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Rorty's PragmatismRudiger Appel's Kandinsky Figurine

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Affirmative Action Dummy Table, First Draft

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Pass or Prepared?
on Rorty's and Heidegger's Pragmatism

Heidegger believed that if we accept Plato's search for the ideal, as much of Western philosophy has done, that we cannot ultimately succeed because it is beyond the human limitation to "know" the ideal. Thus Heidegger believed that pragmatism, seeking ways to live more happily and effectively within our limitations, was where Western philosophy has to end up. And Heidegger was unhappy with that state of affairs. Rorty agrees with Heidegger, that pragmatism is where we end up. But Rorty thinks that's a pretty good place to land.
  1. How could we use Buscaglia's suggestion that we should not "expect" of others help us to understand why Rorty and Heidegger view this culmination of the search for the ideal in pragmatism so differently?

    • jeanne's response: Rorty comes from the American liberal left. He wants to make this a better world for most of us. He admires Dewey, and the pragmatism that Dewey taught. His emphasis is on the importance of social bonds, of our humanism, and our interdependence. Thus, his move to teaching Humanism, after so many years of teaching philosophy.

      Heidegger, on the other hand, for at least a while, was sympathetic to the Nazi party in Germany. Right, not left. Heidegger was less concerned with humanism, caring, and making the world work better within human limitations. Thus, of course, Heidegger would not be as pleased with our ending up with pragmatism as Rorty would.

      How does this relate to Buscaglia's suggestion of not "expecting?" It seems to me that what Buscaglia really means is that we should not expect of others according to our own alternatives. We are each unique in the sense that we have different complexes of skills and experiences that shape our contributions to this world. But we can each contribute. Rorty is the one who would wait to see what each would produce, and be content to help each live within his/her limitations. Heidegger, I think, would have more expectations. I think Heidegger would not see promoting the realization of each individual's potential as the answer to the question "How shall I live?" I think Rorty would.

  2. Do you think that this same sense of expectation exists today between our liberals and our conservatives?

    • jeanne's response: I think this same sense of expectation is with us today. Liberals believe that there is good in bringing each human to his/her full potential, and that we have a responsibility as a group to do our best at that. Conservatives are more likely to be persuaded that there are overall measures of good, and that those who can will, and that we must move forward as a group and not be deterred from progress by those who are not successful in the social structure.

      Who's right? Who knows? It is beyond our human limitations to achieve an ultimate answer to that question. We must then turn to belief, and to hope. There are good and caring people on each end of the spectrum. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle, now leaning to the liberal, now leaning to the conservative side.

  3. Do you think affirmative action was an attempt to deal with expectations in this sense?

    • jeanne's response: I think this is one of the explanations for much of our present disagreement over affirmative action. there are those of us who see it as an obligation to make up for past discrimination, and to help all those who suffered discrimination realize their full potential. But there are others of us who believe that to make up for the "sins" of the past is unrealistic, and that for the sake of the future, we must move ahead, promoting those most able to achieve. These are different philosophical perspectives. I believe we find ourselves sometimes more in the camp of righting past wrongs, and sometimes we see more the need to move on.

  4. Could you make up a dummy table to plan a study to evaluate affirmative action in this sense?