On the Tired Platitudes of Philosophical Apologia

[….] I make no apologies. I’m here because I’m mad for the phrase; for an orgasmic panorama of ink and vellum in textual montage–pleasures shared among curators, archivists, and bibliophiles; a lust for the rare; and a mad-love fire for the intoxication of intertextual play.

J. Lucas II.


§I. How an Ironist Becomes an Aesthetarchon

My POV begins somewhere subsequent to Rorty’s liberal ironism–a self-inaugurating moment of ‘philosopher-as-critic’—which afforded him the wherewithal to subsume a portion of Derrida’s later work under the guise of something he liked to call “private ironism” e.g., with books such as, “Postcard,” “Glas,” etc. These ironists, Proust and Nabokov especially fit this category, turned away from Platonism and classical metaphysics by way of refusing any dialectical stage that would loop back to the Hegelian-like-helix: thesis, antithesis, synthesis: that is, rather than making the same mistakes later Nietzsche, later Heidegger, and early Wittgenstein had, private ironists simply took up their own projects, creating evermore interesting vocabularies–that didn’t so much resolve the older aporias or familiar binary-camp arguments…but such new language-games seemed to obsolesce the old questions, altogether, via supplementing newer and more innovative ways of talking that spawned a whole taxa of different questions. Rather than relapse into The Speculative Turn (our current cultural milieu), Metaphysics, the Absolute, etc., this line of reasoning postulates that there is a time to stop doing traditional philosophy. Here’s where the distinction between Philosophy and Literature, Sophism and Philosophy, for example, ceases to be of any use. However, private projects were never enough for Rorty, and a large part of his concern resided in a democratic liberal utopianism that centered on contingency. He could never allow Nabokovians, or proud aesthetes, to leave Ethics well enough alone, despite his attempt to obsolesce the moral dichotomy between works we label “Public” (socio-political themes and symbols) and those we label “Private” (pursued for enjoyment or self-development). Rorty’s liberalism requires an almost-Nietzschean bias toward self-creation, insofar as Democratic societies thrive from, not merely a K-12 informed citizenry, but a vast amount of experience outside one’s acquisition of local values and native language. Pedagogically, this end makes the inference that there is no separation between personal development and human solidarity – which renders the binary labels untenable, e.g., “private works,” whether one reads them for pure enjoyment or not, opens our POV to Others; consequently, we become more cosmopolitan and therefore more inclined to a political conscience that sees “cruelty as the greatest possible offense,” and human solidarity – our greatest ideal. However, by the last chapter of his most infamous work, “Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity,” my suspicions take hold. See, here’s what happened behind the scenes (if I may infer after years of studying Rorty’s work): If one favors post-Kantian philosophies of “contingency” and/or favors works written by risqué “ironists,” it becomes all-too-easy to see the formulaic potential in connecting the former concepts to “solidarity,” and thus, establishing an ironist Ethics to resolve one’s leftist politics. Certainly, one imagines, it could only be with the fervor of political dogmatism that Rorty would commit the same metaphysical relapse his body of work is geared to illuminate, e.g., Heidegger, after Sein und Zeit, and Wittgenstein prior to the Investigations. My contention is that Rorty is inadvertently tempted back to systematic philosophy, rather than continuing the path of his own heroes in the same edifying-hermeneutic approach he relentlessly praises. And, this is also where Rorty and I part ways: by the end of such a tremendous work, I feel disappointed with having made any sort of prescriptive Ethics from Nabokovian/Nietzschean perspectives, no matter how inclusive liberalism presumes its structural underpinnings to be. The post-Derridean issue of contingency is the climate Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Brassier, Latour, and Garcia are now exploiting (or rather, Absolutizing in a pro-Metaphysical gang under the acronym SR/M) — and to immense commercial success. My position, on the contrary, involves importing more of Nietzsche’s notions of “self-creation” and “giving style to one’s character,” and “aesthetic redemption through singular taste,” where Rorty had emphasized liberal utopian Democracy, i.e., “Liberal Ironism.” For me, even his cosmopolitan “solidarity” is inescapably teleological, i.e., the amenability of democratic institutions only secures an “Ethics” or a “Politics” iff it is demonstrated, via metaphysical self-coronation, to be the ultimate, meta-comparative “best for ALL.” And for Rorty, recall, there are no “final vocabularies” or “hidden secrets” the ironist can hope to find.

[…] there are only little mortal things to be rearranged by being re-described.”

Richard Rorty (CIS, 99)

For my part, I refuse to give “ironism” a genuine substantive “-ism,” e.g., this notion remains consistent only in the event that it refer to a unique object for every utterance-act: the (or indefinite article) ironist. Undoubtedly then, I am weary of today’s philosophico-commercial band-wagon: Speculative Realism/Materialism; Flat Ontology; Object-Oriented-Ontology, and so on. Rather than re-enter ontology via a newly-wrapped first-science, i.e., (post-) cantororian set theory, I opt for a kind of neo-perspectivism and aestheticism (what I believe to be an extension of Nietzsche’s canon that exceeds even Nehamas’ Proustian exegeses) that places “pedagogy” in front of “Truth”: the notion of a capital-w “World” (capable of deciding, independent of humans, the truth-value of sentences purporting to refer to ‘the “World’” as a criterion-specific epistemology; thus, you might say, I’m a ‘P-P-Post-Modernist’; writing my own story that I’ve titled, “Archive Humanitas: from ironist to aesthetarchon,” by way of piracy, anti-apologetic aesthetic appropriation, and palimpsest. Its ends and means are wholly divergent from the reign of New Speculativism and O-O-OHarman-brand philosophy. What I’m after is nuance, idiosyncrasy, and a a turn of phrase altogether different from the history of ‘obvious Western platitudes.’ …If Marxists and Frankfurt Cultural-Theorists think that’s immoral (e.g., a self-indulgent illusion resulting in capitalist complicity)—then, “don’t bother me–I’m sleeping!” Mediocrity is worse than falsity (a maxim preserved from Bloom’s analysis of the great poets and Rorty’s Neo-Pragmatism). The standardization of some novelty (lifted from abnormal science and leveled to mass-acceptance (i.e., normal science)), is the forgotten-procedure which always-already advances our moral currency. Truth, simply is…a moral concept. There is no final vocabulary of Being, Reality, or Goodness; there is innovation and there is the influence of one’s predecessors to worry about. My pursuits are non-epistemic, but unwaveringly tenacious in attempting the employment of new means, methods, and vocabularies conducive for optimum play. This is a manifesto against liberal apologia! …. I make no apologies. I’m here because I’m mad for the phrase; for an orgasmic panorama of ink and vellum in textual montage–pleasures shared among curators, archivists, and bibliophiles; a lust for the rare; and a mad-love fire for the intoxication of intertextual play.