The Rortian Rawls: The Role of Irony in Rawls's Liberalism
I am referring to Richard Rorty's desire for a "redescription of liberalism as the hope that culture as a whole can be 'poeticized' rather than the Enlightenment hope that it can be 'rationalized' or 'scientized'(1989). That is, Rawls's framework within which he proposes justice as fairness demands a Rortian perpective. I argue that this Rortian perspective makes Rawls's justice as fairness the most hopeful scheme for emerging democracies in the Middle East, where religious beliefs seem to constitute a barrier to democracy. My conclusion is mandated by considering the role in public reason of Rawls's "burdens of judgment" constraint on citizens who take the religious views as absolutes. The only way out for participants in Rawls's public reason who attempt to reconcile their religious beliefs with their political conceptions is rortian irony. Finally, I maintain that this Rortian aspect of Rawls's theory best demonstrates that classifying Rawls's justice as fairness as an "unrealistic utopia" is a misreading of Rawls's theory.
Keywords: Rawls, Rorty, Irony, Justice as Fairness, Liberal democracy
Dr James Hersh
Professor of Philosophy, Philosophy Department, Salve Regina University