Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

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Overview

In this book, major American philosopher Richard Rorty argues that thinkers such as Nietzsche, Freud, and Wittgenstein have enabled societies to see themselves as historical contingencies, rather than as expressions of underlying, ahistorical human nature, or as realizations of suprahistorical goals. This ironic perspective on the human condition is valuable but it cannot advance Liberalism's social and political goals. In fact, Rorty believes that it is literature and not philosophy that can do this, by promoting a genuine sense of human solidarity. Specifically, it is novelists such as Orwell and Nabokov who succeed in awakening us to the cruelty of particular social practices and individual attitudes. Thus, a truly liberal culture would fuse the private, individual freedom of the ironic, philosophical perspective with the public project of human solidarity as it is engendered through the insights and sensibilities of great writers. Rorty uses a wide range of references—from philosophy to social theory to literary criticism—to elucidate his beliefs.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Rorty propounds, and faces squarely the consequences of, a relativistic, non-essentialist view of man and society. For him, attitudes, values, beliefs, and practices are contingent phenomena of a particular time, place, and culture, none of which is inherently better or worse than any other. There is irony in the fact that one can realize this, yet still desire, and work for, ``human solidarity'' and freedom. How these positions can be reconciled is the subject of this important book, not incidental to which are fascinating discussions of Hegel, Heidegger, Habermas, Nietzsche, Nabokov, Freud, Dickens, and Orwell, among others. This is Rorty at his most stimulating, and he emerges as a major political theorist.-- Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521367813
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1989
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 516,566
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface; Introduction; Part I. Contingency: 1. The contingency of language; 2. The contingency of selfhood; 3. The contingency of a liberal community; Part II. Ironism and Theory: 4. Private irony and liberal hope; 5. Self-creation and affiliation: Proust, Nietzsche, and Heidegger; 6. From ironist theory to private allusions: Derrida; Part III. Cruelty and Solidarity: 7. The barber of Kasbeam: Nabokov on cruelty; 8. The last intellectual in Europe: Orwell on cruelty; 9. Solidarity; Index of names.

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