Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Richard Rorty's pragmatic defense of liberalism rests on the claim that liberals should be loyal to the liberal consensus because they can only work by the values and beliefs they have been acculturated in. I argue that if liberals work by their own lights, then it does not follow that they should be loyal to liberalism. Instead, liberals should be loyal only to their complete stock of beliefs and values, as this, rather than the liberal consensus, fully represents the beliefs and values the liberal has been acculturated in. Two false premises lead to Rorty's erroneous conclusion. The first is that liberals are mono cultural, meaning they are acculturated only in one community - the liberal community. The second is that liberals are unreflective followers of the liberal consensus. Against the first claim, I show that liberals typically belong to a variety of communities and this allows the liberal to rationally reject liberal beliefs and values and even liberalism outright. Against the second claim, I show that liberals have a more subject-centered rationality than Rorty accounts for in his description of reason. This subject-centered reason allows liberals to take a critically reflective attitude towards the liberal consensus. Without the assumptions I criticize, Rorty's pragmatic defense of liberalism falters and fails.
MacAskill, Kent, "The Subject and Consensus: A Critique of Richard Rorty's Pragmatic Defense of Liberalism" (2002). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5984.
McMaster University Library