On Richard Rorty’s Shadow of Pragmatic Hope
Kevin Young promotes the idea of the lost shadow book in The Grey Album. “In some crucial ways,” according to Young, “the lost shadow book is the book that blackness writes every day. The book that memory, time, accident, and the active forms of oppression prevent from being read”(14). Young, of course, is lying like a first-class philosopher as he recycles the governing idea in Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo: Jes Grew must seek its text.
Sometimes the lost shadow is oral, as was the brilliant public conversation between Max Roach and John Scott at a Zora Neale Hurston Festival. The conversation was not taped. It can’t be heard. It is a shadow of memory in the minds of those who were there, who listened in awe. To be sure, those fragile shadows are hastened to oblivion by the brighter shadows of emerging technologies.
Swerve to digression, to Richard Rorty’s Philosophy and Social Hope (1999). Social hope is a long blue shadow in blackness. It grows equally well on native or alien soil. One of the better shadows in Rorty’s book is his occasional paper “The Humanistic Intellectual: Eleven Theses” (127-130). It is true grist for those who wear the garments of translucent blackness. Especially thesis 11.
Determined that postmodern whatever should not stymie his thinking, Rorty was most black in lying his way toward a truth. Attend to his anti-Platonic signifying:
If you don’t like the ideological weather in the local English department these days, wait a generation. Watch what happens to the Nietzscheanized left when it tries to replace itself, around about the year 2010. I’m willing to bet that the brightest new Ph.D.s in English that year will be people who never want to hear the terms “binary opposition” or “hegemonic discourse” again as long as they live”(130).
Rorty’s social hope is germane in discussions of African American literature and culture, because the terms “post-colonial” and “post-human” are already “post-old.” By 2023, new Ph.D.s in Cultural Engineering will be waiting in electronic social hope for the expiration date of “theoretical enslavement.” Philosophy has so many blueblack beautiful lies.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
September 29, 2012