Chance Demands of the Day

Gideon Lewis-Kraus on Neil Gross’ Richard Rorty: The Making of An American Philosopher at n + 1:

Richard Rorty’s favorite sentence in all of Freud was from the book on Leonardo da Vinci. “If one considers chance unworthy of determining our fate,” Freud wrote, “it is simply a relapse into the pious view of the universe which Leonardo himself was on the way to overcoming when he wrote that the sun does not move.” On Rorty’s account, this “pious view of the universe” reflected a desire to see man as what Aristotle called a natural kind, something that “divides into a central essence—one that provides a built-in purpose—and a set of peripheral accidents.” To Aristotle, that central essence was the locus of human dignity; the peripheral accidents were matters of unworthy chance. Rorty spent much of his career explaining why we might all be better off if we gave up the attempt to uncover such built-in purposes, and instead located human dignity in the ability to invent novel ones. Such a view would encourage us to narrate our lives in terms of how we’ve adapted and enlarged ourselves to meet the chance demands of the day.

Read the whole thing here


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