187-8 7 To illustrate this point, Rorty gives the example of how we are more likely to get sentimental about “babies and the more attractive sorts of animal” as having feelings than, say, “flounders and spiders”.
Likewise, we are more likely to care about koalas than pigs, he tells us, even though pigs rate higher on the intelligence scale, because “pigs don’t writhe in quite the right humanoid way, and the pig’s face is the wrong shape for the facial expressions which go with ordinary conversation”.
The idea that conversation is “the ultimate context with which knowledge is to be understood” leads Rorty to a preoccupation with “conversation with strangers”, understood as those who fall outside our “sense of community based on the imagined possibility of conversation”.
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature6 If, as Rorty claimed, “the community is the source of epistemic authority”, and, building on Wilfrid Sellars, “we can only come under epistemic rules when we have entered the community where the game governed by these rules is played,” then we attribute knowledge to beings “on the basis of their potential membership in this community”.
The first is the fundamental commitment to change or progress that underlies his treatment of the power of the novel.
The second is the deeply democratic impulse that informs this project – what Rorty called the “anti-authoritarian motif” of pragmatism: the idea that nothing “could have authority over the members of a democratic community save the free, collective, decisions of that community”. 26 Rorty’s turn to literature in the context of ethical and political issues shares much with Martha Nussbaum’s influential account of the role of literary imagining for public reasoning.
On Richard Rorty’s definition of the novel as “characteristic genre of democracy”.
During the last two decades of his life, Richard Rorty turned away from philosophy to develop a provocative defence of the novel as “the characteristic genre of democracy, the genre most closely associated with the struggle for freedom and equality”.