“Redeeming Rorty’s Private-Public Distinction”

in Contemporary Pragmatism
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Rorty uses the private–public distinction as a conceptual tool to uphold the ideal of self–creation (Romanticism) simultaneously to the ideal of solidarity (Enlightenment liberalism). The difficulty of accommodating these two apparently opposing ideals has led Rorty to make inconsistent and contradictory claims about the private–public distinction. This article suggests a way of easing the tension that exists around Rorty’s formulations of the distinction. It does so by turning to the thematic of “self–enlargement” to be found in Rorty’s later writings. By presenting self–enlargement as a common feature of self–creation and solidarity, this reading opens up a way of reconciling these two ideals and mitigating some of the difficulties in Rorty’s private–public distinction.

“Redeeming Rorty’s Private-Public Distinction”

in Contemporary Pragmatism

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References

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5

 See Zbigniew Stanzyck“There is a Crisis Coming: A Conversation with Richard Rorty” in 2B: A Journal of Ideas 11–12 (1997): 18–29. [Cf. Richard Rorty Take Care of Freedom and Truth Will Take Care of Itself: Interviews with Richard Rorty (Stanford ca: Stanford University Press 2005) p. 60].

10

Rorty“Intellectual Autobiography” pp. 20–21.

11

RortyContingency Irony and Solidarityxiii.

13

Rorty“Habermas Derrida and the Functions of Philosophy” p. 308.

14

Rorty“Intellectual Autobiography” p. 20.

15

Rorty“Intellectual Autobiography” p. 21.

16

Fraser“From Irony to Prophecy to Politics” p. 266. For more on this issue see Feminist Interpretations of Richard Rorty ed. Marianne Janack (Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press 2010). Rorty’s famous rejoinder is that Fraser misreads his work. The private for him means something like Whitehead’s definition of religion: “what you do with your solitude” which differs from the interaction that occurs in the kitchen or the bedroom. [See Richard Rorty Derek Nystrom and Kent Puckett Against Bosses Against Oligarchies: A Conversation with RichardRorty (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press 2002) p. 62]. Note that Rorty has also addressed the charge of him discounting the feminist slogan that “the personal is the political”: “But I do not think that anything I wrote can be cited in support of the view that men have the right to beat their wives in the privacy of their homes without state interference. I was not trying to define limits of state power but rather say what in the long run states are good for. I agree with Hegel (and with his contemporary interpreter Robert Pippin) that the modern state and bourgeois society are the best environments yet developed for nurturing the kind of self–creating free human being that has become a Western specialty. Maybe someday still better environments will be developed but the modern West’s are pretty good.” [Rorty “Intellectual Autobiography” p. 20]

18

Fraser“From Irony to Prophecy to Politics” p. 262.

19

Fraser“From Irony to Prophecy to Politics” p. 262.

26

John Stuart MillOn Liberty (London: Longman, Roberts & Green1869). See epigraph on Wilhelm von Humboldt.

27

RortyContingency Irony and Solidarity p. 73. For more on the role of language and world–making in Rorty’s work see Günter Leypoldt “Uses of Metaphor: Richard Rorty’s Literary Criticism and the Poetics of World–Making” in New Literary History 39.1 (2008): 145 –163.

29

Rorty“Redemption from Egotism” p. 390.

30

Rorty“Redemption from Egotism” p. 390. Harold Bloom How to Read and Why (New York: Touchstone 2000).

32

Rorty“Redemption from Egotism” p. 395.

36

 See Hannah ArendtEichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: The Viking Press1964).

37

Rorty“Human Rights Rationality and Sentimentality” p. 359.

44

Rorty“Redemption from Egotism” p. 390.

45

Richard RortyConsequences of Pragmatism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press1982) xl.

46

Rorty“Philosophy as a Transitional Genre” p. 476. Rorty’s self–creators practice irony as a virtue and it is worth acknowledging that recent writings on Rorty [see William Curtis Defending Rorty: Pragmatism and Liberal Virtue (Cambridge uk: Cambridge University Press 2015) and Bjørn Ramberg “Irony’s Commitment: Reading Contingency Irony and Solidarity” in The European Legacy 19.2 (2014): 144–162)] have claimed that Contingency maintains two conceptions of irony: a moderate version in the Introduction and a more extreme one in the context of ironist intellectuals. This line of thinking implies that Rorty’s self–creation is open to engaging more complex practices of irony in comparison to what is presented in this article. I thank the anonymous reviewer for carefully pointing this out.

48

Rorty“Redemption from Egotism” p. 394.

49

Rorty“Human Rights Rationality and Sentimentality” p. 365.

52

Rorty“Intellectual Autobiography” p. 20.

53

RortyConsequences of Pragmatism p. 66.

54

Rorty“Freud and Moral Reflection” p. 271.

55

RortyContingency Irony and Solidarityxvi.

56

RortyTake Care of Freedom p. 67 p. 50.

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