It seems relatively clear that Richard Rorty's postmodern project of eliminating "objective Truth" as something that inquiry and cognition can (reasonably?) hope to attain, or aim for, has to a large extent come to fruition, at least in the realm of soft/non-hard science. Rorty's project has shaken our political and, to some extent, scientific, discourse to the very core.

Because I have addressed these issues in this forum several times before (for instance: What is the role of public intellectual/philosopher in "post truth" world?, inspiring little interest), I am reluctant to again trot out evidence/arguments in favor of this claim. Particularly so, since I believe that the evidence is everywhere, and that these notions have become so entrenched that we hardly even notice them anymore. However, I have been asked provide some justification. So here goes.

Consider academia’s critical theory, or simply “theory”, which is based upon a substantially deflated notion of Truth, Reality and Reason. Consider how logic/reason in argumentation is being gradually displaced by rhetoric, often disguised as logic. Consider the growing distrust of “causation” in favor of “correlation”, and of metaphysical realism in favor of instrumental pragmatism, furthered and enhanced by the methods and proliferation of big data science. Consider how the notion of “lived experience” has taken precedence over so-called “objective empirical evidence.”

Consider how frequently the term “narrative” is used today, compared to just a few years ago, to explain/describe phenomena, and not just by academics/philosophers, but by journalists and the general public. Consider how the notion of facts as being “theory laden” has become a philosophical/scientific truism; all this while noting the similarity between the function of a scientific “theory” and that of a folk “narrative”. Suggesting that such a “narrative” would seem to be but a layman’s theory about an aspect of the external world (reality). According to the anthropologist Christopher Butler, these notions see reality/culture as:

containing a number of perpetually competing stories [narratives], whose effectiveness depends not so much on an appeal to an independent standard of judgment, as upon their appeal to the communities in which they circulate[.]

If it is so that (folk?) facts are narrative-laden, consider how this phenomenon wreaks the havoc of circularity over Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous quip that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.

My point is that these postmodern notions appear to be permeating mainstream culture. And my question is this:

Assuming this is the direction we are headed, how can Rorty’s candidate "solidarity" be expected to fare as an alternative-to-objective-truth (an alternative to an “independent standard of judgment”) in our cultural discourse about to how to create a better future for humanity, to increase the quanta of what Hillary Putnam called “human flourishing”? (And, as an aside, how might the notions of identity politics, or identitarian epistemology, impact the liklihood of ever attaining the required solidarity?)

  • , how successfully has his candidate as an alternative-to-objective-truth candidate, "solidarity", fared, in our political discourse ... seems to be a question for politics.SE that involves philosophy rather than a question about philosophy itself.
    – virmaior
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 1:40
  • I would say that his project has not come to fruition and never will, and that 'solidarity' is nothing at all like objective truth and nothing like a replacement for it. He speaks of human cognition but it has long been understood that true and certain knowledge does not come from cognition but consists in 'knowledge by identity. His ideas seem naive.
    – user20253
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 12:16
  • One experiment to try is to as yourself what might be good about Rorty's pragmatic approach. The idea of "truth" or "the truth" in politics could lead to totalitarianism perhaps. Remember the political "true" solutions put forward on the left and right starting in the 19th century and coming to fruition in later wars and political "solutions".
    – Gordon
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 17:08
  • Of course he had epistemology in mind too, and perhaps the feeling that we had wasted a considerable amount of time on the issue. I consider Rorty to be a pragmatic/hermanutic approach. At one time there was a Rorty-Davidson discussion on YouTube. I don't know if it's still there.
    – Gordon
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 17:15
  • 2
    Could you provide references for "shaking our political and scientific discourse to the very core"? I suspect that most scientists do not much care for postmodernism in general and Rorty in particular, and there was a backlash against it even among former practitioners, see e.g. Latour. In this sense Rorty's suggestion to replace epistemology with cultural politics did not bear much fruit. As for politics, it never took much interest in human cognition, postmodernism just changed the prevailing rhetoric.
    – Conifold
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 20:41


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