, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 29-41
Date: 01 Sep 2007

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

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Abstract

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.