When I heard the news of Richard Rorty’s death last Friday (“from the same disease that killed Derrida”) I browsed through my copy of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature — and was overwhelmed by memories and associations. I remember how I experienced Rorty’s argument against the philosophical idea of knowledge as representation, as a mirroring of a world external to the mind, as so sophisticated, because it didn’t substitute representationalism with crude relativism, but steered a pragmatic middle-course. Only now do I realise how much his philosophical programme for conversationalism and edification has actually meant for my work on existential biographies of scientists.

In his beautiful short obituary, Jürgen Habermas writes:

The irony and passion, the playful and polemical tone of an intellectual who revolutionised our modes of thinking and influenced people throughout the world point to a robust temperament. But this impression doesn’t do justice to the gentle nature of a man who was often shy and withdrawn – and always sensitive to others.

The article on Rorty in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy was substantially revised and updated a couple of days ago.

Share →