Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Rorty's thesis of the cultural specificity of philosophy

Tartaglia, James

Rorty's thesis of the cultural specificity of philosophy Thumbnail



In his brief consideration of non-Western philosophy between 1989 and 1991, Richard Rorty argued that dialogue between Western philosophy and non-Western traditions is not constructive since it almost inevitably involves fundamental misunderstanding, and he even expressed doubt about whether non-Western philosophy exists. This reaction seems out of character, given that Rorty specialised in forging unlikely alliances between philosophers from different Western traditions, and was an enthusiastic advocate of edification through hermeneutic engagement with unfamiliar vocabularies. I argue that given Rorty’s conception of philosophy as a literary tradition, he had no reason to exclude non-Western figures, and that his various arguments against the desirability of comparative philosophy – based on the different purposes of different traditions, their different conceptual schemes, and his notion of ‘transcultural character’ - are all inconsistent with more characteristic elements of his thought, as well as independently unconvincing. The underlying reason Rorty adopted this combative stance towards comparative philosophy, I argue, is that non-Western philosophy undermines his critique of Western philosophy, which depends on a cultural specificity thesis according to which philosophical problems are rooted in obsolete European social needs. Against this thesis, I conclude by arguing that philosophy has a natural subject-matter.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Journal Philosophy East and West: a quarterly of comparative philosophy
Print ISSN 0031-8221
Publisher University of Hawaii Press
Pages 1016 -1036


You might also like

Downloadable Citations