Frontiers of Diversity: Explorations in Contemporary Pluralism

By Avery Plaw | Go to book overview

Is Monotheism Compatible with Pluralism? Reflections
on Richard Rorty's Critique of Religion

Nicholas H. Smith

Abstract

This paper examines Rorty's view of the relation between religion and philosophical pluralism. The first section deals with monotheism in the context of Rorty's pluralist approach to truth. The discussion here deals mainly with the reflexive stance towards belief that pluralism requires of the believer. The second section considers the way Rorty sketches the moral hopes embodied in pluralism, the basic kind of social relations that would typify a pluralist culture, and the capacity of monotheism to orient or sustain those relations. The general conclusion to be drawn from these considerations is that monotheism - at least in the sense Rorty gives to that term - is structurally at odds with pluralism in the ways Rorty suggests. In the third section, however, it is argued that Rorty's case is vitiated by its reliance on utilitarianism. Rorty invokes utilitarianism to show how religion can be made compatible with pluralism, but - as critics of utilitarianism have long argued - utilitarianism is badly suited to this purpose because it is insensitive to the specific normative content of religion.

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