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:: Habermas' memorial lecture for Rorty (04-11-2007 22:15)
Jürgen Habermas held a memorial lecture for the American philosopher Richard Rorty at Stanford University on November 2, 2007.

The lecture had the title “And to Define America, Her Athletic Democracy...' Richard Rorty, Philosopher and Language-Shaper”.

The address can be found on the website of “Telos”
Online: www.telospress.com/main/index.php?main_page=news_article&article_id=204

An extract from the lecture:

”Richard Rorty had in mind nothing less than to foster a culture that liberated itself from what he saw as the conceptual obsessions of Greek philosophy — and a fetishism of science that sprouted from the furrows of that metaphysics. What he understood "metaphysics" to mean and what he criticized about it can be best seen if we bear in mind what this critique was borne of: "Philosophers became preoccupied with images of the future only after they gave up the hope of gaining knowledge of the eternal." Platonism keeps its gaze fixed on the immutable ideas of the good and the true and spawns a web of categorical distinctions in which the creative energies of a self-generating human species ossify. Rorty does not construe the priority of essence over appearance, of the universal over the particular, of necessity over contingency or of nature over history as a purely theoretical matter. Because this is a matter of structuring ways of life, he seeks to train his contemporaries in a vocabulary that articulates a different view of the world and of ourselves.

A second, radical boost of the Enlightenment, so Rorty's hope, would rejuvenate the authentic motifs of a shattered Modernity. Modernity must scoop all normativity from within itself. There is no longer any authority or foundation beyond the opaque ebb and flow of contingencies. No one is able to exit from her local context without finding herself in a different one. At the same time, the human condition is characterized by the fact that the sober recognition of the finitude and corruptibility of human beings — the recognition of the fallibility of the mind, the vulnerability of the body, and the fragility of social bonds — can and should become the motor driving the creativity of a restless self-transformation of society and culture. Against this backdrop, we must, so Rorty, learn to see ourselves as the sons and daughters of a self-confident Modernity, if in our politically, economically, and socially torn global society Walt Whitman's belief in a better future is to have a chance at all. The democratic voice of hope for a brotherly and inclusive form of social life must not fall silent.

The moving songs of the public intellectual Richard Rorty — his interviews and lectures, his exoteric doctrines of "contingency, irony, and solidarity," the treatises that were disseminated worldwide — they are all infused with the peculiarly romantic and very personal triple voice of meta-philosophy, neo-pragmatism, and leftist patriotism. For this life and work, I can think of no more fitting an epitaph than an inscription by Walt Whitman dating from 1871. Under the heading of To Foreign Lands, these are words that Dick might have also directed to his European friends:

I heard that you ask'd for something to prove this puzzle in the New World,
And to define America, her athletic Democracy,
Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them what you wanted.”
Thomas Gregersen