International Journal for Philosophy of Religion

, Volume 82, Issue 2, pp 103–118 | Cite as

Richard Rorty and the concept of redemption

  • Tracy Llanera


It is curious why a secular pragmatist like Richard Rorty would capitalize on the religiously-laden concept of redemption in his recent writings. But more than being an intriguing idea in his later work, this essay argues that redemption plays a key role in the historical development of Rorty’s thought. It begins by exploring the paradoxical status of redemption in Rorty’s oeuvre. It then investigates an overlooked debate between Rorty, Dreyfus and Taylor (1980) that first endorses the concept. It then contrasts Rorty’s notions of essentialism and edification to link redemption to self-transformation. After providing a historical legitimation to the idea of redemption, the essay reconstructs Rorty’s modern version of the concept. Redemption for Rorty centers on human relationships and not religion or philosophy; it is also pluralist and liberal in character. Finally, it concludes that Rorty uses redemption—a primary component of religious language—to capture the salvific force of religion. This power is redirected toward the protection of secular, democratic hopes, which are demanding and fragile by nature.


Richard Rorty Redemption Religion Liberal utopia Hubert Dreyfus Charles Taylor 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia

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