Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature Pdf

Philosophy And The Mirror Of Nature Pdf is one of those books that made a big impact on the philosophical world, and went on to become an absolute best seller. The book was written by Richard Rorty, and was originally published by the Princeton University Press in 1979. Its massive popularity caused the Press to be unable to keep up with demand, and since then the book has gone on to sell more than 100,000 copies in philosophy.

Philosophy And The Mirror Of Nature Pdf is a 1983 book by Richard Rorty which was a best-seller and famously shook the philosophical world to its foundations when it was published. For over two thousand years, Western Civilization’s philosophical tradition has consisted of thinking about the difference between appearance and reality that is proposed by Plato. Rorty challenges this notion and states “…our desire to see ourselves reflected in philosophical mirror should take a backseat to the need to understand the workings of our own society.”

In Philosophy And The Mirror Of Nature Pdf, Rorty claims that science can answer all of our important questions better than literature or religion can. Science gives us a way to figure out which beliefs are worth keeping and which ones aren’t. This isn’t just any book, it’s one of the best sellers in its genre. If you’re into Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and want to read more works by this author then get this recommended publication today!

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About Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature Pdf

A landmark book in its field, “Philosophy And The Mirror Of Nature Pdf” presents a wide variety of topics. It is a blend of history, literary criticism, and epistemology, which is evident in the text throughout. It is well suited for students who have an interest in metaphysics or epistemology, as well as anyone studying philosophy. Rorty has become regarded as one of the more important philosophers to emerge in the post-war era. His work draws upon the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, particularly his ‘Philosophical Investigations.’

In Philosophy And The Mirror Of Nature Pdf, Richard Rorty examines the problems of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein concerning the foundations of knowledge. He sees these philosophers as attempting to overcome the positivist view of knowledge but instead creating yet another foundationalism. Rorty sets out to create a philosophy in which epistemology is replaced with a pragmatist approach that is based on literary analysis. Philosophy’s claim to be an ongoing discussion rather than being an arcane academic field is one of his main motives.

“Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” hit the philosophical world like a bombshell. Richard Rorty, a Princeton professor who had contributed to the analytic tradition in philosophy, was now attempting to shrug off all the central problems with which it had long been preoccupied. After publication, the Press was barely able to keep up with demand, and the book has since gone on to become one of its all-time best-sellers in philosophy.
Rorty argued that, beginning in the seventeenth century, philosophers developed an unhealthy obsession with the notion of representation. They compared the mind to a mirror that reflects reality. In their view, knowledge is concerned with the accuracy of these reflections, and the strategy employed to obtain this knowledge–that of inspecting, repairing, and polishing the mirror–belongs to philosophy. Rorty’s book was a powerful critique of this imagery and the tradition of thought that it spawned. He argued that the questions about truth posed by Descartes, Kant, Hegel, and modern epistemologists and philosophers of language simply couldn’t be answered and were, in any case, irrelevant to serious social and cultural inquiry. This stance provoked a barrage of criticism, but whatever the strengths of Rorty’s specific claims, the book had a therapeutic effect on philosophy. It reenergized pragmatism as an intellectual force, steered philosophy back to its roots in the humanities, and helped to make alternatives to analytic philosophy a serious choice for young graduate students. Twenty-five years later, the book remains a must-read for anyone seriously concerned about the nature of philosophical inquiry and what philosophers can and cannot do to help us understand and improve the world.

This is a difficult book to review. Rorty, you soon realize, is an exceptionally clever person. He seems to have all of philosophy at his fingertips: he presupposes a good knowledge, just to name the more important candidates, of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Dewey, Frege, Russell, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Moore, Heidegger, Sartre, Quine, Davidson, Feyerabend, Kuhn, Nagel, Derrida, Sellars, Strawson and Putnam. (I can, with considerable goodwill, tick maybe a quarter of this list). He frequently uses technical terms in German, French, Latin and Classical Greek, sometimes with a gloss but usually without. Worst of all, you can’t even get annoyed with him for being dull and pedantic; the bastard writes well and is often funny. It’s rather intimidating.

At first, it may look as though he’s showing off, but after a while a clear plan becomes visible. Rorty has set himself three main goals. The first, the one in the title, is to argue against the philosophical position which he calls “the mirror of Nature”: the assumption that the mind is in some sense a reflection of the world. Rorty sees this idea both as being central to a large part of existing philosophy, and also as seriously mistaken. Having recently read Nagel’s horrible Mind and Cosmos, I was receptive to Rorty’s arguments against approaches where some kind of mind-stuff – “qualia”, “raw feels” or whatever – is considered part of the world.

Rorty takes as his paradigmatic example the concept of “pain”, and questions the claim that “pains” should be conceived of as mental objects. There is an elegant science-fiction-like sequence featuring a hypothetical race called the Antipodeans, who have a good knowledge of neurology and only talk about pain in terms of neural correlates. Thus, when we say “I have have a headache”, an Antipodean will say something like “My C-fibres are being stimulated”. Rorty imagines how we might communicate with Antipodeans, and argues, in Wittgensteinian fashion, that our talk of “pain” is in fact no more than talk. There is nothing we could ever do, even with the most sophicated imaginable neural imaging techniques, to determine whether the Antipodeans “really feel pain”, or, indeed, “really have minds”. I liked the Antipodeans, and I hope a science-fiction writer some day considers fleshing out this sketch into a novel. Though they may seem a little counterintuitive, compared to the bizarre positions that Nagel is forced to take up they were positively commonsensical.

But how did we get into this odd situation of believing in mirror-like minds? (Borrowing a phrase from Isabella’s speech in Measure for Measure, Rorty often refers ironically to our “Glassy Essences”). He gradually introduces his second theme. Far from being a fixed, eternal idea, an inescapable part of our way of thinking about the world, Rorty considers that the Glassy Essence, in its present form, is a relatively recent invention of Descartes; moreover, he claims that the mainstream idea of philosophy, as we think of it today, is largely due to Kant and the post-Kantian school, who diligently reconstructed the past history of the subject to make it logically lead up to them. Rorty is acidly amusing on the subject of Kant, whom he describes as having “professionalized” philosophy, at least in the sense that it became impossible for anyone to call themselves a philosopher without having mastered his system. In general, Rorty encourages the reader to consider philosophy as a normal historical process, rather than as an inevitable progression towards a fixed, timeless, truth; if I understand correctly, this part of his argument is roughly based on Heidegger.

If philosophy is part of history, and not about timeless truths, then how should we conceptualize it? This leads to Rorty’s third theme: he suggests that we do better to see the development of philosophical thought simply as a huge conversation, carried out between the many philosophical thinkers of the last two and a half millennia. There are no ultimate answers, just the ongoing back and forth of reasoned discussion about questions. This theme, I believe, is based in the thought of Dewey. Rorty argues for what he calls a hermeneutic approach; we should accept that there is never going to be a single framework which encompasses everything. There will, rather, be a variety of different frameworks which are more or less incompatible with each other, but which all have something to offer. I was particularly struck by one piece of advice he gives when approaching the work of any great thinker whose ideas are as yet unfamiliar: you should look for statements which at first sight appear completely idiotic and nonsensical, and ask yourself what they might mean if they did in fact make sense. Once a reasonable hypothesis has been found, many other things may turn out to mean something different from what you first imagined.

I find Rorty’s ideas thought-provoking and helpful, not least with regard to the attacks currently being made on philosophy by the more outspoken atheist scientists. Stephen Hawking, for example, attracted a good deal of attention a couple of years ago when he said in The Grand Design that “philosophy is dead”. At the time, I was just annoyed, but having read Rorty’s book I look at it in a different way. How does this fit into the ongoing historical conversation? And what does Hawking mean by his apparently nonsensical statement? I must try out some of the new conceptual tools I have acquired.

Many years ago when I was a beginning undergraduate in philosophy, Richard Rorty (1931 — 2007) published a well-received anthology “The Linguistic Turn” which included many of the essays on the then-prevailing analytic school of philosophy in which I was taught. Years later, in 1981, when I was no longer engaged in the academic study of philosophy Rorty published his famous book, “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” which in many respects was highly critical of the methods and goals of the analytic philosophy Rorty had written about in “The Linguistic Turn” and elsewhere. I read the book in the mid-1980s and was moved by the discussion of philosophy and its nature that Rorty developed in his book. It rekindled a love for philosophy that had never, in fact, been lost. I would go on to take further philosophy courses in graduate study. When I retired from a legal career about ten years ago, my interest in philosophy intensified once again in the form of reading books and writing. In the process, I read some of Rorty’s later writings, but only recently returned to read “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” the book which so moved me years ago.

On my early reading of the book, I thought the book revitalized philosophy, got to what it was about, and freed it from certain strictures. Other readers so found the book, but probably the larger number of readers in professional philosophy disliked the work on grounds that it was anti-philosophical and marked the “end” of philosophy. Historically, this was nothing new, as many works from Kant forward which allegedly showed the impossibility of philosophy worked to revive its study in new creative ways. I still find this the case with Rorty. I struggled with this book on my recent re-reading more than I remember doing when I first read it about thirty-five years ago.

The book has broad targets in the philosophy Rorty found practiced since Descartes and the Enlightenment. Rorty objects to the representationalist character of philosophy and its efforts to frame and answer the question about how the mind can “mirror” or come to know the world “out there” outside of the knowing subject. This question led to the growth of epistemology — theory of knowledge– as central to philosophy. Philosophers tried to develop theories about how the mind, a mysterious, non-physical thing, could mirror the outside world. They also had to explain how the mind was related to the body in which it apparently was encased.

Rorty’s book examines these questions and their history. He tries to show how the questions developed and how, in Rorty’s view, these questions are misplaced. The opening sections of the book develop the issues and, with some references to Plato and Aristotle, explore the development of the “Mirror of Nature” through the way of ideas as set out by Descartes, Locke, and Kant, figures who will be familiar to upper-class undergraduates studying philosophy.

Rorty criticizes “mirroring” in many of its aspects and then turns to linguistic philosophy as developed towards the beginning of the 2oth century. The effort to see philosophical problems as rooted in language was intended to resolve or dissolve the issues raised by the way of ideas. Rorty argues that much analytic/linguistic philosophy commits the same mistakes as did its predecessor philosophy in a different guise. However he points to several philosophers in the analytic tradition whose work, Rorty argues, helps dissolve that tradition and lead it beyond its own assumptions. The thinkers Rorty discusses include Wilfred Sellars, Willard Quine, Donald Davidson, Hilary Putnam, and more. He also discusses the philosophers of science Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend. Rorty combines aspects of the work of these philosophers in creative, interesting, and idiosyncratic ways to arrive at a holistic view of philosophical thought not tied to mirroring, representationalism or correspondence. He sometimes calls it an “edifying” philosophy. With the great influence analytic philosophy has on him throughout the book, Rorty’s philosophical heroes are Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, and John Dewey. He finds these three seminal thinkers are “philosophers whose aim is to edify– to help their readers or society as a whole, break free from outworn vocabularies and attitudes, rather than provide ‘grounding’ for the intuitions and customs of the present.”

As with many other large philosophical works, “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” seems to point in conflicting directions. On the one hand, Rorty is critical of the philosophical/epistemological enterprise of “mirroring” and seeks to identify the assumptions on which “mirroring” is based and to ease the reader away. On the other hand, Rorty shows an obvious love and engagement with the subject which is made explicit in the final pages of the book. Also, much of the book is cast in the form of philosophical argument which is intended to convince the reader, even though such arguments are of secondary importance at best in Rorty’s development of an “edifying” philosophy. The book straddles between revitalizing philosophy and rejecting it. Rorty’s book has produced some new ways of philosophical thinking, particularly those connected with the so-called “second wave” of pragmatism, and ways of bridging the divide between philosophy as practiced in America and Britain and philosophy as practiced on the continent.

During the time I did graduate study following the reading of Rorty, I studied some of the American philosophers discussed in this book. In particular, I read Putnam, Davidson, and Quine. In rereading the book, I was strangely moved to find the underlining and the marginalia that I had made in the sections of the book discussing these thinkers. It brought back memories of my past and continued study of these thinkers and or Rorty and of what I found of value that made me come back to philosophy and to some of these thinkers.

“Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” has been an important book in my own thinking and in some of the course of the latter part of my life. The book retains its power to stimulate and provoke its readers and to explore not primarily answers but formulating questions for themselves.

Robin Friedman

About Rorty Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature Pdf Author

Richard Rorty (1931–2007) developed a distinctive and controversial brand of pragmatism that expressed itself along two main axes. One is negative—a critical diagnosis of what Rorty takes to be defining projects of modern philosophy. The other is positive—an attempt to show what intellectual culture might look like, once we free ourselves from the governing metaphors of mind and knowledge in which the traditional problems of epistemology and metaphysics (and indeed, in Rorty’s view, the self-conception of modern philosophy) are rooted. The centerpiece of Rorty’s critique is the provocative account offered in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979, hereafter PMN). In this book, and in the closely related essays collected in Consequences of Pragmatism (1982, hereafter CP), Rorty’s principal target is the philosophical idea of knowledge as representation, as a mental mirroring of a mind-external world. Providing a contrasting image of philosophy, Rorty has sought to integrate and apply the milestone achievements of Dewey, Hegel and Darwin in a pragmatist synthesis of historicism and naturalism. Characterizations and illustrations of a post-epistemological intellectual culture, present in both PMN (part III) and CP (xxxvii-xliv), are more richly developed in later works, such as Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989, hereafter CIS), in the popular essays and articles collected in Philosophy and Social Hope (1999), and in the four volumes of philosophical papers, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth (1991, hereafter ORT); Essays on Heidegger and Others (1991, hereafter EHO); Truth and Progress (1998, hereafter TP); and Philosophy as Cultural Politics (2007, hereafter PCP). In these writings, ranging over an unusually wide intellectual territory, Rorty offers a highly integrated, multifaceted view of thought, culture, and politics, a view that has made him one of the most widely discussed philosophers in our time.

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