Essay on Philosophy and Multiculturalism: Searle, Rorty, and Taylor

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Philosophy and Multiculturalism: Searle, Rorty, and Taylor

ABSTRACT: John Searle opposes multiculturalism because he views it as part of a movement to undermine the concepts of truth and objectivity in the Western tradition. Richard Rorty disagrees with Searle about the relation between philosophical theories of truth and academic practices, but he is neutral on the issue of multiculturalism. Charles Taylor approaches the issue historically, defending multiculturalism as emerging from one branch of liberal political theory. I argue that the debate over epistemological and political issues has tended to obscure the educational benefits of multiculturalism. A multicultural curriculum works very well in fulfilling the traditional goals of
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The concepts of truth, reality, objectivity, and rationality which have been taken for granted in higher education (as well as in our civilization in general) have been challenged by what he calls the "subculture of postmodernism," a loosely-defined group of left-wing academics which includes multiculturalists, feminists, deconstructionists, and followers of Nietzsche, T.S. Kuhn, and Richard Rorty. I shall not attempt to discuss all of these movements but intend to focus only upon the issue of multicultural education, which I understand to mean teaching students about other cultural traditions in addition to their own.

Searle summarizes the main principles of what he calls "metaphysical realism" or the "Western Rationalistic Tradition" as follows:

Knowledge is typically of a mind-independent reality. It is expressed in a public language, it contains true propositions — these propositions are true because they accurately represent that reality — and knowledge is arrived at by applying, and is subject to, constraints of rationality and logic. The merits and demerits of theories are largely a matter of meeting or failing to meet the criteria implicit in this conception. (2)

All of the above principles, Searle argues, have been challenged for political reasons by those who are attempting to use the university in order to advance leftist
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