I’m still here in Italy on vacation, but I’ve kept on reading PaMoN, and currently I am on Part II (Theory of Knowledge).
Before we get into the nitty gritty, i have something to admit. For years I’ve always admired Rorty, and I’ve read his later works (Consequences of Pragmatism, several essays from Philosophical Papers, the later collected works) in order to combat those blinkered Platonists and recalcitrant analytical philosophers on the internet. It was too much fun slapping them silly for clinging on to outdated and outworn models of philosophy, when the game has obviously passed them by! But I never read his magnum opus, PMoN, till now. Yeah, yeah.
What I’ve seen so far demonstrates a more careful Rorty with more concise argumentation than what he’s shown in his later essays. That may account for how he seems to make quicker leaps of reason in order to arrive at his conclusions in the later essays.
In this blog, * will concentrate on the Introduction, and then move on to the subsequent parts.
In the Intro, Rorty addresses the nature of philosophy, that it supposedly addressed the so-called eternal questions. But he goes on to assert that modern philosophy is more about foundations than the eternal questions, and immediately pulls out the big guns he will be using to lay waste to this picture of modern philosophy: Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Dewey. I’ve always admired Wittgenstein for his unflinching views of logic and philosophy as a therapy, but I’ve been more wary of Heidegger’s more challenging writings. Sadly, I’m not at all familiar with Dewey.
What they taught him was how they all shared the same type of turn from their earlier selves: instead of proposing a systematic construction, they suggested a therapy that liberated the reader from classic philosophical aspirations of the eternal questions. Rorty also recruits Quine, Sellars, Ryle, Malcom, Kuhn, Putnam, and Davidson to bolster his specific criticisms of the dominant model of modern philosophy that began in the 17th century – epistemology – and links the Cartesian-Kantian framework with analytic philosophy.
What does all this lead to? It seems that Rorty no longer has any faith in the classic enterprise of philosophy, which was represented by analytic philosophy, and he desired to put this entire enterprise out of its misery, due to multiple self-inflicted wounds of some of the most astute thinkers.
The rest of the introduction discusses how PaMoN is broken up into 3 parts – mind, knowledge, and philosophy:
Part I, our Glassy Essence, Rorty attacks the philosophy of the mind, exposes its roots in cartesian dualism, and how the intuitions we have about the mind would be different if we replaced the models of psychology with physiology.
Part II moves on to recent epistemology and its search for a suitable replacement for the cartesian subject. Rorty seems to hit on a great idea that the roots of the theory of knowledge dates to a confusion between justification of knowledge, and the causal explanations between social and psychological processes. Here, Rorty also discuesses how Quine and Sellars mount their arguments against the given and necessity, respectively, and once their arguments are granted, then the theory of knowledge is no longer a valid enterprise.
Part III rises to a more general view of philosophy, and whether any distinctions between normal & abnormal discourse truly have any valid criteria.
A noble project that promises the end of philosophy as conceived in the 17th century, and the beginning of a new one for the 21st century.