JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 335
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are not each Other for each other but all variants of the Same"-forms the
basis of an ethical imperative (Lingis 81). Rorty confirms, "We have to
start from where we are-that is part of the force of Sellars' claim that we
are under no obligations other than the 'we-intentions' of the communi-
ties with which we identify" (198). Since we have nothing that appeals to
us other than the common vocabulary of the present day, nothing can
command us in its alterity. Nothing then escapes being subsumed into the
present-same. In a gleeful tone, Rorty sanctions the teleos of this project:
What takes the curse off this ethnocentrism [the basis of our we-inten-
tions] is... the ethnocentrism of a"we" ("we liberals") which is dedicated
to enlarging itself, to creating an ever larger and more variegated
ethos. .... The view I am offering says that there is such a thing as moral
progress, and that this progress is indeed in the direction of greater human
solidarity.... It is thought of as the ability to see more and more traditional
differences (of tribe, religion, race, customs, and the like) as unimportant
when compared with [the] similarities .... (198, 192)
Because ethics is here established by the imperative to "see others as like
our selves," the other's otherness no longer commands or questions us in
its otherness. We are no longer caught or held hostage (obligated) by what
we do not understand; the ethical imperative is understood through our
similarities "and so appropriated by knowledge, and as it were freed of
its otherness" (Levinas, "Ethics" 74).
The danger of an ethical imperative that admits only the descriptive/
cognitive phrases of our kin, or of what we recognize/understand as
familiar, is, despite Rorty's tone, quite grave. Reconceptualizing our
obligation to an infinite (exterior) other serves-at least-as a corrective
to an ethics that "encloses us in our form of life or language games"
Throughout this article, I have been attempting to sketch the ethical
(philosophical) consequences of the apparently benign suggestion that
the writing and transmission of a traumatic event can be pedagogically
conducted as a means to repair and bind a community's commitment to
its moral tradition. Osiel's exemplary claim-which ultimately seeks "a
national narrative that can effectively foster discursive solidarity and
liberal memory"-consequently finds its philosophical legitimation/
basis in Gadamarian hermeneutics, and in Rorty's invocation of an ethics
that receives its imperative from the liberal "we" (Mass 283). My critique
of both Gadamer and Rorty-and thus of the claim that our annotations
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/81/: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .