SAAP Annual Meeting 2013

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James and Rorty on Experience and the Limits of Epistemology

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Alexis Dianda
The New School for Social Research
United States

This paper is a discussion of the language/experience polemic that has emerged in twentieth century philosophy from the perspective of two thinkers of the pragmatic tradition: Richard Rorty and William James. The paper begins by looking to the epistemological argument offered against appeals to experience made by Rorty. Through a discussion of the role of logic and affect in the argument of “The Will to Believe,” I begin to highlight an aspect of James’ appeal to experience that is overlooked by Rorty’s proffering of the epistemological critique of experience. I suggest that such a critique misses one of the most valuable aspects of James’ concern with experience, one that is highlighted by turning our attention from our concern with justification to the role of experience in our moral and active lives.


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