The shape of selves to come: Rorty and self-creation

Philosophy and Social Criticism 22 (3):39-74 (1996)
Abstract
Through a critique of Richard Rorty, I develop a program of self-creation. While Rorty rightly encourages ironic and poetic redescriptions, his feel for this work is disembodied and context-blind. In contrast, I propose an institutionally situated and full-bodied creative exercise which contextually reworks central tropes. Rorty's position is also overly privatized. This hinders 'public' discourse and imprisons marginalized persons within institutionalized identities. Self-creation should not be a solely 'private' affair. Rorty's public/ private distinction has some merit, however. We should, on the whole, primarily treat self-creation as a 'private' endeavor. The end of self-creation should not be legislation. Instead, we should dethrone disempowering identities and reconstruct new ones beyond the reach of policy debates. If we do so, we will proceed with greater sophistication, stability and radicality than would otherwise be the case. This in turn will produce richer selves and offer novel resources to works of 'public' reconstruction. Key Words: community • Dewey • identity • Rorty • self-creation.
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