Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Post-Metaphysical Culture? Anti-foundationalism? Übermesch or Last Man? Whateverrr...

Reformed theocon Damon Linker and liberal wunderkind Matt Yglesias trade views on whether Richard Rorty was a properly Rawlsian liberal (latest, with the prior links here). Basically, Linker says Rorty's apparent agreement with Late "Political Liberalism" Rawls was superficial, since Rorty was really all about a comprehensive "anti-foundationalism" that would exclude believers in God or natural rights from politics. Yglesias concedes that Rorty's was a "comprehensive" view in Rawls's sense, but says Rawls was cool with that as long as the comprehensive was kept out of the political.

It's an interesting dispute because it gets at what struck me as a basic ambiguity in Rorty. Rorty says he agrees with both the continental and analytic critics of metaphysics -- he synthesizes Nietzsche and Quine. But the "continentals" all seem to think that the death of metaphysics (and with it God, History and Reason) is a big deal. The analyticals generally think that we are dealing with a conceptual mistake that will have no major bearing on the culture -- it's technical and not something the ordinary believer in Christianity or Democracy should worry about. So the critique might seem similar, but the stakes are very different.

I haven't had the time to collect the evidence, and I may never, so I'll just state my opinion: Rorty doesn't so much synthesize these two views as flip between them.

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