So We Need Something Else for Reason to Mean

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In this paper I give considerable attention to Richard Rorty's attempt to make plausible a conception of non-rational semantic and cultural change - change which Rorty insists on describing as identical with progress - in order to show the extent to which this attempt is compromised from the start by an unjustifiably narrow and inconsistent view of reason. The point of this immanent critique is not just to make Rorty's view of non-rational change look bad. It is meant to do more justice to his claim that intellectual and moral progress is inseparable from speaking and acting differently by incorporating this claim into a philosophically enlarged picture of reason. So the value of taking Rorty's claims about change seriously lies less in showing the shortcomings of his conception of reason than it does in bringing a sense of urgency to the need to renew the project begun by Kant, Hegel, and German Idealism - the project of conceiving reason as an agency of change by reinterpreting reason in terms of self-determining freedom.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2000

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