chapter
1 Pages

Richard Rorty

WithJoyce Appleby, Elizabeth Covington, David Hoyt, Michael Latham, Allison Sneider

Richard Rorty is the University Professor of Humanities at the University of Virginia. In the following essays Rorty attempts to lay out his ideas concerning a visionary postmodernism, which dispenses with distinctions between knowledge and opinion. Rorty’s aim is to demonstrate that rather than a pointless search for metaphysical truths, we should undertake an effort to be more “pragmatic” after the philosopher John Dewey and soften the distinction between subjective and objective. Although detractors claim this leads Rorty to politically rel-ativistic conclusions, Rorty forges ahead to assert that only by dispensing with our iron-clad beliefs in the superiority of science, objectivity, and “hard” truth, can we move beyond epistemological muddle and hermeneutic mire. Rorty believes this can be done through a simplistic ascription to an “Ironist” perspective, in which we remain skeptical of “final vocabularies.” Although his critics claim he is naively optimistic, Rorty adheres to numerous open-ended perspectives: pragmatism, realism, nominalism, and historicism. It is only through these perspectives that one can cease to have false faith in epistemological “truth claims.” For Rorty, liberal hope is a condition which the ironist can achieve if only “reciprocal loyalty” can be implemented. Along this vein Rorty’s thought resembles that of one of the most acerbic critics of postmodernity, Jürgen Habermas. Both philosophers work with the notion of a shared community, in which the creation of consensus is the ultimate goal. Rorty believes that humans can achieve a certain measure of solidarity, and thus a “just” and benevolent form of government, through consensus. An affirmative postmodernist, Rorty wishes to circumvent the eternal return of foundational, epistemological queries.