Rorty, Richard


Rorty, Richard

▪ American philosopher
in full  Richard McKay Rorty 
born Oct. 4, 1931, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died June 8, 2007, Palo Alto, Calif.

      American pragmatist philosopher and public intellectual noted for his wide-ranging critique of the modern conception of philosophy as a quasi-scientific enterprise aimed at reaching certainty and objective truth. In politics he argued against programs of both the left and the right in favour of what he described as a meliorative and reformist “bourgeois liberalism.”

      The son of nonacademic leftist intellectuals who broke with the American Communist Party in the early 1930s, Rorty attended the University of Chicago and Yale University, where he obtained a Ph.D. in 1956. Following two years in the army, he taught philosophy at Wellesley College (1958–61) and Princeton University (1961–82) before accepting a position in the department of humanities at the University of Virginia. From 1998 until his retirement in 2005, Rorty taught comparative literature at Stanford University.

      Rorty's views are somewhat easier to characterize in negative than in positive terms. In epistemology he opposed foundationalism, the view that all knowledge can be grounded, or justified, in a set of basic statements that do not themselves require justification. According to his “epistemological behaviourism,” Rorty held that no statement is epistemologically more basic than any other, and no statement is ever justified “finally” but only relative to some circumscribed and contextually determined set of additional statements. In the philosophy of language (language, philosophy of), Rorty rejected the idea that sentences or beliefs are “true” or “false” in any interesting sense other than being useful or successful within a broad social practice. He also opposed representationism, the view that the main function of language is to represent or picture pieces of an objectively existing reality. Finally, in metaphysics he rejected both realism and antirealism, or idealism, as products of mistaken representationalist assumptions about language.

      Because Rorty did not believe in certainty or absolute truth, he did not advocate the philosophical pursuit of such things. Instead, he believed that the role of philosophy is to conduct an intellectual “conversation” between contrasting but equally valid forms of intellectual inquiry—including science, literature, politics, religion, and many others—with the aim of achieving mutual understanding and resolving conflicts. This general view is reflected in Rorty's political works, which consistently defend traditional left-liberalism and criticize newer forms of “cultural leftism” as well as more conservative positions.

      Rorty defended himself against charges of relativism (ethical relativism) and subjectivism by claiming that he rejected the crucial distinctions these doctrines presuppose. Nevertheless, some critics have contended that his views lead ultimately to relativist or subjectivist conclusions, whether or not Rorty wished to characterize them in those terms. Others have challenged Rorty's interpretation of earlier American pragmatist philosophers and suggested that Rorty's own philosophy is not a genuine form of Pragmatism.

      Rorty's publications include Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Consequences of Pragmatism (1982), and Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989).

Additional Reading
Robert Brandom (ed.), Rorty and His Critics (2000); Alan R. Malachowski, Richard Rorty (2002); Neil Gross, Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher (2008).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rorty, Richard — (1931– ) American philosopher and critic. Educated at Chicago and Yale, Rorty has been professor of humanities at the university of Virginia since 1982. He is widely known as an analytic philosopher who has turned against what he regards as the… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Rorty, Richard McKay — ▪ 2008       American pragmatist philosopher and public intellectual born Oct. 4, 1931, New York, N.Y. died June 8, 2007 , Palo Alto, Calif. was noted for his wide ranging critique of the modern conception of philosophy as a quasi scientific… …   Universalium

  • Rorty, Richard (McKay) — born Oct. 4, 1931, New York, N.Y., U.S. U.S. philosopher. After receiving his Ph.D. at Yale University in 1956, he taught at Wellesley College, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and Stanford University. An opponent of… …   Universalium

  • Rorty, Richard (McKay) — (4 oct. 1931, Nueva York, N.Y. EE.UU.). Filósofo estadounidense. Después de obtener su Ph. D. en la Universidad de Yale en 1956, enseñó en el Wellesley College y en las Universidades de Princeton, Virginia y Stanford. Como opositor del… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • Richard Rorty — Infobox Philosopher region = Western Philosophy era = 20th century philosophy color = #B0C4DE caption = ©Steve Pyke name = Richard McKay Rorty birth = October 4, 1931 flagicon|USA|size=20px New York City, New York death = June 8, 2007 school… …   Wikipedia


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