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Philosophy and Social Hope Paperback – Jan 1 2000

4.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (Jan. 1 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140262881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140262889
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #67,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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About the Author

Richard Rorty is Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of PHILSOPHY AND THE MIRROR OF NATURE, CONTINGENCY, IRONY AND SOLIDARITY, and ACHIEVING OUR COUNTRY.

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The epithet 'relativist' is applied to philosophers who agree with Nietzsche that ' "Truth" is the will to be master of the multiplicity of sensations'. Read the first page
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Format: Paperback
The essays collected in Philosophy and Social Hope cover a pretty wide span, from philosophy (of course) to academia to literature to politics, but they rarely fail to be interesting and accessible. I particularly enjoyed some of the early essays, which serve as an excellent introduction to pragmatism, an set of ideas I previously wasn't very familiar with. This was because I'd recently thought myself into an intelllectual corner of sorts, and certain aspects of pragmatism provided a neat way out. I don't agree with all aspects of it, but the ones I disagree with were still useful to read about.
On the less philosophical topics, Rorty is a bit less consistent. His perspectives on academia are quite interesting, and certainly backed up with personal experience, but on politics he is not as good. His knowledge of politics and economics doesn't seem to be particularly exhaustive, and he often fails to back up his assertions with specific examples or verifiable evidence. Rorty's political writings are still worth reading, and I agree with most of his opinions, but he isn't nearly as cogent or authoritative there as in philosophy.
There are also a couple of essays that I just skipped over because they seemed to be obscure commentaries on intellectual disputes I knew nothing about. This is not a widespread problem in the book, though, and it is well worth reading whether or not you have philosophical background knowledge. (My own knowledge of that area is pretty limited.)
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Format: Paperback
Rorty is one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries not because he offers a new theory or new system, but precisely because he is so good at warning us about getting addicted to theories and systems. For this he is hated by many philosophers, despised by many in the literati, scorned by metaphysicians and clerics (as a nihilist or relativist), and reviled by philosophical purists who believe he gleefully misreads the works of their heros and masters.
But like acid on the dross of idiotic or, to be more charitable, useless ideas which have led many a thinker into the deep and twisted woods of high theory, never to be seen again, Rorty pours out his neo-pragmatist criticisms on the various "isms" that claim to be more in touch with the "real world" than their competitors. What is left after the acid bath is a stark realization that there is little that we have to build a better world than our strenuously forged concessions, compromises, agreements, collaborations, and conversations about what in fact having a better world means. This antifoundational view leaves wholly unsatisfied people who believe that something more concrete is needed to build the world into something more salutary and livable than it was yesterday. Rorty tells the reader that there is nothing more concrete than he or she, that the need for rationalist foundations is a diversion from the true font of social hope and freedom. In this, he surpasses even John Dewey in democratic credentials, although this is seen as heresy in many philosophical circles. Unlike Dewey, Rorty offers no decision procedure for democratic practice. He bids us only to go and be democrats (his preference), or come up with your own good reasons for going in another direction.
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Format: Paperback
As I am only a moderetly well-read senior in High school, I really can't comment on this book from the perspective of a philosopher. I will openly admit that many of the names and a few of the concepts that Rorty presented flew right over my head. Yet I really enjoyed the book. I may be wrong in thinking this, but I believe this book to be a great stepping stone between the sort of "50 Great Philosophers" books and hard-core theory, wether it be James, Nietzsche, Dewey, Kant, whoever. A sort of Intelligent layman introduction to modern Pragmatist thought. While I do realize that much of Rorty's works are nothing to spectacular in the academic world, but, speaking as an outsider to that world, I must say that his ideas seemed revolutionary, compared with the traditional wisdom and common sense most of us are taught day in and day out. I mean, up until I read this book, the most supreme philosophical concept that tore me apart was the objective-subjective dualism. And here comes Rorty telling me that objective-subjective is a diachotomy that doesn't matter. Not really mind blowing, but definetly more to chew on, and I do so love that. Thus, philosophically, I think this is a great collection. Politically though...Well, let's just say when it's possible for *ME* to find the holes in the arguments, they are shallow arguments indeed. It's not so much that I disagree with Rorty (infact, I whole heartedly agree with 90% of the politics he presents in this book) so much as the fact that he comes off more as a political outsider with a sort of Everyman understanding of History, Economics, and Politics. But, as Rorty says in this collection (another thing that's obvious yet I can never seem to manage), we should not judge a philosopher by his politics, and vice versa.Read more ›
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After reading an endless number of books and articles where Richard Rorty is treated as the devil or just a bad joke, I realized that I'd never read him myself. This book not only served as a splendid introduction, it conlfirms and refutes some of the demonizations Rorty has recieved.
Rorty's often ben labeled as an anti-American lefty who spews forth dangerous 'relativism's and even worst 'postmodernisn's. Most of this, we learn, is quite wrong. Rorty is actually one of the more optimistic of the leftist intellectuals. Early in the book, he even takes them to task for being so gloomy, possibly due to an aggrandized nostalgia for Marxism and Postmodernism. The claim that Rorty is a relativist may or may not be true, depending on where you stand. He takes the unusual turn of denying the faculty of reason, but truly, I think there is a place for it in Rorty's philosophy. Instead of reason being the took that grasps reality as it is, in Rorty's framework, reason has the inflated role of choosing between alternatives. His denial of 'objective' human rights is bothering to some, but the same rules apply. What we call human rights, are simply agreed upon human preferences, although many see this (correctly?) as relativism.
There are though, a few major flaws with Rorty. His notion of progress is 'evolutionary.' What is the pragmatic view of the future? To make things better. How? We'll know when we get there. Rorty likens this to evolution, and in some ways he is correct. Biological evolution though, can only be judged in retrospect. We know that adapatations survive because they work, but we can only judge their effectiveness in hindsight. Contrary to Rorty's view, culutral evolution doesn't work that way. Here, the question NEEDS to be framed.
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