Mixing Memory

More on Richard Rorty’s Death

First, an obituary by his friend, Jürgen Habermas. It begins with a story of Rorty making light of the illness that ultimately killed him:

After three or four paragraphs of sarcastic analysis came the unexpected sentence: ” Alas, I have come down with the same disease that killed Derrida.” As if to attenuate the reader’s shock, he added in jest that his daughter felt this kind of cancer must come from “reading too much Heidegger.”

In the next paragraph, he writes:

Three and a half decades ago, Richard Rorty loosened himself from the corset of a profession whose conventions had become too narrow – not to elude the discipline of analytic thinking, but to take philosophy along untrodden paths. Rorty had a masterful command of the handicraft of our profession. In duels with the best among his peers, with Donald Davidson, Hillary Putnam or Daniel Dennett, he was a constant source of the subtlest, most sophisticated arguments. But he never forgot that philosophy – above and beyond objections by colleagues – mustn’t ignore the problems posed by life as we live it.

I think the last sentence describes what I found so valuable in Rorty. In English-speaking philosophy, there’s a tendency to get caught up in (manageable) technical problems, and forget or just ignore “the problems posed by life as we live it.” At least since Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Rorty always had such problems in mind.

Next, a Slate article in which philosophers and other intellectuals, including including Daniel Dennett, Richard Posner, former (well, sort of former) blogger and Michael Berubé, Stanley Fish, and even Brian Eno share their thoughts on Rorty. Dennett wrote:

Quine saw philosophy as continuous with science, and Rorty saw philosophy as continuous with art. I think they were both right. Anglophone philosophy certainly needs its poets, but only if they can bring to their efforts the level of insight, scholarship, and–yes–rigor that Dick Rorty brought to everything he did.


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    August 17, 2009

    one comment .) nice

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