A Hegelian Critique of Richard Rorty’s Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

In: Contemporary Pragmatism
Brandon Hogan Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Howard University,

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I read Rorty’s Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity as an attempt to reconcile two, seemingly conflicting, sources of authority and obligation. Some believe that persons are obligated by reason or God to promote just institutions. While others locate authority and obligation solely in the self. Rorty tells us that we need not choose between these sources of normativity, but can see each as applicable to two, non-conflicting parts of our lives. I contend that Rorty’s solution rests on a misunderstanding of the upshots of contingency and of the conditions of personhood. I argue that Hegel provides a more compelling resolution of the tension between public obligation and private autonomy.

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