Daniel C. Dennett on the Richard Rorty Factor

Daniel C. Dennett in Philosophy Now:

In a paper published in Synthese (#53) in 1982, ‘Contemporary Philosophy of Mind’, Richard Rorty wrote an enthusiastic account of the revolutionary ‘Ryle-Dennett tradition’. Was I really as radical a revolutionary as he said I was? I responded mischievously, perhaps rudely:

“Since I, as an irremediably narrow-minded and unhistorical analytic philosopher, am always looking for a good excuse not to have to read Hegel or Heidegger or Derrida or those other chaps who don’t have the decency to think in English, I am tempted by Rorty’s performance on this occasion to enunciate a useful hermeneutical principle, the Rorty Factor:

Take whatever Rorty says about anyone’s views and multiply it by .742.

After all, if Rorty can find so much more in my own writing than I put there, he’s probably done the same or better for Heidegger – which means I can save myself the trouble of reading Heidegger; I can just read [Rorty’s book] Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton University Press, 1979) and come out about 40% ahead while enjoying my reading at the same time.”

Rorty took this in good spirits and continued his amiable practice of highlighting the connections he saw between analytic philosophers’ arguments and the grand march of isms that constitute Western philosophy. Part of his optimistic genius was seeing how other people’s hard work in the trenches might be seen as major steps of genuine philosophical progress. This collection of previously unpublished works, most of them lectures delivered on multiple occasions, shows his power, his insight, his constructive spirit throughout. It is indeed enjoyable and enlightening philosophical reading, although I now believe that philosophers really shouldn’t rely on Rorty and other like-minded scholars of the field to frame our projects.

More here.