Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Irony's the refuge of the educated"

Slate has a bunch of testimonials on the passing of Richard Rorty. Most are kind and vague. "Rorty was a pragmatist. if you liked Dewey, you'd have loved Rorty. He will be missed." Simon Blackburn actually plays the philosopher and offers some disagreement. ("Friends are dear, truth is dearer still") He hits the two points that bugged me most about Rorty, the claim that the word "reality" serves no purpose, and the insistence that we look ironically on our own ethical beliefs.
An earlier generation of pragmatists eventually discovered that reality has its uses, but I think Rorty never followed them.

Rorty did not draw the naive conclusion that everything is relative, or that everything is illusion or mirage or social construction. Those ideas buy into the same worship of truth as realists do, but lament our inability to get at it. The right response is to abandon the whole dialectic: to skip free, inventively, creatively (fold Nietzsche into the mix as well), and always aware of the provisional nature of any saying, always with an ironic detachment to the businesses of living. It is an attractive vision, up to a point, but almost designed to irritate serious investigators, or those whose welfare depends upon their activities. You do not want the folderol, hey-nonny-nonny tendency in charge of the crime squad when you are under unjust suspicion of being the murderer.
Whenever I hear Ian scream "Irony's the refuge of the educated/always complaining but they never quit/" I think of Rorty.

In the meantime, I'm in graduate school again! I am sitting alone in a small room eating vending machine food for dinner and not making progress on the paper I am trying to write!

1 comment:

MT said...

Seriousness is the refuge of people whose mammas where combat boots.