Critical Environments: Postmodern Theory and the Pragmatics by Cary Wolfe

By Cary Wolfe

Designated in its collation of significant theorists infrequently thought of jointly, severe Environments accommodates precise discussions of the paintings of Richard Rorty, Walter Benn Michaels, Stanley Cavell, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Niklas Luhmann, Donna Haraway, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Fredric Jameson, and others, and levels throughout fields from feminist philosophy of technology to the speculation of ideology. supplying American readers a accomplished creation to platforms concept and responding to the frequent cost of relativism leveled opposed to it, Wolfe’s paintings will increase and encourage new sorts of serious idea.

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Rorty’s response to this commitment in Cavell is instructive enough and funny enough to be worth quoting: “What Cavell wants us not to miss is, to be sure, as important as he thinks it. But does he have to drag us back through Berkeley and Descartes to get us to see it? . ” (177). What is submerged in these lines will come fully to the surface later in the essay, where Rorty argues that there are two senses of Cavellian skepticism: one that Rorty is happy to acknowledge is “as important as he thinks it,” the other — which Cavell sees as tied directly to this first — that Rorty thinks is independent and “academic” in the worst sense.

24 For West, the essence of Jamesian pragmatism is its revisability; its first principle, in West’s words, is that “the universe is incomplete, the world is still ‘in the making’ owing to the impact of human powers on the universe and the world” (65). For West as for Lentricchia, Jamesian pragmatism insists on the gap between concept construction on specific discursive sites and concept circulation in a broader set of contexts, and it is in that gap that the possibility of the social and the historical resides.

Michaels’s version of the paradox goes like this: if you are free enough from assumptions and beliefs to make a choice that is truly a free choice, then you are by that same logic unable to make any choice at all because you will have no criteria on which to base that choice. ”6 And “the naturalist logic,” it turns out, is the same logic that constitutes the economic totality called “the market,” which, in its all-constituting power, resists all attempts to ameliorate or temper it. In fact (as practiced readers of New Historicism will have already guessed), Michaels suggests that such attempts only serve to siphon off or neutralize potentially explosive (perhaps even revolutionary) desire and discontent, thereby further reinforcing the dominance of the market and extending its logic even more insidiously into incompletely colonized enclaves of social life.

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