Zitate von Richard Rorty

4. Oktober 1931 - 8. Juni 2007

Rationality (type 1) is the name of an ability that squids have more of than amoebas, that language-using human beings have more of than non-language using anthropods, and that human beings armed with modern technology have more of than those not so armed; the ability to cope with the environment by adjusting one’s reactions to environmental stimuli in complex and delicate ways. This is sometimes called "technical reason" and sometimes "skill at survival." It is ethically neutral, in the sense that this ability, by itself, does not help one decide what species or what culture it would be best to belong to.

Rationality (type 2) is the name of an extra added ingredient that human beings have and brutes do not. The presence of this ingredient within us is a reason to describe ourselves in different terms than those we use to describe nonhuman organizsms. This presence cannot be reduced to a difference in degree of our possession of rationality (type 1). It is distinct because it sets goals other than mere survival: for example, it may tell you that it would be better to be dead than to do certain things. Appeal to rationality (type 2) establishes an evaluative hierarhcy rather than simply adjusting means to taken-for-granted-ends.

Rationality (type 3) is roughly synonymous with tolerance – with the ability not to be overly disconcerted by differences from oneself, not to respond aggressively to such differences. This ability goes along with a willingness to alter one’s habits – noto nly to get more of what one previously wanted but to reshape oneself into a different sort of person, one who wants different things than before. It also goes along with a reliance on persuasion rather than force, an inclination to talk things over rather than to fight, burn, or banish. It is a virtue that enables individuals and communities to coexist peacefully with other individuals and communities, living and letting live, and to put together new, syncretic, compromise ways of life. So rationality in this sene is sometimes thought of, as by Hegel, as quasi-synonymous with freedom.

For liberals who are also pragmatists, as I am, questions about rationality and cultural differences boil down to questions about the relation between rationality type 1 and type 3. We just drop the whole idea of rationality type 2.

"Reason" was the name neither of an extra added ingedient nor of wat was "natural" and "essential" to our species. The term denotes nothing more than a high degree of rationality type 1.

Excerps from: Truth and Progress. Philosophical Papers, Volume 3. Cambridge, Cambridge UP 1998

From "The last intellectual in Europe: Orwell on cruelty" (in: Contingency, irony, and solidarity. Cambrdige, Cambridge UP 1989):

Orwell's last two novels are good examples of what Nabokov thought of as "topical trash," for their importance is a result of having made a big practical difference. We would not now be reading and admiring Orwell's essays, studying his biography, or trying to integrate his vocabulary of moral deliberation into our own unless he had written Animal Farm and 1984. Lolita and Pale Fire will survive as long as there are gifted, obsessive readers who identify themselves with Humbert and Kinbote. But even Irving Howe, who wrote one of the earliest and best discussions of 1984, admits that Orwell is one of those writers "who live most significantly for their own age."

Orwell's best novels will be widely read only as long as we describe the politics of the twentieth century as Orwell did.

Our descendants will read him as we read Swift - with admiration for a man who served human liberty, but with little inclination to adopt his classification of political tendencies or his vocabulary of moral and political deliberation.

Some present-day leftist critics of Orwell (e.g., Christopher Norris) think that we already have a way of seeing Orwell as blinkered and shortsighted. ... Unlike Norris, I do not think that we have a better alternative context. In the forty years since Orwell wrote, as far as I can see, nobody has come up with a better way of setting out the political alternatives which confront us. Taking his earlier warnings against the greedy and stupid conservatives together with his warnings against the Communist oligarchs, his description of our political situation - of the dangers and options at hand - remains as useful as any we possess.

Nabokov thought aiming at this sort of inevitably temporary utility betrayed the lack, or the waste, of the gifts which were essential to a figure called the "writer". Orwell, too, had views about this mythical figure, pretty much the opposite of Nabokov's views. ... Different writers want to do different things. Proust wanted autonomy and beauty; Nietzsche and Heidegger wanted autonomy and sublimity; Nabokov wanted beauty and selfpreservation; Orwell wanted to be of use to people who were suffering. They all succeeded. Each of them was brilliantly, equally, successful.

So I want to offer a different reading of Orwell.

He convinced us that our previous political vocabulary had little relevance to our current political situation, but he did not give us a new one. He sent us back to the drawing board, and we are still there. Nobody has come up with a large framework for relating our large and vague hopes for human equality to the actual distribution of power in the world.

But Orwell did achieve something more than this negative, though necessary and useful, job of sendung us back to the drawing boeard. He did this in the last third of 1984 - the part which is about O'Brien. There he sketched an alternative scenario, one which led on the wrong direction. He convinced us that there was a perfectly good chance that the same developments which had made human equality technically possible might make endless slavery possible. He did so by convincing us that nothing in the nature of truth, or man, or history was going to block that scenario, any more than it was going to underwrite the scenario which liberals had been using between the wars. He convinced us that all the intellectual and poetic gifts which had made Greek philosophy, modern science, and Romantic poetry possible might someday find employment in the Ministry of Truth.

In the view of 1984 I am offering, Orwell has no answer to O'Brien, and is not interested in giving one.

Orwell is not setting up a philosophical position but trying to make a concrete political possibility plausible by answering three questions: "How will the intellectuals of a certain possible future describe themselves?" "What will they do with themselves?" "How will their talents be employed?" He does not view O'Brien as crazy, misguided, seduced by a mistaken theory, or blind to the moral facts. He simply views him as dangerous and as possible.

As evidence that this way of reading the last part of 1984 is not entirely factitious, I can cite a column which Orwell wrote in 1944. There he dissects what he calls "a very dangerous fallacy, now very widespread in the countries where totalitarianism has not established itself":

    The fallacy is to believe that under a dictatorial government you can be free inside. ... The greatest mistake is to imagine that the human being is an autonomous individual. The secret freedom which you can supposedly enjoy under a despotic government is nonsense, because your thoughts are never entirely your own. Philosophers, writers, artists, even scientists, not only need encouragement and an audience, they need constant stimulation from other people. ... Take away freedom of speech, and the creative faculties dry up. (CEJL,III,133)

I take Orwell's claim that there is no such thing as inner freedom, no such thing as an "autonomous individual," to be the one made by historicists, including Marxist, critics of "liberal individualism." This is that there is nothing deep inside each of us, no common human nature, no built-in human solidarity, to use as a moral reference point. There is nothing to people except what has been socialized into them - their ability to use language, and thereby to exchange beliefs and desires with other people.

The fact that two and two does not make five is not the essence of the matter. What matters is that Winston has picked it as symbolic, and that O'Brien knows that. If there were a truth, belief in which would bereak Winston, making him believe that truth would be just as good for O'Brien's purposes.

O'Brien wants to cause Winston as much pain as possible, and for this purpose what matters is that Winston be forced to realize that he has become incoherent, realize that he is no longer able to use a language or be a self.

The Inner Party is not torturing Winston because it is afraid of a revolution, or because it is offended by the thought that someone might not love Big Brother. It is torturing Winston for the sake of causing Winston pain, and thereby increasing the pleasure of its members, particularly O'Brien.

Torture is not for the sake of getting people to obey, nor for the sake of getting them to believe falsehoods. As O'Brien says, "The object of torture is torture."

For a gifted and sensitive intellectual living in a posttotalitarian culture, this sentence is the analogue of "Art for art's sake" or "Truth for its own sake," for torture is now the only art form and the only intellectual discipline available to such a person. That sentence is the central sentence of 1984. But it is also the one which has been hardest for commentators to handle.

On my reading, Orwell's denial that there is such a thing as the autonomous individual is part of a larger denial that there is something outside of time or more basic than chance which can be counted on to block, or eventually reverse, such accidental sequences. So I read the passage from Winston's diary about the need to insist that two and two equals four not as Orwell's view about how to keep the O'Briens at bay but, rather, as a description of how to keep ourselves going when things get tight. We do so by talking to other people - trying to get reconfirmation of our own identities by articulating these in the presence of others. We hope that these others will say something to help us keep our web of beliefs and desires coherent.

In der linken (online) Zeitschrift Zmag von Znet gibt findet eine Behandlung des in den USA als "links" geltenden Autors, der sich selbst, korrekter, als liberalen Pragmatiker sieht: Michael Albert: Richard Rorty the Public Philosopher
Weitere Texte selbst dort selektieren.

Conversational Constraints: Richard Rorty and Contemporary Critical Theory
Prepared for the Midwinter Meeting of the English and American Literature Section, ACRL, January 1996; by Richard Fyffe, Humanities Bibliographer, University of Connecticut Libraries, Storrs

1999 hat der deutsche Filosof Peter Sloterdijk Richard Rorty und ein paar andere Filosofengenossen in einer Weise skizziert und abgetan, die lesenswert ist (in: Peter Sloterdijk: Die Verachtung der Massen. Versuch über Kulturkämpfe in der modernen Gesellschaft. Sonderdruck edition suhrkamp. Frankfurt, Suhrkamp 2000; nach einem Vortrag an der Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Künste in München, 01.07.99).

Sloterdijk behandelt die Fänomene "Verachtung", "Gleichheit" und Ungleichheit" und ihre sozialen und kulturellen Implikationen, ihre Historie und schält zwei notwendige Haltungen heraus in den gegenwärtigen "Umwertungskämpfen":

1)  "Verachtung der Eliten durch die neuen flexibilisierten Massen, die ihren way of life zum Maß aller Dinge machen und sich ihrer verachtenden Beobachter entledigen wollen";

2)   "Verachtung der Massen und ihres breiten Idioms durch die letzten Elitären, die ihre Ziele von der Masse verachtet wissen und ahnen, daß es mit dem, was ihnen am Herzen liegt, in der aufziehenden Massenkultur ein für alle mal vorbei ist".

Dies als Augsgangspunkt für seine urteilende Beobachtung:

    "Um die Wortführung für die erste Haltung, von welcher der populäre Angriff ausgeht, bemühen sich seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg unzählige Intellektuelle des linkshegelianischen und pragmatistischen Hauptstroms, der neuerdings von jungen Aristotelikern und religiösen Begegnungsethikern verstärkt wird. Besondere Erfolge erzielt zur Zeit auf diesem Feld der Philosoph Richard Rorty, der sich ohne Umschweife ins Lager der letzten Menschen stellt - vorausgesetzt daß diese Amerikaner sind - und ihre Kritiker von Kierkegaard und Nietzsche zu Heidegger, Adorno und Foucault unverblümt als anstrengende, unangenehme, heroische Snobs bezeichnet, obwohl er sie weiter in prominenter Position auf seiner Lektüreliste führt. Als Verächter von unten der Verächter von oben predigt der Liberale Rorty, den die Luft von Virginia zum Sozialdemokraten gemacht hat, eine neue Version des amerikanischen Traums - den aufrechten Gang in die Banalität und notfalls eine zweite Trennung von Europa."

Die anschliessende Fussnote lautet:

    "Rorty spricht von einer "asketischen Priesterkaste snobistischer Intellektueller", denen man das Bekenntnis zu der wenn auch banalen Utopie einer gerechteren Gesellschaft entgegenhalten müsse. Immerhin benutzt Rorty hier, auch wo er sich von Nietzsche abgrenzt, unverkennbar selbst Nietzsches Sprache. Dies unterscheidet ihn von dem globalen und erbitterten Antinietzscheanismus eines Habermas oder eines Luc Ferry; denn während der amerikanische Philosoph ohne Scheu zu Protokoll gibt, daß die menschliche Gattung nicht mehr viel bedeutete, wenn ihr die Fähigkeit verloren ginge, tanzende Sterne zu gebären, verfolgen diese Autoren eine Linie, die auf die Unterwerfung der Kunst durch die Moral, die unumschränkte Herrschaft des Argwohns und die Kontrolle des Denkens durch den Konsensus ausgeht. In Rortys liberalem Ansatz formuliert sich gleichsamn ein philosphisches Pendant zu der durch Thomas Mann bekannt gewordenen Forderung an den modernen Künstler, die Spannung zwischen den anarchisch-antisozialen Momenten des Künstlertums und dem Gebot der Selbsteinordnung in die demokratische Gemeinschaft auszuhalten. Il faut être absolument socialdémocrate. In diesem Punkt ist Rorty zuzustimmen. Zitate nach: Richard Rorty, Keine Zukunft ohne Träume, Süddeutsche Zeitung am Wochenende, 30./31.Januar 1999, S.1. Im übrigen illustriert der Autor die oben erwähnte Schwierigkeit im Umgang mit dem Ressentiment-Argument, indem er es kaltblütig auf Nietzsche selbst anwendet, mit der These, dieser habe sein Ressentiment gegen die Masse nicht überwunden."

    Eintrag in der Wikipedia:
    deutsch: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Rorty
    english: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Rorty

    Eintrag in der Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
    Richard Rorty
    First published Sat Feb 3, 2001; substantive revision Tue Jun 12, 2007

    Richard Rorty's Homepage at his University
    Richard Rorty, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and, by courtesy, of Philosophy at Stanford University

    Richard Rorty - eine Einführung
    132. Sitzung der Humboldt-Gesellschaft am 08.12.01 von Stefan Nehrkorn

    Gott legt die Knarre nieder
    Von Christian Geyer
    Rezension von "Die Zukunft der Religion" von Richard Rorty und Gianni Vattimo. Frankfurt, Suhrkamp 2006

    Richard Rorty: Wissen deutsche Politiker, wozu Universitäten da sind?
    FAZ, 31.8.2004

    Philosoph Richard Rorty: „Europa nutzt seine Macht nicht aus
    FAZ 15.4.2002

    Feind im Visier
    Von Richard Rorty
    Im Kampf gegen den Terror gefährden westliche Demokratien die Grundlagen ihrer Freiheit
    DIE ZEIT, 18.03.2004, Nr.13


    Wer sind wir?
    Richard Rorty ist tot
    Blog von Jörg Lau in der ZEIT, 10.6.07 (mit einigen Leserreaktionen)

    Bush-Gegner und amerikanischer Patriot
    Zum Tode des Philosophen Richard Rorty
    Von Klaus Englert, dradio.de, 11.6.07

    Misstrauen als erste Bürgerpflicht
    Von Christian Schlüter, Frankfurter Rundschau, 11.6.07

    Mitfühlender Liberalismus
    Der amerikanische Philosoph Richard Rorty ist gestorben
    Von Uwe Justus Wenzel, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 12.06.07

    Richard Rorty
    Philosophie gegen die Lachfeinde
    Zum Tod von Richard Rorty, dem großen Theoretiker von Kontingenz, Ironie und Solidarität.
    Von Manfred Geier, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 11.6.07

    Vom Grübeln zum Handeln
    Richard Rorty, liberaler Ironiker und der große Antiautoritäre unter den Philosophen, ist tot.
    Die Verwirklichung der menschlichen Freiheit verstand er als prinzipiell nie abschließbares Projekt
    von Dirk Knipphals, TAZ, 12.6