Language and Justification: Richard Rorty’s Therapeutic Philosophy




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Framed within Richard Rorty’s understanding of how language and social practices serve as the ground for human knowledge, this dissertation explores the problems of language, justification, and truth. First I examine Rorty’s treatment of the Linguistic Turn in philosophy. The shift from conceptual to propositional knowledge is central to Rorty’s understanding of the concept of justification. In an attempt to better understand Rorty’s project, I turn to the work of several of his critics: John McDowell, Richard Bernstein, and Jürgen Habermas. I map out the ways in which these theorists critique Rorty’s therapeutic approach to philosophy and his separation of the private and public spheres. In Chapter Two, I examine Wilfrid Sellars’s idea of the Myth of the Given and the attempt by Rorty and McDowell to deal with its implications for language and justification. McDowell is my chief interlocutor in Chapter Three where I continue to explore Rorty’s idea of linguistic redescription and the charge McDowell raises concerning coherentism (linguistic idealism). Rorty argues that the implications of the Myth of the Given lead to the conclusion that the world can cause us to have beliefs, but it can never justify our beliefs.
McDowell maintains that, in order to count as knowledge, the claims we make must receive “friction” from the world to which they are answerable. In Chapter Four, I consider Rorty’s attempt to dissolve philosophical problems rather than offering a theory that proposes to solve them. This is the essence of therapeutic philosophy, but I argue that Rorty does not apply it consistently. I offer readings of two of Rorty’s seminal works: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. I maintain that Rorty’s therapeutic approach to epistemological skepticism in the former work takes on a theoretical dimension in the latter work that begins to look more reductionist than therapeutic or redescriptive. In Chapter Five, I return again to the idea of introspection and Rorty’s treatment of Descartes. I consider the objections of John Searle and Charles Taylor to Rorty’s linguistic pragmatism. Afterwards, I offer some thoughts concerning justification and language, with an eye towards the hermeneutical tradition, that point towards a conception of knowledge that, in my view, has the potential to connect normativity to a form of representational realism that does not fall back into the Myth of the Given



Rorty, Richard, Justification (Theory of knowledge), Language and languages—Philosophy, Paradigm (Theory of knowledge), Skepticism, Reductionism, Pragmatism, Hermeneutics