Brecher Brief




Recent Entries

Syndicate this site (XML)

Powered by

Movable Type 3.17

« May 2007 | Main | August 2007 »

June 13, 2007

The GOP Character Gap

Once upon a time Republicans were willing to bet the national farm on character. “Character counts” was the mantra, and they used it to beat up every “liberal” democrat from Clinton on down whose “moral relativism” was window dressing for an unprincipled, generally sinful, individual.

Judging from the 2008 Republican field, either that party has abandoned its confidence that personal values are the best measure of political virtue—or Democrats are stealing a page from their playbook. Consider the frontrunners:

First, there’s the “socially liberal” Rudy, whose apparent early success among some conservatives seems to bespeak a rather Machiavellian preference for power over principle. Then there’s the one true Goldwater conservative, McCain, a guy most Republicans will agree with on most issues—but who is just too damn independent to be trusted or liked. Of course there’s Romney. His father famously claimed to have been brainwashed into supporting the Vietnam War (Mort Saul said a “light rinse” would have been sufficient). Apparently, sterility—both intellectual and moral—runs in the family: Barney Frank has the rap on him. From TPM:

"The real Romney is clearly an extraordinarily ambitious man with no perceivable political principle whatsover. He is the most intellectually dishonest human being in the history of politics."
So, what virtuous knight does the GOP look to for salvation? Mike Huckabee, maybe, or the one authentic libertarian in the race, congressman what’s-his-name? No. According to the polls, it’s a man whose folksy ways and good ol’ American work ethic have earned him the affectionate nickname Lazy Fred.

Character may be king. But president?

Posted by stevemack at 06:11 AM | Comments (2366) | TrackBack

June 12, 2007

Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty died last week at the age of seventy-five.

He was a favorite of mine; in the introduction to The Pragmatic Whitman I essentially parrot the argument he made in Achieving Our Country to launch my own reinterpretation of Whitman’s democratic and pragmatic vision. Of that reinterpretation, Whitman biographer Jerome Loving chided that it was arguable, though not particularly faithful to the poet’s true transcendental impulses.

Different Rorty anecdotes in two obituaries remind me of just how much I was working in the “Rorty spirit.” Writing in the L. A. Times, Crispin Sartwell recounts how Rorty angered nearly everyone by his shameless appropriation and reinterpretation of other philosophers.

The Dewey scholars hated him, as did the Wittgenstein scholars, the Davidson scholars, the Nietzsche scholars, the Derrida scholars and so on. Every one of them thought they could prove that Rorty was wrong about their particular boy, and that he'd have to listen and take back all the things he had said. In this, they didn't understand him at all.
Rorty was my dissertation supervisor at the University of Virginia in the 1980s (although he was teaching at Stanford when he died). One semester, he taught a course that focused on the classic book "Truth and Method" by Hans-Georg Gadamer. Late in the semester, Gadamer appeared in our seminar. Rorty introduced him with an interpretation of "Truth and Method."
As Rorty spoke, Gadamer just shook his big, eminent, bereted head. When it was over, Gadamer said, in German-accented English: "But Dick, you've got me all wrong." Rorty gave the grin and the shrug and said: "Yes, Hans. But that's what you should have said."

I imagine Rorty would have laid a little stress on that should. Rorty’s informed misreadings (though that word exaggerates a bit) didn’t just serve his own academic agenda, but a moral one. And if “agenda” puts it a little too programmatically, it is at least an attitude. Jurgen Habermas gives us a glimpse of it in his remembrance: “Nothing is sacred to Rorty the ironist,” he writes.

Asked at the end of his life about the "holy", the strict atheist answered with words reminiscent of the young Hegel: "My sense of the holy is bound up with the hope that some day my remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which love is pretty much the only law."

Posted by stevemack at 03:18 PM | Comments (551) | TrackBack

"A Whitman for our Time."
- Jerome Loving,
"Stephen John Mack's The Pragmatic Whitman: Reimagining American Democracy, [is] The most thoroughly informed philosophical reading of Whitman to appear in decades. Mack develops the premise . . . That Whitman shares with John Dewey a vision of democracy as a 'civic religion' in America, a profoundly secularist and progressive perspective.

- M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Texas A & M University
December 2016
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31