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Richard Rorty’s ‘Post-Kantian’ Philosophy of History

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This article contends that despite Richard Rorty’s famous rejection of metaphysics, his work nonetheless offers a philosophy of history, and that his account mirrors that of Kant’s, a figure Rorty considered one of his primary conceptual adversaries. Although Rorty often presents his approach to history as a foil to Kant’s, his account has striking parallels to the latter’s regulative meliorism. In similar fashion, far from being a blind optimist, Kant provides a critical, progressive vision of history as necessary for the purposes of social action. Properly understood, Kant buttresses rather than undermines Rorty’s aims, and had Rorty engaged his work on history more seriously, he might have avoided some of the more problematic elements of his own prophetic patriotism. Despite Rorty’s dismissal of his work as the apotheosis of the absolute, this article argues that Kant’s regulative philosophy of history is more pragmatically oriented towards concrete social change than Rorty’s.

Affiliations: 1: Ohio


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