S1E01 Richard Rorty and Achieving Our Country w/ Adrian Rutt

What has happened to the political left since the 1960s? What distinguishes the Reformist Left from the Cultural Left? What does it mean for a leftist to have “national pride”? Are metaphysicians more prone to violence?

In the very first episode of Damn the Absolute!, Jeffrey Howard speaks with Adrian Rutt, a philosophy professor in Cleveland, Ohio. He is president of the Western Reserve Philosophical Society, a local group that engages the larger community in important conversations across philosophy and politics. Adrian is also an editor for Liberal Currents, an online publication defending liberal principles and institutions.

They explore the political thought of the iconoclastic philosopher Richard Rorty. And specifically, look at his 1998 book, Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America.

In recent history, the American Left appears to have abandoned hope for America, embracing a sort of self-mocking stance that the United States is incapable of overcoming the original sins of its past. Rorty challenges this notion, suggesting, “National pride is to countries what self-respect is to individuals: a necessary condition for self-improvement.” Drawing from the thoroughly democratic visions of Walt Whitman and John Dewey, Rorty argues that unless the American Left cultivates a sense of national pride, “energetic and effective debate about national policies” will “probably not occur.”

Show Notes:

Rorty on Religion and Politics” by Jeffrey Stout in The Philosophy of Richard Rorty (2010)

Post-ontological Philosophy of Mind: Rorty versus Davidson” by Bjorn Ramberg in Rorty and His Critics (2000)

Defending Rorty: Pragmatism and Liberal Virtue by William Curtis (2015)

Rortian Liberalism and the Problem of Truth” by Adrian Rutt (2021)

Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America by Richard Rorty (1998)

Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty (1989)

Lessons for the Left: Achieving Our Country Revisited” by Adrian Rutt (2020)

America Needs a Conservative Labor Movement” by Oren Cass (2020)

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature by Richard Rorty (1979)

Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher by Neil Gross (2008) 

Pragmatic Liberalism and the Critique of Modernity by Gary Gutting (1999)

Rorty Recants (Partially)” by Nick Gall (2020)

S1E12 Philosophers Need to Care About the Poor w/ Jacob Goodson (2021)

S1E14 A Tool for a Pluralistic World w/ Justin Marshall (2021)

Damn the Absolute!

A podcast about our relationship to ideas. Doing our damnedest to not block the path of inquiry.

    One thought on “S1E01 Richard Rorty and Achieving Our Country w/ Adrian Rutt

    • Very Like a Whale by Ogden Nash

      One thing that literature would be greatly the better for
      Would be a more restricted employment by the authors of simile and metaphor.
      Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,
      Can’t seem just to say that anything is the thing it is
      but have to go out of their way to say that it is like something else.

      What does it mean when we are told
      That that Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold?
      In the first place, George Gordon Byron had enough experience
      To know that it probably wasn’t just one Assyrian, it was a lot of Assyrians.
      However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and thus hinder longevity,
      We’ll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity.

      Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold,
      Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a wolf on the fold?
      In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy there are great many things.
      But I don’t imagine that among them there is a wolf with purple and gold cohorts or purple and gold anythings.

      No, no, Lord Byron, before I’ll believe that this Assyrian was actually like a wolf I must have some kind of proof;
      Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and a big red mouth and big white teeth and did he say Woof Woof?
      Frankly I think it is very unlikely, and all you were entitled to say, at the very most,
      Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian cohorts about to destroy the Hebrew host.

      But that wasn’t fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear me no,
      he had to invent a lot of figures of speech and then interpolate them,
      With the result that whenever you mention Old Testament soldiers to people they say
      Oh yes, they’re the ones that a lot of wolves dressed up in gold and purple ate them.

      That’s the kind of thing that’s being done all the time by poets, from Homer to Tennyson;
      They’re always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison,
      And they always say things like that the snow is a white blanket after a winter storm.
      Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket of snow and I’ll sleep under a half-inch blanket of un-poetical blanket material and we’ll see which one keeps warmest,

      And after that maybe you’ll begin to comprehend dimly
      What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.

      Reply

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