An heir to William James and John Dewey, Dr. Rorty advocated a philosophy known as pragmatism, which shunned what he considered a fruitless search to answer unknowable questions: What is the meaning of life? Do other people exist? He had rejected the field of analytic philosophy on the ground that it attempts to address those questions, which he largely considered a waste of time, and had created something akin to a hunt for timeless truths, another idea he strongly criticized ...I love also this paragraph:
Michael Williams, philosophy department chairman at Johns Hopkins University, said Dr. Rorty, one of his mentors, "taught the lesson there are no fixed and permanent foundations for anything, that anything could be changed. Where some see this as cause for despair, he saw this as cause for hope because it meant we could always do better. . . . He reveled in contingency," what happens as a result of human progress.
Williams added: "Instead of trying to define the essence of human nature, Rorty thought we should creatively think up new possibilities for ourselves -- what to be, how to live. He said we are not hostage to how things are. He spoke of pragmatism as a future-oriented philosophy."
He also recalled the importance of his childhood interest in wild orchids, which he found near his parents' property in western New Jersey. He developed a strong aesthetic yearning for such "socially useless flowers," he later wrote in his autobiographical essay "Trotsky and the Wild Orchids." He spoke of hoping to find a way to balance this appreciation of pure beauty with his parents' emphasis on intellectual purity -- and he described philosophy as a way to work through his competing beliefs.
Thanks for this lovely obit JJC. Rorty's death saddened me. I didn't agree with all aspects of his work but certainly admired his hopefulness, his flexibility, and his future-oriented pragmatism (its that quote in the WP I like best). What I disagreed with most strenously was his reading of Derrida but then again I never saw much distance between them. And how striking that they both died of pancreatic cancer.
Instead of trying to define the essence of human nature, Rorty thought we should creatively think up new possibilities for ourselves -- what to be, how to live.
Yes, this is exactly what I want. My work tries to describe what has been and still is to help us, I guess, traverse the fantasy of the human and to inspire in us a hope for something better.
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