Prophetic Pragmatism: Cultural Criticism and Political Engagement John Rajchman and Cornel West (New York: Columbia University Press, ), pp. 3 – Feminist Prophetic Pragmatism. MAURICE HAMINGTON. Metropolitan State College of Denver. Cornel West, one of the most well-known and recognizable. PDF | This essay explores the Foucauldian influence on Cornel West’s prophetic pragmatism. Although West argues that Foucauldian methods are insufficient to.

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Prophetic pragmatism: cultural criticism and political engagement

Johnson argues that the philosophy of Cornel West, prophetic pragmatism, has an ethical basis of secular humanism. In doing so, they tended to portray blacks as homogenous and racism as having a ubiquitous deleterious effect.

These intellectuals, prophefic to West, did what the white male power elite did – universalize their own experiences and definitions of a positive image.

They thereby too often treated black folk-culture as primitive or the black poor as lacking virtues while promoting images of the middle class as salutary. The antiracism of the Renaissance authors was directed at the nearly absolute presentation of blacks as non-humans; prophetkc goal was to establish a classification of blacks as humans.

But the converse is not true.

Unique individual humans are that if and only if they are human. In support of Johnson, take coornel following into consideration: Blacks did not own companies producing ink or printing presses, let alone significant nationally circulated publications that could have been circulated without dependency on white-owned forms of transportation.


Cornel West, Prophetic pragmatism: cultural criticism and political engagement – PhilPapers

If middle-class images were the ones to which the black poor considered representative of dignity, and the white infrastructure of publishing companies could be used to promote such images even while those same infrastructures were promoting images of the black as inferior, Johnson does not find such a use condemnable.

There is clear evidence that West is a humanist. His views are anti-establishment in the sense that he warns us against the loss of individual freedom in the face of corporate greed. An optimistic outlook, namely, that there is hope human life will improve, is characteristic of both classical humanists and West. And West is a strong advocate for rendering our ethical judgments to rational debate.

They can use naturalist explanations of prophetkc, for example, evolutionary accounts of the development of species or material-determinists accounts of motivation, to help explain social events. A prophetic pragmatist cannot, however, believe that human teleology is defined by the survival of the fittest, classlessness or the dialectic of consciousness resulting in absolute consciousness. In addition, a prophetic pragmatist cannot be an atheist or agnostic. Each considered the Negro as either an inferior human being or, like Locke, a non-human animal just below true humans and just above pragmwtism beasts.

“Prophetic Pragmatism and the Practices of Freedom: On Cornel West’s Fo” by Brad E. Stone

These philosophers were anthropocentric and provided a hierarchy of types of humans. Classical pragmatism, and especially the pragmatism of Alain Locke, the most noted pragmatist working on race during the Harlem Renaissance, is suspicious of all grand narratives – including liberal-Christian grand narratives that presaged a liberal future based on deeply Christian values such as salvation through a personal savior.


Humanist must believe, whatever else they believe, that humans are natural beings and thereby due goods associated with their species, for example, dignity, the use of reason, sex, nourishing food, etc. One important way that humanists differ is that pragmatisk are naturalists -believing that propheetic property of persons is continuous with or explainable by properties, terms, meanings, and facts offered by natural science and thereby subject to the regime of pfophetic and reasonable speculation.

Religionists, for example, are not naturalist because they deny that humans are corndl reducible to or explainable by such properties. Johnson misses this distinction.

Johnson and West use a distinction between oppression wrst a matter of class and oppression as a matter of race. West does not parse oppression between class and race; Johnson thinks that the solution to racial oppression is social inclusion, however, he offers no argument that social inclusion is in any way effective to abate the history of differential material opportunities between blacks and white, let alone overcoming differences between the working and upper classes.

Humanists, contrary to Johnson, are often concerned with the liberation of the human as a composite being.