SAAP Annual Meeting 2015

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Pragmatist Social Ethics and the Project of Forging Democratic Relations: Addams and Rorty

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This paper examines the commonalities in the melioristic ethical projects of Jane Addams and Richard Rorty, arguing that in distinct yet often broadly aligned ways, both thinkers sought to foster what Maurice Hamington has called a “politics of connection,” built on the cultivation of social ethical responsibility and responsiveness to others. Specifically, I identify four key areas of mutual concern: a conception of knowledge as sympathetic understanding that embraces the emotions; a notion of affective relationality that locates us within a web of relationships; a sense of the importance for democratic life of contact with diverse social experience; and a concern with altering the perspectives of the privileged. My aim in putting their ideas into fruitful conversation is not to minimize or eschew differences, but to bring to light often unengaged points of shared purpose and mutually corrective insight that offer resources for pragmatist social ethics and its melioristic practices.


Christopher Voparil    
Union Institute & University
United States


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