NABOKV-L post 0015603, Sat, 20 Oct 2007 07:06:37 -0400

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TOME RAIDER: Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity ...
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http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=520174

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TOME RAIDER: Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity
Published On 10/19/2007 3:21:51 PM
By DAVID L. GOLDING
Crimson Staff Writer
It is sadly common enough for students of literature who harbor a passion for philosophy to find their curiosity rebuffed by arrogant university departments. Obsessed with their private jargon games, these faculties dismiss other disciplines as dealing with “pseudo-problems” at best and, at worst, fanning the flames of irresponsible politics. But in the late Richard Rorty, we have a philosopher from the analytic tradition who became its Judas, who boldly addressed continental thinkers like Nietzsche, Freud, and Heidegger, and writers like Proust, Yeats, and Nabokov.

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Rorty compares Nabokov, the author of aesthetic bliss who despised all vulgar political propaganda and “topical trash,” with Orwell, the earnest, morally courageous author of clumsy allegories. He bases his ideal of the “liberal ironist” on this opposition, confronting the unsettling truth that the Nietzschean ethic of self-creation and eternal struggle can often conflict with the liberal politics of J.S. Mill. Rorty thinks we can have both by keeping the language systems separate. This stringent partition of human nature between public and private, however, comes off as callow. One would be very hard pressed to be an Übermensch over breakfast and a model democrat at the office. Only in a world in which language completely controlled human behavior would his “liberal ironist” paradigm become viable.

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—Staff writer David L. Golding can be reached at dgolding@fas.harvard.edu.




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