Monday, July 14, 2008

Thompson, Simon. "Richard Rorty: the Making of an American Philosopher." TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION July 10, 2008.

Gross, Neil. Richard Rorty: the Making of an American Philosopher, 1931-1982. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2008. This book is a curious hybrid. One part is a relatively orthodox intellectual biography of Richard Rorty. It begins with accounts of his parents' intellectual interests and political commitments, then moves chapter by chapter from Rorty's undergraduate and masters degrees at Chicago, through his doctoral studies at Yale, to his first academic position at Wellesley College, and then to his time at Princeton, before taking up an interdisciplinary professorship at Virginia. The narrative ends with the publication of Rorty's collection of essays, Consequences of Pragmatism, in 1982. This part of the book is interesting for several reasons. Perhaps, most importantly, it counters the widely held view that Rorty began as an analytic philosopher and then defected to the pragmatist camp. In fact, as Neil Gross shows, Rorty was always sympathetic to pragmatist ideas, and in most of his work on analytic philosophy sought to demonstrate the desirability of dialogue between the analytic and pragmatist traditions. The other part of the book is an attempt to make a contribution to a "new sociology of ideas", one that in particular seeks to understand "some of the social processes that intellectuals encounter and navigate as they develop their ideas". In this part of the book, Gross provides an account of the work of Pierre Bourdieu on academic sociology (Homo Academicus) and Randall Collins on the sociology of philosophies. . . . Read the rest here:

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