Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Richard Rorty Speaks

In the introduction to THE FUTURE OF RELIGION, editor Santiago Zabala, seeming to draw on Rorty ideas, writes: "Accepting the constitutively divided, unstable, and plural condition that belongs to our own Being, destined to difference, to impermanency, and to multiplicity, means being able to actively practice solidarity, charity, and irony. ...

" ... The man who withdraws his attention from the supernatural world and concentrates on this world and this time ('saeculum' means also 'this present time') exerts himself to realize the ideals of pluralism and tolerance and to prevent any particular vision of the world from imposing itself by means of the authority attributed to it."

In THE FUTURE OF RELIGION, Richard Rorty says:

"Ecclesiastical institutions, despite all the good they do -- despite all the comfort they provide to those in need or in despair -- are dangerous to the health of democratic societies. Whereas the philosophers who claim that atheism, unlike theism, is backed up by evidence would say that religious belief is irrational, contemporary secularists like myself are content to say that it is politically dangerous. On our view, religion is unobjectionable as long as it is privatized -- as long as ecclesiastical institutions do not attempt to rally the faithful behind political proposals and as long as believers and unbelievers agree to follow a policy of live and let live."

"My sense of the holy, insofar as I have one, is bounded up with the hope that someday, any millennium now, my remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which love is pretty much the only law. In such a society, communication would be domination-free, class and caste would be unknown, hierarchy would be a matter of temporary pragmatic convenience, and power would be entirely at the disposal of the free agreement of a literate and well-educated electorate."

"Cutting oneself off from the metaphysical Logos is pretty much the same thing as ceasing to look for power and instead being content with charity. The gradual movement within Christiantiy in recent centuries in the direction of the social ideals of the Enlightenment is a sign of the gradual weakening of the worship of God as power and its gradual replacement with the worship of God as love. ... I think that if the churches gave up the attempt to dictate sexual behavior they would lose a lot of their reason for existing. What keeps them around is this deep, Freudianly explainable desire for purity, ritual purity. There is something deep to appeal to there, and the churches are good at doing so. But once Christiantiy is reduced to the claim that love is the only law, the ideal of purity loses its importance."

"It seems to me that the idea of a dialogue with Islam is pointless. There was no dialogue between the philosophes and the Vatican in the eighteenth century, and there is not going to be one between the mullahs of the Islamic world and the democratic West. The Vatican in the eighteenth century had its own best interests in mind, and the mullahs have theirs. They no more want to be displaced from their positions of power than the Catholic hierarchy did (or does). With luck, the educated middle class of the Islamic countries will bring about an Islamic Enlightenment, but this enlightenmenet will not have anything much to do with a 'dialogue with Islam.'"

"I'm very pessimistic about the political future because I think that democracy only works if you spread the wealth around -- if you eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor.
This has actually been happening in certain small Northern European countries like Holland and Norway. It happened to a limited extent in the United States during the fifties and sixties. But everything changed in the United States around 1973, with the first oil crisis. Since then we have become a more divided and a more selfish country."
"I do not have any faith either in socialism or in capitalism. It seems to me that in the industrialized countries capitalism only became tolerable when the state's intervention created the welfare state and thereby brought the capitalists, to some extent, under democratic control. What we are seeing now is that, in the absence of a world government -- in the absence of a global authority that could put global capitalism in the service of democracy -- all the worst features of capitalism are reemerging. ...

" ... We should have had economic globalization until we had a bureaucratic structure to regulate global capitalism, in the way that some countries have been able to regulate it within their own borders. We have unfortunately been overtaken by events. I cannot attach any meaning to socialism anymore. I used to think I was a socialist, but now I do not know what a socialist economy would be like."

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