By Richard M. Rorty, Kent Puckett
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Extra resources for Against Bosses, Against Oligarchies: A Conversation with Richard Rorty
Q: What is your position at Stanford going to be? RR: Professor of Comparative Literature. When it comes to finding jobs, I have been always dependent on the kindness of professors of literature. In this case, the equivalent of Don Hirsch was Sepp Gumbrecht. When I was at Stanford in 1996-7, he invited me to come to his philosophy discussion group. Like all German scholars, he thinks American graduate students don’t know enough about philosophy. ) He’s in comparative literature, so the job he cooked up for me is as professor of comparative literature.
On the other hand, take someone like Whitman, whom you discuss in Achieving Our Country: Whitman’s will toward self-creation involved other people, affected other people, and you acknowledge that it had its influence finally. What do you say to the person whose sense of poetic self-creation requires other people and the opportunity for public transformation? RR: I would tell her to go into politics. I didn’t say everybody had a public/private split, but some people do. There is a spectrum here.
But what I wanted to say was: take yourself with some lightness. Be aware of yourself as at the mercy of the contingencies of your upbringing and your culture and your environment. I thought of it myself as offering advice rather than insults. My liberal ironist doesn’t go around being ironic to everybody she meets. She saves the irony for herself. The liberal part is public and the irony part is private. 64 Q: But regarding this suggested split, Simon Critchly asks: “how can one be a Nietzschean ironist in the private sphere, which would mean understanding liberal principles of tolerance and abhorrence of cruelty as symptoms of ressentiment, and a liberal in the public sphere, where one would respect and act on those principles?