- Paperback: 220 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st edition (May 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521367816
- ISBN-13: 978-0521367813
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity 1st Edition
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From Library Journal
Rorty propounds, and faces squarely the consequences of, a relativistic, non-essentialist view of man and society. For him, attitudes, values, beliefs, and practices are contingent phenomena of a particular time, place, and culture, none of which is inherently better or worse than any other. There is irony in the fact that one can realize this, yet still desire, and work for, "human solidarity" and freedom. How these positions can be reconciled is the subject of this important book, not incidental to which are fascinating discussions of Hegel, Heidegger, Habermas, Nietzsche, Nabokov, Freud, Dickens, and Orwell, among others. This is Rorty at his most stimulating, and he emerges as a major political theorist.
- Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"...bristles with big and unsettling ideas...No brief summary of this book can begin to convey its freshness, scope, and immense erudition...Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity will induce intellectual tingles in the philosopher and layman alike. It is going to be read for a long time." The Philadelphia Inquirer
"This is Rorty at his most stimulating, and he emerges as a major political theorist." Library Journal
"Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity is not only readable, informative and ceaselessly interesting; it is a bold and topical manifest about the entire philosophical and political prospect of our 'post-modern' times. Jonathan Re'e Radical Philosophy
"...consistently provocative, and every page excites philosophic thought." Philosophy and Literature
"An exciting book. For millennia philosophers have been debating whether the universe is out there to be discovered or is rather in effect invented by thinkers who can never get beyond their own categories. Rorty is our most prominent perspectivist today....Rorty writes with erudition and style. His views are always stimulating, though they will inevitably tend to infuriate readers who are not ready for a 'postmetaphysical' world." H. L. Shapiro, Choice
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Top Customer Reviews
Many years ago I studied the pragmatists. Richard Rorty has brought that education up to date and amplified it.
All I can say is read it. Open up your mind to a world view that is constantly under assault within both mainstream and academic American. I find it hard to believe that anyone would be completely disappointed.
He wrote in the Preface to this 1989 book, “This book is based on two sets of lectures: three Northcliffe Lectures given at University College, London, in February of 1986 and four Clark Lectures given at Trinity College, Cambridge, in February of 1987…Parts of this book skate on pretty thin ice---the passages in which I offer controversial interpretations of authors whom I discuss only briefly… But in other parts of the book the ice is a bit thicker.”
In the first chapter, he states, “We need to make a distinction between the claim that the world is out there, and the claim that truth is out there. To say that the world is out there, that it is not our creation, is to say, with common sense, that most things in space and time are the effects of causes which do not include human mental states. To say that truth is not out there is simply to say that where there are no sentences there is no truth, that sentences are elements of human languages, and that human languages are human creations.” (Pg. 4-5)
He continues, “On the view of philosophy which I am offering, philosophers should not be asked for arguments against, for example, the correspondence theory of truth or the idea of the ‘intrinsic nature of reality.’ … They are expected to show that central elements in that vocabulary are ‘inconsistent in their own terms’ or that they ‘deconstruct themselves.’ But that can NEVER be shown. Any argument to the effect that our familiar use of a familiar term is incoherent, or empty, or confused, or vague, or ‘merely metaphorical’ is bound to be inconclusive and question-begging. For such use is, after all, the paradigm of coherent, meaningful, literal, speech. Such arguments are always parasitic upon, and abbreviations for, claims that a better vocabulary is available. Interesting philosophy is rarely an examination of the pros and cons of a thesis. Usually it is, implicitly or explicitly, a contest between an entrenched vocabulary which has become a nuisance and a half-formed new vocabulary which vaguely promises great things.” (Pg. 8-9)
He observes, “The word ‘literature’ now covers just about every sort of book which might conceivably alter one’s sense of what is possible and important. The application of this term has nothing to do with the presence of ‘literary qualities’ in a book. Rather than detecting and expounding such qualities, the critic is now expected to facilitate moral reflection by suggesting revisions in the canon of moral exemplars and advisers, and suggesting ways in which the tensions within this canon may be eased---or, where necessary, sharpened.” (Pg. 82)
He asserts, “I suggest that we read Derrida’s later writings as turning such systematic projects of undercutting into private jokes… The later Derrida privatizes his philosophical thinking, and thereby breaks down the tension between ironism and theorizing. He simply drops theory… in favor of fantasizing about those predecessors, playing with them, giving free rein to the trains of associations they produce. There is no moral to these fantasies, nor any public (pedagogic or political) use to be made of them; but, for Derrida’s readers, they may nevertheless be exemplary---suggestions of the sort of thing one might do, a sort of thing rarely done before… So I take Derrida’s importance to lie in his having had the courage to give up the attempt to unite the private and the public, to stop trying to bring together a quest for private autonomy and an attempt at public resonance and utility. He privatizes the sublime, having learned from the fate of his predecessors that the public can never be more than beautiful.” (Pg. 125)
He notes, “The view I am offering says that there is such a thing as moral progress, and that this progress is indeed in the direction of greater human solidarity. But that solidarity is not thought of as recognition of a core self, the human essence, in all human beings. Rather, it is thought of as the ability to see more and more traditional differences (of tribe, religion, race, customs, and the like) as unimportant when compared with similarities with respect to pain and humiliation---the ability to think of people wildly different from ourselves as included in the range of ‘us.’ … detailed descriptions of particular varieties of pain and humiliation (in, e.g., novels or ethnographies), rather than philosophical or religious treatises, were the modern intellectual’s principle contribution to moral progress.” (Pg. 192)
This is one of Rorty’s most important books, and will be of great interest to anyone studying his thought.