Mr. Rorty’s enormous body of work, which ranged from academic tomes to magazine and newspaper articles, provoked fervent praise, hostility and confusion. But no matter what even his severest critics thought of it, they could not ignore it. When his 1979 book “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” came out, it upended conventional views about the very purpose and goals of philosophy. The widespread notion that the philosopher’s primary duty was to figure out what we can and cannot know was poppycock, Mr. Rorty argued. Human beings should focus on what they do to cope with daily life and not on what they discover by theorizing.
To accomplish this, he relied primarily on the only authentic American philosophy, pragmatism, which was developed by John Dewey, Charles Peirce, William James and others more than 100 years ago. “There is no basis for deciding what counts as knowledge and truth other than what one’s peers will let one get away with in the open exchange of claims, counterclaims and reasons,” Mr. Rorty wrote. In other words, “truth is not out there,” separate from our own beliefs and language. And those beliefs and words evolved, just as opposable thumbs evolved, to help human beings “cope with the environment” and “enable them to enjoy more pleasure and less pain.”
Sunday, June 10, 2007
From The New York Times: