The Linguistic Turn Essays In Philosophical Method

Richard Rorty rewrote the history of philosophy by reinvigorating American pragmatism. He believed with William James "that if a debate has no practical significance, then it has no philosophical significance." He was an independent thinker who enjoyed debating with his opponents orally and in writing. His views offended some philosophers and other scholars, but they were expressed in a language that avoided "sterile scholasticism." In his quiet and gentle manner, he provoked and often disturbed audiences to reconsider their values about the good, the true, the just, and the beautiful.

This collection of essays by international authors conveys Rorty's international role. The contributions come from scholars in many disciplines: philosophy, sociology, history, poetry, and literary studies. The aim has been to provide a study of Richard Rorty that explores the range and significance of his insights.

Trained as a philosopher at the University of Chicago and Yale University, his teaching career began at Princeton in the department of philosophy, continued at the University of Virginia as University Professor of Humanities, and concluded at Stanford University as Professor of Comparative Literature. The three positions suggest the move from analytic philosophy as his initial commitment to his gradual broadened intellectual range that led Rorty to become a pragmatist who urged the importance of political action rather than a concern for purely disciplinary problems.

The Linguistic Turn, his first book, was a volume that he edited and that consisted of analytical essays to which he wrote commentaries.1 The "turn" refers not only to a linguistic shift in philosophy, but to turns in the vocabulary of science and of philosophy. Rorty used the term "narrative" or "story" to identify the kind of changes that occurred and what interested him was the way in which such stories are achieved. Every such change, he noted, is also identified by some features of the narrative it displaces.

Rorty believed that essays are conversations with other writers, and he created a conversational style that often resembles a dialogue in which he seeks as carefully as possible to answer critics who oppose the pragmatic position he develops. Some of his papers were given as lectures in the United States and other countries. They seek to do justice to his [End Page vii] pragmatist explanation of truth, representation, objectivity, relativism, interpretation, and so forth. Depending on the audiences involved, he often deliberately employs different levels of language.

The publication of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature in 1979 was, in his own words, an effort to try "to isolate more of the assumptions behind the problematic of modern philosophy, in the hope of generalizing and extending Sellars's and Quine's criticisms of traditional empiricism."2 Rorty was forty-seven when this book was published; it was met with attacks from some analytic philosophers upon his views of epistemology, truth, and representation. This response was countered by a much more enthusiastic one from critics of literature, who appreciated that his approach was pragmatic rather than analytic and that his models were the American pragmatists William James and John Dewey. Whereas in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature he had assumed that using analytic techniques to get behind the "problematic of modern philosophy" was therapeutic, he came to see pragmatism as equally "therapeutic." He explained in an interview, "I think of pragmatism as primarily therapeutic philosophy—therapy conducted on certain mind-sets created by previous philosophers. Insofar as reading pragmatism frees you up from various old habits and convictions, it does it in the same way that a startling new literary text does. It makes you think, 'Gee, I never knew you could look at it that way before!' But therapy isn't the same as providing criteria or a theory."3

Rorty saw pragmatism as freeing the mind-set that philosophy developed; pragmatism was not another mind-set but a procedure for freeing the mind without imposing a set. He resists identifying his version of pragmatism as a "discipline," "a system," "a theory." These are terms that imply the very order that he opposes. In fact, the uses of language that he favors, irony and story, are processes that undercut conventional linguistic uses. When confronted...

The Linguistic Turn: Essays in Philosophical Method3.97 · Rating details ·  58 Ratings  ·  3 Reviews

The Linguistic Turn provides a rich and representative introduction to the entire historical and doctrinal range of the linguistic philosophy movement. In two retrospective essays titled "Ten Years After" and "Twenty-Five Years After," Rorty shows how his book was shaped by the time in which it was written and traces the directions philosophical study has taken since.

"AllThe Linguistic Turn provides a rich and representative introduction to the entire historical and doctrinal range of the linguistic philosophy movement. In two retrospective essays titled "Ten Years After" and "Twenty-Five Years After," Rorty shows how his book was shaped by the time in which it was written and traces the directions philosophical study has taken since.

"All too rarely an anthology is put together that reflects imagination, command, and comprehensiveness. Rorty's collection is just such a book."—Review of Metaphysics...more

Paperback, 416 pages

Published March 1st 1992 by University Of Chicago Press (first published April 1st 1967)

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