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New Left Review I/209, January-February 1995


Norman Geras

Language, Truth and Justice

I shall be travelling in what follows a somewhat winding road, and so here is my central thesis. If there is no truth, there is no injustice. Stated less simplistically, if truth is wholly relativized or internalized to particular discourses or language games or social practices, there is no injustice. The victims and protesters of any putative injustice are deprived of their last and often best weapon, that of telling what really happened. They can only tell their story, which is something else. Morally and politically, therefore, anything goes. [*] This is an extract, and slightly modified, from Norman Geras, Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind: The Ungroundable Liberalism of Richard Rorty, to be published by Verso this, spring. Rorty’s writings are referred to here under the following abbreviations: Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Cambridge 1989 (cis); Consequences of Pragmatism, Hemel Hempstead 1982 (cop); Essays on Heidegger and Others, Cambridge 1991 (eho); ‘Feminism and Pragmatism’, Radical Philosophy 59, autumn 1991 (fem); ‘Human Rights, Rationality, and Sentimentality’, in S. Shute and S. Hurley, eds, On Human Rights: Tbe Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1993, New York 1993 (hrs); Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth, Cambridge 1991 (ort); Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Oxford 1980 (pmn); ‘Thugs and Theorists’, Political Theory 15, 1987 (ths); ‘Truth and Freedom: A Reply to Thomas McCarthy’, Critical Enquiry 16, spring 1990 (trf); ‘Trotsky and the Wild Orchids’, Common Knowledge, winter 1992 (two); ‘We Anti-Representationalists’, Radical Philosophy 60, spring 1992 (war).

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