Richard Rorty's philosophical legacy

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 38 (1):121-132 (2008)
Abstract
Richard Rorty's recent death has unleashed a strikingly mixed judgment of his philosophical legacy, ranging from claims to originality to charges of charlatanry. What is clear, however, is Rorty's role in articulating a distinctive American voice in the history of philosophy. He achieved this not only through his own wide-ranging contributions but also by repositioning the pragmatists, especially William James and John Dewey, in the philosophical mainstream. Rorty did for the United States what Hegel and Heidegger had done for Germany—to portray his nation as philosophy's final resting place. He was helped by postwar German philosophers like Jürgen Habermas who were happy to defer to their American conquerors. Rorty's philosophical method can be understood as a sublimation of America's world-historic self-understanding: a place suspicious of foreigners unless they are willing to blend into the "melting pot." In retrospect, the breadth and confidence of Rorty's writing will come to symbolize the moment when the United States, for better or worse, came to be the world's dominant philosophical power. Key Words: Rorty • pragmatism • logical positivism • analytic philosophy.
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