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In his philosophy, Rorty “turns” his reorientation in analytic philosophy and epistemology away from knowledge to a new focus on hope. He adopts the stance of fallibilism and the “liberal ironism,” which challenges the finality or authority of one’s “final vocabularies.” Instead of “theories” which ultimately lead to “forced descriptions,” philosophers should opt for an ongoing “edifying conversation” that develops new and constructive ways of speaking.

However, scholars continue to overlook the fact that Rorty buys into a soft or honest “ethnocentrism,” which seems at best closed and parochial. What David L. Hall calls a “lonely provincialism” inherent in Rorty’s philosophical endeavors generates limitations toward access and interaction with wider horizons of meaning and modes of cultural comparison (see, Richard Rorty: Prophet and Poet of the New Pragmatism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), ch. 5, for more details). Rorty essentially believes cultures and communities are at bottom like Leibniz’s monads—they are windowless, meant to be taken as complete or sufficient in themselves, and therefore, Rorty appears not to appreciate or even take seriously an honest “mutual engagement” amongst cultures, whether they come from the Western (developed) or less-developed world. Rorty appears, unlike Cornell West (his former student), to be in total dialogue with himself (or his people) to such an unhealthy degree, that he acts as if relations between others are statically locked-in and there is little room for growth and integration.

The same unbridgeable divide between the analytic/continental traditions of professional philosophy that so irked Rorty may be at the heart of his social philosophy and his categories of cultural comparison. The disguise of this failure on behalf of Rorty’s projects stems from the egalitarian emphasis and the importance he places on the use of “neutral mediums.” A strong sense of conformity or even assimilation is the mandate for a serious equality. Many will find this ironic given Rorty's insistence on the essentialness of "persuasion" over the strong-arming of "coercion."

Now Rorty's approach makes sense historically, when thinkers were forced to address the dominant authorities or intellectual fads of the day. The trends were setup well in advance and conditioned much of the discourse that was not only acceptable, but even deemed possible. Today this is less so and our ethnic, philosophical, or cultural alliances and loyalties are almost like a free-for-all. We are experiencing a unique time of philosophy and culture without borders, free to roam about in non-provincial ways. Despite its positive impact and resistance toward the balkanization of philosophical schools, does Rorty’s philosophy argue for an excessive self-narrowing by way of its ethnocentricism and "lonely provincialism"?

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Ethno-centrism appears to be a central preoccupation dominant cultures - if sometimes 'submerged'; one hears of Americas insularity; or of Chinas description of itself as the 'middle kingdom' - the kingdom occupying the centre. One supposes in todays hyper-connected world new realms of thought are opened up by being pressed up against each other and forced to take cognisance of the coherence of the the Other.

From your description, Rorty being irked by the analytic/continental division displays his ecumenism. One rather suspects that the philosophies of other cultures are still distant as the real work of uncovering still needs to be done - or having been uncovered, still remain covered by the visibility of the main tradition; the first lesson is, or has been, that there are crucial lessons and perspectives to be learnt, and part of this work has been done by anthropologists and ethnographists.

One doesn't understand the Tao by reading the Tao, but also understanding the impact it has had in its people, its art and literature; can one understand Christianity in Europe by ignoring Cathedrals, renaissance painting, classical music and Dantes Inferno? Can one understand Western philosophy without understanding it's engagement with science, religion, politics and the arts?

To some extent, I agree with Rortys cultural monads - coherent and whole unto themselves - but this doesn't take into account the crucial factor of time and generation; at the margins crucial work is being done that creates windows in monads.

Certainly the feeling I get from this site, and browsing the philosophical section of a good bookshop, series or journal is that Philosophy is - centrally - intensely Western, but that good work is done at the margins; it is overt, but remains covert - simply by being what is.

One intriguing line of question I've found is that the French Physiocrats which inspired Economics in the West were 'avid' Confucianists, and possibly advocates of Agriculturalism, an early form of Agrarian Philosophy that originated in China as a Utopian Communalism & Egalitarianism. In this line of thought, Communism in China is Agricultarilism taking a detour through Europe via Marx, and it helps explains how Mao was able to subvert the mainstream Marxists position that the proletariat was the revolutionary force by mobilising the peasantry. One rather suspects that it was the affinity between Marxism & Agriculturalism at a 'genetic' level that allowed Mao to reap the benefots of this resonance. Similarly, Pol Pots Year Zero Campaign in Cambodia of abandoning cities and returning to the land might have the same philosophical root. It would be an interesting question to explore.

What it does show, is that the central assumption of viewing these political events in the East via the highly visible Marxism, may be, in fact, must be crucially narrow-sighted.

Further, despite google-translate, a serious, that is foundational, engagement with another culture should engage with the language of that culture - language being the dwelling of being; or, failing that collaborative, for example Yeats reading of the Principal Upanishads was mediated by his collaboration with Sees Purohit Swami; more modernly, there is Jay Garfields and Mark Siderits engagement with Buddhism; also, conversations between Derrida and Mustapha Cherif, and Izutsus engagement of Zen and Islam.

In thought - our ideal existence - one can, and should be ecumenical; whilst noting in the real - our concrete existence - one is pushed towards the provincial.

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