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On Richard Rorty’s Shadow of Pragmatic Hope

[By Jerry W. Ward]

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.