A Conversation for The Gadfly

Philosopher Richard Rorty

Post 1

Steve K.

American philosopher Richard Rorty has been described as a gadfly to the philosophical establishment. I recently complete a series of recorded lectures on 20th century philosophy, in which the lecturer said Rorty had commented on philosophy's failure, after millenia of effort, to answer fundamental questions. "I don't care" was his succinct conclusion on such questions.

From the website of publisher Rodopi:

"From the time of Socrates, there has been a tradition of the philosopher as a gadfly. And in our time, perhaps the most provocative gadfly has been Richard Rorty. When he published Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature in 1979, it soon became one of the most discussed philosophy books in the United States and throughout the world. For some, the book seemed scandalous because of Rorty’s irreverent criticisms of analytic philosophy, and indeed the very idea of systematic philosophy. For others, it was liberating, because Rorty took seriously continental thinkers marginalized by the analytic establishment. Rorty is a philosopher who writes with wit, charm, and ironic poignancy. He is clever, outrageous, and at times extremely funny. But he combines this with a deep sense of moral commitment and a sense of social justice. Some applauded Rorty’s identification with the great American pragmatic tradition. Others were outraged by the cavalier way in which he appropriated what suited him from the pragmatic thinkers, and discarded what failed to interest him. Rorty has continued to be a prolific and provocative writer, and he has increasing turned his attention to political and social issues. Here too he has been vehemently attacked from both the right and the left. Although Rorty has been praised and vilified, he certainly has not been ignored. Even his sharpest critics would have to concede that Rorty has an uncanny ability to challenge prevailing opinions. The discussion of Rorty has attracted the attention of leading philosophers throughout the world. The truth is that there are very few living philosophers who have received as much critical attention as Rorty."

smiley - steamsmiley - nahnahsmiley - grr

Philosopher Richard Rorty

Post 2


Interesting addition to the list. I'll have to hunt around to see if I can find some of his work (or would it be over the head of someone who hasn't studied philosophy?).

Philosopher Richard Rorty

Post 3

Steve K.

You can get a taste for free here:


For example, try the "Pragmatist View of Contemporary Analytic Philosophy", where Rorty says, "... we should be neither realists nor anti-realists, that the entire realism-antirealism issue should be set aside. ... We shall no longer be tempted to practice either epistemology or ontology." He seems to consider many of the age old questions in Philosophy (which BTW I recall he thinks should NOT be capitalized) to be in the category of "How many angels fit on the head of a pin." I have very little exposure to philosophy, so I had to look up some words, like ontology, etc., but I followed some of his writing. To me, Rorty is a successor to Wittgenstein, who as I recall thought most philosophical "problems" were merely language confusion, and would disappear (rather than be "solved") if the confusion were removed by clarifying the language. Or something. smiley - zen

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