A Critical Inquiry Into Richard Rorty's Philosophy of the New Pragmatism

Dissertation, City University of New York (1998)

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This work is an "internalist" critique of Richard Rorty's New Pragmatism. It is an attempt to take Rorty's philosophy on its own terms in order to appreciate its strengths while, simultaneously, reading his narrative to ascertain if it, in Rorty's own words, "hangs together" well. I believe that as a criticism of the philosophic and scientific propensity for claiming that they have the last word--a "final vocabulary"--on important human issues, his observations are significant intellectual contributions. Nevertheless, Rorty's public offering of a coherent set of beliefs fails, and therefore, his attempt to a new platform of meaning should be rejected. ;Anti-foundational in scope, Rorty's historicist take on philosophy allows no privileged language, metaphor, or practice which can achieve a word-link with a foundational, non-linguistic reality. Philosophy is one among an infinite number of culturally based narratives . Being unhinged from corresponding to a determining standard--transcendent or immanent--the individual's creative response to life's causal impingements are only bound by their inventiveness. ;However, to forestall cruelty and humiliation, while promoting tolerance to insure an open-ended interchange amongst narrators, Rorty suggests a privatization of philosophy similar to Jefferson's argument for a separation of church and state. Yet with this strategy to bifurcate idiosyncratic idioms of self-assertion from the rhetoric of a liberal democratic "solidarity", Rorty's narrative reveals itself to be inconsistent in two related ways. First, the metaphor of "solidarity" will not sustain scrutiny. This is because Rorty's insistence on hermeneutics over epistemology virtually eliminates interpersonal discourse, reducing public exchanges to an undemocratic Mendelic struggle for personal "semantic authority", leading to a self-defeating notion of association similar to Hobbes' flawed Social Contract theory. Consequently, "solidarity" gets reduced to a centerless system of incompatible "voices" within a psyche determined by instinctual drives and environmental demands, incongruous with autonomous choice. Second, Rorty, by speaking about these incommensurate vocabularies as being his "self", commits the same error as Descartes: objectifying his first-person of experience of "being" by treating it as a third-person encounter with an experience . Therefore, I believe Rorty's narrative to be incoherent and unworkable
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