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Contemporary Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature by Richard Rorty (Princeton University Press) This book is one of Rorty's earlier works, and, thus, he is still more "analytic" in his approach. The basic purposes of the book are (1) why it is wrong to speak of coming to a knowledge of the truth by means of our glassy essence *mirroring* reality and (2) how can we continue philosophy after we have gotten rid of the post-Cartesian epistemological binary opposition.

Rorty makes repeated attacks on the correspondence theory of truth. Furthermore, he ties in his anti-essentialism into this in such a way that if you stand with him in denying the naive realist epistemology, you will begin be unable to see why people speak of "essence" or the ding-an-sich vs. it's representation. Rorty does not wish to make us into individualistic relativists who believe that however it is that we are appeared to defines what is true. Rather, he wants us to forget about the whole search for objective ahistorical truth--"Truth" that transcends our contingency. Also, Rorty engages in a tireless critique of the ocular metaphor that has pervaded Western philosophy from the beginning.
So, truth becomes, ceteris paribus, what our peers will let us get away with saying. This seems at least half-Wittgensteinian (of course, depending on how you interpret LW). In the process of deconstructing Western philosophy as the search for transcendental truth, Rorty uses, most notably, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Dewey.

Rorty's answer to the second issue dealt with in the book is that philosophers should try to "continue a conversation." Forget about metaphysics and all other metanarratives. We must guide ourselves by "our lights". Philosophy is more about settling disputes peaceably (thus inscreasing solidarity) and enjoying ourselves. Philosophy is just another language game, like science, poetry, etc. There is nothing that puts the philosopher in access to more basic or fundamental knowledge and truth. Rather, he is just good at playing a particular language game.

Personally, despite Rorty's claims otherwise, I see this all as just another form of social relativism. If a society achieves solidarity on an issue, there really isn't much one can say against it from a Rortian view, if we were a part of that society. But, as Westerners, we might have a lot of things to say. This is all connected with what is later developed by Rorty into Ethnocentrism. Basically, because we can't get out of our own bodies, and transcend ourselves, all we can do is speak from where we are. And, this "where we are" is just a contingent, situated whatever that will no longer be in but a little while.

For Enlightenment thinkers, truth always referred to a correspondence between one's conception of reality and reality "itself," and this correspondence was always mediated by some form of representational practice. For Kant, we interpret the world via a priori conceptual schemas; for others, we interpret the world through language. This "representational" project began with Plato, and continues to pervade Western thought even today.

Rorty comes along and (successfully or unsuccessfully) obliterates this representational project. For Rorty, representationalism carries the seeds of its own failure, for we can always pose the question, "Does this really correspond to reality?"

Consider this issue alongside of Quine's great work "Ontological Relativity." Quine argued that it is ultimately impossible to determine whether speakers "mean" the same thing. What is important for Quine is not so much that people "mean" the same thing as it is that their language serves pragmatic utility--that language lets people interact in empowering ways.

This is in some ways analogous to Rorty's re-conceptualization of epistemology. For Rorty, certain statements "work." When we certify a statement as being "true," we are ultimately stating that it "works." In this way, the possibility of skepticism that representationalism opens up simply ceases to register. The relative correspondence or noncorrespondence that exists, for example, between Einsteinian physics and the way reality "really is" is irrelevant insofar as Einsteinian physics enables us to make more accurate predictions, go to the moon, etc.

Rather than continue to pose the question of truth as it was posed by Descartes, Kant, and Hegel, Rorty shows us that that question really isn't particularly relevant, and casts serious doubt as to whether or not it can never be answered.

Rorty's philosophy of pragmatism is a bright star in what has been for centuries a very cloudy sky. This is crucial reading for anyone interested in philosophy, science, or just great thinking in general

Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty (Cambridge University Press) In this book, major American philosopher Richard Rorty argues that thinkers such as Nietzsche, Freud, and Wittgenstein have enabled societies to see themselves as historical contingencies, rather than as expressions of underlying, ahistorical human nature, or as realizations of suprahistorical goals. This ironic perspective on the human condition is valuable but it cannot advance Liberalism's social and political goals. In fact, Rorty believes that it is literature and not philosophy that can do this, by promoting a genuine sense of human solidarity. Specifically, it is novelists such as Orwell and Nabokov who succeed in awakening us to the cruelty of particular social practices and individual attitudes. Thus, a truly liberal culture would fuse the private, individual freedom of the ironic, philosophical perspective with the public project of human solidarity as it is engendered through the insights and sensibilities of great writers. Rorty uses a wide range of references--from philosophy to social theory to literary criticism--to elucidate his beliefs.

Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Volume 1: Philosophical Papers by Richard Rorty (Cambridge University Press) In this volume Rorty offers a Deweyan account of objectivity as intersubjectivity, one that drops claims about universal validity and instead focuses on utility for the purposes of a community. The sense in which the natural sciences are exemplary for inquiry is explicated in terms of the moral virtues of scientific communities rather than in terms of a special scientific method. The volume concludes with reflections on the relation of social democratic politics to philosophy.

Essays on Heidegger and Others: Volume 2: Philosophical Papers by Richard Rorty (Cambridge University Press) The second volume pursues the themes of the first volume in the context of discussions of recent European philosophy focusing on the work of Heidegger and Derrida. His four essays on Heidegger include "Philosophy as Science, as Metaphor and as Politics" and "Heidegger, Kundera, and Dickens;" three essays on Derrida (including "Deconstruction and Circumvention" and "Is Derrida a Transcendental Philosopher?") are followed by a discussion of the uses to which Paul de Man and his followers have put certain Derridean ideas. Rorty's concluding essays broaden outward with an essay on "Freud and Moral Deliberation" and essays discussing the social theories and political attitudes of various contemporary figures--Foucault, Lyotard, Habermas, Unger, and Castoriadis.

Truth and Progress: Volume 3: Philosophical Papers by Richard Rorty (Cambridge University Press) In this new, provocative collection, Rorty continues to defend a pragmatist view of truth and deny that truth is a goal of inquiry. In these dynamic essays, Rorty also engages with the work of many of today's most innovative thinkers including Robert Brandom, Donald Davidson, Daniel Dennett, Jacques Derrida, Jurgen Habermas, John McDowell, Hilary Putnam, John Searle, and Charles Taylor. The collection also touches on problems in contemporary feminism raised by Annette Baier, Marilyn Frye, and Catherine MacKinnon, and considers issues connected with human rights and cultural differences. His pragmatic approach is as well suited to brokering peace between "coworkers" Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida as it is to addressing more violent disputes. As Rorty sees it, part of the reason feminism has not been entirely successful in achieving its goals, or ethnic conflicts still rage around the globe, is that we still cling to the notion of an inherent human nature. "Plato set things up," he explains, "so that moral philosophers think they have failed unless they convince the rational egotist that he should not be an egotist--convince him by telling him about his true, unfortunately neglected self. But the rational egotist is not the problem. The problem is the gallant and honorable Serb who sees Muslims as circumcised dogs. It is the brave soldier and good comrade who loves and is loved by his mates, but who thinks of women as dangerous, malevolent whores and bitches."

Instead of trying to answer the question, "What is human nature?" Rorty proposes that we ask ourselves what we would like human nature to be, then make every possible effort to be that. In doing so, he does not reject previous philosophic inquiry, although he believes that philosophers must be willing to admit, as scientists do, when their predecessors got things wrong. If inquiry is the continual grappling with and resolution of problems, rather than a quest for "truth," the lessons learned from the past become invaluable tools to apply to new problems as they emerge. Many people disagree with Rorty's conclusions, but they all seem to agree that he has liberated philosophy from detached contemplation of "the real" and reconnected it to the world we live in. Truth and Progress does what all good philosophy should do: it makes you think.

Challenging, stimulating and controversial, this book will appeal to thoughtful readers around the world. Richard Rorty was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, completed his graduate work at Yale, and taught at Princeton from 1961 until 1982. His first ground-breaking book, an attack on traditional epistemology, was Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979). His previous books have been Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989), a book that sold over 46,000 copies since publication and has been translated into seventeen different languages, and two volumes of philosophical papers: Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth, and Essays on Heidegger and Others. A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant, Rorty has lectured throughout the world.

Consequences of Pragmatism: Essays, 1972-1980 by Richard Rorty (University of Minnesota Press) the grand disciple of Dewey and the most articulate pragmatist, elucidates some of the more troubling problems with pragmatism in this book. In some of these essays, however, one could not help but feel that Rorty is over enthusiastic in pushing the pragmatism agenda: he sounds almost evangelistic. If pragmatism wishes to achieve the kind of`ideal that Dewey and others like James and Pierce has set out to achieve, the ideal of a democratic capitalist society, such dogmatism may sound a little unwarranted.

Philosophy and Social Hope by Richard Rorty (Penguin USA) A superb introduction to one of today's leading and most provocative thinkers. Since Plato most philosophy has aimed at true knowledge, penetrating beneath appearances to an underlying reality. Against this tradition, Richard Rorty convincingly argues, pragmatism offers a new philosophy of hope. One of the most controversial figures in recent philosophical and wider literary and cultural debate, Rorty brings together an original collection of his most recent philosophical and cultural writings. He explains in a fascinating memoir how he began to move away from Plato towards William James and Dewey, culminating in his own version of pragmatism. What ultimately matters, Rorty suggests, is not whether our ideas correspond to some fundamental reality but whether they help us carry out practical tasks and create a fairer and more democratic society.
Aimed at a general audience, this volume offers a stimulating summary of Rorty's central philosophical beliefs, as well as some challenging insights into contemporary culture, justice, education, and love.

Rorty & Pragmatism: The Philosopher Responds to His Critics edited by Herman J. Saatkamp Jr (Vanderbilt Library of American Philosophy: Vanderbilt University Press)

Rorty: And His Critics edited by Robert B. Brandom (Philosophy and Their Critics: Blackwell) Thirteen of the most distinguished living philosophers - including Donald Davidson, Jürgen Habermas, Hilary Putnam, John McDowell, Jacques Bouveresse, and Daniel Dennett - assess Richard Rorty's arguments for revising our philosophical conceptions of truth, reality, objectivity, and justification. These essays, together with Rorty's substantial replies to each, and other new material by him, offer by far the most thorough and thoughtful discussion of the work of the thinker who has been called 'the most interesting philosopher alive.'

Without God or His Doubles: Realism, Relativism and Rorty (Philosophy of History and Culture, Vol 14) edited by D. Vaden House (Brill Academic) offers a sympathetic, but critical interpretation of`the philosophy of Richard Rorty. Rorty is one of the most widely discussed of contemporary philosophers, but there exist few attempts to deal with the full scope of Rorty's writings in a systematic fashion. This book shows that the unifying theme that runs through Rorty's writings on epistemology, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, and political philosophy is a quasi-religious conception of human creativity and human freedom. In other words, Rorty's attempt to avoid both realism and relativism is best understood in relationship to his claim that traditional philosophy has been god-obsessed. The animating spirit of Rorty's philosophy is to complete the Enlightenment project, to completely wean philosophy away from both God and the various god-doubles (Reason, Nature, Mind, Man, Science, Art). Rorty believes that a radical secularity will result in a kind of human emancipation and a heightened sense of human freedom. The book concludes with a critique of Rorty's proposal for philosophy and culture after the final departure of all the gods.

Richard Rorty: Education, Philosophy and Politics edited by Michael A. Peters, Paulo Ghiraldelli Jr. (Rowman & Littlefield) Richard Rorty is undoubtedly one of the leading philosophers of our time and his reputation is well deserved, even if it is the case that one can find little on which to agree with him. He has written on a vast range of topics and engaged in the most pressing of contemporary philosophical debates with a variety of conversational friends and adversaries who are among the most influential thinkers of their age: Davidson, Quine, Derrida, Gadamer, Lyotard, Rawls, Habermas, Geertz, to name a few. In addition, he has engaged with some of the major philosophers of the twentieth century: not only the 'classic' pragmatists and especially John Dewey, but also Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Davidson and others in the analytic tradition. Rorty has distinguished himself as an original thinker in his contributions to these 'conversations' and debates over a considerable period of time‑from his early analysis of the 'linguistic turn' in the 1960s to his more recent essays on politics, democracy, and social hope. Over this period Rorty's intellectual trajectory has become more obvious and it is clear that he has moved a considerable distance.

 In a rare autobiographical piece he charts his own set of changing philo­sophical commitments: his Trotskyist family background, his early flirtation with Platonism during his teenage years, the turn to Hegel (and Proust) after leaving Chicago for Harvard, and his rediscovery of Dewey which coincided with his initial encounters with Derrida and Heidegger. As he writes: "I was struck by the resemblances between Dewey's, Wittgenstein's and Heidegger's criticisms of Cartesianism" (Rorty, "Trotsky, and the Wild Orchids" 1999,12), resemblances that became the theme for the now classic Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Rorty 1980). By contrast, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity was a book that attempted to describe "what intellectual life might be like if one could manage to give up the Platonic attempt to hold reality and justice in a single vision" (Rorty 1979, 13). The result, at least in Rorty's own per­ception of how he has been received, is that he is attacked "with equal vigor from the political right and the political left" (Rorty 1979, 3)--a sign to him of being in good shape. He writes: "I am often cited by conservative culture warriors as one of the relativistic, irrationalist, deconstructing, sneering, smirking intellectuals whose writings are weakening the moral fiber of the young" (3). At the same time representatives of the political left (as he says) have described his position as complacent‑in the words of Richard Bernstein "ideological apologia" (cited in Rorty 1979, 4). In contrast to the description of America as a "disciplinary society" (using Foucault's term) based upon the ideology of liberal individualism, Rorty sees America, pretty much as Whit­man and Dewey did, as opening a prospect on "illimitable democratic vistas." "I chink our country-despite its past and present atrocities and vices, and despite its continuing eagerness to elect fools and knaves to high office--is a good example of the best kind of society so far invented" (Rorty 1979, 4).

It is this kind of generalization on the part of Rorty that most annoys the political left. Our guess is that those on the left not only find the claim nauseous in terms of its "flag‑waving" aspects but also its deliberate left-baiting qualities. This kind of remark for which Rorty is well known is like the taunts of a naughty child who wants to provoke and make themselves the center of attention. Rorty, having initiated a reaction, then often scales down the original provocation and takes the middle ground, reinterpreting the original issue. It is a characteristic Rortyan conversational tactical set of moves and, on the whole, it works perfectly well. We might consider this strategy part of the classical genre of the essayist. What distinguished Rorty's essays, however, is that they are not simply occasional; they rest on clear, coherent, and well thought out philosophical positions so that what looks like an offhand and inflated remark often turns out to be part of a well‑considered position that has been strongly developed over a period of time. We might characterize this position not just as a form of neopragmatism, but also as a form of naturalism taken to its logical conclusion. Rorty's naturalism, for instance, denies that science has any special method to which we can attribute its success by virtue of its capacity to represent reality or how things really are in themselves. The vocabularies of natural science have no unique cultural significance for Rorty; they are of a piece with other vocabularies‑moral and aesthetic‑tools that equip us with beliefs for coping with our environment. His naturalism, thus, robs philosophy of its role in the analytic tradition as a sort of superscience given over to adjudicating truth claims or narrowly specialized as the discipline responsible for epistemology and the logic of justification. On Rorty's account once we rid ourselves of representationalism--the idea that knowledge is to be understood in terms of its relation to the world depicted in an accurate description of what there is and how things are‑we also rid ourselves of a series of misleading metaphors that have governed modem philosophy. This realization frees us from thinking that there must be something outside history or the human community which can act as an independent check on the veracity of our beliefs, in much the same way that our forebears believed that we need and have an extrahuman external authority that shores up the truths of our moral universe. This Rortyan naturalism, while springing more immediately from Sellars and Quine, is quintessentially summed up by Nietzsche in the quotation we have taken from The Will to Power to open and orient this introduction. Yet if Rorty is Nietzschean in his naturalism, he is less than Nietzschean in his political beliefs.

In Philosophy and Social Hope Rorty (1999) restates one of the guiding themes of his work during the last decade: post-Nietzschean European philosophy and American pragmatism agree in attempting to jettison a set of philosophical distinctions‑appearance/reality, mind/body, scheme/content, finding/making, morality/prudence‑and the vocabularies built around them, vocabularies that since Plato have dominated the history of Western philosophy, culture, and education. Post-Nietzscheans and pragmatists are alike, Rorty suggests, in wanting to put aside this set of binary dualism or oppositions; they are alike in wanting to skew the language of metaphysics. To give up this language is to give up truth as correspondence and science as accurate representation of the world as it really is.

Bjorn Ramberg begins this collection of essays by developing a distinctive reading of Rorty, which differs from both deflationist and demonizing accounts. On Ramberg's view Rorty is exercising a pragmatist metaphysical critique on philosophy and, thereby, Rorty is involved in a kind of renewing practice. This practice is governed by Rorty's styles‑his choice of instruments (in Plato's terms)--that together mark him out as a radical philosopher.

In chapter 2 Jim Garrison takes issue with Rorty's reading of Dewey in relation to metaphysics and what he calls the "education of human potential." Specifically, Garrison contra Rorty accepts Dewey's naturalistic metaphysics, not as a "contradiction in terms," but rather as a basis for a deconstruction of the metaphysics of presence. Together with Dewey's reconstruction of Aristotle's theory of potentiality, Garrison believes "we will have to rethink completely the ideas of human development and education." At any rate, Garrison explicitly rejects Rorty's account of Dewey's metaphysics.

Paulo Ghiraldelli Jr. embraces Rorty's philosophy wholeheartedly, defending him against both Habermasian and Deleuzean criticisms. Central to Ghiraldelli's argument is an account of metaphor that Rorty takes from Davidson.

It is an account, so Ghiraldelli maintains, that is central both to alternative vocabularies‑to telling new stories--and to inventing our democratic future through the creation of new rights. These two aspects govern the way in which Ghiraldelli thinks we should do philosophy of education.

In chapter 4 James D. Marshall takes Rorty to task for his comparison of Dewey and Foucault who differ only in terms of "what we may hope." By contrast, Marshall finds a positive message in Foucault though not a "Deweyan progressive and optimistic message of hope." Marshall explores the Rortyan differences between Dewey and Foucault on methodology, arguing that Rorty downplays Dewey's notion of scientific method while at the same time elevating Foucault to a methodologist. He concludes that Rorty's argument for the superiority of post‑Darwinian American philosophy, insofar as it depends upon an alleged difference between Dewey and Foucault, does not hold.

Steven Best and Douglas Kellner in chapter 5 examine Rorty's postmodern assault on theory and metatheory, not only the idea that theory can provide foundations, but also the notion that philosophy plays any political role at all. Their position from the tradition of critical theory is to argue against Rorty that theory provides the tools for social critique that can make a palpable difference to the goal of human emancipation. By contrast, they outline a role for public intellectuals where theory helps to provide social maps and historical narratives that together contextualize the present age.

Alberto Tosi Rodrigues focuses upon Rorty's anti‑Marxism in his chapter on Rorty's political liberalism. Rodrigues first describes the differences between Marxism and Rorty's own account of political change, focusing on Marx's essentialism and Rorty's antilogocentrism. Next he uses both Castoriadis and Dewey to illuminate Rorty's position. Finally, he takes up the question of Rorty's anti‑Marxism in relation to "really extistent liberalism."

In chapter 7, Peter McLaren, Ramin Farahmandpur, and Juha Suoranta take the position that the inherent limitations in Rorty's voluntarist philosophy and attendant (essentially reformist) political work precludes it from offering anything of substantial importance to the project of critical pedagogy. "From the context of the Marxist model of revolutionary praxis that we are attempting to develop, we believe that Rorty's politics seriously undermines the revolutionary basis of critical pedagogy. In so doing, it offers progressive educators little room to maneuver in creating a socialist approach to educational reform that is able to overcome the perils of neoliberalism."

In chapter 8 Kenneth Wain also turns to Rorty's remark that there is no more a relationship between philosophy and education than there is between philosophy and politics, to show that it is, in part, a consequence of his general rejection of the politics of the French poststructuralists and, in part, a consequence of his own problems with harmonizing the liberal and postmodernist elements in his thinking. Wain shows that Rorty has changed his view somewhat and has come to recognize a link between philosophy and politics and, by extension, education, of a particular kind. Drawing upon Dewey, Rorty comes to write about education and politics in a way which is in tune with his continuing rejection of `philosophy of education' as a discipline.

In the final chapter (chapter 9), Michael Peters addresses the question of Rorty's critique of the cultural`Left, focusing on one of his most recent texts, Achieving America; Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (Rorty 1998). Peters wants to drive a wedge between Rorty's New World American utopian pragmatism and European Nietzscheanism. Rorty wants to jettison the metaphysical baggage of the Enlightenment (its foundationalism and its representationalism) but not the promise of the Enlightenment's political project, whereas on the basis of their critique and reevaluation of the Enlightenment (and modernity), the Nietzscheans wish to call into question the fundamental commitments of political liberalism.

Richard Rorty
by Alan Malachowski (Philosophy Now: Princeton University Press) and Richard Rorty (4 Volumes) edited by Alan Malachowski (Sage Masters of Modern Thought: Sage) together represent a sustained introduction the the principle themes of Rorty's major thought. The 4 volume collection is especially welcome as it gathers together widely-dispersed discussions and critiques of his thought. In Richard Rorty by Alan Malachowski provides a concise summaery and introduction to the central themes of Rorty's thinking. Malachowski attempts to state clearly what Rorty writings are attempting to achieve by identifying the central themes of his thought and showing their social and intellectual implications and points of controversy. Malachowski does not deal in any depth with Rorty's early thinking on the linguistic turn in philosophy, nor does in fully explore the continental connections in his thought and how European thinkers out side the Anglo-American tradition have responded to his critiques. Also Malachowski remains agnostic in evaluating the "truth" of Rorty's assertions or his account of the history of philosophy. Even with this narrow focus there is no other volume around now to introduce so well Rorty philosophical work. 

If one were to critique Malachowski for his devotion to the Rortyan enterprise as expressed in his study, Richard Rorty, one must allow that the 4 volume Richard Rorty in the Sage Masters of Modern Thought, that he has edited manages to collect an admirable selection of relevant discussion of Rortyan controversy. It includes enough material to make this collection a must purchase for all libraries with a comprehensive philosophical collection. The volumes will be especially welcome by community colleges who do not have extensive periodical collections in philosophy, social thought and education.

Rorty made a significant contribution to the analytic tradition before he gained notoriety as one of its most powerful critics. The first Section of Part One of Richard Rorty  shows how this `significance' was assessed by some of Rorty's peers at the time. These historically notable discussions focus on three main areas of interest. The first two are squarely in the philosophy of mind: Rorty's account of eliminative materialism and his work on the notion of `privileged access'. Charles Taylor's accompanying article, `Mind-Body Identity, a side issue?' is not as concerned with the details of Rorty's position as the other contributions in this section, but it is included because it helps readers grasp the philosophical milieu Rorty was operating within, one that he was at least partly responsible for creating.

Another area of interest concerns Rorty's ingenious treatment of transcendental arguments in his important article `Strawson's Objectivity Argument.'  Here, Rorty offers "revisions of, and additions to"  Strawson's "new and improved version of the central argument of the Transcendental Deduction" -- where Kant argues that "the possibility of experience somehow involves the possibility of the experience of objects." In the second Section of Part One, the discussions bring matters up to date by first looking back on Rorty's earlier views and then examining how his later, more explicitly post-analytic, writings relate to traditional philosophical topics such as `truth' and `realism'.

To rank imagination above truth in philosophy is a very radical move. But for many of Rorty's critics, it is also counterintuitive, if not downright flaky. More reckless than radical in their eyes, they take it as a sure sign that Rorty has slipped at some point into the outlandish realms of wishful thinking where philosophy subordinates itself to will and whim rather than reality. These are the sub-philosophical realms inhabited only by wild relativists, Nietzschean power freaks and irrational fellow travelers. In fact, when properly appreci­ated, this move can be viewed as one of Rorty's most important contributions not just to philosophy, but social thought in general. Section Two of Part One therefore contains some sustained responses to Rorty's treatment of truth throughout his career. To grasp the significance of these responses requires an understanding of Rorty's pragmatist antipathy towards `theories of truth' and the philosophical mindset that generates them.

The traditional picture that Rorty wants us to abandon portrays truth as a representational relationship, where he has in mind something like: A statement is true only when it accurately depicts reality.

Part Two examines Rorty's `post-analytic pragmatism'. It begins, in Section One, by considering how Rorty gears things up in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature for a shift into post-analytic territory. Then in Section Two, it looks more closely at the kind of pragmatism he wants to establish within that territory.

In Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Rorty marshals the resources of internal critics such as Quine, Sellars and Wittgenstein to show that `philosophy-as-epistemology' is no longer viable. He claims that when philosophers see through the illusion that they should occupy a privileged position in culture on account of their capacity to determine what counts as knowledge, they will take a more relaxed view as to the nature of their discipline. Then they will give up on the impossible task of creating a general theory of representation. And, once that task is abandoned, they will follow suit with a cluster of associated `problems', the kind of problems hitherto regarded as unavoidable. But what, on the `more relaxed view', will philosophers have left to do?

 Section Two of Part Two contains some insightful discussions of the kind of pragmatism that emerges from both Philosophy and the Mirror Nature and Consequences of Pragmatism. However, the volume as a whole is entitled `Post-analytic Pragmatism' because these two books are preparatory to Rorty's exploration of themes that extend beyond the interests of classic pragmatism. It could almost have been called `Rorty's Post-Pragmatism'. For the original Pragmatists and their descedants spent a good deal of their philosophical energy justifying their approach to critics from outside their tradition such as Bertrand Russell. This meant that they spent too much time in enemy terri­tory to be able to properly cultivate their own ways of doing philosophy.

Failure to produce a lively, distinctive agenda was one of the main reasons pragmatism fell by the historical wayside. Once Rorty had shown in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature how the inadequacies of the analytic tradition point in a hermeneutically informed, pragmatist direction, and once he had set out his pragmatist stall in Consequences of Pragmatism, he went on to explore new themes without looking back over his shoulder at the philosophical orthodoxies he had left behind.

The prospect of a liberal utopia -- where citizens have "combined commitment with a sense of the contingency of that commitment" -- can be glimpsed in American liberalism. For all its faults, American society already exhibits an approximate combination of institutions and freedom. The whole of Section One of Part Three is devoted to Rorty's views on liberalism and his vision of a liberal utopia.

Rorty is an unashamedly ethnocentric advocate of his political views. His irony and historicism preclude him from trying to provide a philosophical grounding that makes liberalism the `rational choice' for all comers. He tries, instead, to "reformulate the hopes of liberal society in a nonrationalist and nonuniversalist way -- one that furthers their realisation better than older descriptions of them did". In this project, `redescription' outweighs argument because it can draw more freely on the power of the imagination to make liberalism look more attractive than other political options. Since there is no neutral territory, Rorty thinks that it is only wise to start with redescribing `how things look from here'. This local viewpoint -- in Rorty's case an intelligent, patriotic American's take on the country's liberalism -- is prevented from sliding over into political and doctrinal rigidity by its inclusion of `tolerance'. Liberalism does not move forward in history just by looking in the mirror of its own resources. It seeks to take other cultural and political views on board, up to the point, which may be quite distant, where such views threaten its very capacity for such self-expansion. Pitted against entrenched, militantly anti-liberal dogmatism, liberalism will always find itself in a fight spot. But, `universal principles', `rational argument' and so forth will be of no avail in such circumstances. Liberalism's best bet is to rely on its continuing ability to meet pragmatic goals for its citizens and to creatively refashion itself in ways that it hopes will look attractive to the wider world. And this, rather the goal of an overarching political theory, is where philosophy should also place its bets. It should break away from its time-honored, universalistic rhetoric.

 And, they question whether Rorty is only able to appeal to the authority of figures like Dewey, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Rawls and Davidson because he has distorted their message. However, such objections miss Rorty's point. He holds that a philosopher's thought has no inherent shape, that it only makes sense when woven into a cultural context that gives it a pragmatic payoff. Some interpretations seem obligatory because a cultural context is tacitly assumed and nobody has been prompted to question this assumption. The best interpretation of a philosopher is not the one that captures the essence of what he or she intended to say, but rather the one that makes the most fruitful cultural connections between the philosopher's thought and the rest of culture. There are critics who have a firmer grasp of the consistency of Rorty's position, but claim that his criteria of `appropriation' can be too easily satisfied, that they turn philosophers into bendy toys, too readily available for everyone to play with. This is a mistake. The constraints on appropriation are conversational but this does not make the process any `easier' than that of `confronting reality' (though strictly speaking, of course, Rorty must hold that it is easier by default because the latter is impossible). To introduce a facile interpretation of a philosopher into cultural conversation will be taken as an obvious error, lapse of taste or a non-sequitur, and it will be ignored or rebuffed accordingly. It takes great knowledge and skill to find the right cultural connections to make a philosopher's thought come to life under a particular guise such as pragmatism. Rorty displays these skills throughout his written work, especially in the numerous essays that have been published since Consequences of Pragmatism.
Part Four examines Rorty's views on philosophy as a form of cultural conversation in Section One, and then moves on in Section Two to discuss some of Rorty's interpretations or `appropriations' of other philosophers. Of special interest here are his readings of continental philosophers such as Hegel, Heidegger and Derrida One of Rorty's most important contributions to`social thought has been to make the work of such philosophers more accessible to readers who are unfamiliar with, or perhaps even hostile to, the continental tradition. Rorty has done a great deal not so much to heal the unhealthy and unhelpful rift between analytic and continental philosophy, as to make it seem irrelevant in the light of the interesting things that can be said about various thinkers on both sides. In Section Three, the collection concludes by considering some of the wider issues raised by Rorty's work as a whole. These range from what Peter Dews calls his 'historicization of analytical philosophy' to his pragmatist views on feminism. The discussions are intended to be as wide-ranging as Rorty's own breadth of interest requires them to be.

In his voluminous writings, Rorty has shaken up the discipline of philosophy, challenging it to pursue new themes and abandon old ones, encouraging it to listen to fresh voices. He has blurred the boundaries between philosophy and literature on one side and philosophy and natural science on the other. And, he has resurrected pragmatism as a flourishing philosophical enterprise.

Moreover, Rorty has constructed an image of social thought that frees it from what he regards as the futile preoccupations of a self-deluded philosophical tradition. In this image, our attempts to think about society, its importance and our place within it, should not be hampered by striving for anything like `philosophical foundations', `scientific truth', `unified methods', `final theories' or `universal principles'. It should focus instead on more immediate, pragmatic goals such as the alleviation of poverty and the removal of racial discrimination, all the while drawing on our imaginations and our flair for initiating new forms of conversation to endow those goals with fresh utopian hopes for the future of our world. This collection of articles will enable readers to gauge the extent to which Rorty's vigorous and controversial re-description of social thought has been successful.
Contents: VOLUME I Appendix of Sources Editor's Introduction: Conversation Without Confrontation Rorty's Contribution to Social Thought PART ONE PHILOSOPHY Section One In the Analytic Fold 1. The Challenge of Scientific Materialism, Richard. Bernstein 2. On the Elimination of `Sensations' and Sensations, James W. Cornman 3. What is Eliminative Materialism? William G. Lycan & George S. Pappas 4. Varieties of Privileged Access, William Alston 5. Rorty Revisited, Eric Bush 6. Is Eliminative Materialism Materialistic? David R Hiley 7. Rorty, Materialism, and Privileged Access, Arnold B. Levison 8. Mind‑Body Identity: A Side`Issue? Charles Taylor 9. Scientific Psychology as Hermeneutics? Rorty's Philosophy of Mind, John Furlong 10. Transcendental Arguments, I Anthony L. Brueckner
Section Two Later Responses 11. The Case For Rorty, Daniel C. Dennett 12. Richard Rorty and the Epistemologizing of Truth, E. J Bond 13. Bond on Rorty on Truth, C. G. Prado 14. Truth vs. Rorty, Uwe Steinhoff 15. Truth Rehabilitated, Donald Davidson 16. The Question of Realism, Hilary Putnam 17. What is at Stake Between Putnam and Rorty? Paul D. Forster 18. Veritable Reflections Gerald vision 19. Beyond Realism and Anti‑Realism: Rorty on Heidegger and  Davidson, Dorothea Frede
PART TWO POST ANALYTIC PRAGMATISM Section One Reflections on Rorty's Mirror Text 20. Rorty's Mirrorless World, Michael Devitt 21. Review of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Robert Schwartz
VOLUME II PART TWO POST‑ANALYTIC PRAGMATISM (continued) Section One Reflections on Rorty's Mirror Text (continued) 22. Review of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Nino Langiulli 23. Mind‑Body, Realism and Rorty's Therapy Victoria Choy 24. Philosophy After Rorty, Philip Rttit 25. Rorty's Antipodeans: An Impossible Illustration?  Kenneth T. Gallagher 26. Epistemology Without Foundations, Mary Hesse 27. Deep Epistemology Without Foundations (in Language), Alan R Malachowski 28. Interrupting the Conversation: Notes on Rorty, Rebecca Comay 29. Rorty and the New Hermeneutics, Frank G. Verges
Section Two Pragmatism Reviewed 30. The World Regained, Milton Fisk 31. Pragmatism and the World, Crawford L. Elder 32. Rorty's Pragmatism: Afloat in Neurath's Boat, But Why Adrift? R W Sleeper 33. A Missing Dimension in Rorty's Use of Pragmatism, Abraham Edel 34. What is the Legacy of Instrumentalism? Rorty's Interpretation  of Dewey, James Gouinlock 35. Of Depth and Loss: The Peritropaic Legacy of Dewey's  Pragmatism, Daniel W. Conway 36. "Just Do It": Pragmatism and Progressive Social Change, Lynn A. Baker 37. Objectivity, Science, and Relativism, C. G. Prado 38. An Un‑Rortyan Defence of Rorty's Pragmatism, Kai Nielsen 39. Pragmatism and the Philosophy of Language, Danielle Macbeth 40. Pragmatism: An Old Name for Some New Ways of Thinking? James T. Kloppenberg 41. Varieties of Pragmatism, Robert Kraut
VOLUME III PART THREE POLITICS, IRONY AND SOLIDARITY Section One Liberalism as Politics 42. Rorty's Liberal Utopia, Richard Bernstein 43. Richard Rorty, Liberalism and the Politics of Redescription, Keith Topper 44. Democracy without Foundations, Ruth Anna Putnam 45. Cruelty and Liberalism, John Kekes 46. Liberalism and Cruelty, Eric M. Gander 47. Rorty on Liberty and Democracy, Markar Melkonian 48. Postcolonial Liberalism, Alan Malachowski 49. Deconstruction, Pragmatism and the Politics of Democracy, Chantal Moufe 50. Strenuous Unbelief, Jonathan Ree 51. Pragmatism, Social Democracy and Political Argument, Matthew Festenstein
Section Two Irony and Solidarity 52, The Irony of Contingency and Solidarity, Timothy Cleveland 53. Private Irony and Public Decency: Richard Rorty's New  Pragmatism, Thomas McCarthy 54. Self‑Realization and Solidarity: Rorty and the Judging Self, Richard H. King 55. `That Most Complex Being', Norman Geras 56. Solidarity or Singularity? Richard Rorty between Romanticism and Technocracy, Nancy Fraser 57. Liberal Irony and Social Reform, Larry A. Hickman 58. Evading the Subject: The Poverty of Contingency Theory, Steven E. Cole 59. Irony, State and Utopia: Rorty's `We' and the Problem of Transitional Praxis, Daniel Conway 60. Review Symposium: Richard Rorty, Terence Ball, William E. Connolly, Peter Dews, Alan Malachowski & Mark E.`Warren
PART FOUR CULTURE, INTERPRETATIONS AND CONVERSATIONS Section One Culture 61. Philosophy as a Kind of Narrative: Rorty on Post‑Modern  Liberal Culture, Christopher Norris 62. Rorty's Cultural Conversation, Frank Lentricchia
VOLUME IV PART FOUR CULTURE, INTERPRETATIONS AND CONVERSATIONS (continued) Section One Culture (continued) 63. Philosophy and the Achievement of Community: Rorty, Cavell  and Criticism, Richard Eldridge 64. Multiculturalism and the Possibility of Transcultural  Educational and Philosophical Ideals, Harvey Siegel
Section Two Interpretations 65. Rorty's Interpretation of Hegel, Nathan Rotenstreich 66. The Thought of Being and the Conversation of Mankind:  The Case of Heidegger and Rorty, John D, Caputo 67. On Saving Heidegger from Rorty, Charles B. Guignon 68. Deconstruction in Philosophy: Has Rorty Made it the Denouement of Contemporary Analytical Philosophy? Henry Veatch 69. Deconstruction and Pragmatism: Is Derrida a Private Ironist  or a Public Liberal? Simon Critchley 70. On Not Circumventing the Quasi-Transcendental: The Case  of Rorty and Derrida, John D. Caputo 71. What is the Difference that Makes a Difference? Gadamer, Habermas, and Rorty, Richard Bernstein 72. Hermeneutics and the Social Sciences: A Gadamerian Critique  of Rorty, Georgia Wamke 73. Davidson in Context, John McDowell 74. Saving Wittgenstein From Conservatism (Richard Rorty), Alice Crary
Section Three Further Conversations 75. Mirror of Americ,a William E. Connolly 76. Confessions of an Old‑Fashioned Prig, Susan Haack 77. The Historicization of Analytical Philosophy, Peter Dews 78. Postmodernst Relativism, Simon Blackburn 79. Pragmatism, Pluralism and Legal Interpretation: Posner's and Rorty's Justice without Metaphysics Meets Hate Speech, Michel Rosenfeld 80. Philosophical Prose and Practice, Richard C. McCleary 81. Feminism and Pragmatism: A Reply to Richard Rorty, Sabina Lovibond  PART FIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY OF RICHARD RORTY'S WORKS 82. Bibliography of Richard Rorty's Works: Books and Articles, Gideon Lewis‑Kraus

Reading Rorty: Critical Responses to Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and Beyond by Alan Malachowski (Blackwell) Richard Rorty is one of the world's most influential living thinkers. He is notorious for contending that the traditional, foundation-building and truth-seeking ambitions of systematic philosophy should be set aside in favor of a more pragmatic, conversational, hermeneutically guided project. This challenge has not only struck at the heart of philosophy but has ricocheted across other disciplines, both contesting their received self-images and opening up new avenues of inquiry in the process.

Alan Malachowski provides an authoritative overview of Rorty's considerable body of work and a general assessment of his impact both within philosophy and in the humanities more broadly. He begins by explaining the genesis of Rorty's central ideas, tracking their development from suggestions in his early papers through their crystallization in his groundbreaking book, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Malachowski evaluates in detail some of the common criticisms of Rorty's position and his ensuing pragmatism. The book goes on to examine the subsequent evolution of his ideas, focusing particularly on the main themes of his second major work, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. The political and cultural impact of Rorty's writings on such diverse fields as feminism, cultural and literary theory, and international relations are also considered, and the author explores why Rorty's work has generally found its warmest reception in these areas rather than among mainstream philosophers.
As the best available introduction to Rorty's thought, this is the ideal entry point for anyone seeking to learn what he has said and why it has been and continues to be so influential.

 Alan Malachowski is Honorary Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. He is the editor of Reading Rorty and Richard Rorty (4 Volumes).


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