Saturday, June 09, 2007

Richard Rorty dead

The Telos website reports that the American liberal philosopher Richard Rorty died on Friday.

I recommend Rorty's Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity as one of the best examinations of what it means to be a liberal in the modern world. It consists largely of discussions of writers such as Orwell and Nabokov.

Rorty is normally seen as one of the trendier postmodern philosophers, questioning our notions of truth. But if I am honest I like this book because it represents a rather old-fashioned sort of literary criticism. Rorty still believed that good novels can tell us important things about the world and how we should live our lives.

Thanks to Crooked Timber.

Later. Christopher Hayes writes on the Nation site:
Rorty had an uncanny ability to stare into the post-modern abyss, in which nothing is grounded in the divine or universal, and yet somehow, some way, find a kind of practical empathy that could serve as a beacon in the face of nihilism, authoritarianism and cruelty.


Joe Otten said...

Must read some Rorty at some point I guess to come to a proper opinion.

But would you agree, Jonathan, that, in general, postmodernists are part of the assault on the enlightenment, and therefore conservative, not liberal.

Jonathan Calder said...

Yes, do read Rorty. Whether you agree with him or not, his lucid prose style and his ability to take his readers on a journey with him make him the best sort of public philosopher.

I see the modern Liberal revival in Britain since the days of Jo Grimond as a postmodernism. It orginated in dissatisfaction with the grand narratives of post-war politics and a recognition that the solutions to the problems we face are likely to be local and contingent, not theoretical and imposed from on high.

Of course, there are plenty in the party who see the Lib Dems' role as preserving the mould of post-war politics, but I am not one of them.

Anonymous said...

As a philosopher from Hungary I would join Jonathan's opinion. Rorty has taught us with the help of his works, elegant, humorous (lots of times sarcastic), elegant and enjoyable style to face the latest challenges of our world. I hope his "Contingecy" book will be taught in most of colleges and universities. (Alexander Kremer)