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Paul Grobstein's picture

wobbly "unwobbling pivots"

There's a big difference between arguing against "the existence of 'unwobbling pivots'" and arguing against "the search for the ultimate 'unwobbling pivot'". Rorty did indeed set out to "change philosophy", precisely (and not too successfully) by arguing that it should stop searching for ultimate unwobbling pivots. To put it differently, he had an objective behind his work but that objective was to free both himself and others from the constraints and problems of believing there are ultimate unwobbling pivots to be found. He didn't advocate not having objectives, but did believe (as I do) that one's objectives at any given time are themselves subject to challenge and alteration (see Writing Descartes).

I also don't think its quite fair to Rorty to accuse him of defending a "if you like something, just do it" posture. Rorty was deeply committed to social justice and social change (much more than most philosophers). At the same time, he recognized what we all recognize but are perhaps less inclined to say out loud: different people have different degrees of commitment to different things, and there is no way to get them all to agree.

There is indeed something "saddening" about that as the bottom line. And it may in fact have been so for Rorty (see Thinking Cheerfully). For me though its a valuable take off point and a good deal more positive. Yes, the "idea of story telling and story sharing inherently produces change and acknowledges [even celebrates] what people have to share", which is, of course, precisely their differences (see Diversity and Deviance: A Biological Perspective). What's appealing to me about this (and I like to think Rorty would have agreed) is that it frees people to be different from one another AND provides them with a rationale for both being so and for continual exploration/revision, both individually and collectively.

Is that MY "unwobbling pivot", one that I think everyone should ultimately share? No and no. Its the best story I know at the moment and am pleased when others find it useful in their own lives, but it is (for me at least) inevitably wobbly. I'm expecting you (and others) to come up with better ones.


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