Opening truth to imagination : the pragmatism of John Dewey and Richard Rorty
McClelland, Kenneth A.
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This study explores in a comparative way the works of two American pragmatist philosophers-John Dewey and Richard Rorty. I have provided a reading of their broader works in order to offer what I hope is a successful sympathetic comparison where very few exist. Dewey is often viewed as the central hero in the classical American pragmatic tradition, while Rorty, a contemporary pragmatist, is viewed as some sort of postmodern villain. I show that the different approaches by the two philosophers-Dewey's experiential focus versus Rorty's linguistic focus-exist along a common pragmatic continuum, and that much of the critical scholarship that pits the two pragmatists against each other has actually created an unwarranted dualism between experience and language. I accomplish this task by following the critical movement by each of the pragmatists through their respective reworking of traditional absolutist truth conceptions toward a more aesthetical, imaginative position. I also show how this shift or "turning" represents an important aspect of the American philosophical tradition-its aesthetic axis. I finally indicate a role for liberal education (focusing on higher nonvocational education) in accommodating this turning, a turning that in the end is necessitated by democracy's future trajectory