Richard Rorty repudiated W. B. Yeats’s aspiration “to hold justice and reality in a single vision,” and he did so with relish. Thrilling though it may be, Rorty would say, there is no need to weave into a single, coherent narrative our commitment to the end of cruelty (justice) and our idiosyncratic aesthetic tastes (reality). Not so fast, Dick. Following William and Henry James, this essay explores several footbridges between aesthetics and ethics, using Rorty as foil. The Jamesian read, I argue, leaves a great deal of flexibility for one’s private ways of aestheticizing finitude and it appeals to no foundations (à la Rorty), but it binds together the aesthetic and the ethical such that one’s peculiar reality has very much to do with justice.


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pp. 74-89
Launched on MUSE
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