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Rorty, conceptual schemes, and the traditional aspirations of Philosophy

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Abstract

Pragmatism is an anti-representationalist movement in philosophy which has attempted to reform, and in some instances, undermine, philosophy’s traditional aspirations, in order to keep the discipline connected with our first-order endeavours. I argue that the method which pragmatism uses to achieve this is not only deeply flawed (as it leads to its own rejection) but also unnecessary; philosophy can be practical without being pragmatist.

I begin with detailed expositions of five different theories under the title of ‘pragmatism’, from classical to contemporary, identifying the two central commitments which all of these theories share: a commitment to keeping philosophy connected with our first-order endeavours, coupled with the method of rejecting any foundations of knowledge. This serves as a working definition of pragmatism across the board, showing exactly what needs to be undermined in order to undermine pragmatism.

Much of my thesis, however, is focused upon Rorty’s Neo-Pragmatism, as Rorty specifically provides a response to the traditional distinction between scheme and content, which justifies the existence of such foundations of knowledge. I argue that there is a tension between Rorty and his use of Davidson in rejecting the scheme/content distinction, which, when exploited, leads to a rejection of the entire pragmatist method. This, in turn, makes our traditional philosophical aspirations once again possible.

I conclude by establishing that whilst pragmatism, as a method, is untenable, its project of keeping philosophy connected with our first-order inquiries should not be left ignored, lest we wish our discipline to fall any further into public disrepute. I suggest a way in which philosophy can use its traditional aspirations to serve our practical purposes, allowing philosophy to be practical without losing centuries of philosophical innovation.

Citation

(2018). Rorty, conceptual schemes, and the traditional aspirations of Philosophy

Keywords Pragmatism, Philosophy, Representationalism, Rorty, Davidson, Realism, Conceptual Schemes, Metaphysics

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