Meritocracy and its Discontents   /   Summer 2016   /    Symposium

Just Who Is It That We Have Become?

Rorty’s Hegelianism

Robert B. Pippin

Plato’s Symposium (detail) by Giambattista Gigola (1769–1841); Pinacoteca Tosio-Martinengo, Brescia, Italy; © DeA Picture Library/Art Resource, New York.

Richard Rorty’s most famous and influential book was Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, published in 1979. In the years that followed, he was much in demand as a lecturer, and he developed a somewhat idiosyncratic rhetoric that became increasingly telegraphic, synoptic, provocative, and, occasionally, cryptic. The books he wrote after his masterwork also manifested the new style. One had the impression that he thought he had done the detail work in Mirror and the articles that preceded it, and that he could rely on sweeping claims about what his favored philosophers had, according to his earlier analyses, simply and definitively established. Those philosophers included, on the analytic side, Wittgenstein, Sellars, Davidson, and Brandom, and, on the continental side, Nietzsche, Hegel, and Heidegger. And always along for the ride were his favored American pragmatists, especially William James and John Dewey. According to Rorty, all of these thinkers had definitively shown what the tradition (mostly Platonic and Cartesian) they were criticizing had failed to do, or had ignored or misunderstood.

Read More on the Business of Philosophy

Richard Rorty: Universalist Grandeur and Analytic Philosophy

Susan Haack: Pining Away in the Midst of Plenty: The Irony of Rorty’s Either/Or Philosophy

Matthew B. Crawford: Rorty’s Idealism


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