Department: Department Of Philosophy
Asalu, V. C;
This dissertation attempts a hermeneutical investigation into Richard Rorty’s postmodern claim that truth is inter-subjective agreement among the members of a society. Rorty’s claim is based on his conviction that the attitude of looking for non-human authority to justify cognitive assessment amounted to ‘cognitive idolatry’. The study adopted Gadamer’s brand of philosophical hermeneutics as method to guide the study. A review of existing literature on Rorty’s claims revealed that some thinkers considered his position as not only outrageous, but an irremediable loss, if not a manifestation of disloyalty to the philosophic enterprise. Again, further evaluation of Rorty’s theory of truth as social practice showed that while overcoming the conception of philosophy as necessarily providing foundations for intellectual activity in general is possible as Rorty envisaged it, abandoning the entire traditional epistemological enterprise amounted to epistemological skepticism. Also, if truth is relativized to an entire culture, it implies some form of cultural relativism. Thus, Rorty’s suggestion that the quest for objectivity should be replaced with the quest for solidarity is considered misplaced. Furthermore, findings from the study showed that it is possible for one to agree with Rorty's objection to the ‘mirror of nature’ as the foundation of traditional epistemology, and question his claim that traditional epistemology has failed and should be replaced with edifying philosophy which keeps the conversation going. Again, although Richard Rorty made an obliging distinction between relativism and ethnocentrism, and rejected relativism, the study concluded that his refusal to allow the thought that in speaking from the midst of the practices of our ethnos, we make ourselves answerable to the world itself collapsed his own helpful distinction. Finally, the thesis of this dissertation is a refutation of Rorty’s relativism that claims that truth is basically intersubjective agreement among members of the society. This dissertation argues that truth is more than something defined by social practices and Rorty’s position though plausible by pointing the need for social solidarity is nevertheless relativist and is considered philosophically inconsistent.