Virginia Law ReviewApril, 1992Is Pragmatism Useful?
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM ANTI-FOUNDATIONALIST PHILOSOPHERS?: AREPLY TO LYNN BAKER
[FNa]Copyright (c) 1992 by the Virginia Law Review Association; Richard Rorty
ROFESSOR Lynn Baker says that “an anti-foundationalist conception of social change asevolution may dilute both the prophet's belief in her own vision and her motivation to effectsocial change.”[FN1]It might, but if it does then the prophet is the wrong kind of prophet, thekind who thinks herself the voice of something bigger and more authoritative than the possibleconsequences of the application of her ideas.The good kind of prophet thinks of herself as
someone who has a better idea, on anepistemological par with the people who claim to have a new gimmick for retreading tires, or programming computers, or redrawing the company's table of organization. Good prophets saythat if we all got together and did such and such, we would probably like the results. They paint pictures of what this brighter future would look like, and write scenarios about how it might be brought about. When they've finished doing that, they have nothing more to offer, except to say“Let's try it!” (a phrase I prefer to “Just do it!”).This kind of prophet does not think that her views have “legitimacy” or “authority.” Theother, worse, type of prophet thinks of herself as a messenger from somebody (God) or something (Truth, Reason, History, Human Nature, Science, Philosophy, the Spirit of the Laws,The Working Class, the Blood and Soil of Germany, The Consciousness of the Oppressed,Woman's Experience, Negritude, the Overman who is to come, the New Socialist Man who is tocome)-somebody in whose name, or something in the name of which, they speak. Such prophetsthink of themselves as not just one more voice in the conversation, but as the representative of something that is somehow
than another such voice. They defend their proposals not solelyin terms of how much we would like the consequences of
the change they propose-howglad we, or at least our descendants, will be that we made that change-but also by reference tothe authority of that for which they speak.*****Baker says that I “persuade[ ] one ultimately that anti-foundationalism might be useful onlyto especially intellectual prophets, and only when they need to extricate themselves from philosophical or theoretical hassles.”[FN2]I quite agree. The kind of prophet I prefer rarely gets