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The Audacity to Mourn: Obama, Pragmatism, and the Agony of Progress

The Audacity to Mourn: Obama, Pragmatism, and the Agony of Progress Contemporary Pragmatism Vol. 8, No. 2 (December 2011), 43­55 Editions Rodopi © 2011 I suggest that some of the weaknesses and limitations within President Obama's political vision reflect problems and blindspots within certain strands of American pragmatism. Obama's strong commitment to the language of hope and change accords with a tendency within pragmatism, exhibited powerfully by the late Richard Rorty, to exalt futurity, novelty, and possibility and downplay the political significance of memory and mourning. Although Obama acknowledges the importance of remembering past injustices, this memory is ultimately subordinated to his optimistic vision of a more perfect, unified America. American pragmatism, we are usually told, is motivated by a democratic faith in the desires, ideas, and problem-solving capacities of ordinary people. The differences between the concerns and aims of pragmatists like John Dewey and William James and those of their philosophical counterparts in Europe are partially illumined by considering America's historical/political break from Europe. In other words, the pragmatic endeavor to redirect our attention from the origins to the consequences of our ideas and thoughts is related to America's attempt to liberate itself from an oppressive, tyrannical past and open itself up to the infinite possibilities of the http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Contemporary Pragmatism Brill

The Audacity to Mourn: Obama, Pragmatism, and the Agony of Progress

Contemporary Pragmatism , Volume 8 (2): 43 – Apr 21, 2011

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© Copyright 2011 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1572-3429
eISSN
1875-8185
DOI
10.1163/18758185-90000200
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Contemporary Pragmatism Vol. 8, No. 2 (December 2011), 43­55 Editions Rodopi © 2011 I suggest that some of the weaknesses and limitations within President Obama's political vision reflect problems and blindspots within certain strands of American pragmatism. Obama's strong commitment to the language of hope and change accords with a tendency within pragmatism, exhibited powerfully by the late Richard Rorty, to exalt futurity, novelty, and possibility and downplay the political significance of memory and mourning. Although Obama acknowledges the importance of remembering past injustices, this memory is ultimately subordinated to his optimistic vision of a more perfect, unified America. American pragmatism, we are usually told, is motivated by a democratic faith in the desires, ideas, and problem-solving capacities of ordinary people. The differences between the concerns and aims of pragmatists like John Dewey and William James and those of their philosophical counterparts in Europe are partially illumined by considering America's historical/political break from Europe. In other words, the pragmatic endeavor to redirect our attention from the origins to the consequences of our ideas and thoughts is related to America's attempt to liberate itself from an oppressive, tyrannical past and open itself up to the infinite possibilities of the

Journal

Contemporary PragmatismBrill

Published: Apr 21, 2011

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