Abstract

In his brief consideration of non-Western philosophy between 1989 and 1991, Richard Rorty argued that dialogue between Western philosophy and non-Western traditions is not constructive since it almost inevitably involves fundamental misunderstanding, and he even expressed doubt about whether non-Western philosophy exists. This reaction seems out of character, given that Rorty specialized in forging unlikely alliances between philosophers from different Western traditions, and was an enthusiastic advocate of edification through hermeneutic engagement with unfamiliar vocabularies. It is argued here that given Rorty’s conception of philosophy as a literary tradition, he had no reason to exclude non-Western figures, and that his various arguments against the desirability of comparative philosophy–based on the different purposes of different traditions, their different conceptual schemes, and his notion of “transcultural character”–are all inconsistent with more characteristic elements of his thought, as well as independently unconvincing. The underlying reason Rorty adopted this combative stance toward comparative philosophy, it is argued, is that non-Western philosophy undermines his critique of Western philosophy, which depends on a cultural-specificity thesis according to which philosophical problems are rooted in obsolete European social needs. Against this thesis, this article concludes by arguing that philosophy has a natural subject matter.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1898
Print ISSN
0031-8221
Pages
pp. 1018-1038
Launched on MUSE
2014-11-05
Open Access
No
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