Interboro is deeply saddened by the death of Richard Rorty, one of America’s greatest thinkers.
The Times reports that Rorty died Friday in Palo Alto, Calif from complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 75.
Rorty was one of Interboro’s favorite philosophers. Books like Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Consequences of Pragmatism, and Contingency, Irony and Solidarity have had an enormous influence on Interboro’s work.
Interboro first encountered Rorty as an undergrad at Bard, in Gary L. Hagberg’s Pragmatism class. Interboro’s nascent world was forever changed that semester, in large part thanks to essays like “Objectivity or Solidarity?” and quips like “truth is not the sort of thing one should expect to have a philosophically interesting theory about.” Interboro thinks of Rorty as an avuncular existentialist, someone who, like William James and John Dewey before him, openly embraced the sorts of things that other, largely European philosophers thought ought to make us tremble. Truths are tools we’ve evolved in the same way we’ve evolved opposable thumbs? Awesome! Our identities, beliefs, and associations are entirely contingent? Woo-Hoo! For pragmatists like Rorty, conclusions like these are invitations to make our world as we see fit, not doubt the certainty of our beliefs. In Rorty, there is nothing if not hope.
In his career, Rorty probably accumulated more detractors than admirers, but Interboro has always defended the guy; never will we tire of his peculiar brand of pragmatic anti-essentialism. And Rorty was so generous: it was through Rorty that we learned to value philosophers like Quine, Brandom, and Latour, but also poets like Larkin, novelists like Nabokov, and political thinkers like Isaiah Berlin.
Interboro will miss Richard Rorty terribly.