Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 April 2021
This chapter begins by arguing that the common tendency to write off Rorty’s views on morality on the grounds that they are vulnerable to straightforward charges of relativism is mistaken if only because it ignores the fact that those views are conceived independently of his epistemological behaviorism. It then moves on to examine the relationship between Rorty’s notion of selfhood and his distinction between public and private morality. In exploring that relationship, a number of problematic issues are identified concerning: Rorty’s dependence on a Freudian multi-personality account of the self, his excessive optimism regarding the demands of self-creation in modern societies, and whether the very idea of morality as a private concern can carry the weight he places upon it. Some of the literary critic Lionel Trilling’s views on the burdens of self-making are introduced to temper Rorty’s utopian expectations.