying, ‘look at how much better we Westerners are at knowing what differences between persons are arbitrary and which not, how much more rational we are’. If we Westerners could get rid of the notion of universal moral obligation created by membership in the species, and substitute the idea of building a community of trust between ourselves and others, we might be in a better position to persuade non-Westerners of the advantages of joining such a community.” – Richard Rorty, “Justice as a Larger Loyalty” (emphasis in original)

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Not asking much, guv’nor

“You cannot have an old-timey Gemeinschaft unless everybody pretty well agrees on who counts as a decent human being and who does not. But you can have a civil society of the bourgeois democratic sort. All you need is the ability to control your feelings when people who strike you as irredeemably different show up at City Hall, or the greengrocers, or the bazaar. When this happens, you smile a lot, make the best deals you can, and, after a hard day’s haggling, retreat to your club. There you will be comforted by the companionship of your moral equals.” – Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth (emphasis in original)

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And sparks fly

“The difference between genius and fantasy is not the difference between impresses which lock on to something universal, some antecedent reality out there in the world or deep within the self, and those which do not. Rather, it is the difference between idiosyncracies which just happen to catch on with other people—happen because of the contingencies of some historical situation, some particular need which a given community happens to have at a given time. To sum up, poetic, artistic, philosophical, scientific, or political progress results from the accidental coincidence of a private obsession with a public need.” – Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

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