Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

Document Type



For more than a quarter century, Richard Rorty was one of the most controversial writers. Critics of Rorty have often clustered their remarks around distinct themes within Rorty’s body of literature. Is Rorty’s criticism of the correspondence theory of truth valid and what standard of validity could confirm that? Does Rorty’s treatment of pragmatists such as William James and John Dewey accurately reflect their writings? Is Rorty’s brand of liberalism defensible when it assumes no non-circular form of justification can be proffered? These are the questions most often addressed by Rorty’s critics. He responded to their objections for two decades. By taking a synoptic view of Rorty’s literary corpus, my goal is to change a few of the questions being asked and offer criticism of Rorty’s texts predicated on the validity of a new cluster of questions. I offer a reading of Rorty’s political theories that places Rorty’s debt to the literary critic Harold Bloom’s concepts higher than his avowed affiliation with pragmatism. I argue that in order to understand the nature of Rorty’s affiliation with pragmatism it is best to understand how Rorty was profoundly influenced by a cluster of Bloom’s concepts. These concepts include, “belatedness,” “anxiety,” “influence,” “strong poet,” “precursor,” and “misreading.” I propose a reading of Rorty’s text which, when taken together, make Bloom’s influence on Rorty central. I describe five features that make Rorty’s pragmatism peculiar. Next, I move to a discussion of Rorty’s exchanges with Donald Davidson revealing Rorty’s adaptations, contradictions, and peculiar allegiance to pragmatism. Next, I explain that allegiance by placing Bloom as the central figure in the late development of Rorty’s writings on the division of the private realm of self-creation and the public realm of solidarity. Finally, I discuss how Bloom’s concepts help explain how Rorty has wedged himself in a peculiar way between Rawlsian liberalism and communitarianism. Although Bloom is central, his centrality does not make Rorty’s writings more coherent. Placing Bloom at the center explains some of Rorty’s peculiarities while it raises other problems.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Cecil Eubanks