Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

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Cambridge University Press, Feb 24, 1989 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 201 pages
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.

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User Review  - brleach - LibraryThing

Ultimately, I don't find Rorty's attempt to redescribe the world in new language to be terribly compelling. Since he provides no criteria for choosing between languages, it would seem that his failure ... Read full review

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User Review  - Carl_Hayes - LibraryThing

Obama's win inspired me to reread this book of pragmatic ideas, a favorite. Too bad Rorty didn't live to see his victory, not simply because our next President is an African American (which itself ... 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
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