Richard Rorty

Richard McKay Rorty (October 4, 1931 – June 8, 2007) was an American philosopher.

Educated at the University of Chicago and Yale University, he had strong interests and training in both the history of philosophy and contemporary analytic philosophy, the latter of which came to comprise the main focus of his work at Princeton University in the 1960s.[2] He subsequently came to reject the tradition of philosophy according to which knowledge involves correct representation (a "mirror of nature") of a world whose existence remains wholly independent of that representation.

Rorty had a long and diverse academic career, including positions as Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, Kenan Professor of Humanities at the University of Virginia, and Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. Among his most influential books are Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Consequences of Pragmatism (1982), and Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989).

Rorty saw the idea of knowledge as a "mirror of nature" as pervasive throughout the history of western philosophy. Against this approach, Rorty advocated for a novel form of American pragmatism (sometimes called neopragmatism) in which scientific and philosophical methods form merely a set of contingent "vocabularies" which people abandon or adopt over time according to social conventions and usefulness. Rorty believed abandoning representationalist accounts of knowledge and language would lead to a state of mind he referred to as "ironism", in which people become completely aware of the contingency of their placement in history and of their philosophical vocabulary. Rorty tied this brand of philosophy to the notion of "social hope"; he believed that without the representationalist accounts, and without metaphors between the mind and the world, human society would behave more peacefully. He also emphasized the reasons why the interpretation of culture as conversation (Bernstein 1971), constitutes the crucial concept of a "postphilosophical" culture determined to abandon representationalist accounts of traditional epistemology, incorporating American pragmatist naturalism that considers the natural sciences as an advance towards liberalism.

Richard Rorty
Richard McKay Rorty

October 4, 1931
DiedJune 8, 2007 (aged 75)
Alma mater
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolNeopragmatism[1] (early)
Postanalytic philosophy (late)
Doctoral advisorPaul Weiss
Doctoral studentsRobert Brandom
Main interests
Notable ideas


Richard Rorty was born on October 4, 1931, in New York City.[3] His parents, James and Winifred Rorty, were activists, writers and social democrats. His maternal grandfather, Walter Rauschenbusch, was a central figure in the Social Gospel movement of the early 20th century.[4] His father experienced two nervous breakdowns in his later life. The second breakdown, which he had in the early 1960s, was more serious and "included claims to divine prescience."[5] Consequently, Richard Rorty fell into depression as a teenager and in 1962 began a six-year psychiatric analysis for obsessional neurosis.[5] Rorty wrote about the beauty of rural New Jersey orchids in his short autobiography, "Trotsky and the Wild Orchids." His colleague Jürgen Habermas's obituary for Rorty points out that Rorty's contrasting childhood experiences, such as beautiful orchids versus reading a book in his parents' house that defended Leon Trotsky against Stalin, created an early interest in philosophy. He describes Rorty as an ironist:

Nothing is sacred to Rorty the ironist. Asked at the end of his life about the 'holy', the strict atheist answered with words reminiscent of the young Hegel: 'My sense of the holy is bound up with the hope that some day my remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which love is pretty much the only law.'[6]

Rorty enrolled at the University of Chicago shortly before turning 15, where he received a bachelor's and a master's degree in philosophy (studying under Richard McKeon),[7][8] continuing at Yale University for a PhD in philosophy (1952–1956).[9] He married another academic, Amélie Oksenberg (Harvard University professor), with whom he had a son, Jay, in 1954. After two years in the United States Army, he taught at Wellesley College for three years until 1961.[10] Rorty divorced his wife and then married Stanford University bioethicist Mary Varney in 1972. They had two children, Kevin and Patricia. While Richard Rorty was a "strict atheist" (Habermas),[6] Mary Varney Rorty was a practicing Mormon.[5]

Rorty was a professor of philosophy at Princeton University for 21 years.[10] In 1981, he was a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as the "Genius Award", in its first year of awarding, and in 1982 he became Kenan Professor of the Humanities at the University Of Virginia.[11] In 1997 Rorty became professor of comparative literature (and philosophy, by courtesy), at Stanford University, where he spent the remainder of his academic career.[11] During this period he was especially popular, and once quipped that he had been assigned to the position of "transitory professor of trendy studies."[12]

Rorty's doctoral dissertation, The Concept of Potentiality was an historical study of the concept, completed under the supervision of Paul Weiss, but his first book (as editor), The Linguistic Turn (1967), was firmly in the prevailing analytic mode, collecting classic essays on the linguistic turn in analytic philosophy. However, he gradually became acquainted with the American philosophical movement known as pragmatism, particularly the writings of John Dewey. The noteworthy work being done by analytic philosophers such as Willard Van Orman Quine and Wilfrid Sellars caused significant shifts in his thinking, which were reflected in his next book, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979).

Pragmatists generally hold that the meaning of a proposition is determined by its use in linguistic practice. Rorty combined pragmatism about truth and other matters with a later Wittgensteinian philosophy of language which declares that meaning is a social-linguistic product, and sentences do not 'link up' with the world in a correspondence relation. Rorty wrote in his Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989):

Truth cannot be out there—cannot exist independently of the human mind—because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of the world can be true or false. The world on its own unaided by the describing activities of humans cannot."(5)

Views like this led Rorty to question many of philosophy's most basic assumptions—and have also led to him being apprehended as a postmodern/deconstructionist philosopher. Indeed, from the late 1980s through the 1990s, Rorty focused on the continental philosophical tradition, examining the works of Friederich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard and Jacques Derrida. His work from this period included: Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989); Essays on Heidegger and Others: Philosophical Papers (1991); and Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers (1998). The latter two works attempt to bridge the dichotomy between analytic and continental philosophy by claiming that the two traditions complement rather than oppose each other.

According to Rorty, analytic philosophy may not have lived up to its pretensions and may not have solved the puzzles it thought it had. Yet such philosophy, in the process of finding reasons for putting those pretensions and puzzles aside, helped earn itself an important place in the history of ideas. By giving up on the quest for apodicticity and finality that Edmund Husserl shared with Rudolf Carnap and Bertrand Russell, and by finding new reasons for thinking that such quest will never succeed, analytic philosophy cleared a path that leads past scientism, just as the German idealists cleared a path that led around empiricism.

In the last fifteen years of his life, Rorty continued to publish his writings, including four volumes of his archived philosophical papers, Achieving Our Country (1998), a political manifesto partly based on readings of Dewey and Walt Whitman in which he defended the idea of a progressive, pragmatic left against what he feels are defeatist, anti-liberal, anti-humanist positions espoused by the critical left and continental school. Rorty felt these anti-humanist positions were personified by figures like Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Foucault. Such theorists were also guilty of an "inverted Platonism" in which they attempted to craft overarching, metaphysical, "sublime" philosophies—which in fact contradicted their core claims to be ironist and contingent. Rorty's last works, after his move to Stanford University, focused on the place of religion in contemporary life, liberal communities, comparative literature and philosophy as "cultural politics."

Shortly before his death, he wrote a piece called "The Fire of Life," (published in the November 2007 issue of Poetry magazine),[13] in which he meditates on his diagnosis and the comfort of poetry. He concludes, "I now wish that I had spent somewhat more of my life with verse. This is not because I fear having missed out on truths that are incapable of statement in prose. There are no such truths; there is nothing about death that Swinburne and Landor knew but Epicurus and Heidegger failed to grasp. Rather, it is because I would have lived more fully if I had been able to rattle off more old chestnuts—just as I would have if I had made more close friends. Cultures with richer vocabularies are more fully human—farther removed from the beasts—than those with poorer ones; individual men and women are more fully human when their memories are amply stocked with verses."

On June 8, 2007, Rorty died in his home from pancreatic cancer.[9][11][14]

Major works

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

In Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Rorty argues that the central problems of modern epistemology depend upon a picture of the mind as trying to faithfully represent (or "mirror") a mind-independent, external reality. If we give up this metaphor, then the entire enterprise of foundationalist epistemology is misguided. A foundationalist believes that in order to avoid the regress inherent in claiming that all beliefs are justified by other beliefs, some beliefs must be self-justifying and form the foundations to all knowledge.

There were two senses of "foundationalism" criticized in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. In the epistemological sense, Rorty criticized the attempt to justify knowledge claims by tracing them to a set of foundations (e.g., self-evident premises or noninferential sensations); more broadly, he criticized the claim of philosophy to function foundationally within a culture. The former argument draws on Sellars's critique of the idea that there is a "given" in sensory perception, in combination with Quine's critique of the distinction between analytic sentences (sentences which are true solely in virtue of what they mean) and synthetic sentences (sentences made true by the world). Each critique, taken alone, provides a problem for a conception of how philosophy ought to proceed, yet leaves enough of the tradition intact to proceed with its former aspirations. Combined, Rorty claimed, the two critiques are devastating. With no privileged insight into the structure of belief and no privileged realm of truths of meaning, we have, instead, knowledge as those beliefs that pay their way. The only worthwhile description of the actual process of inquiry, Rorty claimed, was a Kuhnian account of the standard phases of the progress of disciplines, oscillating through normal and abnormal periods, between routine problem-solving and intellectual crises.

After rejecting foundationalism, Rorty argues that one of the few roles left for a philosopher is to act as an intellectual gadfly, attempting to induce a revolutionary break with previous practice, a role that Rorty was happy to take on himself. Rorty suggests that each generation tries to subject all disciplines to the model that the most successful discipline of the day employs. In Rorty's view, the success of modern science has led academics in philosophy and the humanities to mistakenly imitate scientific methods. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature popularized and extended ideas of Wilfrid Sellars (the critique of the Myth of the Given) and Willard Van Orman Quine (the critique of the analytic–synthetic distinction) and others who advocate the Wittgensteinian doctrine of "dissolving" rather than solving philosophical problems.

Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

In Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989), Rorty abandons specifically analytic modes of explication in favor of narrative pastiche in order to develop an alternative conceptual vocabulary to that of the "Platonists" he rejects. This schema is based on the belief that there is no worthwhile theory of truth, aside from a non-epistemic semantic one (as Donald Davidson developed out of the work of Alfred Tarski). Rorty suggests that the task of philosophy should be distinguished along public and private lines. Private philosophers, who provide one with greater abilities to (re)create oneself, a view adapted from Nietzsche and which Rorty also identifies with the novels of Marcel Proust and Vladimir Nabokov, should not be expected to help with public problems. For a public philosophy, one might turn to Rawls or Habermas.

This book also marks his first attempt to specifically articulate a political vision consistent with his philosophy, the vision of a diverse community bound together by opposition to cruelty, and not by abstract ideas such as 'justice' or 'common humanity,' policed by the separation of the public and private realms of life.

In this book, Rorty introduces the terminology of ironism, which he uses to describe his mindset and his philosophy.

Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth

Amongst the essays in Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers, Volume 1 (1990), is "The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy," in which Rorty defends Rawls against communitarian critics. Rorty argues that liberalism can "get along without philosophical presuppositions," while at the same time conceding to communitarians that "a conception of the self that makes the community constitutive of the self does comport well with liberal democracy."[15] For Rorty, social institutions ought to be thought of as "experiments in cooperation rather than as attempts to embody a universal and ahistorical order."[16]

Essays on Heidegger and Others

In this text, Rorty focuses primarily on the continental philosophers Heidegger and Derrida. He argues that these European "post-Nietzscheans" share much with American pragmatists, in that they critique metaphysics and reject the correspondence theory of truth. When discussing Derrida, Rorty claims that Derrida is most useful when viewed as a funny writer who attempted to circumvent the Western philosophical tradition, rather than the inventor of a philosophical (or literary) "method." In this vein, Rorty criticizes Derrida's followers like Paul de Man for taking deconstructive literary theory too seriously.

Achieving Our Country

In Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (1997), Rorty differentiates between what he sees as the two sides of the Left, a cultural Left and a progressive Left. He criticizes the cultural Left, which is exemplified by post-structuralists such as Foucault and postmodernists such as Lyotard, for offering critiques of society, but no alternatives (or alternatives that are so vague and general as to be abdications). Although these intellectuals make insightful claims about the ills of society, Rorty suggests that they provide no alternatives and even occasionally deny the possibility of progress. On the other hand, the progressive Left, exemplified for Rorty by the pragmatist Dewey, Whitman and James Baldwin, makes hope for a better future its priority. Without hope, Rorty argues, change is spiritually inconceivable and the cultural Left has begun to breed cynicism. Rorty sees the progressive Left as acting in the philosophical spirit of pragmatism.

On human rights

Rorty's notion of human rights is grounded on the notion of sentimentality. He contended that throughout history humans have devised various means of construing certain groups of individuals as inhuman or subhuman. Thinking in rationalist (foundationalist) terms will not solve this problem, he claimed. Rorty advocated the creation of a culture of global human rights in order to stop violations from happening through a sentimental education. He argued that we should create a sense of empathy or teach empathy to others so as to understand others' suffering.[17]

Reception and criticism

Rorty is among the most widely discussed and controversial contemporary philosophers,[18] and his works have provoked thoughtful responses from many other well-respected figures in the field. In Robert Brandom's anthology, entitled Rorty and His Critics, for example, Rorty's philosophy is discussed by Donald Davidson, Jürgen Habermas, Hilary Putnam, John McDowell, Jacques Bouveresse, and Daniel Dennett, among others.[19] In 2007, Roger Scruton wrote, "Rorty was paramount among those thinkers who advance their own opinion as immune to criticism, by pretending that it is not truth but consensus that counts, while defining the consensus in terms of people like themselves."[20] Ralph Marvin Tumaob concludes that Rorty was really influenced by the notion of Jean-François Lyotard's Metanarratives, and by this he further added that "postmodernism was influenced further by the works of Rorty".[21]

John McDowell is strongly influenced by Rorty, particularly by Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979).[22] In continental philosophy, authors such as Jürgen Habermas, Gianni Vattimo, Jacques Derrida, Albrecht Wellmer, Hans Joas, Chantal Mouffe, Simon Critchley, Esa Saarinen, and Mike Sandbothe are influenced in different ways by Rorty's thinking. American novelist David Foster Wallace titled a short story in his collection Oblivion: Stories "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature", and critics have attributed some of Wallace's writings on Irony to Rorty.[23]

Susan Haack has been a fierce critic of Rorty's neopragmatism. Haack criticises Rorty's claim to be a pragmatist at all and wrote a short play called We Pragmatists, where Rorty and Charles Sanders Peirce have a fictional conversation using only accurate quotes from their own writing. For Haack, the only link between Rorty's neopragmatism and the pragmatism of Peirce is the name. Haack believes Rorty's neopragmatism is both anti-philosophical and anti-intellectual, and exposes people further to rhetorical manipulation.[10][24][25]

Although Rorty was an avowed liberal, his political and moral philosophies have been attacked by commentators from the Left, some of whom believe them to be insufficient frameworks for social justice.[26] Rorty was also criticized by others for his rejection of the idea that science can depict the world.[27] One criticism, especially of Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity is that Rorty's philosophical 'hero', the ironist, is an elitist figure.[28] Rorty claims that the majority of people would be "commonsensically nominalist and historicist" but not ironist. These people would combine an ongoing attention to the particular as opposed to the transcendent (nominalism), with an awareness of their place in a continuum of contingent lived experience alongside other individuals (historicist), without necessarily having continual doubts about the resulting worldview as the ironist does. An ironist is someone who: 1) "has radical and continuing doubts about their final vocabulary"; 2) "realizes that argument phrased in their vocabulary can neither underwrite nor dissolve these doubts"; and 3) "does not think their vocabulary is closer to reality than others" (all 73, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity). On the other hand, the Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo alongside the Spanish philosopher Santiago Zabala in their 2011 book Hermeneutic Communism: from Heidegger to Marx affirm that "together with Richard Rorty we also consider it a flaw that 'the main thing contemporary academic Marxists inherit from Marx and Engels is the conviction that the quest for the cooperative commonwealth should be scientific rather than utopian, knowing rather than romantic.' As we will show hermeneutics contains all the utopian and romantic features that Rorty refers to because, contrary to the knowledge of science, it does not claim modern universality but rather postmodern particularism."[29]

Rorty often draws on a broad range of other philosophers to support his views, and his interpretation of their works has been contested.[30] Since Rorty is working from a tradition of re-interpretation, he remains uninterested in 'accurately' portraying other thinkers, but rather in utilizing their work in the same way a literary critic might use a novel. His essay "The Historiography of Philosophy: Four Genres" is a thorough description of how he treats the greats in the history of philosophy. In Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Rorty attempts to disarm those who criticize his writings by arguing that their philosophical criticisms are made using axioms that are explicitly rejected within Rorty's own philosophy.[31] For instance, Rorty defines allegations of irrationality as affirmations of vernacular "otherness", and so—Rorty claims—accusations of irrationality can be expected during any argument and must simply be brushed aside.[32]

Select bibliography

As author
  • Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.
  • Consequences of Pragmatism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982. ISBN 978-0816610631
  • Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0521353816
  • Philosophical Papers vols. I–IV:
    • Objectivity, Relativism and Truth: Philosophical Papers I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0521353694
    • Essays on Heidegger and Others: Philosophical Papers II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
    • Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
    • Philosophy as Cultural Politics: Philosophical Papers IV. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Mind, Language, and Metaphilosophy: Early Philosophical Papers Eds. S. Leach and J. Tartaglia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1107612297.
  • Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0674003118
  • Philosophy and Social Hope. New York: Penguin, 2000.
  • Against Bosses, Against Oligarchies: A Conversation with Richard Rorty. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2002.
  • The Future of Religion with Gianni Vattimo Ed. Santiago Zabala. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0231134941
  • An Ethics for Today: Finding Common Ground Between Philosophy and Religion. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0231150569
As editor
  • The Linguistic Turn, Essays in Philosophical Method, (1967), ed. by Richard M. Rorty, University of Chicago press, 1992, ISBN 978-0226725697 (an introduction and two retrospective essays)
  • Philosophy in History. ed. by R. Rorty, J. B. Schneewind and Quentin Skinner, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985 (an essay by R. Rorty, "Historiography of philosophy", pp. 29–76)

See also


  1. ^ Pragmatism – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher". 1931-10-04. Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  4. ^ Bernstein, Adam (11 June 2007). "Richard Rorty, 75; Leading U.S. Pragmatist Philosopher". Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  5. ^ a b c Bruce Kuklick. "Neil Gross, Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher." Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 47.1 (2011):36.
  6. ^ a b "Jürgen Habermas: Philosopher, poet and friend (12/06/2007)". signandsight. Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  7. ^ Marchetti, Giancarlo. "Interview with Richard Rorty." Philosophy Now Volume 43, Oct.–Nov. 2003.
  8. ^ Ryerson, James. "The Quest for Uncertainty Richard Rorty's Pragmatic Pilgrimage." Linguafranca Volume 10, Dec. 2000/Jan. 2001. Web. 21 June 2011. <>
  9. ^ a b "Richard Rorty, distinguished public intellectual and controversial philosopher, dead at 75" (Stanford's announcement), June 10, 2007
  10. ^ a b c Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  11. ^ a b c "Richard Rorty, Philosopher, Dies at 75" (NY Times Obituary), June 11, 2007
  12. ^ Ryerson, James. "Essay: Thinking Cheerfully." The New York Times Book Review. July 22, 2007: p. 27.
  13. ^ Rorty, Richard (November 2007). "The Fire of Life". Poetry Magazine.
  14. ^ "Richard Rorty," (short obituary), June 9, 2007.
  15. ^ Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers, Volume 1 (1990), p. 179
  16. ^ Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers, Volume 1 (1990), p. 196
  17. ^ See Barreto, José-Manuel. "Rorty and Human Rights: Contingency, Emotions and How to Defend Human Rights Telling Stories." Utrecht Law Review, Volume 7 Issue 2 April 2011
  18. ^ (Last sentence of the introduction)
  19. ^ Rorty and His Critics (Philosophers and their Critics): Robert B. Brandom: Books
  20. ^ Scruton, Roger (2007-06-12). "Richard Rorty's legacy". openDemocracy. Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  21. ^ "System of Rorty".
  22. ^ In the preface to Mind and World (pp. ix–x) McDowell states that "it will be obvious that Rorty's work is ... central for the way I define my stance here".
  23. ^ Howard, Jennifer. "The Afterlife of David Foster Wallace". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  24. ^ Susan Haack (November 1997). "Vulgar Rortyism". New Criterion.
  25. ^ Haack, Susan (1993). "Ch. 9: Vulgar Pragmatism: an Unedifying Prospect". Evidence and Inquiry. Oxford UK: Blackwell. ISBN 978-0631118510.
  26. ^ "Objectivity and Action: Wal-Mart and the Legacy of Marx and Nietzsche", A discussion of Terry Eagleton's attacks on Rorty's philosophy as insufficient in the fight against corporations such as Wal-Mart
  27. ^ "The failure to recognize science's particular powers to depict reality, Daniel Dennett wrote, shows 'flatfooted ignorance of the proven methods of scientific truth-seeking and their power.'"[1]
  28. ^ Rob Reich – The Paradoxes of Education in Rorty's Liberal Utopia Archived 2006-06-15 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala. Hermeneutic Communism: From Heidegger to Marx Columbia University Press. 2011. Pgs. 2 and 3
  30. ^ Richard Rorty (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  31. ^ Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989., p. 44
  32. ^ Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. p. 48

Further reading

  • Ulf Schulenberg, Romanticism and Pragmatism: Richard Rorty and the Idea of a Poeticized Culture, 2015
  • Marianne Janack, What We Mean By Experience, 2012
  • Marianne Janack, editor, Feminist Interpretations of Richard Rorty, 2010
  • James Tartaglia, Richard Rorty: Critical Assessments, 4 vols., 2009
  • Neil Gross, Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher, 2008
  • Rorty's Politics of Redescription / Gideon Calder, 2007
  • Rorty and the Mirror of Nature / James Tartaglia, 2007
  • Richard Rorty: Pragmatism and Political Liberalism / Michael Bacon, 2007
  • Richard Rorty: politics and vision / Christopher Voparil, 2006
  • Richard Rorty: his philosophy under discussion / Andreas Vieth, 2005
  • Richard Rorty / Charles B Guignon., 2003
  • Rorty / Gideon Calder, 2003
  • Richard Rorty's American faith / Taub, Gad Shmuel, 2003
  • The ethical ironist: Kierkegaard, Rorty, and the educational quest / Rohrer, Patricia Jean, 2003
  • Doing philosophy as a way to individuation: Reading Rorty and Cavell / Kwak, Duck-Joo, 2003
  • Richard Rorty / Alan R Malachowski, 2002
  • Richard Rorty: critical dialogues / Matthew Festenstein, 2001
  • Richard Rorty: education, philosophy, and politics / Michael Peters, 2001
  • Rorty and his critics / Robert Brandom, 2000
  • On Rorty / Richard Rumana, 2000
  • Philosophy and freedom : Derrida, Rorty, Habermas, Foucault / John McCumber, 2000
  • A pragmatist's progress?: Richard Rorty and American intellectual history / John Pettegrew, 2000
  • Problems of the modern self: Reflections on Rorty, Taylor, Nietzsche, and Foucault / Dudrick, David Francis, 2000
  • The last conceptual revolution: a critique of Richard Rorty's political philosophy / Eric Gander, 1999
  • Richard Rorty's politics: liberalism at the end of the American century / Markar Melkonian, 1999
  • The work of friendship : Rorty, his critics, and the project of solidarity / Dianne Rothleder, 1999
  • For the love of perfection : Richard Rorty and liberal education / René Vincente Arcilla, 1995
  • Rorty & pragmatism: the philosopher responds to his critics / Herman J Saatkamp, 1995
  • Richard Rorty : prophet and poet of the new pragmatism / David L Hall, 1994
  • Reading Rorty: critical responses to Philosophy and the mirror of nature (and beyond) / Alan R Malachowski, 1990
  • Rorty's humanistic pragmatism: philosophy democratized / Konstantin Kolenda, 1990

External links

Achieving Our Country

Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America is a book by American philosopher Richard Rorty, in which the author differentiates between what he sees as the two sides of the Left, a cultural Left and a reformist Left. He criticizes the cultural Left, which is

exemplified by post-structuralists such as Michel Foucault and post-modernists such as Jean-François Lyotard. Although these intellectuals make insightful claims about the ills of society, Rorty holds that they provide no alternatives and even present progress as problematic at times. On the other hand, the progressive Left, exemplified for Rorty by John Dewey, makes progress its priority in its goal of "achieving our country." Rorty sees the reformist Left as acting in the philosophical spirit of pragmatism.

Bill Martin (philosophy)

Bill Martin (born 1956) is a professor of Philosophy at DePaul University whose academic work concerns Derrida, Sartre, Marxist theory, Aesthetics, and critiques of Richard Rorty. Martin has also written on progressive rock bands including Yes.

Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity is a 1989 book by the American philosopher Richard Rorty, based on two sets of lectures he gave at University College, London and at Trinity College, Cambridge. In contrast to his earlier work, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Rorty mostly abandons attempts to explain his theories in analytical terms and instead creates an alternate conceptual schema to that of the "Platonists" he rejects. In this schema "truth" (as the term is used conventionally) is considered unintelligible and meaningless.

The book is divided into three parts—"Contingency", "Ironism and Theory" and "Cruelty and Solidarity".

Empowered democracy

Empowered democracy is an alternative form of social-democratic arrangements developed by philosopher and politician Roberto Mangabeira Unger. Theorized in response to the repressiveness and rigidity of contemporary liberal democratic society, the theory of empowered democracy envisions a more open and more plastic set of social institutions through which individuals and groups can interact, propose change, and effectively empower themselves to transform social, economic, and political structures. The key strategy is to combine freedom of commerce and governance at the local level with the ability of political parties at the central level to promote radical social experiments that would bring about decisive change in social and political institutions.The theory of empowered democracy has received widespread critical acclaim. It has been hailed as the only such constructive vision of society in critical legal studies, and the term has since seeped into the mainstream media, even if the theory has not. Meanwhile, Cornel West, Perry Anderson, Richard Rorty, and numerous other prominent scholars have published detailed—and, very often, admiring—essays on Unger's project.


Ironist (n. Ironism; from Greek: eiron, eironeia), a term coined by Richard Rorty, for the concept that allows rhetorical scholars to actively participate in political practices. It is described as a modernist literary intellectual's project of fashioning the best possible self through continual redescription. With this concept, Rorty argues for a contingency that rejects the necessity and universality in relation to the ideas of language, self, and community.

Linguistic philosophy

Linguistic philosophy is the view that philosophical problems are problems which may be solved (or dissolved) either by reforming language, or by understanding more about the language we presently use. The former position is that of ideal language philosophy, the latter the position of ordinary language philosophy.

Linguistic turn

The linguistic turn was a major development in Western philosophy during the early 20th century, the most important characteristic of which is the focusing of philosophy and the other humanities primarily on the relationship between philosophy and language.

Very different intellectual movements were associated with the "linguistic turn", although the term itself is commonly thought popularised by Richard Rorty's 1967 anthology The Linguistic Turn, in which it means the turn towards linguistic philosophy. According to Rorty, who later dissociated himself from linguistic philosophy and analytic philosophy generally, the phrase "the linguistic turn" originated with philosopher Gustav Bergmann.

List of liberal theorists

Individual contributors to classical liberalism and political liberalism are associated with philosophers of the Enlightenment. Liberalism as a specifically named ideology begins in the late 18th century as a movement towards self-government and away from aristocracy. It included the ideas of self-determination, the primacy of the individual and the nation, as opposed to the state and religion, as being the fundamental units of law, politics and economy.

Since then liberalism has broadened to include a wide range of approaches from Americans Ronald Dworkin, Richard Rorty, John Rawls and Francis Fukuyama as well as the Indian Amartya Sen and the Peruvian Hernando de Soto. Some of these people moved away from liberalism, while others espoused other ideologies before turning to liberalism. There are many different views of what constitutes liberalism, and some liberals would feel that some of the people on this list were not true liberals. It is intended to be suggestive rather than exhaustive. Theorists whose ideas were mainly typical for one country should be listed in that country's section of liberalism worldwide. Generally only thinkers are listed, politicians are only listed when they, beside their active political work, also made substantial contributions to liberal theory.

Michigan Quarterly Review

The Michigan Quarterly Review is an American literary magazine founded in 1962 and published at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The quarterly (known as "MQR" for short) publishes art, essays, interviews, memoirs, fiction, poetry, and book reviews as well as writing "in a wide variety of research areas", according to its Web site.

Starting in 1979, with a special issue on the subject of "The Moon Landing and Its Aftermath", one issue each year is given over entirely to a special theme. MQR's special issues include "The Automobile and American Culture," "Detroit: An American City," "Contemporary American Fiction," "The Female Body," "The Male Body," and "Bridges to Cuba".

In recent years the magazine has published nonfiction by Margaret Atwood, Carol Gilligan, Douglas Hofstadter, Maxine Hong Kingston, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Amos Oz, Richard Rorty, John Updike, and William Julius Wilson and fiction by Sergio Troncoso, Eileen Pollack, Peter Orner and Jacob Appel.

Neil Gross

Neil Louis Gross (born June 1, 1971) is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology and chair of the department of sociology at Colby College. He is also a visiting scholar of New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge. He has written several books on sociological and political topics, and also blogs for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Gross edited the American Sociological Association's journal Sociological Theory from 2009 to 2015. He previously taught at the University of Southern California, Harvard University, Princeton University, and at the University of British Columbia.


Neopragmatism, sometimes called post-Deweyan pragmatism, linguistic pragmatism, or analytic pragmatism, is the philosophical tradition that infers that the meaning of words is a function of how they are used, rather than the meaning of what people intend for them to describe.

The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy (2004) defines "neo-pragmatism" as "A postmodern version of pragmatism developed by the American philosopher Richard Rorty and drawing inspiration from authors such as John Dewey, Martin Heidegger, Wilfrid Sellars, W. V. O. Quine, and Jacques Derrida". It's a contemporary term for a philosophy which reintroduces many concepts from pragmatism. While traditional pragmatism focuses on experience, Rorty centers on language. The self is regarded as a "centerless web of beliefs and desires".

It repudiates the notions of universal truth, epistemological foundationalism, representationalism, and epistemic objectivity. It is a nominalist approach that denies that natural kinds and linguistic entities have substantive ontological implications. Rorty denies that the subject-matter of the human sciences can be studied in the same ways as we study the natural sciences.It has been associated with a variety of other thinkers including Hilary Putnam, W. V. O. Quine, and Donald Davidson, though none of these figures have called themselves "neopragmatists". The following contemporary philosophers are also often considered to be neopragmatists: Nicholas Rescher (a proponent of methodological pragmatism and pragmatic idealism), Jürgen Habermas, Susan Haack, Robert Brandom, and Cornel West.

New Bulgarian University

New Bulgarian University (Bulgarian: Нов български университет, also known and abbreviated as НБУ, NBU) is a private university based in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Its campus is in the western district of the city, known for its proximity to the Vitosha nature park,

Among the list of NBU Honorary Doctors and Honorary Professors are Richard Rorty, Julia Kristeva, Jean-Pierre Vernant, Milcho Leviev, Raina Kabaivanska, Ralf Dahrendorf, Terry Eagleton, Geert Hofstede, Ennio Morricone, etc.

Since 2004, NBU is an accredited partner of The Open University Business School.

Old Europe, New Europe, Core Europe

Old Europe, New Europe, Core Europe: Transatlantic Relations After the Iraq War documents for Anglophone readers the debate that took place among a number of European intellectuals in response to the manifesto by Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida calling for Europe to come together around a common foreign and security policy to provide a counterweight to the "hegemonic unilateralism" of the United States. The book was first published in 2005 by Verso Books. The book was edited by Daniel Levy, Max Pensky, and John Torpey; contributors include Umberto Eco, Susan Sontag, Richard Rorty, Timothy Garton Ash, Ralf Dahrendorf, Gianni Vattimo, Adam Krzemiński, and many others.

Philosophy and Social Hope

Philosophy and Social Hope is a 1999 book written by philosopher Richard Rorty and published by Penguin. The book is a collection of cultural and political essays intended to reach a wider audience and, like his previous books, it presents Rorty's own version of pragmatism. 'Trotsky and the Wild Orchids' is the most autobiographical piece and explains how he moved from Plato's philosophical framework towards Ludwig Wittgenstein's and John Dewey's anti-essentialism.

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature is a 1979 book by American philosopher Richard Rorty, in which the author attempts to dissolve modern philosophical problems instead of solving them by presenting them as pseudo-problems that only exist in the language-game of epistemological projects culminating in analytic philosophy. In a pragmatist gesture, Rorty suggests that philosophy must get past these pseudo-problems if it is to be productive. The work was considered controversial upon publication, and had its greatest success outside analytic philosophy.

Philosophy as Cultural Politics

Philosophy as Cultural Politics: Philosophical Papers: v.4 is a 2007 book by the philosopher Richard Rorty. A compilation of selected philosophical papers written by Rorty between 1997 and 2007, it complements three previous selections of his papers.

Postanalytic philosophy

Postanalytic philosophy describes a detachment from the mainstream philosophical movement of analytic philosophy, which is the predominant school of thought in English-speaking countries. Postanalytic philosophy derives mainly from contemporary American thought, especially from the works of philosophers Richard Rorty, Donald Davidson, Hilary Putnam, W. V. O. Quine, and Stanley Cavell. The term is closely associated with the much broader movement of contemporary American pragmatism, which, loosely defined, advocates a detachment from the definition of 'objective truth' given by modern philosophers such as Descartes. Postanalytic philosophers emphasize the contingency of human thought, convention, utility, and social progress.

Raritan (journal)

Raritan is a literary and intellectual quarterly that publishes poetry, fiction and essays. The journal is based at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The magazine was founded by Richard Poirier in 1981 and is currently edited by Jackson Lears. Lears began to edit it in 2002.Notable writers who have contributed to this journal include Jacob M. Appel, Harold Bloom, David Bromwich, Anne Carson, Robert Coles, William C. Dowling, David Ferry, Harry Frankfurt, George Kateb, Frank Kermode, Joyce Carol Oates, Adam Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Richard Posner, Richard Rorty, Edward Said, Frederick Seidel, Vikram Seth, Daniel Stern, and Michael Wood.

Robert Brandom

Robert Boyce Brandom (born March 13, 1950) is an American philosopher who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. He works primarily in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and philosophical logic, and his work manifests both systematic and historical interests in these topics. His work has presented "arguably the first fully systematic and technically rigorous attempt to explain the meaning of linguistic items in terms of their socially norm-governed use ('meaning as use', to cite the Wittgensteinian slogan), thereby also giving a non-representationalist account of the intentionality of thought and the rationality of action as well."Brandom is broadly considered to be part of the American pragmatist tradition in philosophy.In 2003, he won the Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award.

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