Richard Rorty and the power of pragmatism
Pragmatism as Anti-Authoritarianism
by Richard Rorty
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In the past few years, the word “pragmatism” has been spreading like a weed through the discourse of democracy. Theresa May and Boris Johnson both promised us a “pragmatic” Brexit, and Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer undertook to be “pragmatic” in response. The same applies to every other issue you might mention: from Covid and the climate emergency to the supply chain crisis, our politicians assure us they are going to be thoroughly pragmatic.
They might be speaking truer than they know: Samuel Johnson’s dictionary glossed “pragmatism” as “impertinently busy,” “meddling” or “assuming business without leave or invitation.” At the end of the 19th century, however, a group of iconoclastic…
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