Re: Rorty

Still, Rorty's reading of Foucault avers that Foucault thought there was
something "deep" and "essential" about human beings that is "undone" or
"distorted" by the normativizing forces of society; that Foucault believed
people could "emancipate" themselves from this type of normativizing force by
first recognizing the ways in which these forces create categories,
conventions, etc., and secondly by a type of re-description of oneself and
others. I think Rorty has it wrong about Foucault believing that there is
something "deep" or "essential" about human being -- The Order of Things was
an attempt to show that this figure is a recent construct of specific
sciences and disciplines -- but he concurs with Foucault, quite ironically,
about the possibility of redescription. Thus, when Rorty takes Foucault to
task for having conflated his public desire for revolution with his private
desire for reinventing himself, the question should be asked of Rorty: what
good does it do to simply redescribe things if it never achieves any public
"force." Rorty -- esp. the Rorty of _Contingency_ -- thinks we ought to keep
the two spheres quite distinct: Heidegger was a great philosopher, but he
just happened to be a nasty piece of work as a human being. Foucault was
interested, esp. in a piece like "What is Enlightenment?" in how a personal
description can become a public category or instrument, and how public
(institutionalized) discourse can be made once again the very personal medium
of political action.

Rorty's views are explained best in his article "Moral Identity and Private
Autonomy" in _Michel Foucault. Philosopher_ (New York: Routledge, 1992),

Rob Leventhal


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