Rorty, Religious Beliefs, and Pragmatism

International Philosophical Quarterly 45 (2):175-185 (2005)
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Abstract

This paper attempts to examine some of Rorty’s recent writings on religious beliefs. Two claims stand at the core of these texts: (1) that religious beliefs are “private projects” and (2) that those who maintain such beliefs are not intellectually responsible for them because of their essentially private character. Other commentators on Rorty have challenged one or the other of these claims by utilizing resources outside the pragmatic tradition. But since Rorty typically allies himself with this tradition, I try to examine both claims by employing the writings of two classical pragmatists, i.e., William James and John Dewey. I argue that neither James nor Dewey would accept the claims that stand at the core of Rorty’s view with respect to religious beliefs. In effect, Rorty’s thinking on religious beliefs marks a significant departure from his pragmatic forebears, even though he employs them (especially Dewey) to bolster his own position

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