The Philosopher Who Would Not Be King

Michael Jackson

in Between One and One Another

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780520272330
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520951914 | DOI:
The Philosopher Who Would Not Be King

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This chapter presents the author's thoughts on Richard Rorty and his philosophy. He also considers the life story of Lillian, a “soothsayer” (sastra karaya) able to work with demonic forces in ways that enable her to dispense medical and spiritual advice to clients. The story brings into dramatic relief the complexity of the struggle to exist in a world sundered by sectarian violence, class conflict, and oppressive political power. It also calls into question the appropriateness of labeling Lillian's choices as real or illusory, or asking whether it is better to struggle against injustice than devote oneself to “private projects of self creation.” There are no algorithms for answering such questions. We can neither know for certain whether a Marxist analysis of social injustices in Sri Lanka would be helpful or harmful, nor know for sure whether our understanding of Lillian reflects our own Western dismay at unnecessary human suffering. For Rorty it is enough to describe and testify to the lives of others, as far as we can, on the grounds of our human solidarity with them.

Keywords: Richard Rorty; philosophers; Lillian; soothsayers; human solidarity; social injustice

Chapter.  4992 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology of Religion

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