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Richard Rorty: Critical Dialogues based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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.