Norman Geras's work on the subject of Karl Marx's antisemitism involved significant dissent from the Marxist tradition in which he located himself, precisely because unvarnished honesty prevented him from glossing over the many troubling ideas and notions that, simply, are there. His Normblog demonstrated how Geras, as a Marxist, took on the shibboleths of the postmodern left, and in particular the relativism whose malign influence he had noted when writing his book on Marx's conception of human nature. 'The principle of self-emancipation', wrote Geras in 1971, 'is central, not incidental, to historical materialism.' This book shows how the materialist usage of 'powers of human nature', 'natural desires', 'natural character' play an important role in the formulation of Marx's theory of history. It explores Richard Rorty's various usages on the question of human nature and the tensions and anomalies as well as then theses on utopia. The book also reviews a fast-growing sector of the current literature on Karl Marx, i.e. whether Marx condemn capitalism in the light of any principle of justice, and the controversy that has fuelled its growth, and distinguishes three meanings (personal, intellectual and socio-political) of 'being a Marxist'. It discusses the significance of the Euston Manifesto, antisemitism on the left anti-Jewish stereotypes, and Marxism before the Holocaust. The book concludes with insights into the 9/11 incident, the principle of humanitarian intervention and international law for military intervention.
This book makes the case for a pragmatist approach to the practice of social inquiry and knowledge production. Through diverse examples from multiple disciplines, contributors explore the power of pragmatism to inform a practice of inquiry that is democratic, community-centred, problem-oriented and experimental. Drawing from both classical and neo-pragmatist perspectives, the book advances a pragmatist sensibility in which truth and knowledge are contingent rather than universal, made rather than found, provisional rather than dogmatic, subject to continuous experimentation rather than ultimate proof and verified in their application in action rather than in the accuracy of their representation of an antecedent reality. The power of pragmatism offers a path forward for mobilizing the practice of inquiry in social research, exploring the implications of pragmatism for the process of knowledge production.
(Chapter 2 of Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind: The Ungroundable Liberalism of RichardRorty , Verso, London, 1995)
The centrality of arguments about human nature to social and political theories is a familiar theme to students of the subject. Such arguments may be of an affirmative kind, asserting some given characteristic or behaviour pattern as generally or typically human. Nearly as often perhaps they will be self-consciously negative, denying there is anything of substance to be brought usefully under the heading of ‘human nature’. In
Taking intolerant liberalism seriously
This chapter makes a case for taking intolerance justified by liberalism
seriously, especially when embarking on projects that promote liberal
ideals of tolerance and progress as a means towards solving social
problems. It offers a critical application of the philosophical account of
and case for ethnocentric liberalism made by RichardRorty.1 This foreshadowed the muscular liberalism that came to the fore following the
attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 and, independently, the antimulticulturalism
achieve the democratic hopes and dreams that were the foundation of its
independence (Westbrook 2005: 140). In this vein, Dewey’s philosophy
can be seen as an earlier incarnation of the democratic spirit that
RichardRorty (1999) evoked when he sought to show how intellectual
labour could help American citizens to ‘achieve our country’.
On the other hand, however, Dewey was not just concerned with
American democracy but rather American democracy in a global
context. From the conquest and founding of the North American
continent by the Europeans, or the importation of
radical politics. This will include: the ethics of postmodern irony – RichardRorty; the ethics of psychoanalysis – Lacan and Zˇizˇek; and the ethics of the
Other – Levinas and Derrida.
Ethics and radical politics
The conditions of postmodernity are marked, as I have argued, not only by the
death of God, but also the breakdown of the Enlightenment moral metanarratives that were developed to fill His place. Kant formulated ethics as duty to a
universaliseable moral law which was suprasensible, and beyond empirical
observation and pathological considerations. Thus we had
elderly man is incredibly sad, but not about the traffic accident. His “heart was breaking”, says Mel, “because he couldn’t turn his goddamn head and see his goddamn wife”. “‘Do you see what I’m saying?’ Mel said” ( Carver 1981 , 183). That’s love.
The conversation that Carver imagines in his short story represents an example of the kind of larger practice that the American pragmatist philosopher RichardRorty (2007) believes should be a model for philosophy. It is philosophy of conversation and experiment ( Rorty 2007 , chapter 8 ). Engaging in dialogue
masquerading as the universal’ (Taylor, 1992: 44). Such a construction of universality has a nasty habit of operating to exclude many people from the ultimate community it claims as its own. RichardRorty points clearly to this danger when he warns against labelling those committing atrocities in the former Yugoslavia (or elsewhere) as irrational or inhuman – that is, as falling outside the defining criteria of membership in the moral community of the human (Rorty, 1993). It may be, as some postmodern approaches would suggest, that the identity of the universal can only be
This chapter makes a pragmatic argument for a kind of humanism that is able to respond to the ecological crisis of our age. Rather than having to choose between a humanist or post-humanist approach to addressing global ecological crises, the chapter argues for a pragmatic ‘third way’. Drawing on the thought of Hannah Arendt, John Dewey, William James and Richard Rorty, the chapter identifies six pragmatic propositions to guide social scientists in the pursuit of solutions to the ecological and other crises facing us now.
F.D.E. Schleiermacher's essential move is to argue, while providing an account of self-consciousness which is still significant for the philosophy of mind, that these conditions depend on language, and that languages change with history. Instead of setting up definitive boundaries between art and non-art, Schleiermacher sees the possibility of transitions from one to the other in any sphere of activity. In the Aesthetics Schleiermacher distinguishes between 'identical activities' and 'individual activities', which is his version of what Richard Rorty sees in terms of 'public' and 'private'. Schleiermacher introduces the notion of art in order to suggest how the individual, disclosive dimension of language is always an issue in interpretation. The individuality that Immanuel Kant reserved for the genius in art, who established new rules via aesthetic production, is carried over into all areas of linguistic usage and thus into all areas of human activity.