Representation: Rorty vs. Husserl

Synthese 66 (2):273 - 289 (1986)
Abstract
Richard Rorty in his recent book, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, 1 offers a wide ranging critique of that version of modern philosophy which understands itself fundamentally as a theory of knowledge. He attacks analytic philosophy as well as phenomenology for falling into a sort of trap laid for us in the period of classical modern philosophy by most everyone from Descartes and Locke to Kant. I want to focus on just one element in Rorty's critique - namely, that there persists on virtually all philosophic fronts an unacceptable view of knowledge as mirror-like representation of the physical world. In particular, I want to argue that Edmund Husserl's phenomenology - one of Rorty's many targets - does not rely on such a representational theory of knowledge (specifically, of perception) and consequently does not fall to Rorty's criticism. Indeed, I want to suggest that Husserl's view (with certain suitable modifications) offers one of the few plausible approaches available to us in dealing with questions of human knowledge.
Keywords Rorty  Husserl  human knowledge  mirror-like representation
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