Confronting the issues of universalism in the philosophy of Richard Rorty
What are the sources of solidarity? Do universalist motives have an important place among them? And how are they related to arguments about human nature and about truth?
In this new book, Norman Geras engages with the work of Richard Rorty to explore the paradoxes of a liberalism which rejects any determinate view of human nature. He begins by examining Rorty’s thesis concerning rescuer behavior during the Holocaust. Measuring it against existing research on the subject and the testimony of rescuers themselves, Geras questions Rorty’s use of their moral example as a challenge to universalist assumptions. He then considers some of the problems in Rorty’s anti-essentialism: his shifting usages of “human nature”; the paradoxical plea for extensive forms of solidarity on the basis of parochial communitarian premises; the relationship of pragmatist notions of truth to issues of justice; and the project of a democratic, would-be “humanist” utopia grounded only on contingencies.
Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind is an imagined dialogue with Rorty—influential, eloquent and unorthodox champion of a human radical liberalism.