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A STUDY OF RICHARD RORTY’S IRONISM

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Abstract

With a pragmatist approach which he calls Ironism, Richard Rorty makes an attempt to eliminate metaphysics, and finally to replace philosophy with literature. What Rorty sees as metaphysics is the traditional philosophical view that mind or language represents the true nature of things, the universal and changeless essence of reality. And what he sees as Ironism, an attempt to eliminate metaphysics, is redescription of metaphysical concepts (such as truth, mind, reason, etc.). Redescription of the concepts means replacing their speculative metaphysical senses with pragmatic senses. For instance, Rorty argues that the word “truth” is not found, but made, because truth is not an objective reality out there, but a function of sentences made by humans. He argues that the word ‘mind’ is not an immaterial entity that mirrors reality, but the ability to use persuasion rather than force to make people do what one wants. When Rorty realized that redescription of vocabularies using theory cannot eliminate metaphysics because theory is about general ideas (the metaphysical), he then recommended use of novel in the place of theory for Ironism. He argues that literature should replace philosophy, because philosophy is not a search for truth, but a literary enterprise—arguments about what words to use. The objectives of this study are: (i) to expose Rorty’s Ironism in detail; (ii) to expose metaphysics itself which Ironism is made to eliminate; (iii) to evaluate Rorty’s claim that metaphysics or philosophy is replaceable by Ironism or literature; (iv) to argue that Ironism as an attempt to eliminate metaphysics is a misnomer and ill-founded; and (v) to create a new sub-branch of philosophy out of Rorty’s Ironism. Expository, evaluative and hermeneutic methods were used to achieve the objective. The conclusion of the study (which is its main thesis) is that Ironism is not opposed to metaphysics, but a pragmatist kind of metaphysics which is opposed to the idealist kind.
KEYWORDS: Ironism, metaphysics, redescription, creativity, innovation