Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

Front Cover
Cambridge University Press, Feb 24, 1989 - Philosophy - 201 pages
54 Reviews
In this book, major American philosopher Richard Rorty argues that thinkers such as Nietzsche, Freud, and Wittgenstein have enabled societies to see themselves as historical contingencies, rather than as expressions of underlying, ahistorical human nature, or as realizations of suprahistorical goals. This ironic perspective on the human condition is valuable but it cannot advance Liberalism's social and political goals. In fact, Rorty believes that it is literature and not philosophy that can do this, by promoting a genuine sense of human solidarity. Specifically, it is novelists such as Orwell and Nabokov who succeed in awakening us to the cruelty of particular social practices and individual attitudes. Thus, a truly liberal culture would fuse the private, individual freedom of the ironic, philosophical perspective with the public project of human solidarity as it is engendered through the insights and sensibilities of great writers. Rorty uses a wide range of references--from philosophy to social theory to literary criticism--to elucidate his beliefs.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Review: Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

User Review  - Goodreads

lost me at the self-creation stuff in part I. that said, maybe monsters are real after all. perhaps a bit too much literary discussion, though i appreciate the interpretation of derrida. Read full review

Review: Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

User Review  - Angus MacCaull - Goodreads

I would hazard to say that this is essential reading for contemporary writers. It's on my list of books to reread this year. A question from my first reading is, why does language have to be all one ... Read full review

Selected pages


The contingency of language
The contingency of selfhood
The contingency of a liberal community
Private irony and liberal hope
Selfcreation and affiliation Proust Nietzsche and Heidegger
From ironist theory to private allusions Derrida
The barber of Kasbeam Nabokov on cruelty
The last intellectual in Europe Orwell on cruelty
Index of names

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

Banal Nationalism
Michael Billig
Limited preview - 1995
All Book Search results »

About the author (1989)

Richard Rorty (1931 2007) was Professor of Comparative Literature and Philosophy at Stanford University.

Bibliographic information