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Title: Pragmatism, liberalism and the conditions of critique : the connection between philosophy and politics in the work of Richard Rorty
Author: Chin, Clayton
Awarding Body: Queen Mary, University of London
Current Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Date of Award: 2012
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In the context of a global crisis, it is necessary to ask what are the philosophical limitations of political critique? This thesis addresses this broad question through a critical reading of the work of Richard Rorty and his theorization of the connection between philosophy and politics. Rorty’s philosophy dissociates philosophical questioning and political thinking. Through a critique of foundationalism, Rorty establishes new limits to philosophy which prescribe its involvement in politics. However, the critical literature fails to connect these two aspects. They accept Rorty’s position that his philosophical pragmatism is unconnected to his political liberalism. In contrast, this thesis is a critical account of Rorty’s theorization of the connection between philosophy and politics that explicitly links his pragmatism to his liberalism. It refutes Rorty’s wider philosophical claim from within a reading of his own work. By situating Rorty within his critique of epistemology and his relation to the philosophy of John Dewey, and confronting him with an alternative, ontological line of thinking that runs from the work of Martin Heidegger to that of Herbert Marcuse, this thesis exposes the mechanisms by which Rorty reduces philosophical and political thinking. It reveals that rather than opening thinking and providing a basis for political criticism, Rorty’s political pragmatism restricts thought to the present range of options. What Rorty offers is not a method for cultural change, as he claims, but a self-reinforcing mode of thought for contemporary liberalism. The implications of this analysis exceed Rorty scholarship. Rorty attempts to theorize the implicit assumptions of the liberal West. While he could never exhaust that culture, he does reveal a real set of pragmatic assumptions and justifications for liberal democracy. As such, he offers a opportunity to critically engage a particular form of liberalism that informs much of the dominant discourse about democracy today.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Politics