From ‘Signs of the times: Rorty and Girard’, by Andrew McKenna

Opnamedatum: 2010-04-22

Rorty’s “panrelationalism” issues not only from his acute sense of linguistic mediation, but also from the capaciously researched observation, in philosophy and the natural and social sciences, that “there is nothing to be known about anything save its relations to other things” (Philosophy 54). What holds for things holds no less for people, which is doubtless why he views the self, after Freud, Quine and Davidson, as a “centerless web of beliefs and desires” (Essays 1), as “a centerless bundle of contingencies, of the sort which both Foucault and Dewey shared with Nietzsche” (Essays 197). Such homely terms as bundles and webs seem hardly the stuff of a rigorously coherent anthropology, for which Rorty could conceive no need anyway, since what we gather from Freud’s legacy is “the increased ability of the syncretic, ironic, nominalist intellectual to move back and forth between, for example, religious, moral, scientific, literary, philosophical, and psychoanalytical vocabularies without asking the question ‘And which of these shows us how things really are?,'” without asking either “‘Which is my true self,’ or ‘What is human nature?'” (Essays 158).


All this changes if we conceive of the bundles and webs mimetically and interactionally; if we acknowledge, as I think Rorty must, that our beliefs and desires must come from somewhere, and if not from some egologically centered self or the Mind of God, then from others, and from those around us more likely than from those in our remoter past, from our parents and neighbors rather than from Plato or Pascal. What contingency means in human relations, at least, is proximity, involving us inextricably with the doings of other human subjects who happen to be within reach of our attention, acts and utterances–intersubjectivity in a word. It is in just this sense that, in Je vois Satan, Girard states that we need to substitute “mimetisme itself” for the “human subject, which “does not grasp the circular process in which it is caught up” (112). In our “self/other-centeredness,” we are inextricably in-between self and other; our mode of being, or non-being, our non-entity, in sum, our essential eccentricity or relationality, is constituted by mimetic desire which binds our identity to desires, beliefs, and actions that others model for us.


[full text]

From ‘Signs of the times: Rorty and Girard’, by Andrew McKenna

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