Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Cultural Otherness

From Cultural Otherness: Correspondence with Richard Rorty:

The West has been learning about its racism, its sexism and its imperialism not from philosophers, but from people who give us detailed accounts of what these social vices have done to individual human lives.

We pragmatists hope to dissolve traditional philosophical problems by viewing them as disguised forms of practical problems. Our slogan is that if it doesn’t make a difference to what we do, it makes no difference at all.

To my mind, the best and most hopeful element in the high culture of the West is the Romantic desire to acquire ever new identities – not to get stuck with the one you started with.The Romantic-historicist notion of spiritual progress is not centered around the idea of understanding better and better something which is waiting out here to be understood, but rather around the idea of creating a larger, freer, self.

… the emphasis falls less on knowing than on imagining, more on freeing oneself up than on getting something right.

… the modern West has created a culture of social hope, as opposed to a culture of endurance. By a culture of endurance, I mean one in which there is a consensus that the conditions of human life are and always will be frustrating and difficult, and the consequent assumption that either a religious affiliation with a non-human power, or a philosophical acceptance of the eternal order of things, is required to make life bearable. The high culture of a peaceful society which does not have a future utopia to work for will center around priests or stoical sages. By contrast, the high culture of a society permeated by utopian hope will center around suggestions for drastic change in the way things are done – it will be a culture of permanent revolution … it is a culture of experimentation, and nothing guarantees that the experiments will succeed.

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