Richard Rorty Essays On Heidegger And Others

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3 The value of Rorty’s conception of the power of the novel, I argue, resides in the epistemological egalitarianism it embodies and its orientation toward social change.

What makes the power of novel democratic for Rorty is that it is consistent with rejecting “the idea that anything could have authority over the members of a democratic community save the free, collective decisions of that community”. 4 The context of Rorty’s embrace of the novel within the development of his own thought is instructive for understanding his view of the distinctive power of this genre over others, including philosophy.

18 Rorty’s case for the power of the novel for democratic life involves a number of related but distinct claims.

In summary form, these include the novel’s ability to help us “achieve autonomy,” understood as liberating us from previous ways of thinking about ourselves and others; to gain knowledge of other people, including knowledge of their own descriptions of their actions and themselves; to broaden our sense of the possibilities open to human lives; to increase our tolerance of others; to prompt ethical reflection on the existence of suffering and injustice, and how to remedy it; and to provide a source of secular spiritual development that helps us achieve growth by changing our sense of what matters most.…

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Moral progress depends upon hearing voices that say things never heard before, including claims about injustices that may not be perceived as such.

19 The central idea uniting these various claims is that it is not increased rationality and knowledge that is going to bring about “the utopia sketched by the Enlightenment,” but rather manipulating feelings or sentiments so that we are more attuned to the suffering of distant and different others.

Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Vol 320 Rorty was initially drawn to the novel primarily for the anti-philosophical thrust of its spirit, as sketched by Milan Kundera, which allowed him to contrast philosophy’s penchant for theory, structure, and abstraction with the narrative, detail, and diversity of the novel.

The idea that conversation is “the ultimate context with which knowledge is to be understood” leads Rorty to a preoccupation with “conversation with strangers”, understood as those who fall outside our “sense of community based on the imagined possibility of conversation”.

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature6 If, as Rorty claimed, “the community is the source of epistemic authority”, and, building on Wilfrid Sellars, “we can only come under epistemic rules when we have entered the community where the game governed by these rules is played,” then we attribute knowledge to beings “on the basis of their potential membership in this community”.


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