When he shifted his attention from philosophy to politics, Richard Rorty revived liberalism’s potential for social reform

Alan Malachowski in Aeon:

The American Pragmatist Richard Rorty (1931-2007) advocated a therapeutic approach to philosophy throughout his career. He leaned quietly towards such an approach even in the early days, when his writings blended unobtrusively with a self-confident analytic tradition that certainly did not see any need for therapy. But it later became obvious in what is often regarded as his most important work: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979).

In that still-controversial and exciting book, Rorty aimed to reveal how philosophical problems stem from unconscious assumptions and beguiling imagery embedded in the language used to set them up. By showing that these are disposable products of culture and history rather than unavoidable concomitants of thought, he sought to free fellow philosophers from the stifling clutches of questions handed down by what he dubbed the Plato-Kant tradition. Rorty further hoped that their accompanying self-image as impartial arbiters of deep truths would follow suit. For he thought this lofty self-appraisal could only encourage questions that inevitably turn into fruitless scholastic obsessions. His overriding therapeutic intention at that stage seemed to be to rescue philosophy from itself.

Naturally, philosophers themselves were resistant.

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