Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty

Synopsis

Arguably the most influential of all contemporary English-speaking philosophers, Richard Rorty has transformed the way many philosophers think about the discipline and the traditional ways of practicing it. The essays in this volume offer a balanced exposition and critique of Rorty's views on knowledge, language, truth, science, morality and politics. Written by a distinguished roster of philosophers, this introduction presents a valuable overview of Rorty's philosophical vision. It will appeal as well to students in the social sciences, literary studies, cultural studies and political theory. Charles Guigon, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Florida, has published widely on existentialism, psychotherapy and Heidegger, and edited the Cambridge Companion to Heidegger (1993). Provost and Professor at the University of New Hampshire, David R. Hiley, is also the author of other works, including Philosophy in Question: Essays on a Pyrrhonian Theme (University of Chicago, 1988) and The Interpretive Turn: Philosophy, Science and Culture (Cornell, 1991).

Excerpt

Richard Rorty has been a lightning rod for conflicting currents in recent philosophy. No American philosopher in the second half of the twentieth century generated such an intense mixture of consternation, enthusiasm, hostility, and confusion. His controversial positions in debates about the nature of mind, language, knowledge, truth, science, ethics, and politics have been regarded by some as opening fresh new possibilities for thought and by others as undermining the very possibility of meaningful inquiry. His more recent praise of American democratic culture and 1930s progressivism is seen by some as a needed antidote to the academic left and by others as politically naïve.

While Rorty is arguably the most controversial American philosopher within the discipline of philosophy itself, he has also been the most influential American philosopher since John Dewey in other areas of inquiry. At a time when the discipline of philosophy has become increasingly professionalized, technical, and remote from the rest of culture, Rorty's work has moved freely in and influenced such areas as literary theory, law, historiography, psychotherapy, education, and social theory. He writes regularly for the popular press, and he is a frequent lecturer and symposium participant in events drawing nonphilosophical audiences on a wide range of culturally important issues. He has reestablished the philosopher as public intellectual and has been no less controversial in that role.

Rorty's influence outside of philosophy is not accidental. It follows from the very reason he is so controversial to traditional philosophers. For three decades Rorty has been attacking the concept of philosophy that has been responsible for both its remoteness and its increasing professionalization. In the Introduction to Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, the book that launched Rorty's reputation as contemporary philosophy's chief . . .

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