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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rorty Would Approve, August 19, 2008
This review is from: Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher (Hardcover)
Sociologist Neil Gross has written a fascinating biography of Richard Rorty that attempts to show the sociological influences that formed Rorty into the politically radical, anti-analytical pragmatist we came to know and admire.

Although the book's title is misleading, since it gives no indication that quite a few pages will be devoted to discussing sociological theory, the strictly biographical portions--the majority of the book--are excellent and are unburdened with sociological speculation. Gross's discussion of Rorty's philosophical theorizing is quite good.

Rorty would have approved of Gross's work. Gross proposes a theory--a story or narrative--of how Rorty came to believe and argue what he did. Gross does this by looking at Rorty's rearing and the sociological pressures and influences of the schools Rorty attended and taught at. This is the kind of hypothetical "explanation" Rorty said we must endlessly debate regarding all so-called truths we affirm in a world in which we cannot encounter the "given" without wrapping it in the assumptions and theories of our time and place. Gross's sociological explanation of how Rorty came to be Rorty acknowledges, as Rorty claimed, that there are no sharp divisions between philosophy, sociology, or any of the other disciplines of academic study.

A separate chapter is devoted to each of Rorty's parents; then several chapters on Rorty's training at the University of Chicago and Yale; a chapter on his appointment to Wellesley College; then two chapters on his teaching at Princeton and his move to the University of Virginia.
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