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Research Seminars

​Rorty’s Postmodernist Bourgeois Liberalism and Post-Truth Politics

Wednesday 25 April 2018, 6.30 pm
H149, Bishop Otter Campus

Joshua Forstenzer, Vice-Chancellor's Fellow for the Public Benefit of Higher Education (University of Sheffield)

This article seeks to articulate the relationship between Richard Rorty’s postmodernist bourgeois liberalism and post-truth politics. While Rorty’s philosophical stance has been challenged by many critics on theoretical grounds and others have sought to revise and amend his liberal ironism to make it more appealing, in this article, I mount an immanent critique of Rorty’s thought by showing that his philosophical oeuvre can be considered to be partially responsible for the advent of post-truth politics.

I thus argue that Rorty’s philosophical project bears some responsibility for the advent of post-truth politics, insofar as it is likely to have played a causal role (however small) in facilitating the rise of post-truth politics, it is complicit in post-truth politics since it aimed for a diminishment of traditional epistemic norms in political discourse, and it is complacent towards the dangers associated with endlessly affirming the contingency of our epistemic claims.

Ultimately, I contend that, since post-truth politics demonstrates that embracing the contingency of one’s epistemic commitments has been effectively coupled with a regressive and illiberal political agenda, Rorty’s liberal ironism fails on its own terms.

Past Research Seminars

6 December - Dan Taylor - Whither the multitude? Collective political subjectivity in and beyond Spinoza

8 November - Theology and the Poor: the Copernican revolution that never happened

11 October - Dr Russell Re Manning, Bath Spa University, 'Is Theology Natural?'

13 September - Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue and Revd Dr Stephen Roberts, University of Chichester, "Deep Calls to Deep: Jews and Christians in Dialogue"

14 September – Dr Ulrich Schmiedel (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität), '“The Dead Are Coming”: Performing Political Theology In-Between Refugees and Religion’

19 September – Chichester Theological Society Lecture at Chichester Cathedral – Prof Martyn Percy, ‘ Salt and Light: Christianity and Contemporary Culture'

12 October – Dr Naomi Billingsley (Bishop Otter Scholar for Theology and the Arts in the Diocese of Chichester), '"I improve very much... a blessing I can never be too thankful for both to God & Man": Felpham and William Blake's biblical watercolours'

2 November – Prof Graham Harvey (Open University), ‘Religion in the larger-than-human world: how indigenous religions contribute to understanding all religions'