On the relationship between truth and liberal politics

Inquiry 50 (3):288 – 305 (2007)
Abstract
This paper examines the relationship between truth and liberal politics via the work of Bernard Williams and Richard Rorty. I argue that Williams is right to think that there are positive relations between truth, specifically a realist understanding of truth, and liberal politics that Rorty's abandonment of the realist vocabulary of truth undermines. At the heart of this concern is the worry that abandoning the realist vocabulary opens up the possibility that the standards of justification for our true beliefs can be manipulated by those with the power to do so in order to further their own political ends. The political benefit of realism is that it fixes the standards of justification and makes them immune to manipulation by the use of power. However, I suggest that there is a form of realism available that Rorty can accept which would deliver the political benefits of the realist vocabulary without requiring him to accept the thick realist metaphysics that he wants to avoid. My conclusion is that there is a positive and important relationship between truth and liberal politics, a relationship that can be sustained without any necessary commitment to realist metaphysics.
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