Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature - WikipediaPhilosophy and the Mirror of Nature is a book by American philosopher Richard Rorty , in which the author attempts to dissolve modern philosophical problems instead of solving them by presenting them as pseudo-problems that only exist in the language-game of epistemological projects culminating in analytic philosophy. In a pragmatist gesture, Rorty suggests that philosophy must get past these pseudo-problems if it is to be productive. The work was considered controversial upon publication, and had its greatest success outside analytic philosophy. Rorty argues that philosophy has unduly relied on a representational theory of perception and a correspondence theory of truth , hoping our experience or language might mirror the way reality actually is. In this he continues a certain controversial Anglophone tradition, which builds upon the work of philosophers such as Quine, Sellars, and Donald Davidson. For him, "true" is simply an honorific knowers bestow on claims, asserting them as what "we" want to say about a particular matter.
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
Richard Rorty — developed a distinctive and controversial brand of pragmatism that expressed itself along two main axes. One is negative—a critical diagnosis of what Rorty takes to be defining projects of modern philosophy. The other is positive—an attempt to show what intellectual culture might look like, once we free ourselves from the governing metaphors of mind and knowledge in which the traditional problems of epistemology and metaphysics and indeed, in Rorty's view, the self-conception of modern philosophy are rooted. In this book, and in the closely related essays collected in Consequences of Pragmatism , hereafter CP , Rorty's principal target is the philosophical idea of knowledge as representation, as a mental mirroring of a mind-external world. Providing a contrasting image of philosophy, Rorty has sought to integrate and apply the milestone achievements of Dewey, Hegel and Darwin in a pragmatist synthesis of historicism and naturalism. In these writings, ranging over an unusually wide intellectual territory, Rorty offers a highly integrated, multifaceted view of thought, culture, and politics, a view that has made him one of the most widely discussed philosophers in our time. He grew up, as he recounts in Achieving Our Country , hereafter AC , "on the anti-communist reformist Left in mid-century" AC 59 , within a circle combining anti-Stalinism with leftist social activism.
The philosophical tradition is surely unique in the place its adherents have given to thinkers who reject not just reigning schools of thought but even the very enterprise commonly called philosophy. Richard Ro1ty calls these thinkers " edifying philosophers "; and, although he asks no special status for his own work, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature qualifies as a major contribution to the literature of edification. Rorty sees philosophy as having been governed, particularly since Descartes , by a pre-occupation with discovering the foundations of knowledge and bewitched by the metaphor of mind as a mirror reflecting an autonomous nature. Insofar as philosophers have believed themselves to have a special mission to analyze, purify, and preserve the mirror, they have assumed for philosophy the position of a critic establishing principles for and setting limits to the sciences and other cultural enterprises. The position of this book is that the foundations cannot be found, that the mirror does not exist, and that philosophy has no rights to establish principles and set limits for human thought and activity. The great edifiers made it into the anthologies not by merely mocking the tradition, but by doing battle with the arguments of their more ambitious peers; and Rorty takes little time entering the fray with his predecessors and contemporaries. First he deals with the classical writers from Plato and Aristotle through Augustine and Aquinas to Locke and Kant and then moves on to the efforts of present-day analytic philosophers to put empirical psychology or language theory in the place of representational epistemology.
Ambitious because it attempts to place the main concerns and discussions of contemporary philosophy within a historical perspective; important because this is all too rarely attempted within our present philosophical culture, and almost never done this well. Rorty's provocative and profound meditations impel philosophers to examine the problematic status of their discipline--only to discover that modern European philosophy has come to an end. Richard Rorty was a prolific philosopher and public intellectual who, throughout his illustrious career, taught at Princeton, the University of Virginia, and, until his death, Stanford University. Criteria of the Mental 17 2. The Functional, the Phenomenal, and the Immaterial 22 3.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Rorty, Richard. Philosophy and the mirror of nature. Includes index. 1. Philosophy. 2. Philosophy, Modern.
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Just the first essay reproduced here. Epistemology, once the pride of modern philosophy, seems in a bad way these days. Fifty years ago, during the heyday of logical empiricism, which was not only a powerful movement in philosophy but also immensely influential in social science, it seemed as though the very center of philosophy was its theory of knowledge. Science went ahead and gathered knowledge; philosophical reflection concerned the validity of claims to knowledge. The pre-eminence of epistemology explains a phenomenon like Karl Popper. On the strength of his reputation as a theorist of scientific knowledge, he could obtain a hearing for his intemperate views about famous philosophers of the tradition, which bore a rather distant relation to the truth.