Sunday, September 28, 2014

Richard Rorty on Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Introduction)

My, doesn't that sound like the post-modernists?

The attempts [In the early twentieth century, RCK] of both analytic philosophers and phenomenologists to “ground” this and “criticize” that were shrugged off by those whose activities were purportedly being grounded or criticized. Philosophy as a whole was shrugged off by those who wanted an ideology or a self-image. (p.5)

Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Dewey are in agreement that the notion of knowledge as accurate representation, made possible by special mental processes, and intelligible through a general theory of representation, needs to be abandoned. For all three, the notions of “foundations of knowledge” and of philosophy as revolving around the Cartesian attempt to answer the epistemological skeptic are set aside. Further, they set aside the notion of “the mind” common to Descartes, Locke, and Kant — as a special subject of study, located in inner space, containing elements or processes which make knowledge possible. … They set aside epistemology and metaphysics as possible disciplines. (p.6)
Rorty then sets out to describe the revolutionary philosophy he has in mind, clearly by Kuhn's notion of paradigm shifts.
The aim of the book is to undermine the reader’s confidence in “the mind” as something about which one should have a “philosophical” view, in “knowledge” as something about which there ought to be a “theory” and which has “foundations”, and in “philosophy” as it has been conceived since Kant. (p.7) 
The book, like the writings of the philosophers I most admire, is therapeutic rather than constructive. The therapy offered is, nevertheless, parasitic upon the constructive efforts of the very analytic philosophers whose frame of reference I am trying to put in question. Thus most of the particular criticisms of the tradition which I offer are borrowed from such systematic philosophers as Sellars, Quine, Davidson, Ryle, Malcolm, Kuhn and Putnam. (p.7) 
Rorty accepts the linguistic focus of the analytical philosophical tradition but sees no novum therein. 
It is the notion that human activity (and inquiry, the search for knowledge, in particular) takes place within a framework which can be isolated prior to the conclusion of inquiry — a set of presuppositions discoverable a priori — which links contemporary philosophy to the Descartes - || Locke - Kant tradition. (pp.8-9) 
For the notion that there is such a framework only makes sense if we think of this framework as imposed by the nature of the knowing subject, by the nature of his faculties or by the nature of the medium in which he works. (p.9)
One way to see how analytic philosophy fits within the traditional Cartesian-Kantian pattern is to see traditional philosophy as an attempt to escape from history — an attempt to find nonhistorical conditions of any possible historical development. (p.9)
Each of the three [i.e. "Wittgenstein, Dewey and Heidegger", RCK] reminds us that investigations of the foundations of knowledge or morality or language or society || may be simply apologetics, attempts to eternalize a certain contemporary language-game, social practice, or self-image. (p.10) 

Bibliographic Record

Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Cambridge, MA (Cambridge University Press), 1979.

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