Rorty on Features 4 and 5 of Prag Phil Rel
Monday, March 30, 2009 at 11:38PM
Kevin O'Neill

When Rorty takes up the 4th and 5th points of his pragmatic philosophy of religion his general approach to philosophy and the world becomes still clearer.

In the 4th feature, he writes that there is no inborn love for truth in human beings, so that the fact that no religious claim could possibly be true in the sense he allows for truth - public testing and

precise attention to patterns of fact, and so forth - is no longer important. What matters is that the belief matters to the individual, and that in believing something that could never be publicly approved we are not betraying a fundamental part of human character. There is then nothing wrong with having beliefs that cannot stand up to any sort of test - so long as we never think we have any right to make them public or to have them, or their moral or political implications, made into laws and policies that will affect the lives of our fellow citizens.

This is important: Rorty thinks religion is just peachy so long as it never “betrays” the individual’s moral responsibility to his fellows to maximize common happiness without any reference at all to a definition of happiness that involves responsibility to a non-human Being.

He says clearly that anyone who tries to impose a unified vision of what is good for individuals in private is copping out morally, using the idea of a Big Protector Guy, a kind of transcendental Don Corleone, both to intimidate and to organize one’s fellow citizens in ways that one finds pleasing. Injecting belief into the public sphere is for Rorty the illegitimate extension of private poetic vision to a public arena.

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