New York : Cambridge University Press Huang Yong ed. Mouffe Chantal Deconstruction and pragmatism. London : Routledge Westport CT : Praeger Publishers Saatkamp Herman J. Malachowski Alan ed. London : Sage Publications a. Rumana Richard ed. New York : Rodopi Brandom Robert Rorty and his Critics. Blackwell Publishing b. Casey Michael A. Lanham MD : Lexington Books Festenstein Matthew Simon Thompson eds.
Richard Rorty: Critical Dialogues. Oxford : Polity Press Guignon Charles David Hiley eds. Richard Rorty. Kremer Alex ed. Reading Rorty. Oxford : Basic Blackwell Marchetti Giancarlo eds. Richard Rorty: Ethics Epistemology and Politics. London : Routledge forthcoming. Peters Michael Paulo Ghiraldelli Jr. Richard Rorty: Education Philosophy and Politics. Voparil Christopher J. Bernstein Richard eds. The Rorty Reader. Malden MA : Wiley-Blackwell New York : Routledge Auxier Randall E.
A Study of Winch, Nussbaum and Rorty
Lewis E. Hahn eds. Chicago : Open Court Cardiff : University of Wales Press Dann G. New York : Continuum Madrid : Batiscafo S. Guadalajara : Ediciones de la Universidad de Guadalajara Chicago : University of Chicago Press New York : Palgrave Macmillan Gascoigne Neil Richard Rorty. Cambridge : Polity Press London : Verso Green Judith M. New York : Columbia University Press Hall David L. Tampa : University of South Florida Press Malachowski Alan Richard Rorty.
Amherst NY : Humanity Books Boulder CO : Westview Press Rothleder Dianne J. Rumana Richard On Rorty. Belmont CA : Wadsworth Goteborg : Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis Vaden House D. Leiden : E.
Brill Richard Rorty: Politics and Vision. Author: Rosa M. Free access. Full Text. Atlanta : Scholars Press , Wiley-Blackwell , a. New York : Cambridge University Press , Mouffe Chantal , Deconstruction and pragmatism. London : Routledge , Westport CT : Praeger Publishers , London : Sage Publications , a. New York : Rodopi , Novels and plays, for example, seem much better at exhibiting the complexities of political experience and the open-textured and necessarily incomplete character of real political arguments, as several of the essays in this volume argue, than the linear discourse of philosophy.
It is not merely that literature can provide more lifelike examples than the etiolated and simplistic illustrations typically employed by philosophers, but that it should help to shape and inform the very terms in which issues are conceived.
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There has also been the enormous growth in cultural studies involving the deliberate attempt to break down disciplinary boundaries, especially divisions between literary and political analysis, but also embracing philosophical concerns. Here methodological eclecticism is widespread and intellectual specialisation is resisted.
Feminist theorists have advanced powerful criticisms of what they argue is the patriarchal character of philosophy in general, and moral and political philosophy in particular. So far, however, the discussion has been largely programmatic. It is time now to look at a few specific areas in which the interplay between political theory and imaginative literature might be illuminating and also to consider what obstacles might lie in the way of this interplay. In this way we hope to relate some of the general issues raised in this introduction to the particular points raised in various chapters, since ultimately the justification of this project must lie with the value of its results.
Narrative has long been central to the literary imagination and it constitutes a key concept of literary analysis. In the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and. Charles Taylor, however, the idea of narrative emerges as an important component of an adequate understanding of the self and of its relationship to political morality. Story-telling has played a significant role in the presentation of many political theories. One need only think, for example, of the seventeenth-century philosophers such as Hobbes and Locke whose theories are cast in the form of stories about the transition from a largely hypothetical state of nature to political society.
Similarly, the conjectural histories so popular in the seventeenth century typically take the form of quasi-historical narratives. So while the concept of narrative has not received much attention from political philosophers, this is not because narratives have not played an important role in the history of political theory. Our understanding of who we are seems inseparable from our sense of the story of our lives, where we have come from and where we are going.
Similarly, many of the myths, and what passes as the history, of our political identities are embedded in stories about origins and foundations, heroic deeds, struggles and the like. While both are sympathetic to features of this move they also express some reservations about it. Whitebrook is critical of philosophers who have simply attempted to apply a concept of narrative from literature to political theory.
The Moral Philosophers
MacIntyre, for example, is accused of being inattentive to the full implications of the idea of narrative, and Martha Nussbaum is charged with being too preoccupied with a conception of morality as embedded in individual action and understanding. Whitebrook argues that both thinkers are inclined to neglect or elide distinctively political aspects of morality, those to do with the collective and public dimensions of political life. Whitebrook recommends that political theorists be more alert to the complexities of. She urges that political theory learn from narrative theory and narratology to develop a richer understanding of the structure and possibilities of the narrative form in general, and attend more closely to the substantive role of particular narratives as they are employed in specific contexts and arguments.
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She sees at the heart of the debate about literature and philosophy a deeper disagreement about the aims of political philosophy itself. Whereas Charles Taylor, for example, looks for a justification of moral life in terms of Truth, conversationalists like Richard Rorty maintain that such a search is inevitably doomed.
For Mendus, however, both these positions are problematic, and indeed ultimately untenable. Mendus believes that an appeal to narrative may help us to find a via media between these two alternatives, an approach which bears some similarity to that adopted by Martin Warner in his related enquiry. In this appeal to narrative, however, Mendus sees its role as very different from that afforded it by Rorty.
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Where he emphasises the openended and fragmentary character of narrative, Mendus sees narratives as necessarily rule-governed, and on this point she is in agreement with Whitebrook. It is, she argues, by attending to the rules which govern narrative that we can derive a better understanding of the ways in which the self is constructed.
There is a role here for both philosophy and literature, without reducing one to the other; and we do not have to choose between a view in which the self is something to be discovered, as Taylor maintains, or something which is invented, as Rorty claims. Rather, we seek an equilibrium between these positions and between the perception of literature and the reflection of theory.
Whether it is the utilitarianism of R. Hare or the rights theory of Alan Gewirth, there is present a model of moral and political theory as a systematic structure of largely abstract and general moral principles from which particular judgements can be more or less rigorously derived. He supports the arguments of Jean-Paul Sartre in his Existentialism and Humanism that the moral rules and maxims formulated by philosophers are too general to be of much help in guiding us when we confront moral dilemmas in our ordinary life.
There is a richness in such descriptions that captures much better the true dimensions of moral experience than the formal and abstract character of philosophical theory. This complaint about the narrowness and abstractness of moral and political theory is one which has been made in distinct ways by contemporary philosophers as different as Bernard Williams, Peter Winch and Martha Nussbaum.
John Horton in his chapter looks particularly at the work of Nussbaum. While highly sympathetic to some of her motivations, he explores several difficulties in the execution of her project. At a general level Horton raises a number of questions about how fictional narratives function and the kind of responses that are appropriate to the literary techniques and rhetorical strategies which are typical of such texts. He argues that any defence of the value of works of fiction to the enterprise of moral and political philosophy needs to engage with these questions in a way that Nussbaum herself fails to do, especially if there is to be any hope of persuading philosophers sceptical of the value of such a project.
In particular, Horton argues, Nussbaum fails to take sufficiently seriously one of the lessons he believes literature best teaches: the extent and depth of moral disagreement and conflict. Hence, he is doubtful about the claim that works of fiction or the literary imagination support any one ethical conception. Paul Gilbert in his chapter in this volume argues that exploring the notion of a national literature can give us a clearer understanding of what is involved in nationhood.
For, if nations are at least partly to be identified in terms of their culture, then literature, as an important part of culture, will have a significant role to play. Voluntarism, by contrast, sees national identity as dependent upon the voluntary choices of agents to constitute a nation. Gilbert is especially concerned to establish whether realism can be regarded as a plausible theory of nationhood.
As a test case, Gilbert takes the work of the Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen, investigating the claims and supporting evidence for and against her literary Irishness. He argues that no such evidence is, in principle, available. Rather, there are features of her work which those concerned with the construction of an Irish national identity can appeal to in deciding whether or not she should be included in a literature which articulates a shared national experience. What should count as the national experience, Gilbert argues, is essentially a matter of choice and not a matter of the independently discernible properties of a literary work.
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If a national literature is socially constructed then the question which needs to be asked is: who is responsible for its construction?
Related Moral Philosophers and the Novel: A Study of Winch, Nussbaum and Rorty
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