To appear in
University of Chicago Law Review
SCIENCE AND MORALITY:
PRAGMATIC REFLECTIONS ON RORTY’S “PRAGMATISM”
Draft of January 3, 2007
Please do not cite or quote without permission
“Pragmatism,” says Richard Rorty, “puts natural science on all fours with politics
It is one more source of suggestions about what to do with our lives.”
self-professed pragmatists, like the American philosopher W.V.O. Quine, would
obviously deny this.
I shall not engage in a proprietary dispute here about the label
but I do want to present a kind of pragmatic challenge to the idea that we
have reason to think “science [is] on all fours with politics and art.”
Let us start with a familiar distinction between questions of “theoretical reason”
(questions about what we ought to believe) and questions of “practical reason” (questions
about what we ought to do).
Ethics, politics, and, on some views, art address what we
ought to do (“what to do with our lives” as Rorty puts it); science, insofar as we credit its
deliverances, tells us what we ought to believe.
When Mendellian genetics supplied the
Hines H. Baker & Thelma Kelley Baker Chair in Law, Professor of Philosophy, and Director of
the Law & Philosophy Program, The University of Texas at Austin.
Dewey and Posner on Pragmatism and Moral Progress
, __ U. CHI. L. REV. __, 2 (2007) [page
references are to the MS version].
See generally my
Why Quine is Not a Postmodernist
, reprinted in BRIAN LEITER,
ESSAYS ON AMERICAN LEGAL REALISM AND
NATURALISM IN LEGAL PHILOSOPHY
As a point of personal privilege as a Nietzsche scholar, I do want to observe that Rorty’s claims
about Nietzsche’s “vacillations” at the start of his essay betray either an ignorance of or indifference to both
Nietzsche’s texts and Nietzsche scholarship.
See generally, MAUDEMARIE CLARK, NIETZSCHE ON
TRUTH AND PHILOSOPHY (1990); BRIAN LEITER, NIETZSCHE ON MORALITY