From: "Nathan Goralnik" <rhizome85@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2001 20:06:14 -0700
> Footnoting critical theory does not make one critical. Recognizing that
> theory can be a toolbox does not mean that one uses the tools.
> It also ignores that hammers can both build houses and smash skulls.
Ahhh Asher I'm not as asinine as all that :) Ok, you've read Spanos, right?
For those of you who haven't, Spanos's general project is to rescue
Heidegger's philosophy from the Nazism scandal. He does this in a few ways,
but one of the ways in which he does this by treating Heidegger's philosophy
as a toolbox and showing how Heidegger's critical tools could actually be
used to criticize Nazism. However, he doesn't afford liberal politics the
same treatment. When he critiques liberal politics (and in doing so tries to
show that liberal humanism isn't all that better than Nazi humanism), he
lumps the history of Western thought into Heidegger's notion of one grand
"ontotheological tradition," and he basically argues that because liberal
humanism privileges a teleological Universal (American) History, that
liberal values *logically entailed* the US's involvement in Vietnam.
The reason I bring this up is that Spanos's work is diametrically opposed to
that of Rorty (at least on the latter point). Rorty, like Spanos, treats
Heidegger's thought like a toolbox, but, unlike Spanos, he affords similar
treatment to "the ontotheological tradition." This enables him to evade many
of the main thrusts of Continental critiques of "Western modes of thinking"
because he is able to show how, for example, the distinction between hard
power and soft power allows the discourse of liberal humanism to avoid
necessarily justifying bloody conflict. Spanos is blind to this.
So what does this mean? This means that Rorty may be right in saying that
modernity is equipped with enough tools to maintain its dominance over the
public sphere. If you think that perhaps it is postmodernism that has led
Rorty to make these claims (in other words, if his political thinking is
decidedly post- of modern, so he is wrong in saying that *modernity* has the
right tools) well that means that, yeah, postmodern critique may in fact be
helpful (since it fixed up Rorty's politics). But that also means that
Rorty's politics, at least, aren't so bad.