Today we draw towards the end of the course. It seems like just a little while ago we were talking about Jean Jacques Rousseau and Emmanuel Kant. But today, we are moving on to three American thinkers, we have not said much about American thinkers in this class except for Emerson and Judith Butler. But today we're gonna be talking about Richard Rorty and Cornell West and Anthony Appiah, three, more or less contemporary intellectuals. Richard Rorty died a few years ago. Cornell West and Anthony Appiah still very productive scholars and still putting out work in cultural criticism and philosophy and related domains on a regular basis. We ended last time talking about Zizek and talking about how he approached what he calls sometimes postmodern authority or postmodern desire. And when I've talked about Zizek in class, I always get questions along the lines of, so what does he expect people to do with the insights that says he's giving us into how the contemporary world works. And Zizek does not recommend anything in particular, I think that should be clear from the reading, and from the film clips we have asked you to look at, and there are quite a lot of videos about Zizek available online now. And you can get a sense of his style of philosophizing, and his style of philosophizing Is to play the role of really of a psychoanalyst of asking us what we think we're doing when we do X? What do we really think is going on when we do Y or we do Z? Because his approach is less to find a path that we could agree with. Then to show how our easy agreement, be that about democracy or about diversity or about egalitarianism, that those kinds of common sensical agreements mask desires that are twisted, that are bound up with repression and with diversions and with assumptions about meaning and direction that are unfounded. And when we discover those things, it's really up to us what we're doing, how we might react to our discovery of the relation of our desires to the world. And Zizek leaves us in that space where we understand better the confusion of our own desires. What we're afraid called the ambivalence of our situation as desiring human beings. And when we confront that, that's where Zizek leaves us in a way. Leaves us with an acknowledgment of our contradictory, or conflicted place in the world. Richard Rorty has a very different approach when you look at these a film clip you'll see where Zizek is animated, and he's provocative, and he's stirring things up. Richard Rorty, who I think I've told you already was my teacher at graduate school at Princeton. Richard Rorty is sitting back in his chair. He's talking rather laconically about that truth isn't that important. [LAUGH] And so he's a very different affect, a different presentation of emotion, because what he really wanted to do in his work is to deflate the pretensions of philosophy and critical theory. >> The idea is, the great idea is that at a certain point in the process of inquiry, you come to rest, because you've reached the goal. And the pragmatists are saying, we haven't the slightest idea what it would be like to reach the goal. The idea that the aim of inquiry is conformity to, correspondence to reality, or seeing the face of God, or substituting facts for interpretations is one that we just cant make any use of. All we really know about is. How to exchange justifications of our beliefs and desires as beloved human beings, and as far as we can see, that will be what human life will be like forever. So pragmatist regard the bleakness attempt to get away from time and to eternity, or get away from conversation into certainty as a product of an age in human history where life on Earth was so desperate. And it seems so unlikely that life could ever be better, that people took refuge in another world. Pragmatism comes along with things like the French Revolution, industrial technology, all the things that made the 19th century believe in progress. When you think that the aim of life is to make things better for our descendants, rather than to reach outside of history and time, it alters your sense of what philosophy is good for. In the Platonist and theistic epilogue. The point of philosophy was to get you out of this mess and to a better place. >> God. >> God, the realm of demonic ideas. The contemplative life, something like that. And the reaction against this Greek Christian person of blessedness through union with a natural order, is to say there isn't any natural order, but there is the possibility of a better life for our great, great, great grandchildren. That's enough to give you all the meaning or inspiration or whatever that you could use. Hans Blumenberg have remarked and impressed me enormously. He said, at some point, we stopped hoping for immortality and in place started hoping for our great, great grandchildren this was a sort of turn in the culture of the west. And I really believe that. I think that it had to do with simple improvement of material conditions. When we got a comfortable bourgeoisie resistance for large numbers of people. The bourgeoisie was able to think not about escape from the world and pie in the sky, but about creating the future world for future mortals. There seems to me to have been a great improvement. >> The text I have assigned for this class, a small thing called postmodern a bourgeois liberalism, he thinks of it as a contradiction of terms. That is he wants to show that the post-modern response to the death of philosophy or the realization of epistemology isn't necessary or significant, but the post-modern response to that isn't radicalism. But it actually may be a commitment to the best aspects of our contemporary situation. And it doesn't necessarily demand \a revolutionary response. In fact, the response can be liberal in the mainstream sense of that word. So we're already in this text I've assigned in the class talks about a three cornered debate remember that, a three cornered debate. The first piece is those who want to provide foundations to support our institutions >> The second is those who want to show that the foundations are weak, so that we can change those institutions. And the third are those who don't think there are foundations, but the institutions are ok. And for those are the three positions. The first, let's support what's going on with those foundations, and the second is say, ha, there are no foundations. This is Zizek, and to some extent the Judist butler, our response, there are no foundations, you see, these institutions are shaky, these institutions are, we can make them fall. And the third which is is there are no foundations and that's okay because institutions are great. They could be a little better, we could tinker with them, we could make them better, but they've never needed foundations [LAUGH] so in some ways is the most radical philosophically. They'd say, these foundations were never necessary. We used to think they were. We used to think the were. But now we can see the foundations aren't necessary. But that doesn't mean we have to change the game we're playing. In here, I use that word game to harken back to Wittgenstein. Because remember, Wittgenstein talked about the rules of the game are within the game itself. They don't get established outside the game. And so for Rorty when you realize that there's no foundation to the game, it doesn't mean you stop playing. If you think the game is helping you cope with reality, if you think the game is bringing you pleasure or satisfaction, if you think the game is good for the people playing, you continue to play. And you have to answer those questions within the vocabulary of the game itself. So he knows that this boast post modernism bourgeois liberalism sounds like an oxymoron, a contradiction of terms. I have this quotation for you, I hope thereby to suggest Rorty writes, how such liberals might convince our society that loyalty to itself Is morality enough that's the key for him, loyalty to itself is morality enough and that such loyalty is no longer needs a historical backdrop. I think they should try to clear themselves of charges of irresponsibility by convincing our society that it need be responsible only to its own traditions and not the moral law as well. And so for Rorty again, there are no foundations but that doesn't mean things are about to fall down because they've actually never been necessary those foundations. Rationality for Rorty as he says a little later in the piece, is a product of participation in a community. Rational behaviour is just adaptive behaviour that's really key for Rorty.. It doesn't conform to some external ahistorical standard. Rational behaviour, this is I think from page 333, is just adaptive behavior. The kind of thing others like us would do in similar circumstances. So, rationality is always dependent on the group you're in. As he says on that same page. Irrationality, in both physics and ethics, is a matter of behavior that leads one to abandon, or be stripped of, membership in a community. Irrationality, is a decision made by a community about someone's aberrant behavior, not a violation of epistemology. So, no vocabularies are privileged against other vocabularies from Rorty's perspective. >> I think it was unfortunate that pragmatism became thought of as a theory, or definition of truth. I think it would of been better if the pragmatists had said we can take about justification but we can't tell you about truth. There's nothing to be said about it. And as we know how we justify beliefs we know that the adjective true is the word we apply to the beliefs that we've justified. We know that a belief can be true without being justified. That's about all we know about truth. And justification is relative to an audience and to a range of truth candidates. Truth isn't relative to anything. Just because it isn't relative to anything there's nothing to be said to be about it [LAUGH]. And truth, with a capital T is sort of like, God, there's not much you can say about God. That's why theologians talk about contemporary pragmatists tend to say the word true is indefinable. But, none the worse for that. We know how to use it, we don't have to define it. >> If you define the Nietzsche term, there are no facts, there are only interpretations. >> Yeah, that gives the general pragmatist idea, that No description or if you like, no interpretation, is closer to reality than any other. Some of them are more useful for some purposes than others. But that's about all you can say. A Nietzschean perspectivism which says, you can't rise above interpretations and get the facts. Or dig down below interpretations and get the facts. It's substantially the same thing as I ment before when I said the pragmatist tried to get rid of the reality appearance distinction. >> So he says that what he wants to have happen is to have art and literature become the backup for our moral decisions rather than the philosophical search for foundations. The moral justification of institutions and practices of one's groups is mostly a matter of historical narratives rather than philosophical metanarratives. What does he mean by philosophical metanarrative? He means that we should stop chasing a frame work that is supposed to give support to all other stories. That's what it means by a metanarrative. A narrative, a story, a big story that's supposed to support all the small ones. There is no big story for Rorty, and the second part of that is, and that's okay. [LAUGH] You know? This is, there is no big other to use Zizek term and that's okay. We never actually needed one. We actually never needed one. Now the charge that you'd expect people to make against him in the circumstances is a charge that he's being relativist, right? That he's being a relativist. Because he's somehow I'm not giving us criteria according to which we can choose among competing vocabulary. But Rorty's point is relativism only makes sense if you think there is a place from outside of these vocabularies to judge them. In other words, if you think you can somehow step out of history to make a judgement about the various groups. If you could step out of history, and you couldn't decide which group you should join, then you would be in this relativistic position. But for Rorty, no one is ever outside of a vocabulary of making a decision. You are always already within a language game. You're always already within a community. And so, there is no perspective from which you could be a relativist. Relativism as a charge depends on a notion of a God's eye view which is always unavailable to us.