Volume 31, 1988
The Tradition in Retreat
The traditional ways in which philosophy is conceived are in retreat. Classical foundationalism, in both its epistemological and its semantical phrasing, not only rests on a mistake, its very self-image of philosophy is both presumptuous and unsound. Richard Rorty's work has done much to establish these things. Most of his critics have accepted his critique of classical foundationalism while continuing to espouse either some form of modest foundationalism or a coherentist naturalized epistemology. But in doing so they have, either explicitly or in effect, given up the claim — a claim that gave philosophy a clear rationale — that philosophy could be the arbiter of culture by telling us what genuine knowledge or significant discourse really are. This transformation is so deep as to make it thoroughly problematic whether there is anything viable left in the tradition.