The Return of Objectivity: Realism without (Rampant) Platonism

  • Richard Amesbury

Abstract

As we saw in Chapter 1, Richard Rorty argues that in the absence of a view from nowhere — a perspective on our practices that is not itself grounded in practice — we ought to see ourselves as answerable to one another, rather than to the world or the moral law: what is correct is what “our peers will, ceteris paribus, let us get away with” saying or doing.3 Objectivity is thus exchanged for solidarity. As we noted, however, the implications of this account are troubling. Because Rorty appeals to the “community” in order to distinguish what is correct from what is incorrect, he is ultimately unable to accommodate the thought that the vast majority of one’s peers could be guilty of violating a norm — moral or otherwise. Thus, he concludes that although it is possible to contrast the conventions of one community with those of another, it is impossible to “appeal from the oppressive conventions of our community to something nonconventional, and thus hard to see how we could ever engage in anything like ‘radical critique’”4

Keywords

Dition Sorting Lost Poss Metaphor 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Benito Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism” [1932].Google Scholar
  2. In Michael Oakeshott, The Social and Political Doctrines of Contemporary Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1939), 166.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    André Gide, “André Gide,” in The God That Failed, ed. Richard Crossman (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1949), 195.Google Scholar
  4. 34.
    See Hilary Putnam, Representation and Reality (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1988), 115. It is important to note, however, that Brandom’s inferentialist account gives propositions explanatory priority over singular terms.Google Scholar
  5. 53.
    Jürgen Habermas, “From Kant to Hegel: On Robert Brandom’s Pragmatic Philosophy of Language,” European Journal of Philosophy 8, no. 3 (2000): 332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 98.
    John McDowell, “Responses,” in Reading McDowell: On Mind and World, ed. Nicholas H. Smith (New York: Routledge, 2002), 301–302. Lovibond writes, “The ethical, let us say, pertains to what people learn to value through immersion in a community acquainted with ideas of right, duty, justice, solidarity, and common social or cultural interests extending beyond the lifetime of the present generation … Of course, to the extent that we acknowledge the presence of this social or cultural region within the ‘firmament of values,’ we must resign ourselves to a state of affairs in which there will not always be a definite answer to the question whether this or that consideration is an ‘ethical’ (as opposed, say, to an ‘aesthetic’ or an ‘educational’) one. But though this complication may create a penumbra around the edges of the domain of ethical value, there is still a central area within which certain evaluative concepts (or in linguistic terms, predicates) will clearly fall.”Google Scholar
  7. 98.
    Sabina Lovibond, Ethical Formation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 33–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 99.
    Joseph Heath arrives at a similar conclusion in his book Communicative Action and Rational Choice (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001). See, e.g., pp. 307–308. Recall, too, that in Chapter 6 I argued that the role of reason-giving in moral contexts differs from the role of reason-giving in theoretical contexts.Google Scholar
  9. 112.
    In fact, John Dewey, Rorty’s philosophical hero, defined “radical” in precisely this way: “[L]iberalism must now become radical, meaning by ‘radical’ perception of the necessity of thorough-going changes in the setup of institutions and corresponding activity to bring the changes to pass.” John Dewey, The Philosophy of John Dewey: Volume II: The Lived Experience, ed. John J. McDermott (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1973), 647. Thomas McCarthy cites this passage in his “Postscript: Ironist Theory as a Vocation,” Ideals and Illusions, 42.Google Scholar

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© Richard Amesbury 2005

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  • Richard Amesbury

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