Richard Rorty

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Richard McKay Rorty (October 4, 1931 in New York CityJune 8, 2007) was an American philosopher and pragmatist.

Quotes[edit]

  • On James's view, "true" resembles "good" or "rational" in being a normative notion, a compliment paid to sentences that seem to be paying their way and that fit with other sentences which are doing so.
    • Introduction to Consequences of Pragmatism (1982)
  • My principal motive is the belief that we can still make admirable sense of our lives even if we cease to have ... "an ambition of transcendence."
    • Introduction to Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers, Volume I (1991).
  • As long as we try to project from the relative and conditioned to the absolute and unconditioned, we shall keep the pendulum swinging between dogmatism and skepticism. The only way to stop this increasingly tiresome pendulum swing is to change our conception of what philosophy is good for. But that is not something which will be accomplished by a few neat arguments. It will be accomplished, if it ever is, by a long, slow process of cultural change – that is to say, of change in common sense, changes in the intuitions available for being pumped up by philosophical arguments.
    • Introduction to Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Volume 3 (1998).
  • Philosophy makes progress not by becoming more rigorous but by becoming more imaginative.
    • Introduction to Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Volume 3 (1998).
  • Truthfulness under oath is, by now, a matter of our civic religion, our relation to our fellow citizens rather than our relation to a nonhuman power.
    • "John Searle on Realism and Relativism." Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Volume 3 (1998).
  • ... our maturation has consisted in the gradual realization that, if we can rely on one another, we need not rely on anything else. In religious terms, this is the Feuerbachian thesis that God is just a projection of the best, and sometimes the worst, of humanity. In philosophical terms, it is the thesis that anything that talk of objectivity can do to make our practices intelligible can be done equally well by talk of intersubjectivity.
    • "John Searle on Realism and Relativism." Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Volume 3 (1998).
  • Nowadays, to say that we are clever animals is not to say something philosophical and pessimistic but something political and hopeful – namely, if we can work together, we can make ourselves into whatever we are clever and courageous enough to imagine ourselves becoming. This is to set aside Kant’s question “What is man?” and to substitute the question “What sort of world can we prepare for our great grandchildren?”
    • "Human Rights, Rationality, and Sentimentality." Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Volume 3 (1998).
  • If I had to lay bets, my bet would be that everything is going to go to hell, but, you know, what else have we got except hope?
    • "Richard Rorty Interviewed by Gideon Lewis-Kraus." The Believer, June 2003.
  • Philosophers get attention only when they appear to be doing something sinister—corrupting the youth, undermining the foundations of civilization, sneering at all we hold dear. The rest of the time everybody assumes that they are hard at work somewhere down in the sub-basement, keeping those foundations in good repair. Nobody much cares what brand of intellectual duct tape is being used.
    • "Philosophical Convictions." The Nation, June 14, 2004.
  • Complaints about the social irresponsibility of the intellectual typically concern the intellectual’s tendency to marginalize herself, to move out from one community by interior identification of herself with some other community—for example, another country or historical period. … It is not clear that those who thus marginalize themselves can be criticized for social irresponsibility. One cannot be irresponsible toward a community of which one does not think of oneself as a member. Otherwise runaway slaves and tunnelers under the Berlin Wall would be irresponsible.
    • “Postmodernist bourgeois liberalism,” Objectivity, Relativism and Truth (Cambridge: 1991), p. 197
  • To abjure the notion of the “truly human” is to abjure the attempt to divinize the self as a replacement for a divinized world.
    • Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989), p. 35

Quotes about Richard Rorty[edit]

  • "Language is not an image of reality", assures Mr. Rorty, a pragmatist and anti-Platonic philosopher. Should we interpret this sentence in the sense Mr. Rorty calls 'Platonic', that is, as a denial of an attribute to one substance? It would be contradictory: a language that is not an image of reality cannot give us a real image of its relations with reality. Therefore, the sentence must be interpreted pragmatically: it does not affirm anything about language, but only indicates the intention to use it in a certain way. The main thesis of Mr. Rorty's thought is a declaration of intentions. The sentence "language is not an image of reality" rigorously means this and nothing else: "I, Richard Rorty, am firmly decided to not use language as an image of reality." It is the sort of unanswerable argument: an expression of someone's will cannot be logically refuted. Therefore, there is nothing to debate: keeping the limits of decency and law, Mr. Rorty can use language as he may wish. The problem appears when he begins to try to make us use language exactly like him. He states that language is not a representation of reality, but rather a set of tools invented by man in order to accomplish his desires. But this is a false alternative. A man may well desire to use this tool to represent reality. It seems that Plato desired precisely this. But Mr. Rorty denies that men have other desires than seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. That some declare to desire something else must be very painful to him, for, on the contrary, there would be no pragmatically valid explanation for the effort he puts in changing the conversation. Given the impossibility to deny that these people exist, the pragmatist will perhaps say that those who look for representing reality are moved by the desire to avoid pain as much as those who prefer to create fantasies; but this objection will have shown precisely that these are not things which exclude each other. The Rortyan alternative is false in its own terms.
    • Olavo de Carvalho, O Imbecil Coletivo ("The Collective Imbecile"), 5th ed., pp. 60-67. Transl. by Pedro Sette Câmara
  • Galileo claimed to have discovered, by astronomical observation through a telescope, that Copernicus was right that the earth revolved around the sun. [Cardinal] Bellarmine claimed that he could not be right because his view ran counter to the Bible. Rorty says, astoundingly, that Bellarmine's argument was just as good as Galileo's. It is just that the rhetoric of "science" had not at that time been formed as part of the culture of Europe. We have now accepted the rhetoric of "science," he writes, but it is not more objective or rational than Cardinal Bellarmine's explicitly dogmatic Catholic views. According to Rorty, there is no fact of the matter about who was right because there are no absolute facts about what justifies what. Bellarmine and Galileo, in his view, just had different epistemic systems.
    • John Searle, "Why Should You Believe It?", The New York Review of Books, 24 September 2009

External links[edit]

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