June 9, 2012
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On the five year anniversary of Richard Rorty’s death, Santiago Zabala (University of Barcelona) reflects on his life and legacy for Al Jazeera. The article can be found here.
Rorty’s main subversive act was not publicly opposing Bush or distancing himself from the dominant philosophy position of his time but rather suggesting that philosophers ought to stop “worrying about truth”, “contributing to knowledge”, or “getting things right”. While these suggestions might seem the first step of a relativist, sceptic, or even nihilist philosopher, Rorty was none of these. He was a pragmatist interested in fusing together different philosophers such as William James, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Thomas Kuhn in order to transform the discipline into a looser activity where progress would be measured in relation not to non-human realities (such as truth, God, or foundational human nature) but rather to historical contingencies that formed our present. These, as he explained, could be the family we grew up with, the society around us, or the language we feel most comfortable in.