11 June 2007

richard rorty

American neo-pragmatist philosopher, Richard Rorty, died Friday in Palo Alto, California at the age of 75.

Rorty's earliest major work of note was his book The Linguistic Turn (1967), building upon the 20th century turn towards language in analytic philosophy. Nevertheless, Rorty soon moved beyond the analytic tradition in philosophy, turning his attention to both pragmatism and continental thought.

Rorty's critique of the western philosophical project of modernity was detailed in his important work, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979). In this book he took to task the modernist turn towards epistemology, which he defined primarily in terms of a representationalist theory of mind in which the mind is a seen as a passive "mirror of nature," reflecting the external world outside of the mind.

In the place of the modern project, Rorty's later writings offered his own take on the pragmatist tradition of Dewey and James, though with generous infusions of Hegel, Davidson, Heidegger, and Darwin.

Rorty attempted to work out the implications of his perspective for issues of rationality, objectivity, ethics, and liberal democracy, moving beyond philosophy towards literature and the motif of "conversation."

A full obituary is available at the New York Times.