Richard Rorty contra Rorty and John Dewey

Joseph Margolis

Dewey’s concept of “experience” has baffled many a reader. It is, however, assuredly the key to Dewey’s distinctive philosophical contribution. Notoriously, Rorty urges that Dewey would have been well-advised to abandon “experience: in favor of “discourse” (that is, the “linguistic method of philosophy”), which he draws largely from Davidson and Sellars. For various reasons, Rorty betrays his deep misunderstanding of Dewey’s pragmatism, the lack of any close relationship between Sellars’s notion of the “given” (as a philosophical target) and Dewey’s notion of the saving discovery of what is “denoted” (in inquiry) as the “given”; and the extremely problematic (possibly even incoherent) treatment of linguistic meaning in Davidson’s most pertinent papers (which Rorty seems to regard as pragmatist in an important sense and is guided by). In any event, neither Davidson nor Rorty can be rightly supposed to extend or improve Deweyan pragmatism: Rorty, in fact, explicitly and unconditionally repudiates the “linguistic turn”; and Davidson finally subverts the very theory of language on which any reading of Rorty’s “pragmatist” account of Davidson’s theory of meaning would be at all feasible. The exposé of these disorders may contributes to a more careful formulation of the pragmatist undertaking, which lies elsewhere and depends on a measure of convergence between Dewey and Peirce.

Publication details

DOI: 10.4000/ejpap.308

Full citation:

Margolis, J. (2014). Richard Rorty contra Rorty and John Dewey. European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy 6 (2), pp. n/a.

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