Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Rorty, Richard. Interview with Joshua Knobe. DUALIST 2 (1995): 59-71.

Int: Do you think that pragmatism itself might become a trend? Rorty: In some very large sense of pragmatism, yes. I think that culture might continue to get less and less metaphysical, and I think the influence of Kant on standard political and moral rhetoric might gradually decrease. Int: And could professional philosophers become pragmatists? Rorty: No. I think that analytic philosophy departments professionalize themselves precisely by cutting the links between philosophy and history and literature and trying to establish links with psychology, physics, stuff like that, harder disciplines. And I think that the analytic philosophers were correct in thinking that they would only have a really autonomous profession if they drifted away or cut themselves off from history and literature. I think that, just in so far as you professionalize, you have to disagree with Dewey that the problems of philosophy are historically produced, culturally produced, sort of epiphenomena of wider cultural changes. You have to think of philosophy as having a more autonomous problematic than Dewey thought it did. If all the philosophy professors became pragmatists, it's not clear what a philosophy department would look like. The impulse to say we've got a separate discipline which is neither history, nor literature would be much weaker. Int: Are you saying that philosophy departments should disappear? Rorty: I think that what's important is that people study the great dead philosophers, and they are sufficiently difficult that even if you folded us into literature departments, you'd still have to have a subdiscipline within literature departments consisting of a certain literary tradition that included Plato and Aristotle and St. Thomas and Leibniz and Kant and a lot of neat stuff like that, so you might as well just have a separate department. Int: So the importance of philosophy departments is that they teach the great dead philosophers? Rorty: Not their only importance, but if you ask why there's got to be a relatively autonomous discipline or subdiscipline, I think the ultimate answer is: because somebody's got to read these difficult books, and it takes a lot of time. . . . Read the rest of the interview here: http://www.unc.edu/~knobe/rorty.html.

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