Critical Environments: Postmodern Theory and the Pragmatics by Cary Wolfe

By Cary Wolfe

Targeted in its collation of significant theorists not often thought of jointly, serious Environments accommodates distinctive discussions of the paintings of Richard Rorty, Walter Benn Michaels, Stanley Cavell, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Niklas Luhmann, Donna Haraway, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Fredric Jameson, and others, and levels throughout fields from feminist philosophy of technological know-how to the speculation of ideology. delivering American readers a complete creation to structures concept and responding to the frequent cost of relativism leveled opposed to it, Wolfe’s paintings will improve and encourage new types of serious suggestion.

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What is submerged in these lines will come fully to the surface later in the essay, where Rorty argues that there are two senses of Cavellian skepticism: one that Rorty is happy to acknowledge is “as important as he thinks it,” the other — which Cavell sees as tied directly to this first — that Rorty thinks is independent and “academic” in the worst sense. The first sort of skepticism, the profound sort, has “a wish,” as Cavell puts it, “for the connection between my claims of knowledge and the objects upon which the claims are to fall to occur without my intervention, apart from my agreements.

James’s gamble is that he is too much within the dominant discourse of the liberal subject, but his payoff is to unleash that discourse’s radically democratic tendencies against the private property side of liberalism that threatens always to recontain them. ” This is the Nietzsche who holds, as Rorty puts it, “that the philosophical tradition which stems from Plato is an attempt to avoid facing up to contingency, to escape from time and chance,” the Nietzsche whose account of truth (in “Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense”) Rorty quotes approvingly: “a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms — in short a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people” (quoted in Rorty, ORT 32).

24 For West, the essence of Jamesian pragmatism is its revisability; its first principle, in West’s words, is that “the universe is incomplete, the world is still ‘in the making’ owing to the impact of human powers on the universe and the world” (65). For West as for Lentricchia, Jamesian pragmatism insists on the gap between concept construction on specific discursive sites and concept circulation in a broader set of contexts, and it is in that gap that the possibility of the social and the historical resides.

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