Romantic Polytheism is a term coined by the American pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty to describe a new religious attitude and practice appropriate to American secular democracy. Rorty’s key essay, “Pragmatism as Romantic Polytheism,” lays out the intellectual and aesthetic precedents for this religious way-forward and five theses for a pragmatist religious philosophy. However, the project remains, after Rorty’s death, an intellectual one.
This blog is an attempt to explore and synthesize the ideas embodied in Rorty’s concept of “Romantic Polytheism” (alternatively “a religion of democracy”) and those of the other thinkers and traditions he drew on. If there is a practical dimension to this philosophical exercise to be found, perhaps this is a venue for it.
Key themes include: Romanticism and the project of individual self-development; the relationship between religion and poetry and the larger aesthetic realm (religion as art and art as religion); boundaries between personal faith and public cooperation and democratic consensus; the meaning of polytheism for those who reject supernaturalism; democracy and the public sphere as telos.
Unless otherwise credited, material here has been created by Todd Covert, a long time teacher and liturgist in the Celtic polytheist tradition. Holding degrees in philosophy and theatre, Todd served for a number of years as Executive Administrator of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles and his thought is strongly influenced by ideas of both Jung and James Hillman. Other key influences include William James (central to Rorty’s ideas as well), Rudolf Otto, Mircea Eliade, W.B. Yeats, and the poets and other writers of the Romantic and Gothic movements.