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March 29, 2010


Pragmaticism…does not erect Science as an idol to fill the place once held by God. It views science as one genre of literature – or, put the other way around, literature and the arts as inquiries, on the same footing as scientific inquiries. Thus it sees ethics as neither more “relative” or “subjective” than scientific theory, nor as needing to be made “scientific.” Physics is a way of trying to cope with various bits of the universe; ethics is a matter of trying to cope with other bits. Mathematics helps physics do its job; literature and the arts help ethics do its. Some of these inquiries come up with propositions, some with narratives, some with paintings. The question of what propositions to assert, which pictures to look at, what narratives to listen to and comment on and retell, are all questions about what will help us get what we want (or about what we should want).

Richard Rorty

Posted by amin at 1:04 PM

the vanguard of the species

To be authentic is to realize that the relation between Dasein and Being, between man and what he is trying to refer to when he creates such words [“the truth”], is not that of the particular to the general, or the temporal to the eternal archetype, but a relation to himself. There is nothing more to him than his language, and nothing more to his language than what he puts into it. There is nothing more for man to be, in short, except a poet.

My view posits the poet rather than the priest, the philosopher or the scientist as the paradigmatic human being…the poet in the general sense of the maker of new words, the shaper of new languages, as the vanguard of the species.

Richard Rorty

Posted by amin at 1:01 PM

March 27, 2010

we just regret the fact that the word is used so much

It isn't that we believe in God, or don't believe in God, or have suspended judgment about God, or consider that the God of theism in an inadequate symbol of our ultimate concern; it is just that we wish we didn't have to have a view about God. It isn't that we know that "God" is a cognitively meaningless expression, or that it has its role in a language-game other than the fact-stating, or whatever. We just regret the fact that the word is used so much.

Richard Rorty - Philosophy as a Kind of Writing

Posted by amin at 3:02 PM

March 26, 2010

ways of making anti-philosophical points

Pragmatists keep trying to find ways of making anti-philosophical points in nonphilosophical language.

Richard Rorty

Posted by amin at 10:51 AM

one must philosophize

If one must philosophize, then one must philosophize; and if one must not philosophize, then one must philosophize; in any case, therefore, one must philosophize. For if one must, then given that philosophy exists, we are in every way obliged to philosophize. And if one must not, in this case too we are obliged to inquire how it is possible for there to be no philosophy; and in inquiring we philosophize, for inquiry is the case of philosophy.


Posted by amin at 10:48 AM

March 18, 2010

learning by heart

The complex dialectic of letter via spirit, which underlies our tradition, even at its most secular, of the cleric, of the scholar, derives from the traditions of Scripture and inscription. The two words, of course, are cognate. My I remind you what the word underwritten means? Underwritten is re-insured by the theological: what Wittgenstein says on completing his investigations, “If I could, I would dedicate this book to God.” That’s Wittgenstein. The magnum opus in the Western traditions, “Le livre qui est le but de l’univers” of Mallarmé; or in Borges, a simulacrum of the book that simply calls itself the Book, the Bible. In certain traditions, Judaism for example, the notion of secular authorship, of reading for pleasure, comes very late. It arrives only with modernity and it leaves the greatest of all Jewish writers, Franz Kafka, radically uncomfortable. The arts of memory are correlative with those of all higher literacy. They constitute the bridge between the oral and the written. Plato fears writing precisely because it will enfeeble the muscles of memory; hence, the central, crucial, irreplaceable role of learning by heart. What you love, you start learning by heart.

George Steiner

Posted by amin at 6:34 AM

our common parlance

We still speak of ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset.’ We do so as if the Copernican model of the solar system had not replaced, ineradicably, the Ptolemaic. Vacant metaphors, eroded figures of speech, inhabit our vocabulary and grammar. They are caught, tenaciously, in the scaffolding and recesses of our common parlance. There they rattle about like old rags or ghosts in the attic.

George Steiner

Posted by amin at 6:31 AM

a provocation is what teaching is

What should a teacher be? A person with a summons, with a calling, provocare. A provocation is what teaching is – to call you out. A good Anglo-Saxon expression: I shall call you out. “Have at you, Sir, be on guard.” Provocation: You must always pitch above the head of your student until his fingers ache with reaching. I think it is the most exciting process in the world. I. A. Richards said, "The two most complex processes on this planet are the mathematics of a string quartet and the translation of a Chinese philosophic sentence." He may be right. They are worth pursuing, and are in certain respects wholly familiar to Plato when he writes over the doors of the Academy, “Let no one enter here who is not a geometer.” Wholly familiar to Plato, wholly familiar to Pythagoras, with his hope that music would open the doors to cosmology and to the problem of the inner harmony of human beings. For others, of course, there will be a post-humanity, which, I am not altogether sorry, I will not live to see.

George Steiner

Posted by amin at 6:17 AM

March 5, 2010

every artist is born in an alien country

Art at its high points cannot be national. Why? Every artist is born in an alien country; he has a homeland nowhere but within his own borders. And those of his works that proclaim the language of this homeland are his most deeply genuine.

Rilke - Diaries of a Young Poet

Posted by amin at 2:52 PM