Richard Rorty: Critical Dialogues / Edition 1

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Richard Rorty is one of the most influential and provocative figures in contemporary intellectual life. He argues that many of philosophy's traditional concerns are redundant, and that the goal of inquiry should not be truth but human betterment. In this collection a distinguished team of scholars grapples with the implications of his writings for social and political thought. Avoiding mindless adulation or ritual denunciation, they offer careful but critical investigations of the meaning of Rorty's work for a range of important issues.

Topics explored include anti-foundationalism; irony and commitment; justice; liberalism and utopianism; reason and aesthetics; humanism and anti-humanism; the Holocaust; the theory of international relations; social democracy and the pragmatist tradition. Each essay is followed by a reply written for this volume by Rorty. The volume also includes a substantial essay by Rorty on 'Justice as a Larger Loyalty'.

This volume is indispensable for any reader interested in Rorty's work, or in contemporary debates in social, political or ethical theory. Contributors: Molly Cochran; Daniel Conway; Matthew Festenstein; Norman Geras; John Horton; David Owen; Richard Rorty; Kate Soper; Simon Thompson.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'This volume is a cut above the rest since it finds Rorty's criticsand commentators on excellent form and Rorty himself rising to thechallenge with far more vigour and passion than he has often beenable to muster in recent years. The editors have done a good job inkeeping the focus steadily on social, political, andethico-juridical issues and thereby giving the book a distinctiveprofile. They have also exercised shrewd judgement in assembling awell-qualified team of contributors whose attitudes range fromoutspoken opposition, through varying degrees of critical reserve,to qualified endorsement of Rorty's thinking on a number of centralissues. This in turn has provoked Rorty to offer a series ofthoughtful, extended and sometimes quite combative (even prickly)rejoinders which tell us far more about the scope and limits of his'North-Atlantic postmodern bourgeois-liberal pragmatist' outlookthan previous such encounters. This book should do much to extendand refine the terms of a debate around Rorty's work that has toooften become just a pretext for the exchange of routinehostilities.' Christopher Norris, University of Cardiff,Wales

"[The book] is an example of first-rate critisism...Thiscollection serves as a very good introduction to Rorty's work inthese areas of philosophy. Further, the dialogical character ofthis collection makes it valuable for those who seek a refinedunderstanding of Rorty's views." David F. Dudrick, Philosophy inReview

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745621661
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 11/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Festenstein isLecturer in Politics, University of Sheffield and Simon Thompson is Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of the West of England

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Table of Contents

List of contributors.


1. Richard Rorty: Pragmatism, Irony and Liberalism: MatthewFestenstein.

2. Irony and Commitment: An Irreconcilable Dualism of Modernity:John Horton.

Reply to John Horton: Richard Rorty.

3.Richard Rorty on Truth, Justification, and Justice: SimonThompson.

Reply to Simon Thompson: Richard Rorty.

4. Irony, State and Utopia: Daniel Conway.

Reply to Daniel Conway: Richard Rorty.

5. The Avoidance of Cruelty: Richard Rorty on Liberalism,Scepticism and Ironism: David Owen.

Reply to David Owen: Richard Rorty.

6. Richard Rorty: Humanist and/or Anti-Humanist? KateSoper.

Reply to Kate Soper: Richard Rorty.

7.Reason and Aesthetics Between Modernity and Postmodernity:Habermas and Rorty: Richard Shusterman.

Reply to Richard Shusterman: Richard Rorty.

8. Progress Without Foundations? Norman Geras.

Reply to Norman Geras: Richard Rorty.

9. Rorty's Neo-Pragmatism: Some Implications for InternationalRelations Theory: Molly Cochran.

Reply to Molly Cochran: Richard Rorty.

10. Pragmatism, Social Democracy, and Political Argument:Matthew Festenstein.

Reply to Matthew Festenstein: Richard Rorty.

11. Justice as a Larger Loyalty: Richard Rorty.


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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2004

    More on contingency, irony and solidarity

    Rorty is in good form in this collection of essays by various writers criticizing his views on social and political philosophy, with Rorty replying to each. Reading his replies one is struck by how often his critics just get him wrong, and pretty seriously so. I personally find Rorty¿s anti-foundationalism, historicism, nominalism, atheism, pragmatism, and liberalism congenial. However there remain certain questions. These might be summed up in the title of his earlier book which sets forth many of the views criticized by these essays: Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Whether or not something is ¿contingent¿ or ¿necessary¿ would seem to be relative to the situation or framework. To say that 'everything is contingent' is to take an absolute position, and that seems problematic. Rorty seems not to realize that one can be an anti-foundationalist and a nominalist, and still think it is worthwhile to search for foundations and essences relative to a certain framework or situation. Rorty uses the word ¿ironist¿ to refer to someone who has ¿radical and continuing doubts about the final vocabulary she currently uses¿ and who thinks this vocabulary is ¿no closer to reality than others¿? Such radical skepticism concerning values (what he means by 'final vocabulary') seems appropriate sometimes, but at others it may be more appropriate to stand by one¿s values as reaching beyond mere appearance. As for ¿solidarity,¿ it seems for Rorty to come down to identifying liberalism with empathy with the suffering of others. I find it odd to think of liberalism as simply the belief that ¿cruelty is the worst thing.¿ Shouldn¿t it also include some sort of commitment to the promoting creative self-realization for as many people as possible? I like his conclusion in the last chapter that the way to get others to adopt recent Western ways we value, such as abandoning slavery, practicing religious tolerance, allowing mixed marriages, tolerating homosexuality, and so on, is to drop our talk of universal values and to say 'Here is what we in the West look like as a result of ceasing to hold slaves, beginning to education women...' There is also much discussion in this book of Rorty's advocacy of combining public solidarity with private irony, and whether this is ultimately consistent. This might boil down to the question of whether someone can be both an elitist and a democrat. Whether you agree with him or not, Rorty is always worth reading.

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