more on rorty's philosophy of religion - a fragment added when found online




The five things:



we did #1, about beliefs as habits of action.

#2 - “If there is no will to truth apart from the will to happiness, there is no way to contrast the cognitive with the non-cognitive, the serious with the non-serious.”

Earlier in this section Rorty says that people like Tillich made religion “symbolic”, by which R means that Tillich redescribed religious belief as “poetic”' and poetry therefore as “religious”. This appears to mean that one does not make religious claims as if they were true about the nature of the universe, straight ahead, but as expressions of an indivudal's take on things, his or her personal vision or feel about the whole shebang. R does not see such individual visions as co0mpeting with science, but then one has to ask, what exactly are they?

R recognizes that if we keep saying that science, as opposed to poetry or religion, is “serious” kniowledge, or “cognitive” -- produced by reason -- which means that poetry/religion are non-serious as knowledge and also non-cognitive (a matter of feeling or mood, not knowledge) then what one has done, and which no religious person will take seriously, is to relegate rel/poetry to a realm outside truth.


R, instead of claiming that religion does exist in the same realm of truth as science, and is just wrong, a position that Hitchens, Dennett, Harris and Dawkins all take, or claiming that there are different and equally valid forms of knowing (very mysterious and profound-sounding but mighty difficult to cash in), or that religious folks, through their faith, have access to truthy truth that is just not available to we peons who do not believe, chooses to argue that we need to drop a distinction on which all the preceding positions logically depend: namely that in culture there are some things that fulfill our need for truth and some that answer other, generally lesser aims such as our feelings.


What does this amount to? R seems tio be saying that there is a cultural distinction between claims thatr have cognitive weight and those that have lesser weight or no weight at all. This is definitely a cultural intuition. You and I do tend to believe that some sentences tell a truth and others are more contestable. R wants us to begin to believe and to talk as if the real reason we believe the guy at the Apple store more readily than the guy in a bad suit who brandishes the Book of Mormon at us is that generally speaking we expect more happiness from the Apple Genius than from the Mormon missionary, although sometimes the relationship gets reversed.

R is asking us to rethink our cultural instincts. Does this make sense? Is geek talk really just as true or not as religious visions or “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?”

If so what does this do to the whole idea of what it meaqns for things to be true? Isn't Rorty perhaps going a little too far in a way he need not go? Can't we say that certain truths are truer than other truths for most poeople and that this is not because they are better but because they seem much easier to prove?

The problem for R is, I think, that if we say this we are saying something that he really does not want us to be able to say, namely that religious claims might actually be true-able, testable as true in much the same way as claims about Mac logic boards. And R assumes that this cannot be so, is not in the realm of possibility and therefore he writes as if we should stop talking in this way.


He substitutes another distinction that he likes better, that gives him more pleasure. He says that we need to distinguish, not between cog and non-cog sentences, but between “projects of social coperation and projects of individual self-development.


The big distinction here is between claims in which intersubjective agreement is required and claims in which it is not. My first response is that this distinction is cool but shows that the R man does not know a whole lot about religion and religious practice, namely that religious belief is deeply intersubjective rather than individual. Indeed part of the whole point of religion is it inherently communal nature.


In science people cooperate to observe and experiment so that they can make predictions that will come true. This does sound a lot like traditional ideas about truth, doesn't it?


R says that law is the same, but does not make clear what he means. How exactly is law like science?


R sees what he calls “romantic art” as “a paradigmatic project of individual self-development.

R thinks that perhaps religion = another paradigm. But it is one iff it is separated from 2 things:

  1. attempt to predict consequences of our actions (science)

  2. attempt to rank human needs.(morals).


But this is what religion does.


This needs a lot more discussion.


  1. Love of Truth

    R believes there is no love of Truth, nor should love Truth. Under this description, if we need nit love truth then religious belief is not intellectually irresponsible. R assumes 2 things.

First he assumes that religious belief and truth have nothing to do with each other and cannot have anything to do with each other.

Second he assumes that religious people will not want to have anything to do with the truth.

R wants to say that we should never rule out a rel. belief just because there ain't no evidence 4 it. We just don't ever want it to erupt into “a social and cooperative project.”

The real problem with religion is its sins against liberty, that is against its responsibility to other people.


  1. Love of Truth = Secular version of religious hope that hooking up w/ God will give us power in dealing with other people.

    R objects to this alliance not because it is weak but because it is antidemocratic. So, what R has vs. the rel fundies is not that they are intellectually irresponsible but morally irresponsible.

    Rel people claim to know the only ways to happiness and they exclude other people's' ways.



    R much prefers Dewey to James, because James hangs a lot of his ideas on there being a Truth, a God. Dewey really has no interest in God, but in the social dimensions of religion.



In Will


Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>