Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rorty's Metaphilosophy

*NOTE* The footnote links won't work unless you're on the specific post page (by clicking on the title link). You'll have to excuse my crappy coding.


Rorty was hounded for the last half of his career with a reputation for having given up on arguments. It began when Richard Bernstein, one of Rorty’s more perceptive critics, noted that “although [Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature] is filled with arguments, many of which are brilliant and ingenious, Rorty at several points warns against the love of argument that has characterized one strand in philosophy ever since Plato. What is unsettling and disturbing about Rorty’s argumentative style is that he refuses to play the game…, he doesn’t seem to be primarily concerned with carefully stating issues in such a manner so that one can proceed to develop the strongest arguments in support of a correct ‘position.’”[fn.1] “Style” is a good word here, as is Bernstein’s notion that Rorty has an overall “strategy” that argues at one point, but not at another. This strategy transformed itself into Consequences of Pragmatism’s suggestion that “the really exasperating thing about literary intellectuals, from the point of view of those inclined to science or to Philosophy, is their inability to engage in such argumentation—to agree on what would count as resolving disputes, on the criteria to which all sides must appeal. In a post-Philosophical culture, this exasperation would not be felt.”[fn.2] As this stands, it is slightly misleading to Rorty’s point, for it is not the case that literary intellectuals have an inability to engage in argumentation—it’s just that such argumentation is usually out of point when the main activity is “the inconclusive comparison and contrast of vocabularies” (xli). For, as Rorty goes on but eventually ignores the better wisdom of occasionally in his rhetorical flourishes, “in such a [post-Philosophical] culture, criteria would be seen as the pragmatist sees them—as temporary resting-places constructed for specific utilitarian ends. On the pragmatist account, a criterion (what follows from the axioms, what the needle points to, what the statute says) is a criterion because some particular social practice needs to block the road of inquiry, halt the regress of interpretations, in order to get something done” (xli, second emphasis mine).

“In order to get something done”—this is what ultimately explains a lot of Rorty’s wishy-washiness about philosophy, the activity he was trained to do and continued to do through-out his life, before and after his supposed Kehre in PMN. For Rorty never could become completely convinced that there was something pressing to be done by philosophy. So he couldn’t himself be bothered long enough to work out some of the criteria for “carefully stating issues” in order to “develop the strongest arguments in support of a correct position.” Why would you work hard at developing stronger and stronger arguments for a position that will be aufgehoben tomorrow because (and this is important) the “specific utilitarian ends” to which the position served have passed away? And so, as Rorty felt more and more alienated from his former colleagues at Princeton and more and more welcomed by “literary intellectuals,” this plausible stopping-point turned into his most infamous passage on argumentation: “On the view of philosophy which I am offering, philosophers should not be asked for arguments against, for example, the correspondence theory of truth or the idea of the ‘intrinsic nature of reality.’ … Conforming to my own precepts, I am not going to try to make arguments against the vocabulary I want to replace.”[fn.3] A few perceptive (and apparently kind, though for simply being more clear-sighted) commentators have noticed that there are, like in PMN, more than a few arguments, and good ones to boot. Rorty’s disaffection got the better of him, but his procedure was still the same as it was to remain throughout his career. Berstein calls this “a two-stage strategy” in which the first stage is to offer familiar kinds of dialectical arguments, which are as Rorty points out “parasitic upon” (CIS 9) the entrenched vocabulary you wish to displace,[fn.4] in order to “soften up” (Bernstein’s phrase) the reader for the second stage, which is to account for the historical origins of the entrenched vocabulary.

The controlling motif that underlay Rorty’s philosophy from beginning to end was the sense of philosophy as an on-going conversation. Rather than Whitehead’s metaphor of “footnotes to Plato,” for Rorty philosophy—all inquiry and writing for that matter—is more like a game of telephone: Parmenides said something to Plato who told Aristotle something it turns out is not quite what Parmenides meant. A “science” that has criteria and can argue, then, is something that can only arise if you can get everyone on the same page—say, if Plato had gotten Parmenides right before passing it along to Aristotle. But—why should Plato be required to get Parmenides right? What if Plato’s accidental mishearing and misreporting works better for what Aristotle wants to do? The idea of philosophers wanting to do different things is why Rorty once said that “philosophy is the greatest game of all precisely because it is the game of ‘changing the rules.’”[fn.5] If you don’t want to play Parmenides’ Sorry anymore, you change the rules so you’re now playing Aristotle’s Monopoly (a game which lasted quite a while). Philosophy for Rorty is a game of Calvinball in which the philosopher of the present is Calvin and the future is Hobbes. Calvin could never win against Hobbes because Hobbes was always better at making up rules than Calvin, keeping one step ahead of him.[fn.6] If you view philosophy like this, why would you want to play? This feeling comes out of Wittgenstein, too, and has recently come to be called various kinds of “quietism.”[fn.7]

Given this kind of abuse one gets from actually participating in the game of philosophy, always risking becoming outmoded by the next generation, Rorty pulled further and further back from the game. Pulling back from philosophy to make it your object of analysis used to be called “metaphilosophy.” The trouble with metaphilosophy is that it is still philosophy: metaphilosophy, like aesthetics and metaphysics, is just one more venerable subactivity in the larger form. So there’s a sense in which Rorty has continued to play the game. The question is: by what rules has he been playing by? Rorty’s bad reputation largely comes from the idea that he really did give up on arguments and that arguments are essential components of good philosophical activity. After all, so goes this line, if philosophy really is a conversation, isn’t the right thing to oppose to an asserted claim a counterclaim backed by a justifying argument? Isn’t there something pernicious about not meeting arguments with another argument, something that amounts to plugging your ears and squawking “la-la-la-la-la-la-la!” Rorty has struck some philosophers as wanting his cake and eating, too: remaining in the game without playing by the rules. “But whose rules?” replies Rorty. However, that being said, if Rorty is to commend his own philosophy, there does need to be some sort of explicatable standard according to which he can be shown to not be violating. This is the hard thing to do.

“Philosophy is a conversation” was the first metaphor introduced so let us tangle with its implications first. The notion of a “conversation” gives off a sense of dynamism that’s missing when you read one article or book, but gets re-introduced once you start putting articles and books side by side, “in conversation with each other,” as we say. However—these are still all just theories in a certain sense, a sense James gives when he says: “theories thus become instruments, not answers to enigmas, in which we can rest.”[fn.8] Instruments for what? It is paramount that we answer: both for problems outside of philosophy and problems within philosophy. It is hard to keep these two things in view at the same time, and James, Dewey, and Rorty struggled their entire careers to articulate a conception of philosophy that balanced both in a single vision. James and Dewey—because this was against the understanding of the times—typically overemphasized problems outside of philosophy. This was Dewey’s sense of philosophy arising from our contact with the world, in all of its manifestations, for example the story he tells in The Quest for Certainty. Philosophy cut off from the world’s problems, then, is what creates scholasticism, the pointless counting of angels on pinheads. But since all responses are responses to the world in some fashion—even that terribly narrow portion of reality called “philosophy books and the conundrums you’ll find therein”—philosophers cut themselves off from the work of other philosophers at the cost of seeming to play a game by themselves.

This can be fruitful—what, after all, is a philosophical treatise other than, on our first metaphor, a monologue? As I said before, there’s something static about just one vision being articulated, but as Michael Walzer once said, “there are times when we need to listen to a sustained argument, a linear discourse.”[fn.9] This is what Rorty’s detractors feel is missing from Rorty’s later work: there’s no sustained argument. Rorty’s student, Brandom, spent nearly 700 pages articulating a philosophy of language. That’s a long time by yourself, but the game Brandom wanted to set up was intricate and he needed a lot of space, a lot of time alone. So Brandom spent a long time by himself, cut off from other philosophers (in a fashion), and set up his own game to play. What’s Rorty doing? He doesn’t want to set up his own game, he says, but he continues to spend time with other people’s games. What kind of game is this if you do spend some time by yourself (in essays), but it’s primarily with other people’s larger, more intricate games?

Rorty, like his predecessors James and Dewey, wanted philosophy to be a response to life. The principal slice of life Rorty spent his life responding to was philosophy. Uncertain about what was worth standing behind that was philosophical, what was worth pouring energy into creating and strengthening that wouldn’t look like wasted effort tomorrow (when Hobbes the Future changes the rules), Rorty…quit Princeton and moved to Montana to ride horses? No, he spent his life writing about and defending pragmatism, a big fat something if there ever was. So what kind of game is pragmatism and how does one play it?

Rorty’s answer was always that it wasn’t, properly speaking, a game at all, not like say Brandom’s systematic philosophy of language. This is his emphasis that pragmatism—under whose banner he gathered a large number of his favorite philosophers, from Gadamer and Derrida to Dennett and Arthur Fine—only makes negative points against positive programs.[fn.10] But if pragmatism is to be a coherent object at all—something that deserves a single name, even if it is more like a family name than it is a single individual’s—there must be a central vision around which can be identified rules that can come under violation: you need to be able to know whether you are a pragmatist or not outside of the fact that Rorty says you are. Rorty has run the range of derision to teasing about his lists, appropriations, and self-conscious ignorings of his “heroes.”[fn.11] But there is a central vision—why can’t this be the game, the system, the positive program?

“What kind of game is a list of negatives?” Rorty might say. What kind of game is a list of “don’ts” rather than a list of “shoulds or cans”? Every game comes not only with a list of things to prepare for the game (where to sit, what to have like dice, etc.) and a list of rules for how play proceeds (“if you land on a Chance space, draw a card and follow its instructions”), but also the all-important “Getting Started” section. Pragmatism is like a game with a list of things you can’t do, but nowhere does it tell you how to even get started with the game. And that is a horrible way to teach people how to be philosophers, for it tells you nothing about what to philosophize about. In fact, the answer is something like “anything you want,” but what if you philosophize about stuff nobody cares about? Playing solitaire gets kind of boring after a while.

But “anything you want” is the entire impetus behind pragmatism being a movement for putting philosophy back into the flow of life—you set your own agenda so that you can respond to the currents and corrugations of life. There is still this nagging problem for Rorty, though: his particular slice of life he’s chosen to focus on is still philosophy. This is like saying that his agenda is the management of “don’ts.” What are these “don’ts” and why should someone like Rorty be in charge of them? The core of Rorty’s answer emerged fully in his 1979 Presidential Address to the Eastern Division of the APA: “Pragmatists follow Hegel in saying that ‘philosophy is its time grasped in thought.’ Anti-pragmatists follow Plato in striving for an escape from conversation to something atemporal which lies in the background of all possible conversations. I do not think one can decide between Hegel and Plato save by meditating on the past efforts of the philosophical tradition to escape from time and history” (CP 174). Rorty is in charge of the list of “don’ts” because it is a list built out of an experience playing with and looking-on over the games played by others. When a game breaks down or is superseded by another, there stands Rorty trying to figure out why. This “why” is then trotted out as an explanation for other breakdowns—if it works, then it is added as a “don’t”: a warning that if you try and set up your game in such-and-such a fashion, it will breakdown when it reaches such-and-such a point under such-and-such a pressure. One of the easiest examples is the Cartesian skeptic: he will always reply, when you think you know something, “how do you know?” To every response, he simply adds another, “So how do you know that?” The Cartesian game needs a reply to the skeptic that will get him to shut up. No reply, so thinks Rorty and a growing cadre of like-minded philosophers (e.g., Michael Williams), will shut the skeptic up because the criteria for shutting him up are impossible to fulfill. Once you allow the Matrix response as a serious, legitimate response—“what if I were to tell you that this is all a dream?”—to any particular phenomenological experience, then you’ve effectively made it appropriate and relevant to every experience. This is what the Cartesian problematic of beginning with methodological doubt does, so Rorty—following Peirce—says don’t start there.

One of the curious things about pragmatism, then of course, is that it is as much an experimental inquiry as any other. The list of “don’t’s” is grown out of watching experimentations in “shoulds.” The “don’ts” themselves, though, must be experimented on—fiat is not a good reason. “Don’t take things simply by authoritative fiat” we’ve learned through the course of history. Yet—sometimes you need to, like the parents who want to shut up their kid who’s doing his best impersonation of a Cartesian skeptic: “Why? Why? Why? Why?” We don’t have all the answers all the time, so sometimes we have to stop, to block the road of inquiry so we can go on to do something else, and one does that by fiat—one gains legitimate authority for such measures by wielding them only when appropriate. So pragmatism’s list of “don’ts” come with an elaboration of circumstances for appropriateness. As Fish has said, the pragmatist’s principles are “rules of thumb.”

I’d like to go back now to Rorty’s argumentative strategies and the rules of the game he plays and why it’s legitimate. The game of pragmatism, so far stated, consists in a freescape impinged only by a list of “don’ts.” This, on its face, doesn’t seem right, unless “don’t kill people” is suddenly a specifically pragmatist principle. So, the game of pragmatism is first and foremost a philosophical game. As a philosophical game, it doesn’t need to have explicitly rules from other games, it only needs to be able to account for their possibility (recurring to Sellars’ definition in [fn.2]). So there’s a weird sense in which philosophical games are one among many, and yet contain the others within it. The game of pragmatism’s mantra is something like: “get back to life!” which is all those other games. However, this isn’t a disparagement of philosophy, merely the principle that if you can’t make your philosophical game relevant to other games, then you’re doing it wrong. So the philosopher who wants to be a pragmatist has one of two choices: they can either fiddle around with other games in relationship to their philosophical game (i.e. the game of seeing how things hang together) or they can fiddle around with other philosophical games in relationship to their philosophical game. It is this latter practice which is the game of managing the list of “don’ts” by which other hopeful pragmatists keep an eye on in their freescaping. Since philosophical games are both responses to life and tools for improving life, one set of philosophical tools should consist in improving your philosophical tools so they don’t make your life worse. Pragmatism is the game of making sure your philosophical tools are working properly by making sure you can get back to other games with them. (For example, if you can’t shut the skeptic up, you may never have enough confidence that there is an external world out there, and never make it to the In-N-Out you're dying for.)

This doesn’t yet get to Rorty’s own form of list-management. The model I want to suggest for understanding the distinction between philosophy-as-freescaping and metaphilosophy-as-list-management is of war. This is an old metaphor certainly, but what needs to be highlighted is the difference between articulating a strategy and enacting a strategy. On this model, philosophy is what happens when battle is joined between real, live opponents. Metaphilosophy is the devising of strategies for what you would do if a particular kind of opponent appeared before you. Outside of actual war, of course, is peace and all the other kinds of activities one could be doing if one weren’t in the middle of a war. We might say that Rorty’s career, on this model, went something like this: a grunt fighting in the trenches (60s and 70s—e.g., “Mind-Body Identity, Privacy, and Categories” and “Incorrigibility as a Mark of the Mental”) to a captain managing a squadron (Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature) to a general on the field (Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity) to a Professor of Tactics at West Point, teaching the grunts, captains, and generals what they should probably do if they get caught in certain kinds of situations (I’m thinking particularly of the series called “Hope in Place of Knowledge” in Philosophy and Social Hope).

Saying that, however, skews the point of making philosophy a freescape that anyone can do because philosophy is a response and tool for life and we are all living. What we should rather say is that the grunts are all of us in our daily lives, dealing with live, flesh and blood people, and all of us dealing with problems (some of which arise from dealing with each other). The captains we might call “intellectuals,” the kind of person that has gained a reputation—for whatever reason: town elder, supernerd, academic, journalist, therapist, parent—for being able to help with other people’s problems. The generals, on this model, are philosophy professors (I should just say “readers,” but nearly the only people who concentrate hard on books from the philosophy shelves are professional philosophers). They are this because of what Rorty said: they deal almost entirely with the people who keep changing the rules of the game. The difference between clarifying a problem and changing it so you can deal with it better is negligible when you reach this height, overlooking the game of life. And then there’s Rorty: the Tactics Professor, retired and not even on the playing field anymore. What rubs people the wrong way is that Rorty seems to want to tell people how to play the game without anymore playing the game.

“Playing the game” in this sense is giving arguments. The trouble for this prima facie criticism of Rorty is that he does give arguments. What he doesn’t do is sustain them for very long, giving off a sense of being more and more distant from the feeling of being involved in philosophical controversy. And this because of the sweep with which Rorty wishes to encompass, a sweep built less out of an ambitious philosophical gaze (like Brandom’s) and more out of impatience for getting back to things that are probably more important. I say “probably” because I don’t think Rorty ever did shake the sense that meeting philosophical opponents wasn’t a good thing to do. Rorty was glad that Brandom did the things he was able to see him do. He didn’t keep doing philosophy because he needed to pay bills or had nothing better to do (though I imagine some days it felt like it), he did it because he wanted pragmatism to win. He wanted his game to triumph. He did have a horse on the battlefield (to mix metaphors even more quickly than I have so far).

So how, finally, do you manage a negative system? Rorty’s rhetorical pattern—from nearly beginning to end—was to talk about something bigger than himself: whatever ism he was promoting that day. What this allowed him to do was forward arguments that were depersonalized: like generals moving pieces on a Risk board. Rorty wanted to win, but you’re able to relax a little bit more and learn more when you take a little of your pride out of it by such a depersonalizing maneuver. You are not your theories, though there isn’t much more to you than that (at least once you expand the notion of a “theory” to the size that James used). We make growing easier through such an attitude. The second pattern that attached itself to the first was to talk of strategies: the strategy strategy. For pragmatists, beliefs are habits of action. Philosophy is the refinement of belief, not through experimental action to see its consequence, but through projection based on similarity of past cases of action. When you philosophize, you tinker with your habits, which themselves are in place to guide your action when the moment arrives. And when you think about philosophy as first and foremost a dialectical encounter with other philosophers, then you’ll talk about what you would do and say should you meet another philosopher. This is the form that system-building takes for a series of negatives: a list of hypotheticals. If such-and-such a condition is met, then I would do such-and-such.

Rorty’s later writings, when they were philosophical, had the simplifying and unsustained quality they did because he was thinking of the future: his goal was to teach the dialectical techniques and gambits that are, while not being themselves sophisticated (because a sophisticated technique spells several pages), in relatively good working order as first responses. I don’t think Rorty ever expected his shorter and shorter arguments to end argument. He wanted, rather, to display some of the tactics that come in handy and chart what, if an actual encounter should find you victorious, the consequences are having used such gambits. If you doubt the veracity of someone’s claim, you might say, “How do you know?” What Rorty wanted to make sure people knew is when pressing that claim turns into a monster and how you might avoid creating that monster, or believing that the monster really exists whether you created him or not. Is such a mode of philosophizing frivolous and disingenuous? Only if introductory manuals are. Only if kindergarten is. People have to start somewhere, and Rorty made the ambitious, courageous, and unenviable attempt to try and write for people who weren’t philosophy professors. It’s much easier to talk to people in your clique, where you don’t need to explain why you do the things you do. What made philosophers peeved at Rorty was that his simplifying maneuvers ended the argument before they wanted to see it closed. So it always must if you wish to move on to something else—Rorty’s mistake, if you will, was to continue to read, appreciate, and haggle with the top guns in the field and try and make them too-quickly-relevant to the other problems Rorty wished to discuss. I’m not sure this is irresponsible. It would only be irresponsible if people thought that a philosopher’s duty was to foreclose on argument—to end the argument. But Rorty only wished to move it further. The trick to understanding Rorty’s accomplishment in his later phase might be in considering them as advanced introductions—or rather, introductions for advanced thinkers. The sophisticated can become stale tramping around in their tired patterns and circumlocutions, and understanding Rorty’s thought might be to understand Emerson’s notion of self-reliance as a mature youth.


[1] Bernstein, “Philosophy in the Conversation of Mankind” in Philosophical Profiles, 23. I cannot quite figure why Bernstein has quotes around “position” and not “correct.” The standard ironic handling of, from their point of view, philosophically circumspect notions that Bernstein and Rorty share would suggest this was a mistake, but it is in the original printing of the article, too. The only real suggestion I can give about the semantic alteration if they are scare-quotes is that Bernstein is suggesting that Rorty finds the notion of a philosophical position as suspect as (and/or part and parcel with) argument. This is plausible, though out of joint with where Bernstein is in his elaboration and, I think, ultimately misleading about Rorty. To suggest that Rorty’s attempting to conceive of a positionless position is absurd on its face, but the difficulty of finding a comfortable position in a given array of positions that all look uncomfortable is a real motif that came out of PMN.

[2] Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism, xli. The capitalization in “Philosophy” is due to Rorty’s distinction earlier between a nonprofessional “philosophy,” which at best is captured by Wilfrid Sellars’ definition “an attempt to see how things, in the broadest possible sense of the term, hang together, in the broadest possible sense of the term” (xiv), and professional “Philosophy,” which centers around “interlocking Platonic notions” whose conceptual shape is taken from the impetus to ask “questions about the nature of certain normative notions (e.g., ‘truth,’ ‘rationality,’ ‘goodness’) in the hope of better obeying such norms” (xv, emphasis mine).

[3] Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, 8-9

[4] The claim of “parasitism” has a submerged history in Rorty’s argumentative arc that is too much to excavate here. However, it would trace itself through Rorty’s peculiar understanding of Kant’s transcendental argument, in which Davidson’s argument in “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme” eventually becomes cast as the “transcendental argument to end all arguments” (in “Transcendental Argument, Self-Reference, and Pragmatism” in Transcendental Arguments and Science, ed. Peter Bieri et al., 1979, 78), to his notion of irony in CIS which is first experimented with in “Is There a Problem about Fictional Discourse?” (in CP). The two aforementioned papers were written about the same time, when PMN was in its final stages of composition.

[5] Rorty, “Recent Metaphilosophy” in Review of Metaphysics Dec. 1961, 301

[6] There’s actually quite a lot to be made of Calvinball as an analogy to life, particularly insofar as one focuses on Calvin’s need to follow the rules as Hobbes makes them up and compares that to Kant and Hegel on the bindingness of norms, particularly as Robert Brandom explicates them.

[7] Quietism is essentially an outgrowth of the idea of philosophy as therapy that Wittgenstein pioneered. For some of Rorty’s thoughts about recent terminology and the struggle over Wittgenstein, see “Naturalism and Quietism” and “Wittgenstein and the Linguistic Turn” in Philosophy as Cultural Politics. While siding with quietists in the former, he makes a distinction between “Wittgensteinian therapists,” the quietists, and “pragmatic Wittgensteinians,” and sides with the pragmatists against the quietists. This is an interesting move that would pay for more thought, especially given the movement between his appeal to Davidson’s “passing theory” argument in CIS (14) and his later criticism of that same section of Davidson’s “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs”: “In the case at hand, they wonder whether the ability to cope with Mrs. Malaprop need be described as the ability to converge with her on any sort of theory, any more than the ability of two bicyclists to avoid collision is an ability to agree on a passing theory of passing” (“Response to Donald Davidson” in Rorty and His Critics, ed. Robert Brandom, 75). The “they” opposed to Davidson in that passage are “Wittgensteinians,” and specifically “therapeutic Wittgensteinians.” Given Rorty’s career-long loyalty to Wittgenstein and Davidson as philosophical heroes, ferreting out the ratios of difference given shifted terrain in these instances would give us a good picture of Rorty’s philosophical instincts.

[8] James, “What Pragmatism Means” in Pragmatism

[9] Walzer, “A Critique of Philosophical Conversation” in Thinking Politically, 30. This is a fascinating article, principally about various kinds of ideal-speech theories wielded for political purposes (in particular Habermas). Walzer is that exemplary kind of political philosopher who keeps very well before him the distinction between theory and the real world, the unquestioned need for both, and the unquestioned primacy of the problems of the real world.

[10] For example, after block-quoting Peirce, Derrida, Sellars, Wittgenstein, Gadamer, Foucault, and Heidegger all in a row on the so-called “linguistic turn” in philosophy, Rorty says, “This chorus should not, however, lead us to think that something new and exciting has recently been discovered about Language—e.g., that it is more prevalent than had previously been thought. The authors cited are making only negative points” (CP xx).

[11] I’m thinking of, in particular, Deweyans who point out that Rorty violates a significant portion of Dewey’s corpus. See the exchanges in Rorty and Pragmatism, ed. Herman J. Saatkamp, as a representative selection of criticism and how he responds to it. On the teasing end, there’s my favorite from Dennett: “Since I, as an irremediably narrow-minded and unhistorical analytic philosopher, am always looking for a good excuse not to have read Hegel or Heidegger or Derrida or those other chaps who don’t have the decency to think in English, I am tempted by Rorty’s performance on this occasion to enunciate a useful hermeneutical principle, the Rorty Factor: Take whatever Rorty says about anyone’s views and multiply it by .742. After all, if Rorty can find so much more in my own writing than I put there, he’s probably done the same or better for Heidegger – which means I can save myself the trouble of reading Heidegger; I can just read Rorty’s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and come out about 40% ahead” (“Comments on Rorty” in Synthese 53 (1982), 349-50). Dennett, like Rorty, is his own kind of bizarre philosophical character, and this short piece has some very interesting insights into Rorty’s procedure, all the more so because of their disagreements about how to express themselves metaphilosophically.

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