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Truth and Progress: Volume 3: Philosophical Papers (Philosophical Papers/Richard Rorty, Vol 3)
ISBN 0521553474 / 9780521553476 / 0-521-55347-4
Publisher Cambridge University Press
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The philosopher's task, Richard Rorty writes, is "to clear the road for prophets and poets, to make intellectual life a bit simpler and safer for those who have visions of new communities." The essays collected in Truth and Progress show that Rorty is more than up to the challenge. His pragmatic approach is as well suited to brokering peace between "coworkers" Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida as it is to addressing more violent disputes. As Rorty sees it, part of the reason feminism has not been entirely successful in achieving its goals, or ethnic conflicts still rage around the globe, is that we still cling to the notion of an inherent human nature. "Plato set things up," he explains, "so that moral philosophers think they have failed unless they convince the rational egotist that he should not be an egotist--convince him by telling him about his true, unfortunately neglected self. But the rational egotist is not the problem. The problem is the gallant and honorable Serb who sees Muslims as circumcised dogs. It is the brave soldier and good comrade who loves and is loved by his mates, but who thinks of women as dangerous, malevolent whores and bitches."
Instead of trying to answer the question, "What is human nature?" Rorty proposes that we ask ourselves what we would like human nature to be, then make every possible effort to be that. In doing so, he does not reject previous philosophic inquiry, although he believes that philosophers must be willing to admit, as scientists do, when their predecessors got things wrong. If inquiry is the continual grappling with and resolution of problems, rather than a quest for "truth," the lessons learned from the past become invaluable tools to apply to new problems as they emerge. Many people disagree with Rorty's conclusions, but they all seem to agree that he has liberated philosophy from detached contemplation of "the real" and reconnected it to the world we live in. Truth and Progress does what all good philosophy should do: it makes you think. --Ron Hogan [via]