SARTWELL ON RORTY….Crispin Sartwell, in an op-ed piece about Richard Rorty, starts out with this:

It’s hard for non-philosophers to understand how seriously philosophers take their own questions, from the nature of truth to the correct interpretation of the texts of Friedrich Nietzsche. An air of hushed solemnity reigns over the procedures.

You know, I have noticed that. It’s a remarkable attitude for a field that’s still arguing about whether Plato was right, isn’t it? But Sartwell says that Rorty’s big problem was an unwillingness to take this all as seriously as the professoriate thought he should:

What absolutely killed philosophy professors was Rorty’s interpretation of the great figures of the Western tradition. The average philosophy professor may spend a decade or a career trying to elucidate the works of Martin Heidegger or W.V.O. Quine. Rorty lined up such figures in support of his own positions in a fundamentally careless way. He quoted them out of context and ignored everything he couldn’t use.

This truly enraged people. The Dewey scholars hated him, as did the Wittgenstein scholars, the Davidson scholars, the Nietzsche scholars, the Derrida scholars and so on.

….I disagreed with almost every position he ever took, but Rorty was for me an inspiration. He showed me and generations of students and readers how to think and speak boldly, how to transcend the constraining conventions of academia and, most important of all, how to drive professors crazy.

I don’t know the first thing about Rorty. I just thought this was an interesting little essay. Still, if Sartwell is right, Rorty didn’t drive professors crazy by thinking and speaking boldly, he did it by treating philosophy with the same level of intellectual honesty that the Heritage Foundation treats fiscal theory. Anybody care to weigh in on this?

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