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The Art of Democracy—Art as a Tool for Developing Democratic Citizenship and Stimulating Public Debate: A Rortyan-Deweyan Account

Author(s): Michael I. Raeber

Journal: Humanities
ISSN 2076-0787

Volume: 2;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 176;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: aesthetics and philosophy of art | anti-foundationalism | democracy | democratic citizenship | Dewey | political criticism | pragmatism and neo-pragmatism | public debate | Rorty

Richard Rorty holds that the novel is the characteristic genre of democracy, because it helps people to develop and to stabilize two crucial capabilities the ideal inhabitants of democratic societies should possess: a keen sense for anti-foundationalism and a disposition for solidarity. He believes that novels help develop these capabilities by educating our capacity for criticism and our capacity for attentive-empathetic perception. This article argues in favor of this Rortyan idea, showing how anti-foundationalism and solidarity can be seen as important instances of what I will call 'dispositions for democratic citizenship' and that art (and not only novels) and its reception, are valuable tools for advancing these dispositions. However, as the Rortyan public-private dichotomy assigns art’s function of criticism only to the private sphere, Rorty ignores its potential for stimulating democratic public deliberation and he misses the fact that art’s functions of criticism and of attentive-empathetic perception partially depend on each other if they are effectively to lead to increased solidarity and change social realities. Thus this article argues—taking these objections into account—to slightly modify, but nevertheless value Rorty’s idea that art and its reception are crucial resources for democratic citizenship and for the process of democratic deliberation.

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