New essay on Richard Rorty in the New York Times by James Ryerson:
A restful photograph of Richard Rorty adorns the front cover of his 1989 book, “Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.” It is an image of him outdoors, looking tan and relaxed in a cream-colored sport coat against a backdrop of sun-dappled greenery and azaleas. Although I once spent a few days with Rorty, this tableau is what comes to mind when I think of him. It captures what you might call his philosophical mood.
Until his death last month at the age of 75, Rorty was arguably the most famous living American philosopher. Half of his fame was infamy. Critics, including many outside the academy, assailed him as one of those dark, nihilistic postmodern relativists who don’t believe in the idea of a knowable reality, of The Way Things Really Are. Though the charge was imprecise (Rorty was a pragmatist who saw no use for the idea of The Way Things Really Are), the gist of it was largely correct. He certainly spent a lot of time saying nice things about writers like Nietzsche and Foucault. But dark? Nihilistic? Did I mention the azaleas? The man in the picture looks one lemonade away from a good day at the club.
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