Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rorty, Darwin, and Their Problems

Wherein the essayist dismantles Rorty's "freeloader moralism" and Darwin's atheistic materialism and shows that each of these men have intellectual descendants--equally flawed--in both "liberal" and "conservative" political camps.

...two major problems in Rorty’s thought should be evident: First, his active commitment to human dignity and social justice is undermined by his rejection of foundations for them in philosophy and religion, leading him to admit that he is a “freeloader” on traditional foundations of moral duty and goodness. And second, for all his profession that each person’s beliefs only derive their legitimacy from the accident that he happened to inherit them, Rorty’s commitment to a democratic, egalitarian version of human dignity and social justice does not lead him to embrace a “live and let live” attitude, but instead attracts him to the moral authoritarianism of a strong-willed teacher imposing views on his students, and eventually to world government. One must stand in amazement at just how much moral certitude and moral authoritarianism can be drawn from the empty relativity of Rorty’s postmodern skepticism and non-foundationalism.

As to Darwin:

...Insofar as Darwinians appeal to nature as a standard, they are not candid enough to acknowledge the most logical implication of their theory. The moral and political implications of Darwinian evolution do not point either to Aristotelian virtue ethics or to a progressive, democratic social justice that respects the rights and dignity of persons. Rather, it points to something like the Social Darwinism advocated by Herbert Spencer, Friedrich Nietzsche, or Ayn Rand — a view of politics in which the strong inevitably and even legitimately dominate and exploit the weak for their own purposes, and democracy, dignity, justice, and compassion are sentimental relics of Christianity, or, more accurately, prejudices of democratic culture

It's a lengthy essay with lots more nuggets, worth the read.

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