Michael Turner

Political Theory Without Mirrors: Rorty, Hermeneutics, and the "New Pragmatism"

Faculty Mentor: Sydney Mitsunaga-Whitten, Comparative Studies in Literature & Culture Department

Major: Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture

Funding: Arnston Memorial Essay Award



This project sets out to analyze the thinking of Richard Rorty throughout his polemical book, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (PMN). In this text, the author is primarily concerned with deconstructing the mirror imagery which has held the self-conception of Philosophy captive since its inception. This task is achieved through a comprehensive refutation of the central claims of Platonic metaphysics, Cartesian dualism, and Kantian epistemology. In place of the representationalist account of knowledge that Rorty intends to do away with, he suggests the edifying practice of Hermeneutical dialogue. This text is nothing short of radical in its attempt to repudiate the entire philosophical tradition of the West—a fact that subjects Rorty to much criticism from his peers. Moreover, the approach to philosophy that he suggests in its place appears to have a tendency to become ethnocentric and—in the worst case—markedly conservative. Taking such criticisms seriously, I set out to understand precisely where such problems occur and what possible means exist to resolve them. The troubles with PMN, it seems, occur as a result of the author’s misapplication of the Hermeneutical philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer. It is the point of this argument to suggest that employing a more accurate interpretation of Gadamerian Hermeneutics would serve Rorty well in resolving the problems which subject his work to such criticisms.


Watch my research presentation below.

Questions or comments? Contact me at: turnerm@oxy.edu