, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 29–41

Literature, Ethics, and Richard Rorty’s Pragmatist Theory of Interpretation


DOI: 10.1007/s11406-007-9091-7

Cite this article as:
Puolakka, K. Philosophia (2008) 36: 29. doi:10.1007/s11406-007-9091-7


This article considers the validity and strength of Richard Rorty’s pragmatist theory of interpretation in the light of two ethical issues related to literature and interpretation. Rorty’s theory is rejected on two grounds. First, it is argued that his unrestrained account of interpretation is incompatible with the distinctive moral concerns that have been seen to restrict the scope and nature of valid approaches to artworks. The second part of the paper claims that there is no indispensable relationship between supporting Rorty’s pragmatist theory of interpretation and the important place that is attached to literature in the liberal society outlined by him. A reading of Donald Davidson’s texts on literary language and interpretation implies that an intentionalist theory of interpretation can accommodate those features that Rorty values in literature as well.


Pragmatist theory of interpretation Intentionalist theory of interpretationEthical issues

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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AestheticsUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland