Richard Rorty and the concept of redemption

Tracy Llanera*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


It is curious why a secular pragmatist like Richard Rorty would capitalize on the religiously-laden concept of redemption in his recent writings. But more than being an intriguing idea in his later work, this essay argues that redemption plays a key role in the historical development of Rorty’s thought. It begins by exploring the paradoxical status of redemption in Rorty’s oeuvre. It then investigates an overlooked debate between Rorty, Dreyfus and Taylor (1980) that first endorses the concept. It then contrasts Rorty’s notions of essentialism and edification to link redemption to self-transformation. After providing a historical legitimation to the idea of redemption, the essay reconstructs Rorty’s modern version of the concept. Redemption for Rorty centers on human relationships and not religion or philosophy; it is also pluralist and liberal in character. Finally, it concludes that Rorty uses redemption—a primary component of religious language—to capture the salvific force of religion. This power is redirected toward the protection of secular, democratic hopes, which are demanding and fragile by nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-118
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal for Philosophy of Religion
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Charles Taylor
  • Hubert Dreyfus
  • Liberal utopia
  • Redemption
  • Religion
  • Richard Rorty


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