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Consequences of Pragmatism: Essays,…

Consequences of Pragmatism: Essays, 1972-1980

by Richard Rorty

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This was a more difficult book to re-read than I imagined. Clearly, I had not understood much in my previous read. A chapter critical of Dewey's Experience & Nature. Chapters on Wittgenstein and Derrida. A chapter critical of Cavell's The Claim of Reason. These chapters and others make it clear that I need to do some further reading and then re-read this book again. I noted in this reading a handful of phrases similar to heights-from-which-to-look-down-on various points of view or concepts. These made me wonder if Rorty was aware of the surviving words of Perictione (II); I know I will be taking them as a gloss thereto. ( )
  Darrol | Dec 25, 2010 |
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.
1 vote McCaine | Nov 21, 2007 |
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