Rorty on Rorty

From my friend Kent Puckett and Derek Nystrom’s conversations with Richard Rorty, Against Bosses, Against Oligarchies ( ):

Q: However, many suggest that your work has shaken the dominance of analytic philosophy. Berel Lang wrote the following in 1990 about both your role as president of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association during its 1979 convention, as well as the influence of your Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, published in that same year: “It may be too much or even yet too early to claim that the landscape of American philosophy, institutionally but to an extent also substantively, would not be the same after the events of 1979; as with most stirrings in the history of ideas, Rorty’s revisionism was undoubtedly symptomatic as well as causal. But there is no question that in the decade between 1979 and 1989 significant changes occurred in the profession of American philosophy—and that Rorty was and remains a central figure in this process.”

RR: I think that’s wrong. No big changes occurred, and I was never a central figure. 1979 looks big to Berel because the unreconstructed Yalies, the ones who hadn’t retooled themselves, were the center of the so-called pluralist movement. Their faction, made up of everybody in American philosophy who wasn’t analytic, got a majority for their candidate for president of the Eastern Division of the APA. My sympathies were with him because he was the underdog, and the analytic establishment was being very arrogant. I was president that year, and I made a crucial parliamentary ruling in his favor. I’ve never been forgiven by the analytic philosophers for that. I’ve also never been liked or trusted by the pluralists. I managed to fall neatly between two stools.