SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

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Locating Rorty: Feminism & Poststructuralism, Experience & Language

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Contemporary pragmatists and feminists have rejected Rorty’s views because they think his neglect of experience unacceptably limits the topics available for philosophical reflection or the tools needed for political theorizing. I argue that this rejection arises from a misreading of Rorty’s work. My argument proceeds by way of a comparison between the feminist debate over poststructuralism and the experience-language debate among pragmatists. What this comparison highlights is that pragmatists tend to interpret Rorty as holding a social constructivist position that denies the existence of pre-linguistic experience in the same way that some feminists embrace a poststructuralism that denies the existence of a pre-discursive body. I contend that, by incorporating his cultural-political views into his larger corpus, we are in a better position to see how Rorty integrates experience and language in a way similar to those feminists who aim to bring together the seemingly contradictory strengths of poststructuralism and feminism.


Susan Dieleman    
Dalhousie University


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