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Nietzsche mentioned in his “The Will to Power” that, the “truth is not something there, that might be found or discovered- but something that must be created”. That influential fragment leads us to the problem of the legitimation of universal values and definitions of human nature, once it is accepted that there is no determined truth. Postmodernists tend to oppose grand narratives as French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard once pointed out, since their credibility is under discussion, especially after Second World War. It could be said that, the common attitude of postmodernism is the distrust to ideologies, since they are based on “otherization” by assuming their truth as one and only. Fascism basically ascends on this kind of attitude. That significant problem brought many 20th century philosophers to the thought that, philosophy has come to an end. A different way of thought has been searched for, which would focus on diversity instead of universalism.
Yet the questions come up, how can we live in a society without any kind of universal determinations, without any epistemological ground? Is it possible to provide solidarity without setting up ideals? If for instance, we don’t give a theoretical ground to the problem of good and evil, then what would stop us to torture or murder someone? If not theoretical, then what is the basis of our own behaviour?
American philosopher Richard Rorty seeks after this problem by trying to show the possibility of a liberal utopia, without establishing any kind of theoretical basis. He clearly points out that there is “no theory of Man or Society or Rationality, or anything else.” Thus he introduces “liberal ironists” against metaphysicians in his book “Contingency, Irony and Solidarity” (1989). According to Rorty, metaphysicians are theorists without an insight of irony, since they dictate their own way or truth as universal. Only ironism is universal in his utopia on the other hand, where ironists do assume the contingency of language, of self and of other possibilites and not dictate that they are the closest to the truth. Addition to that, a liberal is aware of the fact that the most evil thing that he/she can do is being cruel, without having an urge to ask the question, “why should I be a just person?”.
So we turn to the main question back again: How can we provide solidarity without establishing a philosophical ground?
Rorty indicates the power of ethnography, journalist’s reports, comic books, docudramas and especially novels (he specifically mentions novelists like Nabokov and Orwell), instead of sermons and theoretical treatises on morality. Considering this replacement, it is also clear that Rorty is influenced by pragmatist thought, because according to him those kind of material works better than any kind of theory. It can be said that he basically replaces philosophy with literary criticism.
Opposes to Rorty’s liberal utopia are mainly based around the problem of public threat when there is a lack of justifying the values. He basically points out that in his utopia, an order is not needed against hostility, by bringing up the concept of “universal ironism” against those objections.
One can definitely say that Rorty’s liberal utopia is just an expression of naivety, and possibly it could lead societies to chaos. Especially when we think about the grounds of Human Rights and everything, Rorty’s point of view becomes quite disputable. Still his assumptions are of value, that helps us to realize the danger of otherization when we stick to an ideology which in his own words can be “in form of religious faith or Enlightenment rationalism”. Also his focus on the utility of mediations such as novels, movies, news coverage and etc. are quite remarkable.
When we think of the realities of this world, and the current situation of contemporary philosophy, it becomes clear that we still need to philosophize, not necessarily taking ideologies as our guides. Despite the problems of his thought, Rorty’s contribution is worthy, since it gives the possibility to approach to the issue in a different way.