Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty, whose books included Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and Truth and Progress, was professor emeritus of comparative literature and philosophy at Stanford University. He died in 2007.

How many grains make a heap? After Kripke

Richard Rorty, 20 January 2005

“Kripke was the first important analytic philosopher to insist that the plain man was quite right in remaining an essentialist, and that it was high time that philosophers showed proper respect for intuitions that are, in Soames’s phrase, ‘grounded in pre-philosophical thought’. ‘Water is H2O’ is a necessary truth, for if the chemical constitution of a given fluid were not H2O it would not be water. As I see it, Kripke’s lectures in 1970 aroused the interest they did not because people cared all that much about which truths should be called necessary and why, but because they cared a lot about whether truth is correspondence to reality. Many philosophers fear that if we cannot specify some sense in which our scientific theories map onto reality in the same way as do perceptual reports (’the cat is on the mat’), we are in danger of losing touch with the world.”

Europe is coming to grips with the fact that al-Qaida’s opponent is the West, not just the United States. The interior ministers of the EU nations have been holding meetings to co-ordinate anti-terrorist measures. The outcome of these meetings is likely to determine how many of their civil liberties Europeans will have to sacrifice.

We can be grateful that the attack in Madrid involved...

If you agree with Dewey that the search for truth is just a particular species of the search for happiness, you will be accused of asserting something so counter-intuitive that only a lack of intellectual responsibility can account for your behaviour.

In a book called Reason in the Age of Modern Science, Hans-Georg Gadamer asked the question: Can ‘philosophy’ refer to anything nowadays except the theory of science? His own answer to this question is affirmative. It may seem that the so-called ‘analytic’ tradition in philosophy – the tradition that goes back to Frege and Russell and whose most prominent living representatives are Quine, Davidson, Dummett and Putnam – must return a negative answer. For that tradition is often thought of as a sort of public relations agency for the natural sciences.’‘

Something to Steer by

Richard Rorty, 20 June 1996

Early in this century, people who read Lytton Strachey, and liked to think of themselves as modern, prided themselves on lacking a sense of Sin. Nowadays people who read Michel Foucault, and who use the term ‘Post Modern’ with a straight face, pride themselves on not believing in Truth. Strachey and Foucault, the Moderns and the Post-Moderns, share a distaste for romance, for utopian social hope. When the grand old capitalised words go, they suspect, so do grand, stirring visions of the human future.

Strenuous Unbelief: Richard Rorty

Jonathan Rée, 15 October 1998

Back in the Sixties, before he became the bad boy of American philosophy, Richard Rorty struck his colleagues as a safe and promising young man. His first book, published in 1967, was an...

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Getting it right

Bernard Williams, 23 November 1989

An energetic thinker with some original ideas may understandably rebel against the oppressive demand to get it right, especially when the demand comes, as it often does, from cautious and...

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Liberation Philosophy

Hilary Putnam, 20 March 1986

This volume is advertised as ‘confronting the current debate between philosophy and its history’. What it turns out to contain is a series of lectures with the general title...

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Conversations with Rorty

Paul Seabright, 16 June 1983

In the opening pages of Gibbon’s Autobiography, there is an entertaining account of a visit to Virginia in 1659 by his ancestor Matthew Gibbon:     In this remote...

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The concerns of academic philosophy are to some degree the concerns of everybody. At the same time, they often appear to plain pre-philosophical men and women – including those perhaps not...

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