An integrativist attempt to dissolve and reconstruct Richard Rorty’s conception of ironism
Richard Rorty draws a distinction between an activity of using old words in new senses for self liberation or private autonomy and an activity of searching ‘‘for theories which will get at real essence.’’ He calls those who engage in the former activity ‘‘ironists,’’ people like Proust, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Hegel and Derrida, and calls those who engage in the latter activity ‘‘metaphysicians,’’ people like Plato, Descartes and Kant (RORTYa 1989, 96—97). The ironists, he says, have radical and continuing doubts about their final vocabularies, because they have been impressed by other vocabularies. Unlike metaphysicians who search for words closer to reality, ironists engage only in playing off new words against old ones. When Rorty realized that this distinction is implausible, that both groups shared a certain unavoidable metaphysical link, he then called for replacement of theory with novel in ironism, which implies replacement of philosophy with literature. Theory, he says, is about general ideas, while the novel is about people. This paper is aimed at averting this implication, by arguing that interpretation of the novel (which is the essence of it) implicates metaphysics and is theory-laden, and that ironism should not be seen in the Rortyan way as that opposed to metaphysics, but as a new (pragmatic) way of doing metaphysics. Integrativism, an African method of philosophy, is employed to dissolve Rorty’s distinction between ironism and metaphysics, and to redescribe ironism as ‘‘innovativism.’’ The method of this work is argumentative, conversational, critical and redescriptive.
Keywords: Ironism, metaphysics, integrativism, innovativism, redescription