This is the 4th volume of Rorty's Philosophical Papers, and the 1st volume since his retirement from Stanford University. This 4th collection is not as summoning as his 3rd, and although it is as diverse in topics as the 3rd collection it is not as specific in its topics compared to the 3rd or 2nd collection.
Rorty has etched out his place in contemporary philosophy by arguing much to the same critique of philosophy for over 20 years. But he has had many interesting ideas (with their inherent controversies). What has increased is the diversity of the subject matter that he considers relevant to his overall themes, and also, he writes more elegantly and simply than he used to write (compare this volume with the collection in Consequences of Pragmatism: Essays, 1972-1980).
I will give a summary of each argument in each essay by finding the most representative quote within each essay....If these arguments do not interest you, but you're still interested in Rorty, I would suggest Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (a critique of representationalism), Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (Rorty's infamous "liberal ironist"), and Achieving Our Country : Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (Rorty's political manifesto). Or, check out the book list I created on Amazon entitled "Richard Rorty"
CULTURAL POLITICS AND THE QUESTION OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
"I want to argue that cultural politics should replace ontology, and also that whether it should or not is itself a matter of cultural politics" (pg. 5).
PRAGMATISM AND ROMANTIC POLYTHEISM
"You are a polytheist if you think that there is no actual or possible object of knowledge that would permit you to commensurate and rank all human needs. Isaiah Berlin's well-known doctrine of immensurable human values is, in my sense, a polytheistic manifesto. Polytheism...is pretty much coextensive with romantic utilitarianism....no way of ranking human needs...Mill's `On Liberty' provides all the ethical instruction you need" (pg. 30).
JUSTICE AS A LARGER LOYALTY
"Should we describe such moral dilemmas as conflicts between loyalty and justice, or rather, as I have suggested between loyalties to smaller groups and loyalties to larger groups?" (pg. 44).
"Honesty and honorableness are measured by the degree of coherence of the stories people tell themselves and come to believe" (pg. 68).
GRANDEUR, PROFUNDITY, AND FINITUDE
"The main reason for philosophy's marginalization...is the same as the reason why the warfare between science and theology looks quaint - the fact that nowadays we are all commonsensically materialist and utilitarian....further reason...the quarrels which, in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, gradually replaced the warfare between the gods and the giants - the quarrels between philosophy and poetry and between philosophy and sophistry - have themselves become quaint" (pg. 87).
PHILOSOPHY AS A TRANSITIONAL GENRE
"We think that inquiry is just another name for problem-solving, and we cannot imagine inquiry into how human beings should live, into what we should make ourselves, coming to an end. For solutions to old problems will produce fresh problems, and so on forever" (pg. 89).
PRAGMATISM AND ROMANTICISM
"...imagination is the source of freedom because it is the source of language...Nothing at all was obvious, because obviousness is not a notion that can be applied to organisms that do not use language...imagination is not a distinctively human capacity...But giving and asking for reasons is distinctively human, and coextensive with rationality. The more an organism can get what it wants by persuasion rather than force, the more rational it is" (pg. 114-115).
ANALYTIC AND CONVERSATIONAL PHILOSOPHY
"I am suggesting we drop the term `continental' and instead contrast analytic philosophy with conversational philosophy. This change would shift attention from differences between job requirements imposed on young philosophers in different regions of the world to issues I just sketched: that there is something that philosophers can get right. The term `getting it right'...is appropriate only when everybody interested in the topics draws pretty much the same inferences from the same assertions" (pg. 124).
A PRAGMATIST VIEW OF CONTEMPORARY ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY
"...we should be neither realist nor antirealists, that the entire realism-antirealism issue should be set aside" (pg. 133). "In the sort of culture I hope our remote descendants may inhabit, the philosophical literature about realism and antirealism will have been aestheticized in the way that we moderns have aestheticized medieval disputations about the ontological status of universals" (pg. 137).
NATURALISM AND QUIETISM
"Most people who think of themselves in the quietist camps, as I do, would hesitate to say that the problems studied by our activist colleagues are unreal. [Rather, we divide philosophical problems] into those that retain some relevance to cultural politics and those that do not" (pg. 149; my brackets).
WITTGENSTEIN AND THE LINGUISTIC TURN
"I shall divide three views of Wittgenstein, corresponding to three ways of thinking about the so-called `linguistic turn in philosophy'" (pg. 160). These views include "naturalists," "Wittgensteinian therapists," and "pragmatic Wittgensteinians." (Rorty is in the third camp). Rorty argues 2 things: "there is no interesting sense in which philosophical problems are problems of language,...and the linguistic turn was useful nevertheless, for it turned philosophers'' attentions from the topic of experience toward that of linguistic behavior. That shift helped break the hold of empiricism - and, more broadly, representationalism" (pg. 160).
HOLISM AND HISTORICISM
"[If you are like a holist] you will try...to explain how certain organisms managed to become rational by telling stories about how various different practices came into being. You will be more interested in historical change than in neurobiological arrangements" (pg. 176).
KANT VS. DEWEY
Against the moral philosophers in the Kantian tradition and in support of the Deweyian, Rorty writes, "To say that moral principles have no inherent nature is to imply that they have no distinct source. They emerge from our encounters with our surroundings in the same way that hypotheses about planetary motion, codes of etiquette, epic poems, and all our other patterns of linguistic behavior emerge" (pg. 192).