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Paintbrushes and Crowbars: Richard Rorty and the New Public-Private Divide

Paintbrushes and Crowbars: Richard Rorty and the New Public-Private Divide In an often-quoted passage, Richard Rorty wrote that “J.S. Mill’s suggestion that governments devote themselves to optimizing the balance between leaving people’s lives alone and preventing suffering seems to me pretty much the last word.” In this article, I show why, for Rorty, maintaining a strong public-private divide that cordons off final vocabularies – the religious, racial, ethnic, sexual, gender, philosophical, and other terms so important for citizens’ private pursuits of self-creation and self-perfection – from public political discourse is a crucial means to accomplishing both of these goals in post-secular liberal democracies. Public political justifications should instead be articulated in the foundation-neutral terms of a shared national vocabulary. Like paintbrushes and crowbars, final and shared vocabularies are different tools for different purposes, and a strong public-private divide helps ensure that no harm comes from their misuse. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Contemporary Pragmatism Brill

Paintbrushes and Crowbars: Richard Rorty and the New Public-Private Divide

Contemporary Pragmatism , Volume 14 (3): 21 – Aug 18, 2017

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
Copyright © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1572-3429
eISSN
1875-8185
DOI
10.1163/18758185-01403008
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

In an often-quoted passage, Richard Rorty wrote that “J.S. Mill’s suggestion that governments devote themselves to optimizing the balance between leaving people’s lives alone and preventing suffering seems to me pretty much the last word.” In this article, I show why, for Rorty, maintaining a strong public-private divide that cordons off final vocabularies – the religious, racial, ethnic, sexual, gender, philosophical, and other terms so important for citizens’ private pursuits of self-creation and self-perfection – from public political discourse is a crucial means to accomplishing both of these goals in post-secular liberal democracies. Public political justifications should instead be articulated in the foundation-neutral terms of a shared national vocabulary. Like paintbrushes and crowbars, final and shared vocabularies are different tools for different purposes, and a strong public-private divide helps ensure that no harm comes from their misuse.

Journal

Contemporary PragmatismBrill

Published: Aug 18, 2017

References