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1. Philosophy and Social Hope
2. An Ethics for Today: Finding Common
3. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity
4. The Rorty Reader (Blackwell Readers)
5. Consequences Of Pragmatism: Essays
6. Richard Rorty: The Making of an
7. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature:
8. Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth:
9. Richard Rorty: Philosophical Papers
10. Rorty and His Critics (Philosophers
11. The Philosophy of Richard Rorty
12. Achieving Our Country : Leftist
13. Essays on Heidegger and Others:
14. Truth and Progress: Philosophical
15. What's the Use of Truth?
16. Deconstruction and Pragmatism
17. Richard Rorty (Contemporary Philosophy
18. Wahrheit und Fortschritt. Moralische
19. Richard Rorty: Prophet and Poet
20. The Future of Religion

1. Philosophy and Social Hope
by Richard Rorty
Paperback: 320 Pages (2000-01-01)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$3.50
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Asin: 0140262881
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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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. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (27)

4-0 out of 5 stars Nice introduction to Rorty's thought
As a general reader, I found these collection of essays to be a great introduction to Rorty. First, It deals with the central issues of its thought, such as its criticism of the reality-appearance distinction, in a very clear way that does not presuppose any particular knowledge of philosophy. Second, it tells the story of how Rorty ended up where he did, from his intention to be a Platonist in his teens to how he became an admirer of Dewey. This is always very interesting reading. Third, it covers several applications of the pragmatic thought in different realms, such as education and law. Finally, it is not a long book (270 pages), so it leaves you wanting for more.

On the downside, I found some of the articles at the end, specially those that cover his political views, unnecessary or not really suited for the purpose of the book.

I recommend this collection of essays for anyone interesting in knowing Rorty's thought that might be a little bit scared (as I am) to start with one of his books

5-0 out of 5 stars Flawed but inspiring.A must read.
Despite my best attempt to not be a fanboy I was giddily excited by each essay in this collection.Rorty's overall project of anti-foundational philosophy and liberal democracy envisions an intellectual/political world that is refreshingly utopic, in contrast to philosophically similar writers like Foucault, who cynically argue that to "envision a new system is to participate in the current one."He acknowledges right off the bat that any attempt to ground liberal democratic freedoms in human nature or a teleology of political systems is doomed to fail.We are contingent, relationally defined beings, and our knowledge of the world is never a mirror of things as they are in themselves.What is so liberating with Rorty as opposed to many others is that he does not despair in this.For better or worse (and oftentimes it is worse) he simply casts off questions of truth altogether in favor of justification.For Rorty, we cannot always hold truth and justice, ie deep metaphysical truth AND our definition of a better world, in a single vision.The initial anguish over, and later acceptance of this, is beautifully described in "Trotsky and the Wild Orchids."We fight for our moral values not because they are embedded in the universe, but because we want to create a certain kind of world.Democracy might not be the destiny of human nature or political evolution, but we work towards it because it has, at its best, produced results we like.His approach to science studies echoes this, with an appreciation of science as an extremely useful tool while acknowledging the impossibility of its "discovering" a deep metaphysical truth "out there."The essay "Truth Without Correspondence to Reality" is an introduction to both Continental and Analytic versions of anti-essentialist philosophy, with a less-than-average amount of jargon.The pieces on (Rorty's version of) Pragmatism as applied to law, education, and globalization are enjoyable and a useful way to see an extension of his more generalized theoretical work.As an activist I find his love affair with America a bit saccharine, and like many, I still long for a world with firm truths to ground my moral and intellectual arguments.Still, Rorty's work is indispensable.If you want to know what the fuss is about you should start here.

5-0 out of 5 stars Helpful For Courses on Ethics
To my chagrin, I admit that this is the first book by Rorty that I have read.I will now read much more by him.The ethics of pragmatism, at least as he enunciates it in the introduction and several chapters of this book, is very interesting, if not fully compelling (at least to a transcendental phenomenologist such as myself).And I have found his book a very readable addition to standard selections from Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Mill, and de Beauvoir in my General Ethics courses.

Rorty's pragmatism really is a unique ethical stance--one rooted in historical contexts and necessarily limited by human finitude.It recognizes no absolutes, and instead it takes concrete, intersubjective structures and institutions as a real hope for shared ethical behavior.In this way, Rorty's optimism is one shared by Mill toward the end of his famous pamphlet on utilitarianism.

As of now, though, I remain unconvinced by Rorty's argument, and I would claim that the anti-foundationalist Rorty relies on intersubjectivity in the same, foundational ways as more transcendental versions of ethics (see Husserl's description of transcendental intersubjectivity or even Kant's discussion of the kingdom of ends).

I will use this book again, and I will read more of his works.

5-0 out of 5 stars Richard Rorty, great philosopher, died in June 2007
I was reading this book when Richard Rorty passed away recently. I regret that this man is gone. The world needs more open minded thinkers. I'm glad that he left behind this and other works. His thinking is very progressive. I feel he provided the world a way out of pointless ideological warfare. If you are able to set aside your own intellectual biases and really listen to what he says in this book, he points a way to tolerance in a multicultural world and hope for a better future.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great!
As a teacher of Philosophy courses, I have a preference for this excellent American writer.This volumn clearly marks Rorty's pragmatic move toward politics and society.It is not only this practical application of Philosophy that interests me, but his re-vitalization of Philosophy on the terms of Pragmatism and radical (non-reductionist) empiricism. ... Read more

2. An Ethics for Today: Finding Common Ground Between Philosophy and Religion
by Richard Rorty
Hardcover: 104 Pages (2010-10-12)
list price: US$17.95 -- used & new: US$12.21
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Asin: 0231150563
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Richard Rorty is famous, maybe even infamous, for his philosophical nonchalance. His groundbreaking work not only rejects all theories of truth but also dismisses modern epistemology and its preoccupation with knowledge and representation. At the same time, the celebrated pragmatist believed there could be no universally valid answers to moral questions, which led him to a complex view of religion rarely expressed in his writings.

In this posthumous publication, Rorty, a strict secularist, finds in the pragmatic thought of John Dewey, John Stuart Mill, Henry James, and George Santayana, among others, a political imagination shared by religious traditions. His intent is not to promote belief over nonbelief or to blur the distinction between religious and public domains. Rorty seeks only to locate patterns of similarity and difference so an ethics of decency and a politics of solidarity can rise. He particularly responds to Pope Benedict XVI and his campaign against the relativist vision. Whether holding theologians, metaphysicians, or political ideologues to account, Rorty remains steadfast in his opposition to absolute uniformity and its exploitation of political strength.

... Read more

3. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity
by Richard Rorty
Paperback: 224 Pages (1989-02-24)
list price: US$29.99 -- used & new: US$10.39
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Asin: 0521367816
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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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. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (20)

5-0 out of 5 stars Big Picture Philosophy! (not an analysis of petty technicalia)
This is a very good book: it engages with big meta-philosophical questions (what is it that philosophy should aim for: truth? increasing human freedom and social tolerance?, etc) and it's very well written (and that's kind of rare for contemporary philosophy). Rorty's 'analytic' critics dismiss him too quickly. His views need to be given an honest hearing--even if they call into question fundamental aspects of the philosopher's self-image (Rorty famously attacks the idea that philosophers discern the 'ultimate structure of reality' via armchair conceptual analysis). One problem: Rorty doesn't engage with his critics very much in this book (he does so more in 'Philosophy and Social Hope' and 'What's the Value of Truth'). Just as his critics need to take him seriously, Rorty needs to take his critics seriously. Overall, very good.

5-0 out of 5 stars A stimulating opportunity...
I've noticed a trend that various reviewers on philosophy books use this cyberspace as an opportunity to display their understanding and mastery over the work in question.This is, in ways, an interesting and useful phenomenon, but it can also be misleading.This is especially the case for thinkers like Richard Rorty, whose work is often read with the prejudice of traditional, less radical philosophical thought.I am in no way asserting that there is one true way of interpreting this text (a suggestion Rorty himself would abhor).I merely recommend that if you have an interest in contemporary analytic and continental philosophy, or even an interest in literary criticism, you should purchase this very stimulating book.It is stimulating because, like Kant and the other metaphysicians Rorty will challenge, he offers a vocabulary and set of terminology unique (at least in organization and inter-relation) to this work.To master Rorty's somewhat idiosyncratic use of words like "vocabulary" or "irony" or "metaphysics" one has to place oneself in a bit of a hermeneutic circle.Only then will one acquire and master this particularly useful, fecund philosophical language.Many of the reviews here seem written from outside that language, which is discouraging.This is an active read so don't be afraid to get more than your toes wet.This is an important book and is very useful for understanding the desire for autonomy as well as for solidarity.I hope Rorty's poignant writing will be as useful in your life as it has been in mine.

5-0 out of 5 stars Truth in Moral Solidarity
Probably the best thing about "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity" is that it is written so well. Like Rorty's other books it has a way of making philosophy less arcane than it otherwise appears. Other raters here have outlined his project better than I can and illustrate how Rorty builds upon his ideas in the book "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature." I only want to add the observations that, (1) it is no surprise Rorty feels he has to address religion's influence in this book, and that (2) philosophical objection to Rorty appears quasi-religious in nature. Philosophical critics of both books who are consumed with the nagging perception that physical facts of reality seem indeed to hold up well to the correspondence theory of truth are steeped in a Western religious world view.

That world view and its implications for Rorty's concept of solidarity carries critical import for understanding his project.For many of his critics that world view seems to be validated by epistemology. As some have pointed out, we do the math and the rockets fly. So some correspondence is working, apparently. In the realm of ethics, the same relationship of language to reality has apparent truth as well. In assigning verbal names to these correspondences, we superimpose a chimerical essence we call "Truth," if Rorty is right. But that "Truth" we assign has no real correspondence to what is out there in the world, in his argument. This "Truth" constitutes an unverifiable relationship because we do not know how reliable the "mirror" is, our cognitive door to perception, and this reliability is the crux of philosophical disagreement with Rorty and Dewey and other pragmatists.

It is the old debate about the relationship between fact and truth on a new level, with Nietzsche's "mobile army of metaphors" winning if you assert there can be no "truth" without words, without language, and there is therefore no "Truth." Rorty is saying the resulting epistemological uncertainty is never going away even though there is no doubt about the practical efficacy of science and phenomenology.

I disagree with critics who think he is espousing moral relativism. Epistemological uncertainty about ethics does not translate into moral relativism. Rorty, like Dewey before him, is saying moral values have to be ultimately pragmatic because there is no epistemological absoluteness about them as there is none about physical facts, even when the rockets work properly. It is a meta-ethical claim, not a claim about the truths of morality. So the assertion that Rorty's concept of solidarity amounts to espousing moral relativism makes no sense. Some critics want to label him "dangerous" in the same way Russell called Dewey's pragmatism "dangerous." Dangerousness does not make them wrong.

Regarding this dangerousness, Rorty does not think theorizing about what level or lack of epistemological surety underlies moral values changes our interaction with them, at least not in a morally or politically detrimental way.He's saying epistemology is never going to get us to certainty, so there is no point trying to mold the polis on the assumption we do know.What works is not only good enough but also it's all that we have.

So pragmatists like Dewey and Rorty are "dangerous" in the same way Nietzsche was dangerously misunderstood by ignorant Nazis. Some are inclined to exclaim "this cannot be" because they want absolute ontological certainty, the moral clarity of solidarity not being strong enough for us. That impulse arises from a psychological approach produced by a world view (the "mirror" at work) grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition (as Genesis says "and God saw all that he made") and Plato's "forms" as the ultimate "True" reality ("seeing" the Truth of forms when emerging from the Republic's metaphorical cave). At its core Plato's theory is as religious as Genesis. These two traditions represent the bedrock of Western epistemological and scientific thinking.

Not everyone thinks that way though, which is why I think Rorty was on to something when he left philosophy. In the East people do not use ocular metaphors as a first resort, for instance, and they have no trouble with the idea that fact is somehow ontologically independent of truth. The Taoist roots of Zen existentialism may be more "scientific" in the pragmatist's perspective (to continue with the habit of ocular metaphors) because those ideas stress bare awareness without reflection as apprehending what we call "Truth," not seeing it and naming it so. The ultimate exact relationship between fact and truth, as Rorty suggests, is likely ineffable, but that doesn't mean we do not know facts of reality exist.That is an idea with which the Taoists, most famously Lao-tzu or Chuang-tzu, would readily agree.Rorty is sure enough about the facts of cruelty to write what he does, but that doesn't mean he or anyone else possesses moral certainty---to me "moral certainty" sounds like a dangerous quasi-religious idea.I think I'd rather have a pragmatist at the helm of the polis than someone who thinks he has recevied the holy Truth.

4-0 out of 5 stars big ideas, clear writing, with only a few gaps
Rorty's book is an articulate and very clearly written attempt to deal with one major modern philosophical question, namely:

"If nothing (or everything) is true (or real), what grounds are there for developing a system of values?"

Rorty starts by summarising the problems of modern philosophy (relativism rules, or "nothing is true").He then moves into a discussion of how-- in the absence of God, or of concrete proof of the value and meaning of scientific research-- values might be articulated.Rorty's answer (which he takes to some extent from Sartre) is that it is literature (and the arts in general) which allow us to imagine the human context of ideas.Through this imagining we can create the title's "solidarity" with others against ideas (or governments) which are cruel.

Rorty's book is forceful, well-written and clear.Anybody without a philosophy background can get his ideas.There are a few gaps.Rorty, of the blank-slate ("nurture") school of human nature, ignores much evidence from neuroscience, anthropology and other disciplines which basically says that, no, there ARE inherent human universals.We aren't jsu tcreated by culture, and we cannto simpy adopt ANY set of social ideas and build a society around them.It would be interesting to see Rorty argue ethics with, say, Steven Pinker.Rorty also takes relativism one step too far.As Allan Bloom put it, he makes the mistake of turning epistemological relativism into MORAL relativism (in human language, that means he starts with "we don't know anything for sure" and uses that to argue "there is no way to have moral standards").

Those interested in this book would also enjoy the following--

Charles Taylor's THE SOURCES OF THE SELF.A history of how Westerners came to see themselves (in philosophical and political terms).Opens with a fascinating indirect rebuttal to Rorty.Taylor writes beautifully for an educated but non-specialist audience.

Steven Pinker's HOW THE MIND WORKS.The first half is the computational theory of mind; the second looks at gene-based human universals and makes a fascinating counterpoint to Rorty.

3-0 out of 5 stars Contingency, Irony and Solidarity
Contingency, Irony and Solidarity is great book if you are in neopragmatism, linguistic relativity or other neo-something. But if you think more in depth you will see that Rorty's basic statement that new vocabulary that replace old vocabulary is still recognized as entity "vocabulary". Without broader idea that language "Is"that vocabulary changing concept wouldn't be possible. Rorty is definitively interesting philosopher as philosopher which clearly shows 20th century spirit, but to be one's final station is as dangerous as to hold Nietzsche as definitive philosopher. ... Read more

4. The Rorty Reader (Blackwell Readers)
by Richard Rorty
Paperback: 576 Pages (2010-08-16)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$21.51
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Asin: 140519832X
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The first comprehensive collection of the work of Richard Rorty (1931-2007), The Rorty Reader brings together the influential American philosopher’s essential essays from over four decades of writings. 

  • Offers a comprehensive introduction to Richard Rorty's life and body of work
  • Brings key essays published across many volumes and journals into one collection, including selections from his final volume of philosophical papers, Philosophy as Cultural Politics (2007))
  • Contains the previously unpublished (in English) essay, “Redemption from Egotism”
  • Includes in-depth interviews, and several revealing autobiographical pieces
  • Represents the fullest portrait available today on Rorty’s relationship with American pragmatism and the trajectory of his thought

... Read more

5. Consequences Of Pragmatism: Essays 1972-1980
by Richard Rorty
Paperback: 288 Pages (1982-10-18)
list price: US$24.00 -- used & new: US$20.24
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Asin: 0816610649
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars "Philosophy is time grasped in thought"
Rorty has collected a selection from his vast number of essays under the title "Consequences of Pragmatism". Spanning the time range of his work from the early 1970s to the early 1980s, they represent Rorty's development and exposition of his views after he made the sudden turn from analytic philosophy to his anti-essentialist pragmatism. Many of the essays are meant to explain how his view contrasts with the tradition in philosophy he is arguing against, which he identifies as the Cartesian-Kantian one, as well as the analytic philosophical tradition he used to belong to. However, some of the later essays also serve to defend his views against some common criticisms. Also included are essays which compare his views with those of people working or having worked along similar 'counter-tradition' lines, such as of course his inspiration Dewey, but also Heidegger, Foucault, and Cavell.

The essays are well-written and generally not too difficult, so they should be an accessible summary of his philosophical views for the intellectual reader. Despite the sometimes rather dry subject-matter, such as reviewing the developments in 20th Century philosophy of language, Rorty applies humor and optimism to skilfully polemicize against this tradition. This leads to witty phrases and interesting observations such as: "taking how and what one does in bed as definitive of one's being seems a specifically masculine trait", "granted that Derrida is the latest and largest flower on the dialectical kudzu vine of which the 'Phenomenology of Spirit' was the first tendril, does that not merely show the need to uproot this creeping menace? Can we not all see (...) the need to strip the suckers of this parasitic climber from the still unfinished walls and roofs of the great Kantian edifice which it covers and conceals?" or "our tyrants and bandits are more hateful than those of earlier times because (...) they pose as intellectuals. Our tyrants write philosophy in the morning and torture in the afternoon; our bandits alternatively read Hölderlin and bomb people to bloody scraps".

Despite the repetition of the collection, unfortunately inherent due to the need for exposition of the same misunderstood theme over and over again, this kind of writing keeps it intriguing and insightful. And since Rorty is committed to seeing philosophy as similar to literature, this is serious praise.

5-0 out of 5 stars Rorty and modern comedy
This book might be a good place to start trying to gain a complete knowledge of the historicity of secret thoughts."Hegel's historicism"(p. 3) might be compared with Americans who thought that World War Two was a great event, but this book is more concerned with "The notion of alternative conceptual frameworks."(p. 3).There is no entry in the index for historicity, but the idea of historicity, which is so important in understanding arguments about right and wrong, could teach us more than the index, which has the names of lots of philosophers in unusual conceptual combinations: Hegel and truth, Hegel and Kuhn, Hegel and Bloom, Nietzsche and James, Kant and James, and names that only appear in the notes at the end of the essays in this book.Published in 1982, the final note for Essay 3, "Overcoming the Tradition:Heidegger and Dewey" contains an acknowledgement, thanking "my late colleague Walter Kaufmann for helpful comment on a draft of this paper."(p. 59, n. 73).Essay 3 was originally read at a conference in 1974 and published in `The Review of Metaphysics' in 1976, a few years before Walter Kaufmann's death in September, 1980.Overcoming tradition might be a small accomplishment, compared to living in a time so comic that laughter might be considered an important cause of the death of an arguer.Having many philosophers and no Philosophy, as much of this book implies, might be as funny as the fatal truth that hardly anyone could believe any of this stuff before, during, or after its historicity.

I would prefer to review this book as if the particular philosophical questions which it collected in the essays (set in the subtitle in the timeframe 1972-1980) serve as a better example of the comedy which was popular in the field of topical humor about politics in a time of turbulent opinions during those years after the death of Lenny Bruce from an overdose of narcotics and before we could watch "South Park" and, unfortunately, of more interest to us today than what Truth or Philosophy might mean.The Introduction, in particular, which attempted to tie the essays together in a manner which suggests that Rorty would prefer some intellectual position that defines the nature of his self, but admitting that a thorough reading might convince us that he had not yet achieved an understandable consistency, fades into insignificance when we readers confront such statements as "Even if I were thinking, which I am not, that would not show that I exist."(p. 7).Ha?Ha?Ha?

Is a title like "The World Well Lost" (pp. 3-18) even decent?Does humor form a barrier to understanding the title "Keeping Philosophy Pure:An Essay on Wittgenstein"(pp. 19-36) when a key theme of the essay is "Yet Wittgenstein came in the end to mock his own creation," (p. 19) "vapid imitation" (p. 22), and that philosophers' attempts to understand Wittgenstein involve "the same paradoxes elaborated by Wittgenstein himself (who cheerfully tosses out half-a-dozen incompatible metaphysical views in the course of the INVESTIGATIONS)."(p. 23) ?Moving right along, Essay 4, "Professionalized Philosophy and Transcendentalist Culture" (pp. 60-71) begins with the suggestion that "Santayana saw us as one more great empire in the long parade.His genial hope was that we might enjoy the imperium while we held it.In a famous essay on American philosophy, he suggested that we were still spoiling our own fun."(p. 60).Our society produces a fine mix of "joy in business itself"(p. 60), "We can afford to smile at this," (p. 61), "the contempt the successful feel for the shabby genteel." (p. 61), "pointing with scorn to the low level of argumentative rigor among the competition" (p. 62), and ultimately:

"American sociology, whose early stages had been satirized as the expenditure of a five-thousand-dollar grant to discover the address of a whorehouse, came to be satirized as the expenditure of a five-million-dollar grant to plot the addresses of a thousand whorehouses against a multidimensional array of socio-economic variables."(pp. 63-64).

Now that home computers make this much information readily available to millions of curious web surfers for study at a level that could be used to see how the number of credit card transactions at the whorehouses compared with the rate of personal bankruptcy in the area around each whorehouse, we are closer than ever to "the highbrow and the academic philosopher viewing each other with equal suspicion, each harping on the vices of each other's virtues."(p. 65).This could be the basis for a humorous aside on cross-disciplinary studies, in which the cross aspect is something like a euphemism for the word aghast, but that is far beyond the scope of this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Pragmatic Dogmatics
Roty, the grand disciple of Dewey and the most articulate pragmatist, elucidates some of the most bothering aspects of pragmatism in this book.In some of these essays, however, one could not help but feel that Roty isover enthusiastic in pushing the pragamtism agenda: he sounds almostevangelistic. If pragmatism wishes to achieve the kind of ideal that Deweyand others like James and Pierce has set out to achieve, the ideal of ademocratic capitalist society, such dogmatism may sound a littleunwarranted. ... Read more

6. Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher
by Neil Gross
Hardcover: 390 Pages (2008-05-15)
list price: US$32.50 -- used & new: US$19.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0226309908
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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On his death in 2007, Richard Rorty was heralded by the New York Times as “one of the world’s most influential contemporary thinkers.” Controversial on the left and the right for his critiques of objectivity and political radicalism, Rorty experienced a renown denied to all but a handful of living philosophers. In this masterly biography, Neil Gross explores the path of Rorty’s thought over the decades in order to trace the intellectual and professional journey that led him to that prominence.

The child of a pair of leftist writers who worried that their precocious son “wasn’t rebellious enough,” Rorty enrolled at the University of Chicago at the age of fifteen. There he came under the tutelage of polymath Richard McKeon, whose catholic approach to philosophical systems would profoundly influence Rorty’s own thought. Doctoral work at Yale led to Rorty’s landing a job at Princeton, where his colleagues were primarily analytic philosophers. With a series of publications in the 1960s, Rorty quickly established himself as a strong thinker in that tradition—but by the late 1970s Rorty had eschewed the idea of objective truth altogether, urging philosophers to take a “relaxed attitude” toward the question of logical rigor. Drawing on the pragmatism of John Dewey, he argued that philosophers should instead open themselves up to multiple methods of thought and sources of knowledge—an approach that would culminate in the publication of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, one of the most seminal and controversial philosophical works of our time.

In clear and compelling fashion, Gross sets that surprising shift in Rorty’s thought in the context of his life and social experiences, revealing the many disparate influences that contribute to the making of knowledge. As much a book about the growth of ideas as it is a biography of a philosopher, Richard Rorty will provide readers with a fresh understanding of both the man and the course of twentieth-century thought.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

3-0 out of 5 stars Rorts and all
This making of an American philosopher only covers the making, that is from Rorty's grandparents, parents, schooling, and career until about 1982. Rorty continued to live and write for another 25 years but that period falls beyond the view of this investigation.

It is interesting that an author would unroll an arsenal of sociological methods to address the circumstances of a single individual. Most of the new sociology of ideas assists the author's effort to show the changes in American academia and the stratification of disciplines occurring after WWII, and such explication is very well done. When it is clear that a theory will not account for a life-decision made by Rorty, Gross employs his "self-concept" idea; which suggests, roughly, that individuals behave in accord with their conception of self. The novelty of this innovation is hardly shattering and such a wishy-washy guide as to seem capricious beside some of the hard-earned, empirical theories of sociology and educational change.

The author sets out to reveal how it is possible that someone like Rorty could grow into a brilliant and controversial academic superstar. The sociological methods do very well to establish frames of intellectual activity and contexts for Rorty's opportunities, but they in no way persuade that Rorty's explosive success was anything other than unique. One case-study of a single individual does not make a science or a sociology secure (or convincing).

On the whole, this book offers a very solid review of Richard Rorty's early career, its development and some suggestions as to what made him tick, but revolutionary sociology this is not.

4-0 out of 5 stars Rorty Would Approve
Sociologist Neil Gross has written a fascinating biography of Richard Rorty that attempts to show the sociological influences that formed Rorty into the politically radical, anti-analytical pragmatist we came to know and admire.

Although the book's title is misleading, since it gives no indication that quite a few pages will be devoted to discussing sociological theory, the strictly biographical portions--the majority of the book--are excellent and are unburdened with sociological speculation. Gross's discussion of Rorty's philosophical theorizing is quite good.

Rorty would have approved of Gross's work. Gross proposes a theory--a story or narrative--of how Rorty came to believe and argue what he did. Gross does this by looking at Rorty's rearing and the sociological pressures and influences of the schools Rorty attended and taught at. This is the kind of hypothetical "explanation" Rorty said we must endlessly debate regarding all so-called truths we affirm in a world in which we cannot encounter the "given" without wrapping it in the assumptions and theories of our time and place. Gross's sociological explanation of how Rorty came to be Rorty acknowledges, as Rorty claimed, that there are no sharp divisions between philosophy, sociology, or any of the other disciplines of academic study.

A separate chapter is devoted to each of Rorty's parents; then several chapters on Rorty's training at the University of Chicago and Yale; a chapter on his appointment to Wellesley College; then two chapters on his teaching at Princeton and his move to the University of Virginia.

5-0 out of 5 stars The New sociology meets Richard Rorty
Neil Gross, speaking for the "new sociology of ideas", has written this compelling and challenging book in order to explore social factors that explain an intellectual's life-time professional career choices.Using Richard Rorty as an empiric choice to illuminate sociology theory, the author first traces Rorty's transition from metaphysician to analytic philospher and finally to a"leftist American patriot" (as a devotee of the pragmatists - James, Dewey, and Pierce); secondly, the author interprets and understands Rorty's decisions by dissecting out his "intellectual self-concept" - the author's own methodologic tool.Was the author successful in showing how sociology could explain Rorty's decision-making process?Yes.By giving us, the reader, insight into the great philosopher's self-concept.....This book should find a permanent place in the area of Humanities; it is especially recommended for those involved in the new sociology of ideas and of course to all attuned to Richard Rorty. ... Read more

7. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature: Thirtieth-Anniversary Edition
by Richard Rorty
Paperback: 472 Pages (2008-12-29)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$18.76
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Asin: 0691141320
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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When it first appeared in 1979, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature hit the philosophical world like a bombshell. In it, Richard Rorty argued that, beginning in the seventeenth century, philosophers developed an unhealthy obsession with the notion of representation: comparing the mind to a mirror that reflects reality. Rorty's book is a powerful critique of this imagery and the tradition of thought that it spawned.

Thirty years later, the book remains a must-read and stands as a classic of twentieth-century philosophy. Its influence on the academy, both within philosophy and across a wide array of disciplines, continues unabated. This edition includes new essays by philosopher Michael Williams and literary scholar David Bromwich, as well as Rorty's previously unpublished essay "The Philosopher as Expert."

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Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Rejuvenated My Interest in Philosophy
While certain aspects of this book will be unintelligible to those lacking a technical education (like me) in American analytic philosophy--or to those who've never read Sartre, Hegel or Heidegger--the style of the book renders its main points interesting and comprehensible to an intelligent, thoughtful reader. Rorty's main points come through clearly and powerfully. The metaphor of philosophy as a mirror of nature--and the imperative need to move beyond this metaphor--is compelling and independent of the more analytically dense portions of the book. The full second half is fairly easy to follow for those who have more than a passing interest in philosophy.

But, this isn't it's main value. If you're daunted by the prospect of reading Derrida or Foucault--or even Sartre--parts of this book are the most honest and readable abridgments I've run across. As a lit grad student, I barely understood Derrida. Reading Rorty was like being given a magic key to unlock the inscrutable mysteries of continental postmodernism. Some find Rorty's style strained, but I think he's one of the most talented English-language stylists philosophy has known--perhaps second only to Jane Addams or William James.

This isn't light beach-reading material, but it is a great read for those at all interested in contemporary philosophy.

3-0 out of 5 stars Rorty
I was a bit disappointed.Some interesting issues raised about science and linguistics, but the philosophy is somewhat tenuous. Clearly following the trend that only academic philosophers need understand each other leaves the intelligent layman out in left field.Carl Sagan once lamented this same trend in the sciences, that is, that astronomers need only write for other astronomers.Obviously, String Theory is headed in the same direction, making it unintelligible for all but physicists who have been trained in the new math.Great thinkers are readily grasped by readers outside their own field.I met a philosopher who didn't want me to read his book because it was too "technical". As far as I am concerned, if you can't put your theories into plain and lucid language, your work will become useless and discarded by the majority of people who read books and use libraries. ... Read more

8. Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers (Philosophical Papers, Vol 1) (Volume 1)
by Richard Rorty
Paperback: 236 Pages (1990-11-30)
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Asin: 0521358779
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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. ... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars Crucial reading for Rorty students
Rorty is a love/hate philosopher. I love him so there is your full disclosure.

Love him or Hate him ORT is important reading. If you read nothing but PMN and ORT you would be well equiped to begin your apology/critique.

2-0 out of 5 stars A shining example of the complacency of our age
Montaigne points out that "It is far easier to live like Caesar and talk like Aristotle than to live and talk like Socrates." In other words, it is far easier to rest content in the smug satisfaction that one is in possession of the truth than it is to unremittingly persevere in the quest for truth, recognizing that one is and will always remain merely a seeker.

There is a smugness of individuals, there is a smugness of communities, and there is a smugness of entire ages. Richard Rorty's essay "The priority of democracy to philosophy," reprinted in this volume, is a valuable document because it shows all too clearly just how smug our age has become.

Rorty provides us with a set of convenient techniques for the comfortable maintenance of our self-satisfaction. Among these is the technique of designating with the term "fanatical" any opinion that is not commensurate with the consensus of the age. The fanatic is to be compelled by the regime to "sacrifice her conscience on the altar of public expediency," (p. 175) or, for the sake of such expediency, to stop asking uncomfortable questions (p. 190). Rorty even suggests that we extirpate from our language the very vocabulary in which such uncomfortable questions are posed (p. 190).

Consider Rorty's claim that "Contemporary intellectuals have given up the Enlightenment assumption that religion, myth, and tradition can be opposed to something ahistorical." (p. 176) One might object that contemporary intellectuals are not nearly so unanimous on this point as Rorty makes them out to be. This entirely misses the point, however. For Rorty, agreement on this point _is_ unanimous. It is unanimous because those who disagree are "fanatics," and therefore no longer worthy of participation in the discussion--no longer even worthy of being called "contemporary intellectuals."

Entirely missing from Rorty's approach to philosophy is John Stuart Mill's sentiment that "Ages are no more infallible than individuals, every age having held many opinions which subsequent ages have deemed not only false but absurd."

Rorty believes that we must view critics of liberal democracy--Nietzsche, Loyola, and their intellectual heirs, for example--as "crazy," (p. 187) because "the limits of sanity are ... determined by our upbringing, our historical situation." (p.188) This sort of slavish submissiveness to the present age would indeed be inevitable if no vestige of past ages had not been preserved for us. But this is not the case. The written word gives us sufficient access to other ages that we need not submit uncritically to our own. The greatest and most original thinkers are exactly those who have refused to submit to their own age: Nietzsche, for example, who assiduously studied the Presocratics, and Heidegger, the student of Medieval philosophy.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not clearly written
I'm sure Richard Rorty has some important things to say but to me his writing comes across as "philosophical shop talk."He writes of -ism this and -ism that but seldom makes a direct point.

3-0 out of 5 stars I guess if you like pragmatism...
The first volume, Objectivism, Relatativism and Truth, is mainly concerned with Donald Davidson and John Dewey. Dewey I was vaguely familiar with(and still am) while concerning Davidson I was completely ignorant. My light-hearted critique Rorty is similar to a critique of Sartre. Sartre begins with the fact that there isn't a God, what do we do now. In many ways Rorty begins with that same position and though that doesn't effect my critique, it should be noted that we begin everything from different positions.

Rorty, like Rawls, takes religious belief very lightly. He is apparently friends with Alaisdair MacIntyre so he understands that theism is intellectually sustainable. In fact, in volume 2 he cites MacIntyre saying that "dramatic narratives may well be essental to the writing of intellectual history." I only bring this up to show Rorty's understanding of theism and yet his disregard of it in taking the position of a postmetaphysical philosopher.

My memory is unfortunately fleeting concerning the first volume which I no longer have, but thanks to the amazon excerpt I can bring up a few quotes.

Rorty's chief concern is the rivalry between platonic realists and Jamesian pragmatists. This is how he puts it:

Those who want to ground solidarity in objectivity - call them "realists" - so they have to contstrue truth as correspondence to reality. So they must construct a metaphysics which has room for a special relation between beliefs and objects which will differentiate true from fals beliefs...

By contrast, those who wish to reduce objectivity to solidarity - call them "pragmatists" - do not require a metaphysics or an epistemology. They view truth as, in William James' phrase, what is good for us to believe.

So this is basically it. He goes on for a few hundred pages, and then 200 more in the second volume, but it all basically comes down to this difference and his support of pragmatism. The support occurs because it is more beneficial for him to be a pragmatist, so I guess he is in line with his own philosophy, but then again, he doesn't consider philisophy an occupation worth much (he is now a humanities professor). Rorty doesn't much get into benifit, what that is, why that matters, but rests on a culture understanding with a desperate attempt to avoid ethnocentrism.

Volume 2 goes into Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Derrida but mainly to show how they aline with Dewey and James, a noble quest if there ever was one. Mainly he goes about readings of their early works, trapped within the prison of metaphysics, or free into the...ambiguity? of pragmatism. I'd say delight but then that would put them all out of jobs. Maybe its just a grudge and Rorty wants to make all of the philosophy faculties of the world close because they gave him a wedgie in grad school.

So why not pragmatism? Well, the pragmatist is trapped in either solopsism or hedonism, two positions I do not envy and from which I do not see an escape nor do I think there is an attempt at one. But more than anything, pragmatism is a system that does not affect anyone else so frankly, it's not why pragmatism, but why should I care, and after reading enough of him the answer is evident, I don't.

4-0 out of 5 stars anti-scientific?
A reader, Lechman, wrote here that "All scientists and engineers would reject Rortys ideas as extremely sloppy and antiscientific." Having not read this particular book [I gave it 4 stars to keep the score as I found it], I still can comment that Rorty's claims against science have nothing anti-scientific about them. As a pragmatist, Rorty would certainly not hold science to be without value, and I seriously doubt that he--in this book or in any other--challenges how scientists go about their work. Really, it's just not much of concern to science whether scientists believe themselves to be revealing metaphysical truth or not--they'll still get their work done.

But the question remains, 'what is the truth-value of the results produced by science?'. Many modern people, stuck in circular thinking, attempt to justify science with scientific premises. Even the biggest advocates of science in philosophy realize that that's not tenable. ... Read more

9. Richard Rorty: Philosophical Papers Set
by Richard Rorty
Paperback: 1029 Pages (2007-02-12)
list price: US$120.00 -- used & new: US$118.70
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Asin: 052170152X
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This set of four volumes brings together seminal essays spanning the career of Richard Rorty, one of the most creative and influential anglophone philosophers of recent decades. The essays range widely over the concerns of philosophy, politics, science, religion, and culture, engaging with thinkers from Hilary Putnam to Catherine McKinnon and challenging readers to re-examine many traditional tenets in philosophy and elsewhere. They will be essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in contemporary philosophy and what it can do for us in the modern world. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars Not the Last of a Breed (We Hope)
It is somewhat ironic that Rorty often referred to Donald Davidson as his "favorite philosopher". It was far from certain that Davidson returned the favor. In fact, it often seemed that Davidson felt acutely co-opted or revised by Rorty. In any case, Davidson and Rorty shared a kind of ambivalence toward Philosophy, even as they contributed strongly to the best core traditions of that discipline. That is, both Davidson and Rorty felt some allegiance to disciplines (or departments) other than Philosophy -- Davidson to Psychology and Rorty to Literary Criticism and the Humanities. But in both cases, their stances were philosophical, in the best sense, in that they were unwilling to hide behind "scientific", "logical", or other artificially formal intellectual technologies. In short, as philosophers they took a flat-footed stance in confronting experience with language. The experience and the language were finally grounded in the experience and language shared by all human beings.

In Rorty's later works, his overall approach had a direct emotional appeal, not just a logical appeal. The foundation of his arguments was not of the old-school sort; it was neither logical or scientific. Rather, it was an appeal to shared experience and shared interpretation. In one sense he was on shaky ground. Nothing could be "proved". Nevertheless, Rorty was reaching for -- and in his best later work reached -- a foundation more compelling and more universal than science or logic. His arguments were based on a profound knowledge and understanding of human history, expressed and analyzed in engaging and conversational prose.

His best essays in this volume (and see also Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America) are reminiscent of personal letters from that smarter roommate we all had in college -- someone we could trust to enlighten us, someone we could assume was right when we didn't get it at first.

5-0 out of 5 stars Reviewing 'Philosophy as Cultural Politics'
In the work of Richard Rorty, I have found great support for my own treatment of important matters in philosophy.Had I not thought, as I do,that
realism is just so much well-entrenched sci-fi, I might not have gone back to Rorty and Rorty's et alia (in Truth and Progress and Consequences of Pragmatism)However, having said this much, I should add that if one wants Rorty in depth, read something else, but do not ignore this work. For those who, like myself, are unfamiliar with many of Rorty's invited guests, the work is simple and important. We owe Rorty a debt.

5-0 out of 5 stars More fantastic essays
More fantastic essays by the wordsmith who says everything just as beautifully as you would say it if only you had thought of it first.

5-0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
This is Rorty in his later years. It makes for at wonderful summing up. Because he has said the same things again and again, there is a delightful lightness to his tone. The many ramifications of his cumulative research have become clearer. I think Rorty is almost hated by some of his professional colleagues. I am not a professional philosopher, so I cannot comment on his many sins. But as a working psycholgist I love his work. He has made many of my "epistemological sins" clear. And over the years reading his books has changed me. I think this book along with "Philosophy and Social Hope" give the easiest access to his work. Highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars More of the same Rorty, but that may not be a bad thing
This is the 4th volume of Rorty's Philosophical Papers, and the 1st volume since his retirement from Stanford University.This 4th collection is not as summoning as his 3rd, and although it is as diverse in topics as the 3rd collection it is not as specific in its topics compared to the 3rd or 2nd collection.

Rorty has etched out his place in contemporary philosophy by arguing much to the same critique of philosophy for over 20 years.But he has had many interesting ideas (with their inherent controversies).What has increased is the diversity of the subject matter that he considers relevant to his overall themes, and also, he writes more elegantly and simply than he used to write (compare this volume with the collection in Consequences of Pragmatism: Essays, 1972-1980).
I will give a summary of each argument in each essay by finding the most representative quote within each essay....If these arguments do not interest you, but you're still interested in Rorty, I would suggest Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (a critique of representationalism), Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (Rorty's infamous "liberal ironist"), and Achieving Our Country : Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (Rorty's political manifesto). Or, check out the book list I created on Amazon entitled "Richard Rorty"

"I want to argue that cultural politics should replace ontology, and also that whether it should or not is itself a matter of cultural politics" (pg. 5).

"You are a polytheist if you think that there is no actual or possible object of knowledge that would permit you to commensurate and rank all human needs.Isaiah Berlin's well-known doctrine of immensurable human values is, in my sense, a polytheistic manifesto.Polytheism...is pretty much coextensive with romantic utilitarianism....no way of ranking human needs...Mill's `On Liberty' provides all the ethical instruction you need" (pg. 30).

"Should we describe such moral dilemmas as conflicts between loyalty and justice, or rather, as I have suggested between loyalties to smaller groups and loyalties to larger groups?" (pg. 44).

"Honesty and honorableness are measured by the degree of coherence of the stories people tell themselves and come to believe" (pg. 68).

"The main reason for philosophy's marginalization...is the same as the reason why the warfare between science and theology looks quaint - the fact that nowadays we are all commonsensically materialist and utilitarian....further reason...the quarrels which, in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, gradually replaced the warfare between the gods and the giants - the quarrels between philosophy and poetry and between philosophy and sophistry - have themselves become quaint" (pg. 87).

"We think that inquiry is just another name for problem-solving, and we cannot imagine inquiry into how human beings should live, into what we should make ourselves, coming to an end.For solutions to old problems will produce fresh problems, and so on forever" (pg. 89).

"...imagination is the source of freedom because it is the source of language...Nothing at all was obvious, because obviousness is not a notion that can be applied to organisms that do not use language...imagination is not a distinctively human capacity...But giving and asking for reasons is distinctively human, and coextensive with rationality.The more an organism can get what it wants by persuasion rather than force, the more rational it is" (pg. 114-115).

"I am suggesting we drop the term `continental' and instead contrast analytic philosophy with conversational philosophy.This change would shift attention from differences between job requirements imposed on young philosophers in different regions of the world to issues I just sketched: that there is something that philosophers can get right.The term `getting it right'...is appropriate only when everybody interested in the topics draws pretty much the same inferences from the same assertions" (pg. 124).

"...we should be neither realist nor antirealists, that the entire realism-antirealism issue should be set aside" (pg. 133)."In the sort of culture I hope our remote descendants may inhabit, the philosophical literature about realism and antirealism will have been aestheticized in the way that we moderns have aestheticized medieval disputations about the ontological status of universals" (pg. 137).

"Most people who think of themselves in the quietist camps, as I do, would hesitate to say that the problems studied by our activist colleagues are unreal.[Rather, we divide philosophical problems] into those that retain some relevance to cultural politics and those that do not" (pg. 149; my brackets).

"I shall divide three views of Wittgenstein, corresponding to three ways of thinking about the so-called `linguistic turn in philosophy'" (pg. 160).These views include "naturalists," "Wittgensteinian therapists," and "pragmatic Wittgensteinians."(Rorty is in the third camp).Rorty argues 2 things: "there is no interesting sense in which philosophical problems are problems of language,...and the linguistic turn was useful nevertheless, for it turned philosophers'' attentionsfrom the topic of experience toward that of linguistic behavior.That shift helped break the hold of empiricism - and, more broadly, representationalism" (pg. 160).

"[If you are like a holist] you will try...to explain how certain organisms managed to become rational by telling stories about how various different practices came into being.You will be more interested in historical change than in neurobiological arrangements" (pg. 176).

Against the moral philosophers in the Kantian tradition and in support of the Deweyian, Rorty writes, "To say that moral principles have no inherent nature is to imply that they have no distinct source.They emerge from our encounters with our surroundings in the same way that hypotheses about planetary motion, codes of etiquette, epic poems, and all our other patterns of linguistic behavior emerge" (pg. 192). ... Read more

10. Rorty and His Critics (Philosophers and their Critics)
Paperback: 432 Pages (2000-10-10)
list price: US$41.95 -- used & new: US$33.02
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Asin: 0631209824
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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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.' ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent anthology
I am not a big fan of Rorty's work, but this volume is excellent.It contains articles by top-notch philosophers (with Rorty's responses) that hits on topics ranging from truth and objectivity to epistemology and pragmatism.

I consider the most important articles as the following: Davidson, "Truth Rehabilitated," Putnam, "RR on Reality and Justification," (excellent); McDowell, "Towards Rehabilitating Objectivity," (excellent); Brandom, "Vocabularies of Pragmatism," M. Williams, "Epistemology and the Mirror of Nature," Conant, "Freedom, Cruelty, and Truth: Rorty versus Orwell."

I highly recommend this anthology.

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but fairly technical for Rorty material
This is by far the best book about Rorty on the market, however it is certainly at the more technical end of the spectrum.Since Rorty's own prose elsewhere is frequently accessible to a wide audience, the prospective reader of this must be forewarned that the essays by his challengers and his responses are all more technical than much that he has written recently.

On the other hand the quality is high throughout, with fewer "cheap shots" by his opponents than in other collections about him, and much material that is really first rate.Even though the book is centered on Rorty and his responses, the quality is high enough that it really is a dialogue on the issues that he has been concerned with, and which are quite central to philosophy today.

If your taste for Rorty is not just for the lighter fare and you have some background in philosophy to bring to this, then this is richly rewarding.

4-0 out of 5 stars Philosophers Challenge Rortification
Take the single most entertaining and engaging philosopher that the academy can today boast, add a few colleagues who have pointed (and sometimes passionate) arguments to pursue with him and serve at the hands of one of his protégés - and you have Rorty and His Critics edited by Robert B Brandom.

This book is very stimulating, enormously erudite and not a little complicated. Here Rorty is hauled over the hot coals and its his task to defend himself against (and, occasionally, to further expedite) the arguments of his interlocutors; these figures include such heavyweights as Habermas, Davidson, Dennett, and Jacques Bouveresse. They argue and debate back and forth over various things that the interlocutors have at issue with Rorty. These include the status of "truth" as against "justification before ones peers", the supposed inescapability from "reality" and, in the best piece from the book, written by Bjorn Ramberg, what a "Post-Ontological Philosophy of Mind" might be and, indeed, might lead to. In response to this latter piece Rorty seems to bend his pragmatic line just a bit closer to the realist one in what I hope might become a classic quote of his: "What is true in pragmatism is that what you talk about depends not on what is real but on what it pays you to talk about. What is true in realism is that most of what you talk about you get right." The book begins with a helpful introduction by the editor (a former graduate student supervised by Rorty with his own chapter engaging Rorty in the book as well) and a paper by Rorty which argues that justification is more useful than "truth" since at least you can recognise the former when you have it (and what you can't recognise when you have it is useless anyway).

The collection of questions as arguments put to Rorty and his responses seems, to me, to make Rorty work at his thinking. It makes him explicate and also explain his pragmatic turn of thought in response to a new set of papers and I, for one, am thankful for that. The book is hard going. Those not used to philosophical debate or microscopically logical argument where you can trap your opponent in seeming errors which undercut her thesis are going to find themselves quickly caught up in something which seems to be overpowering them. This is a book that should be read at leisure, poured over, taken in deeply and mused upon. It will require not a little effort. At the end of the process Rorty still does not think that there is a "Reality" out there for us to get right "Because there are no norms for talking about it". But I, for one, am glad that I have had the opportunity to read this book and it has made me sharpen up my own thinking too.

PoSTmodERnFoOL ... Read more

11. The Philosophy of Richard Rorty (Library of Living Philosophers)
Hardcover: 992 Pages (2010-05-25)
list price: US$89.95 -- used & new: US$55.43
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Asin: 0812696417
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Richard Rorty was a seminal figure in philosophy, transforming the discipline during the last quarter of the 20th century and setting it on a new path for the 21st. An early, implacable critic of the widespread preoccupation with questions of truth, representation, and the foundations of knowledge, Rorty promoted a new type of philosophical pragmatism with great persuasive power, and many have credited him with inspiring the renewed interest in the thought of classical American philosophy, especially his hero John Dewey. Always controversial, Rorty's books and essays were read as carefully by his critics as by his admirers. This book includes in its nearly 1,000 pages Rorty's intellectual autobiography, 29 previously unpublished critical and descriptive essays by famous scholars, Rorty's replies to most of them, and a complete bibliography of his published works. Since Rorty passed away in 2007, his contributions to this volume have a special importance as among his final writings.
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Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars A superb addition to philosophy shelves and a welcome contribution to college libraries
Volume XXXII in "The Library of Living Philosophers" series, The Philosophy of Richard Rorty is an outstanding compendium consisting of 29 critical essays by analytical philosopher Richard Rorty, as well as his intellectual autobiography, his replies to those who critique him, and a Rorty bibliography. From sharp criticism of the weaknesses of conventional methods of philosophy (especially the excess of preoccupation with questions of the foundation and representation of knowledge), to the invaluable role of pragmatism in everything from surveying language to as an invaluable tool to perpetuate democracy, and much more, The Philosophy of Richard Rorty is a welcome contribution to ongoing intellectual debate. The Philosophy of Richard Rorty is solidly organized and presented, a superb addition to philosophy shelves and a welcome contribution to college libraries.
... Read more

12. Achieving Our Country : Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America
by Richard Rorty
Paperback: 176 Pages (1999-09-01)
list price: US$19.50 -- used & new: US$9.55
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Asin: 0674003128
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Must the sins of America's past poison its hope for the future? Lately the American Left, withdrawing into the ivied halls of academe to rue the nation's shame, has answered yes in both word and deed. In Achieving Our Country, one of America's foremost philosophers challenges this lost generation of the Left to understand the role it might play in the great tradition of democratic intellectual labor that started with writers like Walt Whitman and John Dewey.Amazon.com Review
There are many shameful incidents in America's past: theinstitution of slavery, genocidal assaults on the indigenous peoplesof this continent, the escalation of the Vietnam War, and so on. Whatshould our response to such acts be? Should we regard the nation asirredeemably tainted by sin and spend our time cataloging its evils,or should we acknowledge its shortcomings and make a conscious effortto turn it into a better nation?

Philosopher Richard Rorty believes that there is hope for America, butthat today's Left is not meeting the challenge. He contrasts thecultural, academic Left's focus on our heritage of shame (which, headmits, has to the extent that it makes hatred intolerable had thepositive effect of making America a more civil society) with thepolitically engaged reformist Left of the early part of thiscentury. "The distinction between the old strategy and the new isimportant," he writes. "The choice between them makes thedifference between what Todd Gitlin calls common dreams and whatArthur Schlesinger calls disuniting Americans. Totake pride in being black or gay is an entirely reasonable response tothe sadistic humiliation to which one has been subjected. But insofaras this pride prevents someone from also taking pride in being anAmerican citizen, from thinking of his or her country as capable ofreform, or from being able to join with straights or whites inreformist initiatives, it is a political disaster."

Not everyone, to be sure, is going to agree with Rorty's ideas. Buthis approach to civic life, which is pragmatic in the tradition ofJohn Dewey and visionary in the tradition of Walt Whitman, isbound to provoke increased discussion of what it is to be a citizen,and his call for a renewed awareness of the history of Americanreformist activism can only be applauded. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (22)

5-0 out of 5 stars Rorty's Unfinished Business
Achieving Our Country is Richard Rorty's greatest work. Much of his later work provides clear and cogent arguments for embracing continental skepticism while maintaining an epistemological-riverbed firm enough to stand on for one's country. This is evinced by his enthusiasm for the United States as a tragic utopian (never attained, but always sought), and his disillusionment with the Critical Left's inability to do more than be critical. Achieving Our Country continues to inspire future Americans to carry on the Left's humanistic virtues even when faced with relentless skepticism. This is a must read for anyone who has been ashamed by any event in the history of the United States of America, and thought the event would always taint its future. Perhaps Rorty, who sought firm answers in his early analytic training, has found epistemological-bedrock in the form of American hope.

5-0 out of 5 stars APlea to Work for Governmental Action to the Academic Left
Richard Rorty is a prominent philosopher and academic with deep family roots in the anti-communist efforts of Norman Thomas' Socialist Party, the societal amelioration of the New Deal, and the Social Gospel movement.

He is appalled by the failure of advocates of continued governmental involvement in societal problem-solving to win enough elections to keep political progress moving ahead during a time of ever-increasing globalization and general income stagnation.

He sees a vibrant Academic Left--which he admits has valid critiques of the reformist Left with which he most identifies--but he is appalled that its members have little interest in developing workable programs for societal betterment or engaging in active campaigns for change or the inner workings of government.

He is not David Horowitz.His attacks on the Academic Left are meant to persuade its members, not to rally support of others against them.He praises academic teachings against sadism, bullying, racism, sexism, and homophobia--but feels that merely dealing with how people relate to each other is an inadaquate response to the many institutional failings of American society.He describes the Academic Left's abstention from wider political conflict as to the economic direction of our country as"an inability to do two things at once."

"Sometime in the Seventies, " he writes, "American middle-class idealism went into a stall.Under Presidents Carter and Clinton, the Democratic Party has survived by distancing itself from unions and any mention of redistribution, and moving into a sterile vacuum called the "center."....So the choice between the two major parties has come down to a choice between cynical lies and terrified silence."

In the Pennsylvania legislature, I have long been a leader of efforts to improve the economic welfare of struggling citizens: from repealing laws raising consumer prices and the law establishing welfare liens, to raising the minimum wage and establishing and increasing subsidized senior citizen prescriptions and property tax rebates.

So I am in complete agreement with Rorty's argument for greater involvement to reduce economic injustices. He writes with a scathing eloquence and a deep political understanding that the only way to arouse public support on a national level for new policies is to be able to place them in a context of both patriotism and attention to the genuine needs of the American people.

Because he is largely addressing the Academic Left, he spends too much time for my taste enmeshing himself in leftist sectarian discussions.I hope he persuades some of his intended audience, but his book is also useful for the more general audience of people who, in Robert Kennedy's words, "see suffering and want to stop it."

"I have been arguing that...we Americans should not take the view of a detached cosmopolitan spectator," he writes."We should face unpleasant truths about ourselves, but we should not take these truths to be the last word about our chances for happiness, or about our national character. Our national character is still in the making.Few in 1897 would have predicted the Progressive Movement, the forty-hour week, Women's Suffrage, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, the successes of second-wave feminism, or the Gay Rights Movement.Nobody in 1997 can know that America will not, in the course of the next century, witness even greater moral progress.

"(Walt)Whitman and (John) Dewey tried to substitute hope for knowledge.They wanted to put shared utopian dreams--dreams of an ideally decent and civilized society--in the place of knowledge of God's Will, Moral Law, the Laws of History, or the Facts of Science.Their party, the party of hope, made twentieth-century America more than just an economic and military giant...."

I don't think any one group is responsible for the failure of the public to adaquately organize to protect its common interests.I feel we need active organizing everywhere across ideological, geographical, generational,racial, religious, sexual, and other lines.So I do not attribute nearly the significance to the Academic Left that he does.

But I think he has written a book well worth reading by those who very much want a more empowered public, as well as those who want university studies and faculty research to include a greater focus on how the vast knowledge of the universities and their faculties can be better employed for social good.

5-0 out of 5 stars Balance of Old Left Reform and New Left Revolution
Rorty looks into the pragmatic hope which does not grasp formulas as in Marxism and economic orthodox idea but in a union from a diversity
Rorty uses Hegel, Dewey & Whitman to look forward in humanism rather than upward to divine strict formulated authority. He sees in the Left both the agents of reform and the spectators of philosophy, criticism. Dewey's rejection of fixed values and support of the temporal. Hegel's idea of historical changes and the temporal nature of existence rather than fixed permanent authority of a God. Whitman's acknowledgment of Hegel and the divinity of man and history as humans are the in the place of God, of new diverse and growing progress, while Rorty seems to write Marx of as too scientific and dogmatic, which personally, I don't think he was, but his followers. Rorty speaks of no template, no map of truth to follow but again the diverse pragmatic complexity in the hope of humanism and the eventual classless society or utopian hope. While Marx and Dewey were both Hegelian, Marx was predictive, Dewey was for pragmatic unpredictable temporal flow and Rorty attempts to achieve this Whitman hope of progress in humanism.

The idea of the left is movement the right is to preserve the status quo. The new left is more condemnation and unforgivable sin, while the old lives in the present moment, lets go, and moves forward for changes. And Rorty agrees with Foucalt that all truth is really a social construction and objective reality is beyond conception, but doe snto get lost in that futility but leaves it to philosophy and finds foundation in political change for the better, to end oppression toward equalitarianism.

In this he contrasts Marxist leftists verse liberal leftists, that the Marxism should be dropped from experiential spirit of pragmatic suggestions in aiding the prolatariet. I think Marxism is more experiential than Rorty thinks it is, but nevertheless his optimism and reformist views within the framework (Bernstein vs.Luxemburg) are very refreshing, as most Marxism is pure revolution, nor reformism. He sees the Old left as the reformist left from the New Deal of 1945 to 1964 and the New Left from 1964 to date, as they became disillusioned with the entire American system in favor of revolution. What the New Left seemed to miss is that Old Left of changes was not only from the bottom up but a participatory interlocking blend of both bottom up and top down, progress within the system.

And yet despite the criticism of the New Lefts failure to work within the system, they were crucial in beneficial changes in American policy, fighting and protesting for rights of Blacks, the Vietnam War killing thousands of innocent civilians, rights of Woman and Gays and so forth, exposing American imperialism and military spending over welfare of the poor.And so the honors goes to both the Old left and the new. And yet, it appears to me that Rorty keeps equating Bolshevik Marxism with the Stalinist Cold War Soviet Union - two different things.

And while the cultural left fights for victims and social ills it does not seem to come with with workable answers in reformation. While the New Deal both succeeded and failed and later democrats were hypocrites - look at JFK with the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam - to render it useless tends to leave the cultural new left sitting on the side while the rights continue to do the opposite of the New Deal. For the New Deal bourgeoisie the proletariats and diminished much oppression and sadism, the rights are prolaterizing the bourgeois and what can happen is that a mass poverty occurs with the few super rich ruling class as the Orwelian prediction. It is then, as in Germany's Wienmar Republic, that the masses of proletariats then vote in a strong man out of desperation and a right wing fascism occurs. And here it is unpredictable, usually sadism against minorities reoccurs. While the New Deal may have not passed any significant laws for the blacks, women and gays, what the cultural left did do is bring to conscious awareness of the so commonly practiced sadism in American thinking, and in this made some major consciousness changes in eradicating much of it.

5-0 out of 5 stars An important reminder of the true America.
The pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty is one of the best-known and most renowned academic philosophers of our time.In "Achieving Our Country," he turns his ever-penetrating gaze to the state of Leftist thought in American history, focusing on both the important gains Leftists made in our country in the past, and why the Left is moribund today.What results is a highly accessible, brilliant examination of what makes the Left the sustainer of hope in our modern era of quasi-Fascist brainwashing and chest-beating militarism.

To Rorty, the modern Left has abandoned the dreams of Debs, Dewey, and DuBois in favor of scholastic "theorizing" and defeatist fatalism, as exemplified by the unlearned scholars who populate most of the nation's humanities departments.In exchange for any movement toward authentic social change, we are left instead with Foucault-reading pessimists, disillusioned by the aftermath of the Sixties and less interested in effecting actual progress than in "resisting" the system through barren exercises in jargon-laden "thought."This development over the last three decades, with its concomitant anti-Americanism, has made the Left largely impotent in the face of the well-organized, practical, and methodical assault from the Right.

To remedy this, Rorty proposes an abandonment of pointless theory and instead an active, pragmatic, dedicated effort toward the realization of the true principles that have made America great: diversity, social justice, civil rights, and a movement toward actual equality rather than the social Darwinist "conservatism" which dominates our current political landscape.This is what the author means by "achieving our country." As someone who has spent considerable time in English departments, I wholeheartedly agree with Rorty that a transformation is necessary if the Left is not to decline into total oblivion in the near future.

This is an important and insightful assessment of our culture and politics, and a superb primer for Leftist regeneration.

5-0 out of 5 stars An invaluable reminder of the true America.
The pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty is one of the best-known and most renowned academic philosophers of our time.In "Achieving Our Country," he turns his ever-penetrating gaze to the state of Leftist thought in American history, focusing on both the important gains Leftists made in our country in the past, and why the Left is moribund today.What results is a highly accessible, brilliant examination of what makes the Left the sustainer of hope in our modern era of quasi-Fascist brainwashing and chest-beating militarism.

To Rorty, the modern Left has abandoned the dreams of Debs, Dewey, and DuBois in favor of scholastic "theorizing" and defeatist fatalism, as exemplified by the unlearned scholars who populate most of the nation's humanities departments.In exchange for any movement toward authentic social change, we are left instead with Foucault-reading pessimists, disillusioned by the aftermath of the Sixties and less interested in effecting actual progress than in "resisting" the system through barren exercises in jargon-laden "thought."This development over the last three decades, with its concomitant anti-Americanism, has made the Left largely impotent in the face of the well-organized, practical, and methodical assault from the Right.

To this, Rorty proposes an abandonment of pointless theory and instead an active, pragmatic, dedicated effort toward the realization of the true principles that have made America great: diversity, social justice, civil rights, and a movement toward actual equality rather than the social Darwinist "conservatism" which dominates our current political landscape.This is what the author means by "achieving our country." As someone who has spent considerable time in English departments, I wholeheartedly agree with Rorty that a transformation is necessary if the Left is not to decline into total oblivion in the near future.

This is an important and insightful assessment of our culture and politics, and a superb primer for Leftist regeneration. ... Read more

13. Essays on Heidegger and Others: Philosophical Papers, Volume 2
by Richard Rorty
Paperback: 212 Pages (1991-02-22)
list price: US$30.99 -- used & new: US$4.13
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0521358787
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
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. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

1-0 out of 5 stars a very poor effort
This is the work of a filing clerk and a minor commentator on the ideas of others. Science reveals the 'actuality' and the real effects of external forces and processes every day, and the notion that we can have no perceptual grasp of these other than that provided by linguistic representation is just plain wrong. Dr. Johnson kicked a table in disgust at Berkely's Idealist drivel, to which Rorty is the heir, and it would be nice to hear a lot more tables being kicked across the Western world. In this collection Rorty tackles the ideas of sophisticated European philosphers with all the finesse and subtelty of the Incredible Hulk. This position is becoming rapidly obsolete, so let's not become members of Rorty's 'community of ironic geniuses' and move on.

5-0 out of 5 stars Provocative connection-making
This is a fascinating work wherein Rorty once again proves himself a master of the consolidation of varying ideas and philosophical tracts.Yes, he does borrow a lot of ideas/interpretations from "second source" philosophers, people like Okrent, but that shouldn't discourage potential readers: Rorty excels at making intricate and original connections -- networks of thought.Certainly, not all of his arguments are unassailable, but they are almost always provocative.The points he makes along the way are often as intriguing as the larger point he tries to make with the essay itself.Also, the print, as another reviewer has mentioned, is indeed somewhat small, but I wouldn't say it offers a significant problem as far as reading goes.Oddly, the print in another set of his "philosophical papers," that on Truth and Progress, is larger though also published by Cambridge.Get this book, it's good reading.

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but...
This book is definitely interesting.But, I am amazed at how conveniently Rorty fits the philosophies of Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and others into his pragmatic ethnocentrism.It seems that he is using them to help make his own philosophy more compelling, rather than just telling stories about them.But, of course he would do that.Well, anyway, don't be decieved.He is using them for the purpose of propagating his own views.Also, he has a "straw-god" argument against the God of the Bible.When he speaks of "type A entities," all he is talking about is a primus inter pares, not a Transcendental.Interesting kibitzing, though.A good read for philosophasters like myself.

5-0 out of 5 stars Some interesting possibilities....
In this collection of essays Richard Rorty attempts to answer the question: What, if anything, can we liberal American intellectuals gain from reading the likes of Heidegger and Derrida?His answer: Plenty, if wecan just manage to rescue Derrida from his admirers (Norris, Gasche) andHeidegger from himself.

This volume also contains shrewd and provocativediscussions of Habermas, Lyotard, and the loathsome Foucault.

Readers newto Rorty might want to begin with the fourth essay: HEIDEGGER, KUNDERA, ANDDICKENS. It's a reflection on the moral worth of the European novel andmanages to touch on many of the themes Rorty has explored in his morerecent writings.

WARNING! The print font is tiny! Cambridge UniversityPress should be ashamed of itself.

2-0 out of 5 stars Don't be taken in
WOW. That's what most people will say as they read this & think what a brilliant stylist Rorty is, how reasonable he makes his ideas sound, how "postmodern" and original etc. etc. it all is, bringing in Heidegger and Wittgenstein and Freud and even Dickens and making them allsound like they're saying the same thing.

If you cut through all theblurb there's actually not much solid argument there. He gets all hispragmatist interpretations of Heidegger from Okrent, like he admits, ratherthan thinking it through himself, and doesn't bring them to any startlinglynew conclusions. He even admits his leftist-Nietzschean-Deweyan stance hasno "logical" reason or meaning behind it, yet he claims itsbetter than other viewpoints! Once you throw away meaning, you can't applyit to yourself.

He also displays no knowledge of psychology except Freud,and so just about accepts Freud was mostly right, like most Americans whoread Freud & assume there's no need to read anyone else. Binswanger?Grof? Jung? Not only that, but he then subverts Freud's ideas to his ownagenda.

There's a lot of interesting ideas thrown up, and a lot of foodfor thought, but in the end there's no original content of any worth. Hejust picks & chooses the parts of philosophers he likes to make it seemlike they all lead towards his own pragmatic socialist stance, when if hetook into account all the information there's nobody he quotes, not evenDewey, (except perhaps Foucalt - another overrated"postmodernist" type) who really would accept Rorty's use ofthem, were they to read it.

If you read all the texts hequotes/likes/attacks from "Being & Time", Husserl's"Crisis..." Nietzsche's works, Quine, Jacques Derrida, Plato -andread them all, and Rorty's, critically - you'll come to realise that ifRorty's right there's not a lot point to it all anymore - except he's NOTright. ... Read more

14. Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers (Philosophical Papers (Cambridge)) (Volume 3)
by Richard Rorty
Paperback: 363 Pages (1998-03-13)
list price: US$31.99 -- used & new: US$17.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0521556864
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This eagerly awaited book complements two highly successful previously published volumes of Richard Rorty's philosophical papers: Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth, and Essays on Heidegger and Others. 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, JÜrgen 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. 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 with Cambridge 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.Also availableObjectivity, Relativism and Truth: Philosophical Papers: Volume 1 0-521-35877-9 PaperbackEssays on Heidegger and Others: Philosophical Papers: Volume 2 0-521-35878-7 PaperbackAmazon.com Review
The philosopher's task, Richard Rorty writes, is "to clear theroad for prophets and poets, to make intellectual life a bit simplerand safer for those who have visions of new communities." The essayscollected in Truth and Progress show that Rorty is more than upto the challenge.His pragmatic approach is as well suited tobrokering peace between "coworkers" Jurgen Habermas and JacquesDerrida as it is to addressing more violent disputes. As Rorty seesit, part of the reason feminism has not been entirely successful inachieving its goals, or ethnic conflicts still rage around the globe,is that we still cling to the notion of an inherent humannature. "Plato set things up," he explains, "so that moralphilosophers think they have failed unless they convince the rationalegotist that he should not be an egotist--convince him by telling himabout his true, unfortunately neglected self. But the rational egotistis not the problem. The problem is the gallant and honorable Serb whosees Muslims as circumcised dogs. It is the brave soldier and goodcomrade who loves and is loved by his mates, but who thinks of womenas 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 natureto be, then make every possible effort to be that. In doing so, hedoes not reject previous philosophic inquiry, although he believesthat philosophers must be willing to admit, as scientists do, whentheir predecessors got things wrong. If inquiry is the continualgrappling with and resolution of problems, rather than a quest for"truth," the lessons learned from the past become invaluable tools toapply to new problems as they emerge. Many people disagree withRorty's conclusions, but they all seem to agree that he has liberatedphilosophy from detached contemplation of "the real" and reconnectedit to the world we live in. Truth and Progress does what allgood philosophy should do: it makes you think. --Ron Hogan ... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars Books - Richard Rorty
Fabulous book!My philosophy loving partner hasn't put it down.(It was in great shape, too!)

3-0 out of 5 stars A Fashionable Madness?
If truth is objective, then the truth has nothing to fear.The truth will remain the truth, regardless of what anyone says.

The real danger would be if the truth were objective, and we believed that there was no such thing.The real danger would be for us.For if there were an Objective Reality, and we lost contact with it or never had it to begin with, then we would be insane, or possibly dead.

That's the real question for me: when is a person insane?Is a person insane when his/her linguistic community decides that s/he is nuts?Or is there something called Reality that a person falls out of contact with?It's all theory until you go mad, as I have been.Have I Regained Contact With Reality or have I simply become more popular?My deep suspicion is that there is a mind-independent reality, we can be in contact with it, and know we're in contact with it, and if we aren't then Phone Calls May Have to be Made.

In saying that there is an objective reality, we mean only that there is something outside of the aesthetic field of consciousness and its object.Something that might eat you.Rorty would probably not deny this.Instead he denies arcane philosophical claims about the nature of truth and reality.But it is precisely this common-sense notion of an objective world that clumsy realist philosophical notions are intended to preserve.

Is there some Truth and Reality to be found in the cyberspace fun-show, or is there merely ever-proliferating constantly mutating fashionable madness?Might it not be that the only pragmatic thing for a biological organism is to be in contact with objective reality at all times, however exactly that is accomplished?Assuming of course that human-eating dinosaurs are objectively real, and not a social construction?Rorty talks about the "straw-man claim that there were no dinosaurs before we 'invented' them" (57), but on page 8 he claims that quarks are a "recent social construction."Few thinkers so eagerly invite straw-man attacks.

"Truth and Progress" is a thought-provoking work.Its pragmatic value, however, is questionable.It might be better to spend your money on weapons or nutritional products.In any case, Richard Rorty strikes again.

5-0 out of 5 stars More Great Essays
Rorty's Introduction is excellent, but short. The chapters are organized into three sections. The first eight articles deal with some fairly technical philosophical disputes, though often beginning and ending with more general comments. The next four address respectively human rights, cultural diversity, feminism, and the end of Leninism. These provide the most new material for a reader familiar with Rorty's other books. The last five are a rather strange mix, providing some interesting thoughts on history and on Derrida, while carrying Rorty's dubious dichotomy of "private" and "public" (developed in previous works) to what seem to this reader ever absurder and more tangled conclusions.

Readers familiar with Rorty's work will find more wonderful examples of it in this volume. New ideas can be found throughout, and some old ideas are here better developed. Some bad old ideas (such as some found in the final chapter of "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity," criticized by Norman Geras in "Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind; The Ungroundable Liberalism of Richard Rorty,") seem to have been dropped or developed into good ideas. And Rorty is unlikely to create many new opponents with this book, though he'll probably keep many of his old ones.

But old-hands at learning from Rorty may find the first section of this book a somewhat tiresome, if admirable and patient, reply to the same moral weakness in eight slightly different varieties. And newcomers may not find this book a good introduction to Rorty's thinking. For that purpose I am always inclined to recommend "Consequences of Pragmatism," even though Rorty has changed his mind on many points in it - or perhaps partly for that very reason: it is easier to begin with the earlier Rorty and follow his progress chronologically.

I don't think that Rorty has yet written for a really popular audience, except perhaps in his new political book "Achieving Our Country," and in some magazine articles too short to make important points in. I do think Rorty is far easier for many readers to understand than are Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault, and various postmodernist writers, and easier also than Wittgenstein, Davidson or even Dewey. And I do not see that anything is sacrificed to achieve this clarity. I imagine I have spent more pleasurable time with books by Rorty than with those by any other author with the exception of Nietzsche. I might recommend this book as an introduction, not to Rorty, but to Davidson, who is frequently discussed in it.

Rorty sees his job largely as cleaning up the rough but radical work of more creative thinkers than he, cleaning up and popularizing. Rorty thinks that he belongs to (in Kuhnian terms) normal, as opposed to radical, philosophy, that he carries out projects devised by the REAL geniuses, and otherwise marks time until the next genius (namely Derrida) begins to be understood. I am not so sure.

Although I accept (at least as a rough outline) Kuhn's notion of paradigm shifts - the idea that a field progresses by asking new questions as well as by answering old ones - and although I agree with the emphasis Rorty places on the need for radical imaginative creation, I do not think that the lines are always crisp between radical and normal contributors (or even specific contributions) to a field. I am inclined to be a little suspicious of the surety with which Rorty thinks he can state whether something (a statement, much less a book) is an answer to an old question or the creation of a new one. This dichotomy is disturbingly similar to that of scheme-content so often convincingly dismissed by Davidson and Rorty. If statements cannot have forms and contents, then why should we be so sure it's a good idea to think of "questions" as forms awaiting the provision of their contents by "normal" workers until a new form is created? Having learned from Rorty to reduce such dichotomies to a matter of degree of utility, I interpret his claim that he is only an underlaborer as no more than a quite honest, admirable, and probably very productive humility, with perhaps a pinch of anxiety-of-influence thrown in.

One theme brought out more prominently in this collection than in some previous ones is Rorty's desire to change the usage of certain words (such as "objective," and the two words in the book's title) rather than discarding them altogether. If you are wondering why he should wish to do either, it may help to quote the first paragraph of his Introduction:

"'There is no truth.' What could that mean? Why should anybody say it?

"Actually, almost nobody (except Wallace Stevens) does say it. But philosophers like me are often said to say it. One can see why. For we have learned (from Nietzsche and James, among others) to be suspicious of the appearance-reality distinction. We think that there are many ways to talk about what is going on, and that none of them gets closer to the way things are in themselves than any other. We have no idea what 'in itself' is supposed to mean in the phrase 'reality as it is in itself.' So we suggest that the appearance-reality distinction be dropped in favor of more useful ways of talking. But since most people think that truth is correspondence to the way reality 'really is,' they think of us as denying the existence of truth."

Another feature that stands out in this new collection is Rorty's terrific ability to pick out arguments by analogy to events long-passed. Often, rather than baldly claiming that rejecting a particular philosophical argument is a rejection of theology (as well as that said rejection is possible without disastrous consequences), Rorty points out the similarities between this rejection and one long-accepted.

4-0 out of 5 stars Trying to be a philosophy of the future
It is actually quite difficult to teach me anything, and this book will appeal mainly to those who seek examples of how often modern philosophy tries to avoid using the wrong word for anything that I might consider significant.Often in this book, Richard Rorty is able to comment on reactions that other philosophers had to things that he had previously written.On the topic of truth, each philosopher must be attempting to state things that the others had assumed but wouldn't say themselves, and I suspect this mainly because page 1 already has something to say about advanced thinkers, "like believers in universal human rights, know what is really going on."It is quite a future we have been having since this book came out in 1998, with games involving secret particles causing America to complain that thousands of specially designed high-strength aluminum tubes present a danger to civilization in recent months.These tubes might be a sign of "Iraqi interest in acquiring nuclear arms."[Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller in NEW YORK TIMES, 09/08/2002 or so].

In the chapter of this book, "The End of Leninism," Rorty attempts to see the need our future, which somehow is here already, has for some rhetoric."But unless some new metanarrative eventually replaces the Marxist one, we shall have to characterize the source of human misery in such untheoretical and banal ways as `greed,' `selfishness,' and `hatred.'"(p. 235).I'm amazed at how quickly the economic thinking of our time adopted the assumption that sustainable human life would be part of a system in which each life might be required to be economically responsible for paying whatever cost would be associated with providing whatever power and water might be necessary to sustain its existence.Even aluminum tubes might play some part in economic self-sufficiency, but people who do their thinking for the governments on this planet seem unlikely to think so.

"The End of Leninism" is the chapter of this book in which Rorty discusses a comic frame suggested by Kenneth Burke in the book ATTITUDES TOWARD HISTORY in 1936.Rorty, in assuming intentional acts by those "butchers who have presided over the slaughter-benches of history ~ people like Hadrian and Attila, Napoleon and Stalin, Hitler and Mao" (p. 241) fails to demonstrate how the politics of Chairman Mao is particularly apt for such a vivid appreciation of how we now make much ado over deaths which political subordinates chose not to make a big deal of, but which are now seen as highly political.Even Stalin and Hitler might be ironically considered worse now than when they actually had the power to do what they are now merely condemned for.Rorty seems puzzled by Burke's simple statement, "Comedy requires the maximum of forensic complexity."(p. 241, ATTITUDES TOWARD HISTORY, p. 42).If people couldn't complain about these things now, down to the smallest detail, they would not seem so funny.What Burke means by complexity might be illustrated best by his statement, "The best of Bentham, Marx, and Veblen is high comedy."(p. 241, ATTITUDES TOWARD HISTORY, p. 42).Rorty is concerned about seeing these people "as people who help us understand how we tricked ourselves in the past rather than as people who tell us the right thing to do in the future."(p. 242).This would be great if someone figured out how to do the future of September 11, 2001 without any "apocalyptical talk of `crisis' and `endings,' less inclined toward eschatology."(p. 242).Rorty's ending is close to Burke's view of literary criticism:"criticism had best be comic."(p. 243, ATTITUDES TOWARD HISTORY, p. 107).

4-0 out of 5 stars Blind leading blind
Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins has his faithful flock. One of them is pragmatist Richard Rorty. Rorty takes seriously the idea that we live in a pointless and meaningless world, where there is no good and evil. In his Truth and Progress, Rorty always building on the authority of Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett keeps saying that the only criteria to test a given proposition is its usefulness, not its truth. We never exactly understand the standards by which he measures usefulness, or from whose point of view. Just imagine Adolf Hitler reasoning: "is the proposition that we need to respect the human dignity of the Jews useful?". Rorty himself endeavors to test the "truth" of his own pragmatist propositions by dealing with the Holocaust. His "insightful" conclusion: since there is no good and evil in a meaningless universe, we cannot say that the Holocaust is inherently evil, we just can say that the triumphant liberal ideas made it look evil. If Hitler had won the war, Rorty would certainly be saying that human rights are evil. This is certainly the "universal acid" Daniel Dennett keeps talking about. It is "Darwin's dangerous idea" in action. It is also very stupid an nonsense. Do we need a better example of blind leading blind? ... Read more

15. What's the Use of Truth?
by Pascal Engel, Richard Rorty
Hardcover: 96 Pages (2007-12-28)
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What is truth? What value should we see in or attribute to it?

The war over the meaning and utility of truth is at the center of contemporary philosophical debate, and its arguments have rocked the foundations of philosophical practice. In this book, the American pragmatist Richard Rorty and the French analytic philosopher Pascal Engel present their radically different perspectives on truth and its correspondence to reality.

Rorty doubts that the notion of truth can be of any practical use and points to the preconceptions that lie behind truth in both the intellectual and social spheres. Engel prefers a realist conception, defending the relevance and value of truth as a norm of belief and inquiry in both science and the public domain. Rorty finds more danger in using the notion of truth than in getting rid of it. Engel thinks it is important to hold on to the idea that truth is an accurate representation of reality.

In Rorty's view, epistemology is an artificial construct meant to restore a function to philosophy usurped by the success of empirical science. Epistemology and ontology are false problems, and with their demise goes the Cartesian dualism of subject and object and the ancient problematic of appearance and reality. Conventional "philosophical problems," Rorty asserts, are just symptoms of the professionalism that has disfigured the discipline since the time of Kant. Engel, however, is by no means as complacent as Rorty in heralding the "end of truth," and he wages a fierce campaign against the "veriphobes" who deny its value.

What's the Use of Truth? is a rare opportunity to experience each side of this impassioned debate clearly and concisely. It is a subject that has profound implications not only for philosophical inquiry but for the future study of all aspects of our culture as well.

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Customer Reviews (6)

3-0 out of 5 stars Unmet expectations
I have long been an avid fan of Richard Rorty's works, having studied him at length in my graduate studies.Having read this book, which I thought of as a nice, insightful summary of his pragmatism, I see him combating the demons (a.k.a. distinctions) that he says we would all do better without.Unfortunately, this is not one of his better works. It is anti-climactic given that he uses the same arguments as before without much elaboration.A better summary reading of his work would be the book "Philosophy and Social Hope" which situates his ideas within a more expansive intellectual landscape.

4-0 out of 5 stars Truth, where's Rorty?
Rorty doesn't argue his (actually very subtle and complex) positions. Just responds with a bunch of generalitions that wouldn't suffice in a relatively sophisticated undergtrad course.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for people studying Rorty's view on truth
Very systematic approach of the concept of truth - both in what Engles' view and Rorty's is concerned.

3-0 out of 5 stars Short, expensive, and inessential
There are far better books available for those wanting a good insight into Richard Rorty's writing on truth: Philosophy and Social Hope is an outstandingly readable, engaging collection of essays which sets out his views in much more clarity than this volume, which takes the form of a rather pedantic argument between Pascal Engel, a former "continental philosopher" (believing in relativism and all those wacky gallic notions) who has seen the light of analytic truth and Rorty, a former analytical philosopher who famously became persuaded that there isn't actually a light and who adopted a pragmatist view (which is a polite way of saying he ended up believing in "cultural relativism" and all those wacky gallic notions).

Like Rorty, I have trouble seeing any way round objections to the correspondence theory of truth, so I'm firmly in his camp (wacky though it may seem): There's no correspondence between sentences and reality, the marginal utility of a statement being "true" (and not just "useful") is minimal and we should instead satisfy ourselves for descriptions of the world we find to be useful without caring how, whether or why they map onto some intangible external thing called reality.

Engel's arguments strike me as technical and implausible, since his first move is to surrender a large part of the ground by conceding there are real problems with correspondence - I doubt I do him justice, but he's reduced to saying things like 'correspondence or no, we *do* talk in terms which assume there is such a truth, and that mode of discourse in itself has some essential value and meaning which would be lost were we to relegate ourselves to merely finding sentences useful'.

I'm not persuaded, and Rorty's brilliant writing elsewhere (especially Philosophy and Social Hope and Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity) heaps grist to his wacky gallic mill.

Lastly, this book is short - it's about an hour's read, partly comprises a book review by Rorty of Engel's book on truth which is available online, and the copy I purchased was absurdly expensive.

One day the world may be turned on to (the recently deceased) Richard Rorty, but this isn't the book to do it.

Olly Buxton

4-0 out of 5 stars A Debate on Truth
This recent short book, "What's the Use of Truth?" (2007) consists of the text of a debate held between two distinguished contemporary philosophers, Richard Rorty and Pascal Engel, at the Sorbonne in 2002.Rorty began his career as an analytic philosopher who edited a collection of texts in a book called "The Linguistic Turn." (1967) But, in his book "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature" (1979) and many later writings, Rorty became disillusioned with analytic philosophy and, indeed, highly skeptical of the philosophical project as traditionally conceived.Rorty became a self-styled "pragmatist" in the tradition of John Dewey.Pascal Engel, in contrast to Rorty, began as a European philosopher steeped in Heidegger.He has since tried to bring European thought closer to the techniques and questions of analytic philosophy.

The subject of the Engel-Rorty debate is the nature of truth and whether the concept of truth is philosophically important.Rorty argues for a "deflationist" account of truth, and maintains that there is little benefit to be gained from studying the conundrums that philosophers have erected around the concept.Rorty claims to adopt the pragmatist maxim of William James that "if a debate has no practical significance, then it has no philosophical significance."To simplify greatly, Rorty rejects an approach in which true statements are thought to bear a relationship of correspondence to an independent reality.True statements are those accepted by a community under standards used by that community whether the statements be scientific, artistic, technical, political, religious, ethical what have you.There is no metaphysical entity called Truth for Rorty, and to say, for example, that ""The cat is on the mat" is true" is, in most circumstances, only to say "The cat is on the mat."

In the debate, Pascal Engel agrees with Rorty on some important points.Notably, he rejects any metaphysical notion of "the Truth" and he also rejects representationalism for the most part. But while Rorty claims to be a follower of James and Dewey, Engel is closer to the earlier American pragmatist, Charles Peirce.Engel argues that the concept of the truth as an important regulatory role to play in human thought by setting a goal and limiting condition of human inquiry. Engel discusses what he describes as the assertion-belief-truth triangle by which he endeavors to show that the question of the acceptability of a particular statement by a group cannot be reduced to the question of the truth of that statement.

Following the statement of their basic positions, Rorty and Engel engage in a brief discussion which grows increasingly heated.

As is often the case, Rorty states his position eloquently and rhetorically, with references to himself and those who think with him as "we pragmatists", "we quietists" and the like.It is difficult to take a good hard look at Rorty's views. Rorty does not seem to me entirely consistent in his pragmatism and anti-metaphysical orientation, as he slips, in places in his discussion, into a philosophical naturalism with no place for any form of theology.In other places, his approach seems to be of the breadth to allow theological discourse, just as any other discourse, as long as it serves a human need.Engel works hard in the debate to establish the importance of a limited concept of truth, but I was struck by how much the contours of philosophical debate have shifted towards a position much influenced by Rorty.

This book is short, lively, and provocative.I think it too brief and too concentrated to make a good introduction to the issues it addresses.This book will be of interest to serious students of philosophy and to those interested in the claimed death of or at least reformulation of this venerable discipline.

Robin Friedman ... Read more

16. Deconstruction and Pragmatism
by Simon Critchley, Jacques Derrida, Ernesto Laclau, Richard Rorty
 Paperback: 112 Pages (1996-10-31)
list price: US$35.95 -- used & new: US$27.99
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Asin: 0415121701
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Centered around papers by Derrida and Rorty on the relationship between Deconstruction and Pragmatism, this is a collection of four papers introduced by Mouffe exploring this much commented upon but seldom explored link between a US tradition and France's most enduring one. Laclau and Simon Critchley provide contextual papers. Big name stuff. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars I'm sentimental and I believe in happiness
What I want to say I am certain I will not achieve in the space of an online review. That being said, I think this work was important because in it Derrida admits with qualification to Rorty's charges that he (Derrida) is sentimental and believes in happiness.This may come as a shock to some Derrideans. Those who use Derrida's writings and reception to shake and destroy are missing the responsibility issue in the debate.It is unfortunate that deconstruction has been described so often in the popular media as anti-humanist, because now only purblind graduate students read him and I can't convince any of my friends who are in the practice of yessing life to read and live with him. ... Read more

17. Richard Rorty (Contemporary Philosophy in Focus)
Paperback: 224 Pages (2003-07-28)
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Asin: 0521804892
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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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). ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent addition to this series for Cambridge UP
This collection of critical essays dedicated to Rorty is a fine selection.This diverse group of essayists includes (at least) two personal friends of Rorty: Richard J. Bernstein & Charles Taylor

At approx. 40 pages, Guignon & Hiley's introductory essay to Rorty is an excellent essay on Rorty's development including the sources Rorty draws on to critique the analytic tradition, next it describes his social/political thought, lastly it summerizes who and why has criticized Rorty (good overview).This is an excellent and broad introductory essay for undergrads or general readers. I recommend this essay highly.

The next 3 essays are more focused on of Rorty's development out of the analytic tradition; they look at Rorty's critique of epistemology, truth claims, and scientific antirealism.They focus on Rorty's treatment of Donald Davidson and Thomas Kuhn.Gutting's essay (2nd essay) is a nice summary of Rorty but rather superfluous criticism because Gutting invokes Charles Taylor's critical appraisal to add the argumentative substance, however, since Taylor actually writes the final essay on Rorty (placed in a weird chronology by the way) we end up with a double helping of Taylor's criticism.This is Gutting's mistake because he could have chosen from a huge list of Rorty's critics (e.g. Bernard Williams).

The rest of the book, about Rorty's social/political thought, is a good addition to previous debates between Rorty and these critics (especially Bernstein & Taylor).
Maybe too broadly summarized, Rorty is attacked for these reasons:
1 - Rorty is attacked for thinking a linguistic community can just simply change their language without a corresponding change in their practicesand yet still cohere (Warnke's essay say a community's language and practice give greater stability than Rorty acknowledges).
2 - Rorty is attacked for not giving the "foggiest idea" on how to realize his own ideas in an actual community (Bernstein's essay says this but adds that John Dewey suffered the same plight).
3 - Rorty is attacked for trying to make his antifoundationalism compatible with his prohibitions on cruelity (Elshtain makes this argument, and also attacks Rorty's interpretation of Freud, which is interesting).
4 - Rorty is attacked for having a bad interpretation of experience, which, Charles Taylor argues should be a kind of quasi-Heideggerian phenomenology (Taylor is drawing from Hubert Dreyfus's interpretation of Heidegger) where we have substantive implicit background knowledge that lets us "cope" with a real world that we really do progressively come to better understand (a "certain realism" Taylor admits).

Lastly, a good (selective) bibliography of Rorty's work and secondary work on Rorty at this book's end make for an excellent source to spark research for undergrads, educators, and inquisitive general readers.

5-0 out of 5 stars Utterly Wonderful
This is by far the best book ever to appear on Richard Rorty.It gets right to the point--unlike the interminable, but very good, Rorty and His Critics--is extremely well-written by all of the contributors, and is not meant to be a dogma or "tinkering" with Rorty's pragmatism.In fact, this last is what I found particularly delightful, which I suppose should warrant a forewarning that most of these essays are more or less opposed to the various aspects of Rorty they examine---most of them "more"--while still managing, in my opinion, to present the ins and outs of his vision cogently and thoroughly for the layman.I strongly admire the critical bent of this volume (I wonder if all of these new Cambridge editions will be the same?).Most of the contributors have had long-standing debates with Rorty--"this is the nth round," as Charles Taylor says in his contribution--and are powerful thinkers in their own right: they include Gary Gutting, Taylor, Charles Guignol, Michael Williams, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Richard Bernstein (among others).In particular, the last three essays by Bernstein, Elshstain, and Taylor are simply miracles of critical engagement.These alone are worth the price of the book.
All or (at least) most of the great questions and problems raised by Rorty are dealt with here, and none of the authors are prepared to simply bow down before Rorty's immensely powerful rhetoric.
Simply a beautiful little book. ... Read more

18. Wahrheit und Fortschritt. Moralische Vernunft in der Praxis.
by Richard Rorty
Paperback: 515 Pages (2003-03-01)
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19. Richard Rorty: Prophet and Poet of the New Pragmatism (S U N Y Series in Philosophy) (Suny Series in Philosophy)
by David L. Hall
Paperback: 310 Pages (1993-10-28)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$5.00
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Asin: 0791417727
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Rorty in a nutshell
David Hall does a truly commendable job here, offering an analysis of Rorty's neopragmatism that is deep and charitable, incisive and critical.Rorty "in a nutshell", if such a thing is possible.I especiallylike his opening up of Rorty's idea of "cruelty being the worst thingwe can do" to include animal cruelty--is Rorty a"species-ist"?In another area, Hall's discussion of the easternphilosophical tradition provides a challenge to Rorty's ethnocentrism,while also providing an empirical example of the success of Rortyanpluralism. A well-written and thought provoking book.

5-0 out of 5 stars The best presentation
Believe me, I have read a lot by and about Richard Rorty, and my opinion is that this book is definitely the best about him. It is always witty even funny sometimes without ever losing the focus. Even more important is thatthe David Hall paraphrases Rorty in an decent manner. He never loses theRortys own points, and very often he adds even better arguments. Even whenHall is taking a critical stance towards Rorty he is always fair to thetext. Therefore anyone interested in Rorty more or less professionallyshould read this volume! ... Read more

20. The Future of Religion
by Gianni Vattimo, Richard Rorty
Paperback: 104 Pages (2007-06-29)
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Asin: 0231134959
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Though coming from different and distinct intellectual traditions, Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo are united in their criticism of the metaphysical tradition. The challenges they put forward extend beyond philosophy and entail a reconsideration of the foundations of belief in God and the religious life. They urge that the rejection of metaphysical truth does not necessitate the death of religion; instead it opens new ways of imagining what it is to be religious -- ways that emphasize charity, solidarity, and irony. This unique collaboration, which includes a dialogue between the two philosophers, is notable not only for its fusion of pragmatism (Rorty) and hermeneutics (Vattimo) but also for its recognition of the limits of both traditional religious belief and modern secularism.

In "Anticlericalism and Atheism" Rorty discusses Vattimo's workBelief and argues that the end of metaphysics paves the way for an anti-essentialist religion. Rorty's conception of religion, determined by private motives, is designed to produce the gospel's promise that henceforth God will not consider humanity as a servant but as a friend. In "The Age of Interpretation," Vattimo, who is both a devout Catholic and a frequent critic of the church, explores the surprising congruence between Christianity and hermeneutics in light of the dissolution of metaphysical truth. As in hermeneutics, interpretation is central to Christianity, which introduced the world to the principle of interiority, dissolving the experience of objective reality into "listening to and interpreting messages."

The lively dialogue that concludes this volume, moderated and edited by Santiago Zabala, analyzes the future of religion together with the political, social, and historical aspects that characterize our contemporary postmodern, postmetaphysical, and post-Christian world.

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Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars Baptists need not apply

The article by Rorty, "Anticlericalism and Atheism" described to a "T" the niche I am familiar with through Unitarian Universalism. Since they are simply an example of a broader set of folks that fit in this niche I am sure it describes a group larger than, say, a million people. I am not sure how much larger a group it fits. I also suspect that in order to fit in this niche, to have a similar enough web of belief that there is sufficient family resemblance that in a language game about grand narratives, what counts for an individual in this niche must go through a lot of the philosophically "bad" questions to come to the conclusion that those were bad questions. We have to start simply, even if not as simply as Augustine might have described it. (So there should always be a market for that.)

So if the topic is the future of religion we should note how small a market is at stake here. Baptists need not apply. There are books being written for larger audiences with titles like, "God's Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" by Jim Wallis (number 135 on the Amazon list with 155 reviews compared to "The Future of Religion" (number 400,363 on the Amazon list with 5 reviews.) That comparison was just a shot in the dark.

That being said, Rorty is right on target in describing a niche market I am familiar with and I appreciate the insights. As usual, Rorty says better than I could what I think I thought before I read it. Now I know I think it.

Gianni Vattimo too is interesting: ""If "facts" thus appear to be nothing but interpretations, interpretation, on the other hand, presents itself as (the ) fact: hermeneutics is not a philosophy but the enunciation of historical existence itself in the age of the end of metaphysics." (p. 45) I confess to being attracted to the book because of Rorty but now will be looking into Vattimo's "After Christianity".

Zabala I found a little more difficult but perhaps that was just because he had the harder job to do.

5-0 out of 5 stars Get a life!
I was amused by the review from Jackson K. Eskew, a.k.a. "Faustus infinitus." I was looking at his review and thinking...this, from a person whose various other reviews include: "God and the World," "Salt of the earth, the Church at the End of the Millennium," "Visual Bible: Mathew," and "The Gospel of John." Amongst his favorite musical masterpieces is Mozart's Requiem, and in a way typical of many neo-conservatives and fundamentalists, he even took the time to watch a war movie: The Bridge on the River Kwai! Oh, and he did not like the whistling! Get a grip.

My compliments to David McClean whose review was very insightful.

4-0 out of 5 stars Overcoming Dualism; Or How To Get to the Market via Mars
Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo have given us a work that may be described as an important part of an answer to two important questions that modernity has not yet engaged constructively. First, How may modernity come to terms with the religious impulse that is still alive and well in the modern world even after over a century of the hegemony of science and rationalism? Second, How may those who do not hear the music of religion begin to understand those who do, rather than throw stones at them across a dualistic divide (and vice versa)? Richard Rorty, ever evolving in his philosophical thought, exposes himself as once caught in a dualism concerning religious faith. In this book, he laments that he has in the past branded himself an "atheist" and observed the need for a more nuanced description of his thinking concerning religion and religious belief. The "atheist" label, once self-applied, is now rejected. It is rejected not because he has "come to Jesus" or "has seen the Light" but because it plays into a zero-sum, dualistic game that Rorty knows he can do without. ("Athiest," which is both an epistemologically and metaphysically charged word, is replaced with "anti-clerical" because of its political use.) To use his own language from other of his writings, "atheist" is a kind of "conversation stopper" in the sense that it truncates active and fruitful discourse with those of his fellows who brand themselves "theists." This is an evolution in thinking for Rorty, but perfectly in line with his antifoundationalism and his governing ethical value - his so-called "liberal ironism." Thus, Rorty is prepared, as never before, for his conversation with Gianni Vattimo, a Catholic intellectual whose approach to the philosophy of religion is Gadamerian and Nietzschean, that is to say hermeneutical.

Vattimo takes us through an ambitious and bold analysis. He attempts to transform nihilism into a salutary outlook, and claims that this salutary nihilism is a result of the history of a long discussion about the meaning of the Gospels and of the Cross. This is, in fact, a jolting and novel perspective that will make the reader (as well as more conservative Catholic intellectuals) sit up and take notice. At times, however, Vattimo seems to conflate "nihilism" with "skepticism," especially where he argues against the positivistic notion that any knowledge claim needs science's blessing in order to be taken seriously. For Vattimo, both the Church and science valorize a false "objectivism" and a pursuit of "Truth" at the expense of truths - that is, at the expense of what William James referred to as the truths accumulated through lived experience in community; the truths that actually make life worth living. Vattimo argues that one of the worst faults of Catholic church leadership, and the leadership of other confessions, is its clinging to this kind of positivist objectivism in theological and social matters, rather than embracing the Church as an important institution that provides useful and interesting ways to interpret the world. The Church's long history of vying with science for the chair of objective Truth has led it down the wrong epistemological road. Thus, it is easy to see how Vattimo and Rorty have critical common ground. For Rorty, the same epistemological wrong turn has led Western philosophy down a similarly unfruitful road, and attempted to make philosophy "the mirror of nature" rather than a discourse about how to live fruitful lives with ample space for poetry, myth and solidarity.

The upshot of Rorty's antifoundationalism and of Vattimo's hermeneutics is that charity (love) is what modernity must aim for. But is all of this discussion about antifoundationalism and hermeneutics, of Gadamer and Nietzsche, really necessary to get us to a conclusion that saints and prophets and martyrs have been reaching for thousands of years without such intellectual convolutions? Is this conversation not like driving to the market by way of Mars? Well, in some sense. But note that this book is aimed at a highly educated and somewhat elite (not to say, elitist) slice of humanity who actually take subjects like philosophy and theology seriously. For some, a naked slogan like "love is the answer" simply won't do. It is, of course, a very important answer and, as far as this reviewer is concerned, if some need to go to Mars to come around to that conclusion, if some need to be given permission by elite intellectuals to begin to take such slogans seriously, then Rorty and Vattimo have done a service here. No book is for everyone, after all, and I lament no approach that may win over even small populations of intellectual readers to a planetary love ethic.

All this said, a book with this title ought to take into consideration the insights of different faith traditions. Vattimo is right to stick to what he knows best, but his sticking solely to what he knows best is problematic. Rorty's own conception of religious faith seems equally narrow, and always has. To tackle such a broad subject as the future of religion, both Rorty and Vattimo would have done well to survey alternatives - different modes and types of religious thought. This is the one failure of the book. For one cannot talk about the future of religion without considering a broad enough swath of the ways religion plays out in the modern world. If that were done here, claims such as that "interiority" was introduced into the world by considering the meaning of the Cross (Vattimo), or that the principal divide in religious thought is or was between theists and athiests (Rorty) would have been more nuanced, or not made at all.

A Postscript (August 2010): This review seems to have been somewhat useful, and has even been quoted in scholarly journals. I did not expect that when I wrote it. My doctoral dissertation, "Richard Rorty and Cosmopolitan Hope," and an essay I wrote for the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, "The Theological Uses of Rortian Irony," may also be of interest. Both are available on the web, and both address Rorty's views of religion.

4-0 out of 5 stars Postmodern Assessment
I bought this book for these philosophers' assessment of "The Future of Religion" in order to compare their ideas with mine in "Concepts: A ProtoTheist Quest for Science-Minded Skeptics." As a bonus it gave me insight into why postmodernists don't seem interested in my scientific assessment of religion's past and future.

I've read this little book twice in an attempt to understand postmodernists. But perhaps `understand' is not an appropriate word for a postmodern work; `interpret' would be better since they hold that "there are no facts, only interpretations" (p.52, quoting Nietzsche), that everything is subjective as interpreted by whoever is doing the experiencing and that knowledge is arrived at thru inter-subjective dialog. True to form, they respect one another's points of view eventho' Vattimo is a devout (tho' not uncritical) Catholic whereas Rorty has called himself an atheist (altho' now he prefers `anti-clericalist'). Both seem to reject supernatural powers (altho' Vattimo speaks of salvation), referring to our age as post-metaphysical.

I agree that everyone's entitled to their own opinion but only if they've done their homework (to quote Harry T. Cook), only if they've endeavored to first get the `facts'; otherwise a dialog among such folks is only pooled ignorance. But even if they've done their homework, postmodernists seem attuned more to history than to scientific explanations (episodic thinking rather than paradigmatic thinking, in Merlin Donald's terminology). Indeed these postmodernists speak of `historicity' and `anti-essentialism'. Certainly, our brain/mind must interpret (mostly pre-consciously) the sense data coming into it, using clues from others, in order to guess what's outside of us. Even so, most of our guesses are pretty good else we'd never survive in this world. Denying that there's any objective reality seems absurd. Admittedly our ancestors have made some bad guesses, such as believing in a flat-earth or in gods, but in recent times science has imposed burdens of proof.

So I can recommend this book if you want to see where postmoderns are coming from and where they think religion is going -- they have some intriguing ideas. But if you're receptive to the explanatory ability of science, I'd suggest Pascal Boyer's "Religion Explained," Dean Hamer's "The God Gene," Sam Harris' "The End of Faith," M.D. Faber's "The Psychological Roots of Religious Belief" and/or my book.

Not long ago an Amish teen from Chardon, Ohio, was killed when he tried to dislodge a sagging power line tangled in the wheels of his horse-drawn buggy. Such tragedies highlight the gaps between a faith-based existence and life in the modern world and reveal that we need to be mindful of how the other half lives. Philosophers Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo believe that the secular and faith-based worlds are becoming irrevocably estranged. This is what I take from my reading of "The Future of Religion," edited and with an introduction by Santiago Zabala. I think this slim volume of two essays and a question-and-answer section will be open to a wide variety of readings; this reaction is only one interpretation.

Rorty and Vattimo believe a drastic split is imminent between modern, secular life and traditional belief in mainstream religion. And they want to build a bridge between these worlds, to save something important to many people: belief in something larger than themselves. The only problem is that the religious life they suggest -- an interior life of private meaning or the "nihilism" of Christianity -- is probably either incomprehensible or offensive to most ordinary churchgoers. But you decide. I'm already on board.

One way to grasp "The Future of Religion" is through a quote from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: "There are no facts, only interpretations." But the authors want Nietzsche to add this phrase: "... and this is an interpretation." This means that the authors believe our era is poised to grasp the relative nature of all beliefs, a theory that echoes Isaiah Berlin's idea that there is "no Archimedean point" outside ourselves, our history, our language or our concepts where we can stand to achieve an objective viewpoint toward all that we claim to know or believe. It also relates to Ludwig Wittgenstein's idea that "all testing, all confirmation and disconfirmation of a hypothesis takes place already within a system," and that we are not taught truth but, "judgments and their connection with other judgments."

To the best of our knowledge the burning questions about "the truth of the matter" have reference to nothing more than our personal background or shared history. Understanding this concept strips away the deadly energy that fuels so many of today's conflicts, or at least it would if it were widely understood. And it means that all the pressing issues and heated debates about science and religion -- each of which wants to be the sole source of ultimate truth for humankind --may some day be seen as nothing more than a symptom of our inadequacies. Rorty and Vattimo help us transcend such facile debates through an understanding of the finer points of pragmatism and hermeneutics, and this is where the typical reader is likely to furrow his brow. Enlightenment is a tough sell.

While I get more inspiration from Rorty's views, Vattimo will shock the churchgoer with his belief that the modern secular world isn't different from Christianity but the very culmination of it. He believes that when God incarnated himself in Jesus, he basically turned the world over to us lock, stock and barrel. Moreover, Vattimo believes the ultimate message of Christianity dissolves all notions of objectivity, eroding the very claims most believers cite as proof. Religion looks very different from this perspective. "This is not your father's Oldsmobile!"

Let's get back to that tangled buggy and its relationship to our American way of life. Rorty and Vattimo promote their views as being crucial to democracy, and this is where they run head-on into President George W. Bush and his faith-based presidency. Rorty and Vattimo seem to be saying that fundamentalism and democracy can't long endure together. Traditional religion depends on fixed and final truths; democracy is built on innovation and diversity -- hence, the disconnect.

We know that when the church bans same-sex marriage or women in the clergy, some people -- those with one foot firmly in the open society -- back off, the same way they would avoid a power line in tangled in their wheels. And they may decide to leave the buggy where it is and hitch a ride on something better. While it might take a while to grasp all the wonderful insights in "The Future of Religion," once you catch on, you'll know how to avoid the shock of transition when moving from one realm of belief to another.

It's a good thing to know.

(See longer essay on www.fobes.net, 2005 home page) ... Read more

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