Richard Rorty: biography of this American philosopher

Richard Rorty was an American philosopher, known for his interesting neopragmatic ideas about how humans can hardly know the real world and can only describe it and assume these descriptions are right or wrong.

With a rather murky but politically active childhood, Rorty was interested from an early age in philosophical questions and the great thinkers of his time.

Advocating a sentimentalist education to promote respect and enforcement of human rights, Rorty has been similarly praised and criticized. We find out who this American thinker was by a biography of Richard Rorty.

    Brief biography of Richard Rorty

    Richard McKay Rorty was born on October 4, 1931 in New York, United States. He grew up in a strongly militant family with his parents James and Winifred Rorty as activists, writers and social democrats. In addition his maternal grandfather was Walter Rauschenbursch, key personage in the Social Gospel movement that at the beginning of century XX tried that the society reached greater levels of equality and social justice.

    Richard Rorty’s adolescence was marked by the two nervous breakdowns suffered by his father at the end of his life. During the second, which took place in the early 1960s, Rorty’s father came to cry out for divine foreknowledge. Because of that young Richard Rorty fell into depression and in 1962 began a six-year-old psychiatric analysis for obsessive-compulsive disorder..

    It was at this time that, as an exercise in relaxation and calm, he became interested in the beauty of New Jersey orchids, which he reflected in his autobiography “Trotsky and the Wild Orchids” where he embodied his will to combine aesthetic beauty and social justice.

    academic life

    Rorty entered the University of Chicago shortly before his 15th birthday, where he graduated in philosophy. and obtained a master’s degree under the tutelage of Richard McKeon.

    He then went on to Yale University to obtain his doctorate between 1952 and 1956, when he married Amélie Oksenberg, professor at Harvard University, with whom he had his son Jay Rorty in 1954.

    After spending two years in the United States Army, Rorty began teaching at Wellesley College for about three years, ending her job here in 1961. Over the course of a decade, she finally divorced Oksenberg and he would remarry in 1972, this time to a bioethics. thinker from the University of Sanford named Mary Varney with whom he would have his children Kevin and Patricia. This marriage was quite curious, as Richard Rorty was a strict atheist, while Mary was a practicing Mormon..

    Richard Rorty would end up working as a professor of philosophy at Princeton University for 21 years. In 1981 he won a MacArthur Fellowship and in 1982 he became professor of humanities at the University of Virginia. More than a decade later, he would change institutions again, become professor of comparative literature at Stanford University where he will spend the rest of his academic career.

    Deepening of pragmatism

    Taking a quick step back in time, we then talked a bit about Richard Rorty’s doctoral thesis. This one, entitled The Concept of Potentiality (“The Concept of Potentiality”) was a historical study of the concept, which was carried out under the supervision of Paul Weiss. However, it would be in his first book The Linguistic Turn (1967) in which he would reaffirm himself in his analytical way, compiling classic essays on the linguistic turn in analytical philosophy.

    Over time, he would become drawn to the American philosophical movement of pragmatism., Especially in the writings of John Dewey. In this current, it is generally accepted that the meaning of a preposition is determined by its use in linguistic practice.

    Taking this, Rorty combined the pragmatic view of truth and various aspects of Ludwig Witgenstein’s philosophy of language in which he states that meaning is a sociolinguistic product and that sentences are not related to the word in a direct correspondence relationship. .

    For Rorty, the concept of truth has been misinterpreted. The idea of ​​truth was not just there, nor could it exist apart from the human mind because the sentences cannot exist nor come out of them. It is true that the world exists, but the descriptions of the world that we make do not exist.

    According to Rorty, humans we can only talk about descriptions in terms of truth or lie, but not of the world itself or how it really is since we cannot know it directly. Our senses influence the way we see the world.

    last years

    During the last 15 years of his life, Rorty continued to publish texts, including four volumes in which various articles published throughout his life were compiled under the title “Achieving Our Country” (1998). This book became a political manifesto, in part based on the writings of Dewey and Walt Whitman in which the idea of ​​a progressive and pragmatic left was defended that had to be positioned against which Rorty considered anti-liberal positions, Antihumanists and defeatists.

    Richard Rorty believed that antihumanist positions were well personified in the world of philosophy with figures such as Nietzsche, Heidegger and Foucault. In addition to focusing on these same positions, Rorty’s later work placed particular emphasis on the role of religion in contemporary life, liberal communities, comparative literature, and philosophy as cultural policy.

    The last months of his life, Richard Rorty spent them worried, especially after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that would end his life. Shortly before his death he wrote The fire of life, a text in which he meditates on his illness and how he managed to comfort himself with the art of poetry. Richard McKay Rorty died on June 8, 2007 in the Californian city of Palo Alto at the age of 75, leaving behind him an intense philosophical work.

      His vision of human rights

      Rorty’s vision of human rights is based on the notion of sentimentality. He believed that throughout history humans have classified certain groups of people as inhuman or subhuman. Rorty was in favor of creating a global culture of human rights with the intention of stopping the violation of these rights through an education that promoted sentimentality.

      The dehumanization of various groups on issues such as race, socio-economic background, religion or language could be reduced by fostering empathy. So, if in class we taught children to put themselves in other people’s shoes and understand that specific characteristics do not make people better or worse even if they are not the same, we could create a truly peaceful and peaceful society. more human.

      Criticisms of his philosophical propositions

      Rorty is seen one of the most discussed and controversial contemporary philosophers, And his work has elicited all kinds of responses from other figures who are also highly respected and well-known in his field, including Jürgen Habermas, Hilary Putnam, Robert Brandom, Donald Davidson, John McDowell, Jacques Bouveresse and Daniel Dennett, between other. .

      Among the criticisms he has received is that of Susan Haack, who criticizes him for his claim to be pragmatic. For her, the only connection between Rorty’s neopragmatism and Charles Sanders Peirce’s pragmatism is simply the name. She views Rorty’s neopragmatism as anti-philosophical and anti-intellectual and that her views on ideas of truth were somewhat superficial.

      Another point by which he was criticized was his ideology and his vision of apparently pro-social justice. Although he is known for his liberal outlook and his moral and political philosophy he was also attacked by the left, which considered his proposals for social justice and humanitarianism as insufficient.. He has also been criticized for his idea of ​​the truth because to think that one can only consider true or false descriptions of the world and that one cannot know the world as it really is, to be impossible to believe. know, considered a critique of the idea of ​​science.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Marchetti, G. (2003). Interview with Richard Rorty. Philosophy Now 43 years old.
      • Ramberg, B. (2007). Richard Rorty: Biographical sketch. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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