Rorty’s Ambivalent Relationship with Kant

In: Contemporary Pragmatism
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  • 1 School of Politics, Philosophy, International Relations and Environment, Keele University, Staffordshire st5 5 bg, UK,
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I argue that Kant is a key figure in understanding Rorty’s work, by drawing attention to the fact that although he is ostensibly the principal villain of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, at the end of that book Kant provides the basis of Rorty's positive proposal that we view the world “bifocally”. I show how this idea was re-worked as “irony” in Continency, Irony, and Solidarity, and became central to Rorty’s outlook. However, by allowing this Kantian influence into his thinking, Rorty made his position untenable. For Rortyan pragmatism undercuts the higher stance required by the concept of irony; and yet without this Kantian influence, Rorty would have been unable to justify his pluralism. Rorty could not live with Kant but could not live without him either.

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