2022-01Discussion Papers, Comments, Book Reviews
Richard Rorty, Jürgen Habermas, and the Nature of Philosophical Dialogue


/Review: Marcin Kilanowski, The Rorty-Habermas Debate: Toward Freedom as Responsibility, (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2021), 304 pages./

The American philosopher Richard Rorty (1931 – 2007) and the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas (b. 1929) engaged in a lengthy discussion over the years on a range of issues, particularly as these issues involved the nature of liberal, democratic society following the horrors of Auschwitz. The two thinkers came from different philosophical traditions with Rorty associated with analytical philosophy and pragmatism and Habermas with Continental philosophy, the Frankfurt School, and critical theory.  Both philosophers saw themselves as “postmetaphysical,” rejecting traditional philosophical questions about the nature of reality and knowledge.
Marcin Kilanowski, Professor of Law at Nicholas Copernicus University in Poland, offers a detailed discussion of the Rorty-Habermas debate. His book is intended for a broad audience beyond academic philosophers. He presents an exposition of both Rorty’s and Habermas’ thought, together with a comparison with those of John Dewey, who influenced them both. Kilanowski then compares and contrasts the thought of Rorty and Habermas with the goal of showing large areas of agreement, even though they philosophized in seemingly different ways. Kilanowski also suggests lessons that may be learned from the Rorty-Habermas debate about the nature of politics and democracy. He does so through the concept of freedom and through the development of a view he calls “freedom as responsibility.”
The review examines Kilanowski’s study of the Rorty-Habermas debate and concludes that Kilanowski succeeds in his aim of showing the convergence between the two thinkers. The review also suggests that Kilanowski’s work may have a broader application in that it suggests how dialogue between different philosophical traditions may be developed and understood. As in Kilanowski’s book, the review also questions the “postmetaphysical” stance adopted by both Rorty and Habermas.

How to cite:

Friedman, Robin. “Richard Rorty, Jürgen Habermas, and the Nature of Philosophical Dialogue.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 6, no. 1 (2022):  126-131. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2022.0010.


Robin Friedman
Independent Scholar

Open Access Statement:

This is an open access journal which means that all content is freely available without charge to the user or his/her institution. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author, as long as the author and original source are properly cited. This is in accordance with the BOAI definition of open access.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Submitting a text to Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture means that the author agrees with the general conditions of this license. The author does and will maintain copyrights and publishing rights for his/her article without any restrictions.