Critical Environments: Postmodern Theory and the Pragmatics by Cary Wolfe

By Cary Wolfe

Special in its collation of significant theorists hardly thought of jointly, serious Environments comprises distinct discussions of the paintings of Richard Rorty, Walter Benn Michaels, Stanley Cavell, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Niklas Luhmann, Donna Haraway, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Fredric Jameson, and others, and levels throughout fields from feminist philosophy of technology to the speculation of ideology. supplying American readers a entire creation to structures idea and responding to the frequent cost of relativism leveled opposed to it, Wolfe’s paintings will increase and encourage new forms of serious inspiration.

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43 But what is even clearer is that Rortyan pragmatism, as Cornel West puts it, “though pregnant with possibilities . . refuses to give birth to the offspring it conceives. Rorty leads philosophy to the complex world of politics and culture, but confines his engagement to transformation in the academy and to apologetics for the modern West” (206–7). 44 What has not been sufficiently argued by Rorty’s critics is that Rorty finds himself in this position because of his “evasion” of theory and epistemology-centered philosophy — an evasion that prevents him from exploring how the necessity of other beliefs, observations, or points of view outside of the ethnos in question might be generated by confronting, with a renewed commitment to theory, the contingency of his own.

But does he have to drag us back through Berkeley and Descartes to get us to see it? . ” (177). What is submerged in these lines will come fully to the surface later in the essay, where Rorty argues that there are two senses of Cavellian skepticism: one that Rorty is happy to acknowledge is “as important as he thinks it,” the other — which Cavell sees as tied directly to this first — that Rorty thinks is independent and “academic” in the worst sense. The first sort of skepticism, the profound sort, has “a wish,” as Cavell puts it, “for the connection between my claims of knowledge and the objects upon which the claims are to fall to occur without my intervention, apart from my agreements.

Just as Lentricchia agrees with Michaels on the fact (but not the interpretation) of the Jamesian property model of the self, so he reads Jamesian belief as “a ‘set of rules’ for the action of changing-by-interpreting the world’s various texts,” as “instruments of desire” of wholly “temporal character,” which are “born locally in crisis and have local consequences only” (Ariel 106–7). But James’s message for Lentricchia — and here is where he parts company with Michaels — is also that “theory” (critical reflection on “belief”) is not something that one can be “for” or “against” because it is inescapable, not a matter of volition or intention but rather what James called “an appetite of the mind” and what Lentricchia calls “the need to generalize” and “to obliterate differences” (124–25).

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