Contingency, Irony and Morality: A Critical Review of Rorty's. Notion of the Liberal Utopia

Humanities 2 (2):313-327 (2013)
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This paper introduces Richard Rorty’s notion of the liberal ironist and his vision of a liberal utopia and explores the implications of these for philosophical questions concerning morality, as well as morality in general. Rorty’s assertions of the contingency of language, society and self are explored. Under the contingency of language, the figure of the ironist is defined, and Rorty’s conception of vocabularies is discussed. Under the contingency of society, Rorty’s definition of liberalism, his opposition of literary culture to materialist and metaphysical culture, and his notions concerning utopian politics are discussed. Under the contingency of self, Rorty’s critique of Kantian and his appropriations of Deweyan and Freudian conceptions of morality are presented. Other key factors discussed are Rorty’s theory of the separation of the private and public spheres of life and his ideas concerning cruelty and human solidarity. In this way, a critical analysis of Rorty’s proposed balance between private, ironic doubt and public, liberal social hope is presented and assessed in terms of its merit as a system of thought suited to the needs of post-metaphysical, liberal societies.
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