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Philosophy as Poetry

Undeniably iconoclastic, and doggedly practical where others were abstract, the late Richard Rorty was described by some as a philosopher with no philosophy. Rorty was skeptical of systems claiming to have answers, seeing scientific and aesthetic schools as vocabularies rather than as indispensable paths to truth. But his work displays a profound awareness of philosophical tradition and an urgent concern for how we create a society. As Michael Berube writes in his introduction to this new volume, Rorty looked upon philosophy as "a creative enterprise of dreaming up new and more humane ways to live." Drawn from Rorty's acclaimed 2004 Page-Barbour lectures, Philosophy as Poetry distills many of the central ideas in his work. Rorty begins by addressing poetry and philosophy, which are often seen as contradictory pursuits. He offers a view of philosophy as a poem, beginning with the ancient Greeks and rewritten by succeeding generations of philosophers seeking to improve it. He goes on to examine analytic philosophy and the rejection by some philosophers, notably Wittgenstein, of the notion of philosophical problems that have solutions. The book concludes with an invigorating suspension of intellectual borders as Rorty focuses on the romantic tradition and relates it to philosophic thought. This book makes an ideal starting place for anyone looking for an introduction to Rorty's thought and his contribution to our sense of an American pragmatism, as well as an understanding of his influence and the controversy that attended his work.
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About the Author

Richard Rorty was affiliated over the course of his long teaching career with Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and Stanford University. Recognized as one of the most important voices in American philosophy of the late twentieth century, he was the author of numerous landmark works, including Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.Michael Berube is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature at Pennsylvania State University; his most recent book is The Secret Life of Stories: From Don Quixote to Harry Potter, How Understanding Intellectual Disability Transforms the Way We Read.Mary V. Rorty is Clinical Associate Professor at the Stanford University Medical center and a Fellow of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics.


In these lectures Rorty is singing the same same old (and good) song about what we must give up. We must give up our striving to be in touch with the really real, and we must give up the illusion that by paring away the accidental features of our temporal lives we can finally be in touch with our true, authentic, selves. The lesson is so bracing and so difficult because it is delivered in the context of a tradition--philosophy since Plato--that had been dedicated to the doing of these impossible things for centuries. Where is Richard Rorty when we need him? He is here.-Stanley Fish, Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Florida International University and the Floersheimer Visiting Professor of Law at Cardozo Law School. Richard Rorty, in these wonderfully clear and compact lectures, gave the best summary of his views of the meaning of truth and the philosophy of language and mind. His defense of 'narrative philosophy' is enhanced by the vivid and memorable sketches of Hegel, Nietzsche, William James, and other moderns who aimed as Rorty did to reconcile the work of reason and imagination.-David Bromwich, Yale University

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