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Richard Rorty

From Academic Kids

Richard Rorty (born October 4, 1931 in New York City) is an American philosopher. In the humorous Philosophical Lexicon, 'rorty' is defined as 'incorrigible,' which is a neat summing up both of Rorty's career and the philosophic community's reaction to it.

Rorty matriculated at the University of Chicago and Yale University, and he spent his early career trying to reconcile his personal interests and beliefs with the Platonic search for Truth. His doctoral dissertation, “The Concept of Potentiality,” and his first book, The Linguistic Turn (1956) were firmly in the prevailing analytic mode. However, his discovery of the American philosophical movement known as pragmatism, especially the writings of John Dewey, as well as the noteworthy work being done by post-analytic philosophers such as W.V. Quine and Wilfrid Sellars, caused a shift in his thinking. Pragmatists generally hold that the worth of an idea should be measured by its usefulness or ability to cope with a given problem, not by its correspondence to some antecedent 'Truth.' Rorty combines pragmatism with a Wittgensteinian ontology that declares that meaning is a social-linguistic product, and sentences do not 'link up' with the world in a correspondence relation, a framework that allows him to question many of philosophy's most basic assumptions.

In his major opus, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Rorty combines theoretical groundwork from Sellars, Thomas Kuhn, Ludwig Wittgenstein and others, to practice the doctrine of ‘dissolving’ rather than solving philosophical problems. He argues that epistemology, the study of knowledge, is in fact the product of the mistaken view that the mind is a glassy essence, of which the main function is to faithfully reproduce external reality. He attacks ‘universal’ philosophical investigations, such as the Mind/Body Problem, by historicizing them and exposing their contingency. Rorty argues for hermeneutics, the explaining of texts by other texts, rather than the search for an ultimate interpretation that would be validated by a higher force.

Rorty’s other major work, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, was published in 1989. In it, Rorty abandons the attempt to explain his theories in analytic terms and creates an alternative conceptual schema to that of the “Platonists” he rejects. This schema is based on the belief that there is no ‘truth’ higher than the human being’s ability to recreate her/himself, a view that has been adapted from Nietzsche and which Rorty also identifies with the novels of Proust. This book also marks his first attempt to consciously articulate a political vision consonant with his philosophy, the vision of a diverse community bound together by opposition to suffering, and not by abstract ideas such as ‘justice,’ ‘common humanity,’ etc.

Because of the clarity and humor of his writing style, and his ability to undermine cherished assumptions, Rorty is one of the most widely-read contemporary philosophers. His political and moral philosophies have been under almost constant attack both from some on the Right, who call them relativist and irresponsible, and some on the Left, who believe them to be insufficient frameworks for social justice. The most common criticism is that Rorty’s work is self-refuting (see Nagel and Nozick for instance), although such criticisms often play directly into Rorty's theories about arguing within versus arguing outside of a given 'language-game.'

Over the past fifteen years Rorty has continued to publish voluminously, including three volumes of philosophical papers, Achieving Our Country, a political manifesto partly based on readings of Dewey and Walt Whitman, and Philosophy and Social Hope , a collection of essays for a general audience.

Having held teaching positions at Wellesley College, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia, Rorty is currently a professor of comparative literature and philosophy at Stanford University. The shift from the discipline of philosophy to literature reflects his evolved position that philosophy is really itself just a form of literature.

Partial Bibliography

  • Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.
  • Consequences of Pragmatism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982.
  • Philosophy in History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. (co-editor)
  • Contingency, Irony, Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
  • Objectivity, Relativism and Truth: Philosophical Papers I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Essays on Heidegger and Others: Philosophical Papers II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.
  • Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Philosophy and Social Hope. New York: Penguin, 2000.

See also

External link:

ja:リチャード・ローティ nl:Richard Rorty pl:Richard Rorty

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