As a contribution to the Common Knowledge symposium “Whatever Happened to Richard Rorty?,” this essay elucidates how Isabelle Stengers's signature idea of an “ecology of practices” offers a way to establish claims to expertise and—within limits that are, in effect, the limits of specific scientific practices—claims of authority within science that Rorty would have denied. The problems facing Rorty's understanding of science also imperil his vision of a society admirably seeking to realize what he calls “social hope.” Once again, Stengers's ecology of practices, together with her cosmopolitical perspective, offers grounds for questioning Rorty's utopian belief that endless conversation should lead to continual expansion of the “we” who constitute liberal society. Her idea also provides tools for engaging, in mutually respectful and sensitive encounters that reopen prospects for social hope, the multiplicity of voices, perspectives, and practices of the “others” who have been excluded from liberal society.

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