Richard Rorty’s critique of Epistemological Foundationalism

The problem of philosophy is as old as philosophy itself.  In early 1980s Rorty was referred to as the ‘postmodern’, which he accepted and accepted with grace, and that was the time when he begins his polemical work Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature which in fact like Lyotard and many others espoused to reject the ‘meta-narrative’ of the foundationalist mode of doing philosophy. He draws this inspiration primarily from William James, Dewey, Later Wittgenstein, Heidegger, but he pays no less allegiance to Nietzsche, Lyotard, Derrida to mention few. Rorty, definitely endorses the argument that there is no need of first principle, the principle which overrules all other areas of inquiry and remains as the overarching principle to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Around the 1990s he tries to give up this term called postmodern because he thought that it was so frequently used that to not procure anything substantial and he used the term like post- Nietzschean philosophy.

It was linguistic turn during the early 1900s where he climbs at the shoulder of pragmatism to recapitulate the entire theoretical scrutiny of analytical erudite and hence secure becoming neopragmatism. Neo pragmatist tradition could be well recognized as the rejection of ‘representationalist’ account of language which rests in the popular belief that there exists a necessary connection between language and nonlinguistic reality. In other words the relation between the state of affairs and the correct representation of them in language, which is basically to assume much more than what was required, the world of relationship which does not have much to do with social phenomenon, historical development. But so far as the anti-representationalist approach is concerned, Rorty for instance, ‘deny […] that truth is correspondence to reality’ (Rorty, 1998, truth and progress, 3). He echoes perfectly in the same tempo that ‘no linguistic items represent any non-linguistic items’ (Rorty objectivity, relativism and Truth 1991, 2) simply because there is no necessary connection between what we speak and the matter of fact.

Rorty believes that traditionally ‘non-linguistics items’ were mostly understood as the ‘fact of the matter’ which does not enjoy the privilege explanatory role against its claim, therefore needs abandonment. Rorty suggests that language does not mean to represent the world but tools to cope with it. According to Rorty, the imagination which involves the activities of various theorizing phenomenon about knowledge is but the discourse which is an integral part of the ongoing conversation involving various linguistics communities. Similarly, he holds the view that it is nothing more than being a peculiar creature by virtue of possessing the linguistic capability, in asking questions such as what we know.

Pankaj Kumar Bharti

Pankaj Kumar is a Ph.D. scholar in the Department of Philosophy, University of Delhi.


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