Reading Rorty

All Souls College, Trinity 2012

Weeks 1-8, Fridays 2-4

Hovenden Room, All Souls College

(Weeks 2&3: Old Library)


This seminar will focus on the metaphilosophical writings of Richard Rorty, including selections from Philosophy and the Mirror of NaturePhilosophy as Cultural Politics, and Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. We will also discuss critical responses to Rorty from Thomas Nagel, Bernard Williams, and others. The goal is to make sense of Rorty's project, teasing apart its main threads--anti-representationalism, historicism, pragmatism, irony--and thinking about what is sensible and what is excessive in all of this. All interested parties welcome; no prior acquaintance with, or affection for, Rorty presupposed.

Tentative Syllabus:

Textual Abbreviations:

CIS = Contingency, Irony and Solidarity

PMN = Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

RC = Rorty and His Critics

PCP = Philosophy as Cultural Politics

Week 1: Introduction & Overview

-Rorty, “The Contingency of Language” (London Review of Books; CIS, chp. 1)

Week 2: Metaphysical & Epistemological Liberation

  1. -Rorty, Introduction, Chp.3 (“The Idea of a ‘Theory of Knowledge’”), and Chp. 4 (“Privileged Representations”), PMN.

-Barry, Allen, “What Was Epistemology?”, RIS, chp. 10

Week 3: Metaphysical & Epistemological Liberation

  1. -Rorty, “Pragmatism, Relativism, and Irrationalism” (Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, vol. 53(6), August 1980: 719-38)

  2. -Bernard Williams, “Getting It Right”, London Review of Books

  3. -Rorty, “To the Sunlit Uplands”, London Review of Books

  4. -Thomas Nagel, “Why We Can’t Understand Thought from the Outside”, The Last Word

  5. -Hilary Putnam, “Richard Rorty on Reality and Justification”, RIS, chp. 4

Week 4: Conversational Philosophy

-Rorty, Preface, PCP

-Rorty, “Analytic and Conversational Philosophy”, PCP, chp. 8

Week 5: Conversational Philosophy

-Rorty, “Philosophy as a Transitional Genre”, PCP, chp. 6

-Rorty, “A Pragmatist View of Contemporary Analytic Philosophy”, PCP, chp. 9

Week 6: Ironic Liberalism

-Rorty, “The Contingency of Community”, CIS, chp. 3

-Rorty, “Private Irony and Liberal Hope”, CIS, chp. 4

-Rorty, “Solidarity or Objectivity?”, The Rorty Reader

Week 7: Ironic Liberalism: Rorty v Habermas

-Rorty, “Universality and Truth”, RIS

-Habermas, “Richard Rorty’s Pragmatic Turn”, RIS

-Rorty, “Response to Habermas”, RIS

Week 8: TBD

Please email for more information