Marshall Feldman MARSH at
Thu Jan 26 00:45:31 MST 1995

>Re: foundationalism
>From: Justin Schwartz <jschwart at>

>My interest in the matter, aside from whatever made me go into philosophy
>in the first place, is mainly in this point: the fashionable antirealism
>associated with postmodernism seems to me (a) to be based on fundamental
>confusions, like that I have been insisting on about foundationaliksm, but
>(b) more importantly to deny that we can either interpret the world OR
>change it; the AR says there is no world to interpret, and the
>attack--logically distinct from AR, I think but am not sure--on
>"totalitizing metanarratives," "essentialism," and the like, says that we
>cannot change it. (Actually, put that way I am not sure that these two
>views are independent.)

I don't think they are.  The denial of "metanarratives", it seems to me,
is based on the notion that what the metanarratives refer to are simply
figments; parts of our language games.  Things like the proletariat don't
exist in reality (outside our language) and therefore they can have no
causal efficacy.  Part of the confusion, I think (and to further muddy the
waters) is that the pomo anti-metanarrativist CAN be realist, i.e. realist
about the observable entities we encounter in the world, while denying that
anything "deeper" really exists.  Thus, Donald Trump and Roger Smith are
real, but the bourgeoisie is not.  In fact, I'd argue that realism is
unavoidable in discourse about anyTHING; Rorty and the other anti-realists
SEEM to avoid realism by talking about philosophy only.  The crucial
question for me is not between realism and something else, but rather between
commonsense realism and a more deeply "layered" one along the lines of Marx's
surface appearance/underlying reality or Bhaskar's structured reality.

Incidently, one thing missing from this debate so far is the implicit
empiricism in contemporary anti-realism.  See Novack's _Marxism vs Pragmatism_
on this point and the class nature of pragmatism (which includes Rorty
and this ilk).

This of course is comfortable to believe in
>certain parts of New Haven, but not others. Insofar as this is pernicious,
>demobilizing, _and_ false, it should be ruthlessly critiqued. Though not
>at the expense of doing positive theoretical and practical work to promote
>the interests of the people in New Haven (and elsewhere) whose
>self-emancipation promotes human emancipation. I don't mean the folks in
>the Yale literature departments either.
>Oh boy, I just exposed myself as a real dinosaur, didn't I?

Nah.  Didn't Samuelson say, "we're all dinosaurs now"?

Or was it Daniel Bell?

Marsh Feldman
Community Planning                      Phone: 401/792-2248
204 Rodman Hall                           FAX: 401/792-4395
University of Rhode Island           Internet: marsh at
Kingston, RI 02881-0815

"Marginality confers legitimacy on one's contrariness."


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