from time to time the question arises as to what, if anything, it means to be an 'american philosopher', or even whether i, personally, am an american philosopher. then i guess we'd have to define 'america', haha! rorty is pretty funny in the film, he's all like: forget it, it's uninteresting, whatever. that is the essence of rorty right there, and i say it's just because phil mcreynolds was kind of relentless on that question, and rorty habitually just tried to undercut or shrug off the underpinnings of any question. at another moment, he'd go all passionate about being an american, and so on, even while of course being 'anti-essentialist' about it.
anyway, i could say that first off, i feel extremely american. i could only happen here. i live in an andrew wyeth calendar, except that most of the residents are now mexicans: what's more american than that? i identify with many dimensions of american culture, and i'll tell you what, the blues and country and hip hop could have happened nowhere else, and in general the rest of the world does not understand popular music, which is my most important, say, cultural repository. american slangs, sub-cultures, television, sports, politics, and so on: i am so it, even if i'm repudiating little bits of it. i like some aspects of our mythology, and i'm still showing you clint eastwood movies, bugs bunny cartoons, and making you read self-reliance.
but also, i do feel a deep affinity to many figures in the american tradition, and i do see my work as continuous with theirs in some way or responsive to it. this is not only true of americans, and for example i have been grappling with kierkegaard and chuang tzu for decades. but i really do feel an intense affinity for figures in the american tradition, a kind of immediate recognition. i might mention jonathan edwards, the 1776 revolutionaries, lucretia mott, emerson, thoreau, william lloyd garrison, josiah warren, poe, james, emma goldman, mencken, marcus garvey, malcolm x, abbie hoffman, and w.v.o. quine, to begin with. i associate the american political tradition with individual rights and limitations on state power, notions i endorse. our central political concept, to my way of thinking, is liberty.
in a menckeny way, i sort of love/hate our culture, and though you can try to understand trump as a berlasconi or something, you only get him in america. i sort of love our hustlers, or even our charlatans, and sometimes it gets to be art, like say in zora neale hurston or notorious b.i.g. or glen beck. or shonda rhymes. we make quite a spectacle. i love many parts of our physical country, from the cities of baltimore and philadelphia to the rural deep south, where i've lived and explored. i'm telling you my connection to my place is felt continually; i work on it, fo real.
but that, like many commitments, is a selection from a smorgasbord. there are no positions one has to accept in order to be an american thinker or whatever. in particular, the notion that the pragmatic theory of truth is our central identity or something is eminently rejectable, and i do hold that it is a terrible theory. and i don't know that it's particularly great and amazing to be an american, as opposed to a kenyan or whatever, philosopher. and 'american' is an excruciatingly problematic concept or identity, which we can try to wrestle with if you want.
i am and am not 'proud' to be an american, and in a way i feel a sort of patriotic loyalty to my culture, or my roiling world of sub-cultures, but of course none to my government. the shining city on a hill etc is the worst sort of bullshit; we've been no better than average, and are even now a terrifyingly oppressive force with regard to much of the world and ourselves. we've built on death, pain, exploitation, like many cultures. ok? guess what, for better and worse, in resistance and in collusion and self-interest, all that is in me too.
by the same token, writing let's say as a white man in the middle of a powerful country, in a world-dominant language, lends a kind of effortless yet suspicious cosmopolitanism. it's easy to feel central, maybe especially for those of us who grew up in dc as the american empire grew to fruition and found limits too. we felt ourselves to be at the center, unlike many previous generations of americans who were characteristically anxious about american and hence their own provincialism. anyway, i/we speak - in philosophy and elsewhere - from a kind of privilege that is effortlessly pleasurable and useful but also a problem.