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Philosophy and Social Hope Paperback – January 1, 2000

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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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140262881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140262889
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Dr. D. E. McClean on April 21, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 heroes 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 such a claim 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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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Bricker on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Rorty has been enlivening the American intellectual scene for two decades now. His prose is fluid, clear, and graceful. This is perhaps his first collection of essays aimed at the average educated reader (as opposed to his fellow philosophers). It opens with a wry mini-autobiography, followed by three linked essays where Rorty, once again, makes his case for American pragmatism. There is also a fine discussion of Thomas Kuhn and a provocative piece about Heidegger's Nazism. The essay on Religion As Conversation-stopper is also first-rate. Unfortunately, Penguin has issued this book on cheap paper and the print font is minuscule-- America'a most interesting philosopher deserves better!
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Alex Sydorenko on August 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book serves as an excellent introduction to Pragmatism (or at least Rorty's interpretation.) Pragmatism is pretty radical--it challenges basic philosophic assumptions such as the Greek search for truth, as well as the Cartesian self. Consider this quote, which is quintessential Rorty from his essay "Ethics Without Principles": "Just as the pragmatists see scientific progress not as the gradual attenuation of a veil of appearance which hides the intrinsic nature of reality from us, but as the increasing ability to respond to the concerns of ever larger groups of people--in particular, the people who carryout ever more acute observations and perform ever more refined experiments--so they see moral progress as a matter of being able to respond to the needs of ever more inclusive groups of people (...) Pragmatists do not think of scientific, or any other inquiry, as aimed at truth, but rather at better justificatory ability--better to deal with doubts about what we are saying, either by shoring up what we have previously said or by deciding to say something different. The trouble with aiming at truth is that you would not know when you had reached it, even if you had in fact reached it. But you can aim at ever more justification, the assuagement of ever more doubt. Analogously, you cannot aim at 'doing what is right', because you will never know whether you have hit the mark. Long after you are dead, better informed and more sophisticated people may judge your action to have been a tragic mistake, just as they may judge your scientific beliefs as intelligible only by reference to an obsolete paradigm. But you can aim at ever more sensitivity to pain, and ever greater satisfaction of ever more various needs.Read more ›
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Pen Name on January 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
I started this book with very high expectations, which may be part of why I was disappointed. I thought that I would be convinced by his arguments about the nature of knowledge and morality, since I think social constructionism has some value and don't like metaphysics. Ultimately, Rorty didn't convince me that we could do away with metaphysics, which was a disappointment.

Chapters 2 and 3 are hard reading if you're not familiar with the following authors, because Rorty does a lot of detailed comparisons between their ideas: Plato, John Dewey, Immanuel Kant, Walt Whitman, Martin Heidegger, Emerson, James, Nietzsche, Donald Davidson, Witgenstein, and Willard van Orman Quine. I'd heard of all of them but Davidson, and had some vague sense of what they did, but was overwhelmed by these chapters because I couldn't keep up. The good news is that if you get past these chapters, the rest of the book is easy.

Politically, I think that Rorty attacks the right problems, but he doesn't defend centralized democratic socialism from critiques by people like Hayek and Popper, who argue that such planning is always authoritarian. He just asserts that it will work.

Overall, I think it's a decent read, but I wouldn't recommend it for people that haven't taken a class that covers most of the philosophers I've mentioned above or done some reading on them on their own. Rorty's arguments are important, but I don't think they're as convincing as they could be.
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