Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: February 2011

7 - Richard Rorty and the Riddle of the Book that Never Was


I have spent 40 years looking for a coherent and convincing way of formulating my worries about what, if anything, philosophy is good for.

Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty led a fascinating philosophical life. As his intellectual biographer Neil Gross has shown, he stood at the center of the American philosophical profession's most strident debates throughout the last quarter of the twentieth century and the first part of the twenty-first. As somebody who allied himself with, in the words of Gross, “the rigorism of the analytic paradigm in the 1960s,” only to later abandon it in favor of the “anti-rigorist movement of the 1970s and 1980s,” he is the perfect case study for examining the general drift toward pluralism within recent American academic philosophy. Despite Rorty's early career-building efforts on behalf of the dominant analytic community (which Gross ably recounts), his true legacy will rest with his efforts to both broaden and deprovincialize his profession (something that Gross motions toward, but does not fully explore). Rorty did everything he could to expand the horizons of American philosophy – so much so that it may have contributed to his untimely death from pancreatic cancer in 2007. When Rorty learned of the diagnosis, he jokingly told Jürgen Habermas that, as his daughter had put it, his cancer was most likely the result of reading too much Heidegger. After all, as Rorty reminded Habermas, Jacques Derrida, another avid reader of Heidegger, died as a result of the same illness in 2004.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Rorty, Richard, “Trotsky and the Wild Orchids,” Philosophy and Social Hope (New York: Penguin, 1999)
Edmundson, Mark, ed., Wild Orchids and Trotsky: Messages from American Universities (New York: Viking, 1993), 29–50
Gross, Neil, Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2008), 284
Rorty, Richard, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979)
West, Cornel, The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989), 199
Rorty, Richard, “Introduction: Pragmatism and Philosophy,” Consequences of Pragmatism (Essays: 1972–1980) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982), xiv
Kołakowski, Leszek, Metaphysical Horror, revised edition edited by Agnieszka Kołakowska (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2001), 8
Rorty, Richard, ed., The Linguistic Turn: Recent Essays in Philosophical Method (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967)
Kuklick, Bruce, A History of Philosophy in America, 1720–2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 276
Wrathall, Mark and Malpas, Jeff, eds., Heidegger, Authenticity, and Modernity: Essays in Honor of Hubert L. Dreyfus, Volume 1 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2000), ix-x
Rorty, Richard, Consequences of Pragmatism (Essays: 1972–1980) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982)
West, Cornel, The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989), 194–197
Kloppenberg, James T., “Pragmatism: An Old Name for Some New Ways of Thinking?Journal of American History 83 (June 1996), 100–138
Pettegrew, John, ed., A Pragmatist's Progress? Richard Rorty and American Intellectual History (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000), 19–60
Menand, Louis, ed., Pragmatism: A Reader (New York: Vintage, 1997), xxv
Habermas, Jürgen, “… And to define America, her athletic democracy: Im Andenken an Richard Rorty,” Ach, Europa: Kleine Politische Schriften XI (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2008), 25
Dreyfus, Hubert L., Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1991)
Heidegger, Martin, An Introduction to Metaphysics, translated by Ralph Manheim (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959)
Guignon, Charles B., “On Saving Heidegger from Rorty,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46:3 (March 1986): 401–417
Hudson, Wayne and Reijen, Wim, “From Philosophy to Post-Philosophy,” Radical Philosophy 32 (Autumn 1982): 1–4
Rorty, Richard, “Antirepresentationalism, ethnocentrism, and liberalism,” Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Collected Philosophical Papers, Volume I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991),16
Rorty, Richard, Achieving Our Country (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1998)
Benjamin, Walter, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, translated by Harry Zohn, edited with an introduction by Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), 255