Rorty's Approach to Cultural Difference: The Conflict between Solidarity and Procedural Liberalism

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Although Richard Rorty's controversial thought has been the subject of many works, there has not been much discussion about his approach to cultural difference. The purpose of this article is to examine how Rorty sees cultural differences philosophically and how he deals with them politically. For him, rationality, morality and even the scope of moral responsibility towards others are defined in terms of solidarity with a particular community and 'ethnocentrism', rather than in terms of a universal and metaphysically derived set of criteria. It can be argued that since language, language games and values are mainly components of culture, the latter is one of the most significant communities with which Rorty is concerned, though he is not explicit about it. Nevertheless, Rorty does not think that the moral and philosophical significance of communities, particularly cultural communities, should be reflected in politics. The main argument of the article is that there is an unresolved tension in Rorty's thought between philosophical, moral and emotional attribution of significance to communities and arguably cultural communities, and a disregard for them in the political sphere. This paves the way for outlining an approach to cultural difference that is more just and even more in harmony with Rorty's own philosophy.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2002

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