Richard Rorty: You were asking me what the definition of irony was…

onegoodmove gives us a dose of Richard Rorty (thanks to wood s lot once more):

[In my utopia:] High culture will no longer be thought of as the place where the aim of the society as a whole is debated and decided, and where it is a matter of social concern which sort of intellectual is ruling the roost. Nor will there be much concern about the gap that yawns between popular culture, the culture of people who have never felt the need for redemption, and the high culture of the intellectuals: the people who are always wanting to be something more or different than they presently are. In utopia, the religious or philosophical need to live up to the non-human, and the need of the literary intellectuals to explore the present limits of the human imagination will be viewed as matters of taste. They will be viewed by non-intellectuals in the same relaxed, tolerant and uncomprehending way that we presently regard our neighbor’s obsession with birdwatching, or macrame, or collecting hubcaps, or discovering the secrets of the Great Pyramid.

My response is the following series of topics for entries/essays that I will never get around to writing:

(1) Rorty embraces a populism that would render him (but also all his fellow academics) fully irrelevant, the same populism that Dwight Macdonald repellently but honestly scoffed at half a century ago in “Masscult and Midcult.”

(2) Rorty by his own admission takes John Dewey as a model. But is his worship of Dewey based on what Dewey thought or what he was: influential. Ideologically, Rorty should be aligned with the less sophisticated, inchoate thinker Randolph Bourne, who in all his pacifist dogmatism looks better in retrospect on World War I than Dewey. Bourne said:

Professor Dewey has become impatient at the merely good and merely conscientious objectors to war who do not attach their conscience and intelligence to forces moving in another direction. But in wartime there are literally no valid forces moving in another direction. War determines its own end,–victory, and government crushes out automatically all forces that deflect, or threaten to deflect, energy from the path of organization to that end…A good many people still seem to believe in a peculiar kind of democratic and antiseptic war. The pacifists opposed the war because they knew this was an illusion.

Bourne, “A War Diary”

(3) A few years back, Rorty wrote Achieving Our Country, a hundred-page book conspicuously architected for mass consumption. George Will insulted it in Time. The Wall Street Journal liked it for its trashing of dissociative leftist academia. The book flopped.

(4) Rorty presents himself as the mediator between disparate schools of philosophy, but he has avoided steps towards organizing a consensus to the point of being ostracized.

(5) Rorty’s epistemology is a rather non-pragmatic, pluralistic approach to coexistence of contradictory mindsets. Far from Dewey and farther from Peirce, it bears some resemblance to the ethical studies of Alastair MacIntyre, which are tied up in the establishment of a pluralistic set of good lifestyles that eliminate the need for ethical rules. In Rorty’s version as well as MacIntyre’s, the pluralism is a Burkean conservative notion, because it prescribes behavior rather than ethics.

(6) His eliminative materialistic mind/body stance is similar to those of Paul Feyerabend and Daniel Dennett, even though he has nearly nothing else in common with them. He shares their strategy of wanting to end up in a certain place and moving the logical leaps around to make it appear as though he’s gotten there. The problem is that his examples yield idealism as easily as they do materialism.

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