Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Richard Rorty Exchange Part IV

The Philosopher replies:

Sorry it has been so long since I've replied. I've been mulling over what you wrote. I guess one thing I question is why you think that what is good or true is determined only by whether one can convince someone else of what you think. Is true or good determined only by whether we can persuade another that it is so? You may say that that's the pragmatic upshot of it. I guess I would have to agree that convincing another of what is true or good is important but should those things be reduced to solely my ability or inability to convince you of it? Surely the true and the good (however they are defined) shouldn't amount to simply my ability to convince you of whatever position I happen to hold? Surely those things have some sort of existence, meaning and status independent of whatever individuals happen to believe? Again, I want to say that if you claim that there is no such independent standard then I think that is dangerous in terms of opposing those who wish to ignore such (what I take to be) standards in the interests of defining them for their own political or social purposes. I've just finished listening to 1984 and what Rorty believes is just the sort of philosophy that Oceania and O'Brien thrives on.

The other thing is that you think that we can or should give reasons for what we believe is true or good. But why bother? If the good and the true is just a matter of contingency and is made up why should we bother giving reasons for what we believe? Isn't that like arguing that vanilla is superior to pistachio? Aren't we doing something more than expressing private or cultural preferences by giving reasons? I think so. We're appealing to another person's reason and inviting them to open themselves to a truth that transcends them. Anyway, I don't see any point to argue for my position if what I'm expressing is only my individual or socially/ culturally situated perspective.

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