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16 June 1983
Consequences of Pragmatism: Essays 1972-1980 
by Richard Rorty.
Harvester, 237 pp., £22.50, February 1983, 0 7108 0403 2
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... by, the vocabulary of history. It would no doubt also amuse a present-day inhabitant of Virginia, Richard Rorty, who in this stimulating new collection of essays brandishes his tomahawk in earnest at philosophers who insist on treating our local and accidental concerns as though they were reflections of some immutable and absolute Reality. He lays ...

Strenuous Unbelief

Jonathan Rée: Richard Rorty

15 October 1998
Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in 20th-Century America 
by Richard Rorty.
Harvard, 107 pp., £12.50, May 1998, 9780674003118
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Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Vol. III 
by Richard Rorty.
Cambridge, 355 pp., £40, June 1998, 0 521 55347 4
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... 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 anthology of Essays in Philosophical Method designed to document the reorientations in analytic philosophy that followed Rudolf Carnap’s move from Germany to the US in 1935 ...
20 October 1994
Dictatorship of Virtue: Multiculturalism and the Battle for America’s Future 
by Richard Bernstein.
Knopf, 367 pp., $25, September 1994, 0 679 41156 9
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... In his new book, Richard Bernstein – one of the best reporters at the New York Times – offers some detailed descriptions, and some solid criticisms, of a serious nuisance. Unfortunately, he then tries to inflate this nuisance into a dangerous monster. He offers a lot of useful information about what one segment of the American Left has been doing recently, and his analyses are very acute ...

Getting it right

Bernard Williams

23 November 1989
Contingency, Irony and Solidarity 
by Richard Rorty.
Cambridge, 201 pp., £25, May 1989, 0 521 35381 5
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... It will be predictably edifying, or perhaps predictably unedifying: in any case, predictable. Richard Rorty is a philosopher for whom the standards and the point of getting it right have become very problematic, not only in philosophy but quite generally. In his influential and interesting book, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, published in ...
20 March 1986
Philosophy in History: Essays in the Historiography of Philosophy 
edited by Richard Rorty, J.B. Schneewind and Quentin Skinner.
Cambridge, 403 pp., £27.50, November 1984, 0 521 25352 7
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... clash head-on. The lectures were given by Charles Taylor (‘Philosophy and its History’ and by Richard Rorty (‘The Historiography of Philosophy: Four Genres’). They disagree not just over the ‘relation of philosophy to its history’ but in their conception of the kind of society we live in and of the kind of society we should aim for: they ...
2 August 1984
Realism and Reason: Philosophical Papers, Vol. III 
by Hilary Putnam.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £22.50, June 1984, 0 521 24672 5
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... In theory, it is the highest virtue of the philosopher to be constantly receptive to criticism, always willing to abandon his own views upon hearing a better argument. In practice, students tend to become exasperated when an important philosopher changes his mind. It suits their doxographic purposes best to use the philosopher’s name to denote the monolithic set of doctrines which initially made him famous ...

Diary

Richard Rorty: Heidegger’s Worlds

8 February 1990
... Recent attempts to dismiss Heidegger as ‘a Nazi philosopher’ resemble the Nazis’ attempt to dismiss Einstein’s theory of relativity as ‘Jewish physics’. In both cases, we are urged to test a body of thought not against competing bodies of thought but against something more easily accessible – our moral intuitions. If you know that the very idea of relativity is a product of cultural decadence, you are spared the trouble of labouring through a lot of equations and then deciding whether the phenomena can be explained non-relativistically ...
8 April 1993
The Ethics of Authenticity 
by Charles Taylor.
Harvard, 142 pp., £13.95, November 1992, 0 674 26863 6
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... If you dislike the ways of discussing moral choices prevalent among the chattering classes of northern California, you will probably agree with Christopher Lasch that theirs is a culture of narcissism. If you rather admire these people’s attitudes and way of life, you may describe it as a culture of tolerance. If you have mixed feelings, you might settle for the description Charles Taylor suggests: it is a culture of authenticity ...

Post-Democracy

Richard Rorty: Anti-terrorism and the national security state

1 April 2004
... 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 only conventional explosives ...
17 May 1984
Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind 
by John Searle.
Cambridge, 278 pp., £20, July 1983, 0 521 22895 6
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... In a recent polemic against Derrida, John Searle said that the present was a sort of ‘golden age of the philosophy of language’. This is certainly true. It is an era of system-building, in which dozens of immensely complex structures are being constructed. The older rhetoric of analytic philosophy, which decried system-building, big fat books (as opposed to thin, stiletto-like journal articles), and the development of philosophical ‘schools’, has been put aside ...

Kripke versus Kant

Richard Rorty

4 September 1980
Naming and Necessity 
by Saul Kripke.
Blackwell, 172 pp., £7.95, May 1980, 0 631 10151 9
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... When these lectures were first published eight years ago (in a collection), they stood analytic philosophy on its ear. Everybody was either furious, or exhilarated, or thoroughly perplexed. No one was indifferent. This welcome republication in a separate volume (with a helpful new preface, but no substantive changes) provides a chance to look back at a modern classic, and to say something about why it was found so shocking and liberating ...

How many grains make a heap?

Richard Rorty: After Kripke

20 January 2005
Philosophical Analysis in the 20th Century. Vol. I: The Dawn of Analysis 
by Scott Soames.
Princeton, 432 pp., £15.95, February 2005, 9780691122441
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Philosophical Analysis in the 20th Century. Vol. II: The Age of Meaning 
by Scott Soames.
Princeton, 504 pp., £15.95, March 2005, 0 691 12312 8
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... I had hoped my department would hire somebody in the history of philosophy,’ my friend lamented, ‘but my colleagues decided that we needed somebody who was contributing to the literature on vagueness.’ ‘The literature on what?’ I asked. ‘Dick,’ he replied, exasperated, ‘you’re really out of it. You don’t realise: vagueness is huge ...

Broken Knowledge

Frank Kermode

4 August 1983
The Oxford Book of Aphorisms 
edited by John Gross.
Oxford, 383 pp., £9.50, March 1983, 0 19 214111 2
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The Travellers’ Dictionary of Quotation: Who said what about where? 
edited by Peter Yapp.
Routledge, 1022 pp., £24.95, April 1983, 0 7100 0992 5
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... Richard Rorty has made us familiar with the distinction between two sorts of philosophy, which he calls ‘systematic’ and (I think infelicitously) ‘edifying’. The first sticks to the central epistemological tradition, which assumes that it can deal systematically and progressively with reality; the second is essentially of the periphery, and its exponents are pragmatical opponents of the institutional tradition ...
16 November 1995
The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat 
by Steven Lukes.
Verso, 261 pp., £14.95, November 1995, 1 85984 948 2
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... Neo-Hegelians on the whole are not. One would not rush to open a novel by Jürgen Habermas, but Richard Rorty no doubt has a few suave short stories inside him. There are philosophical idioms which are inherently anti-fictional – positivism, for instance – and those which lend themselves naturally to literature. It is no accident that Sartre, whose ...
21 November 1991
Consciousness Explained 
by Daniel Dennett.
Little, Brown, 514 pp., $27.95, October 1991, 0 316 18065 3
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... is not built into human anatomy but is a cultural development. He puts this point in terms of Richard Dawkins’s notion of ‘memes’. Dawkins defines a meme as a kind of replicator – analogous to a gene or a crystal. This kind of replicator is a ‘pattern of information that can thrive only in brains or the artificially-manufactured products of ...

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