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Philosophy and Social Hope Paperback – Jan 1 2000

4.1 out of 5 stars 18 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 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #173,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on July 29 2016
Format: Paperback
While I likely have been a pragmatist a good portion of my adult life, I have never really tested the depth of my beliefs until I read this collection of essays. Yes, it is okay to have principles and doubts at the same time. Pragmatism, as Rorty argues it, is the philosophy that allows us to believe that a concept or idea can only be shown to be ideal as long as it seeks to logically include, wherever possible, the greatest number of human conditions. As we progress towards that point when the ideal of human equality becomes universal, Rorty believes we have a duty to be engaged in even greater debate, discussion, and compromise in an effort to achieve greater inclusion.There is little that is deductively assumed or prescriptive about this process other than the need to act logically and consequentially when in raising greater moral awareness and acceptance. This sense of progress is both collective and discursive, as it challenges absolutist positions based on doctrinal assumptions that usually paints themselves into the proverbial corner of doom and gloom. Rorty seems to be calling his readers to open their minds as to new intellectual possibilities that will challenge us to make better choices as to how we treat others in relation to ourselves. I especially liked the two essays on Heidegger and his dead-end search for the perfect political system, and Umberto Eco's work in the field of semiotics - meaning through signs and languages. The relevance of laws will only improve as we make an increased effort to understand their meaning and application across our culture and beyond. There is no room in Rorty's thinking, and mine for that matter, for purists who advocate a total conformity to ideas of national greatness dressed up as eternal verities. The only really important principle governing his life was the need to act responsibly in relation to everyone else regardless of color or creed.
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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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