October 4, 2013
American philosopher RICHARD RORTY (1931–2007) defies the pretense that marks critical systems. His method is nearest Socrates’ asking and splitting premises; he’s like what we made the American pragmatists into rather than what they really were. Rorty patiently dismantles western philosophy, cleaning it and provisionally reassembling usable parts. His sweet and gentle words are still stern guides away from silliness. One of his many courageous moments flipped the light switch on deconstruction — a joke told too long. Far from unfriendly to discursive play, comes his remarkable neologism ironism. Precarious like his teetering interrogative engine of contingency — correctly lifted from pouting, continental philosophers and not misinterpreted as nihilism or bad cynicism. Contingency is courage — creating and mistaking and course-correcting as we mature as thinkers. I started Rorty with his 1967 book The Linguistic Turn. I didn’t care for more reasons why Nietzsche or Heidegger had their problems, but to make a fire, Rorty separates the wet, representational wood from the good to dry for later. Or maybe not.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Buster Keaton.
READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).