“The Deep Personal Resonance of Nihilism” in Journal of Philosophy of Life, 7.1 (2017), 81-91. Special issue on “Nihilism and the Meaning of Life” and James Tartaglia’s Philosophy in a Meaningless Life: A System of Nihilism, Consciousness and Reality (Bloomsbury, 2016). ^
This article examines two concerns that accompany James Tartaglia’s claims about nihilism in Philosophy in a Meaningless Life. The first concern involves Tartaglia’s narrow conception of nihilism. His view is that nihilism is practically neutral. In response, I explore how practical consequences are integral to both the general understanding of the problem of nihilism and his own interpretation of the concept. The second concern involves a tension in Tartaglia’s distinction between practical consequences and the deep personal resonance of nihilism. As a reply, I present how the notion of deep personal resonance could be interpreted both as a practical consequence and as an expression of religious nostalgia.
It is curious why a secular pragmatist like Richard Rorty would capitalize on the religiously-laden concept of redemption in his recent writings. But more than being an intriguing idea in his later work, this essay argues that redemption plays a key role in the historical development of Rorty’s thought. It begins by exploring the paradoxical status of redemption in Rorty’s oeuvre. It then investigates an overlooked debate between Rorty, Dreyfus and Taylor (1980) that first endorses the concept. It then contrasts Rorty’s notions of essentialism and edification to link redemption to self-transformation. After providing a historical legitimation to the idea of redemption, the essay reconstructs Rorty’s modern version of the concept. Redemption for Rorty centers on human relationships and not religion or philosophy; it is also pluralist and liberal in character. Finally, it concludes that Rorty uses redemption—a primary component of religious language—to capture the salvific force of religion. This power is redirected toward the protection of secular, democratic hopes, which are demanding and fragile by nature.
The idea of nihilism continues to figure prominently in philosophical debates about the problems of modernity. The aim of this article is to consider how Richard Rorty’s work might advance these debates. The paper begins with a discussion of the problem of nihilism as it appears in the recent exchange between Charles Taylor, Hubert Dreyfus, and Sean Kelly. It then brings Rorty into the conversation by considering his reflections on egotism and his proposed antidote to it: self-enlargement. I propose that self-creation and solidarity, two key ideas of Rorty’s earlier work, should be understood as redemptive paths to self-enlargement. With this interpretation in place, Rorty can be seen as offering an alternative perspective on the problem of nihilism, one that compares favourably with those put forward by Taylor, Dreyfus, and Kelly.
Rorty uses the private–public distinction as a conceptual tool to uphold the ideal of self–creation (Romanticism) simultaneously to the ideal of solidarity (Enlightenment liberalism). The difficulty of accommodating these two apparently opposing ideals has led Rorty to make inconsistent and contradictory claims about the private–public distinction. This article suggests a way of easing the tension that exists around Rorty’s formulations of the distinction. It does so by turning to the thematic of “self–enlargement” to be found in Rorty’s later writings. By presenting self–enlargement as a common feature of self–creation and solidarity, this reading opens up a way of reconciling these two ideals and mitigating some of the difficulties in Rorty’s private–public distinction.
Despite the initial strangeness of grouping Iris Murdoch (a Platonist), Martha Nussbaum (an Aristotelian), and Richard Rorty (a pragmatist) together, this paper will argue that these thinkers share a strong commitment to the moral purport of literature. I will also show that their shared idea of moral engagement through literature interlocks the individual’s sense of self and the world of others. After considering their accounts, I will conclude by raising the question of literature’s moral limits.
To de-essentialize, to break up the lump, to pick over these traditions and institutions one by one, and see what use they have for our present purposes – this is the path that Richard Rorty (1931-2007) navigates in order to make his mark in the realm of philosophical thinking. He ruptures intellectual discourse by being flagrantly anti-philosophical, as made manifest by his avoidance of the ironic act of asking essentialistic yet unanswerable questions such as What is being? What is human nature? What can we know for sure? Instead, Rorty re-strategizes his approach toward our interpretation of the history of ideas so as to downplay the Sisyphean search for primordiality. This paper plays on three themes: edification, hermeneutics, and the philosophers of edification in the 20th century. It intends to show that even upon the death of philosophy as epistemology – or in Rortian terms, as mirror-imagery – the “Conversation of Mankind” ensues in fresher, better, more relevant ways.
The intent of the work is to show that when the corporeality of man is extinguished, the self continues to pulse through the story. By traversing Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutics, the author argues that the capable, hopeful and mortal self – the description of man in his philosophical anthropology – is spoken, written and read in a narrative. The self that has succumbed to his last breath may hope to endure creatively through the interpretation of the reader. The immortalizing narrative is the answer of the Self to finitude. This is the Self ’s adamant “No!” to the no of death.
“Of Private Selves and Public Morals: Philosophy and Literature in Modernity” in Worldmaking: Literature, Language, Culture [FILLM 5]. Ed. Tom Clark, Emily Finlay and Philippa Kelly (Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2017), 77-86. ^
What is the moral, spiritual, and educative function of philosophy and literature in modern lives? Such a large question is rarely posed by philosophers or literary theorists these days, but one philosopher who has put it at the top of his agenda is Richard Rorty. His general answer is that both literature and philosophy serve distinct ends: the private end of personal fulfilment through the redescription of experiences and the possibility of self-creation, and the public end of expanded horizons of moral imagination and spheres of solidarity. In what follows I will take a closer look at Rorty’s proposal. I begin by situating it as a contribution to philosophical discussions of the ‘problems of modernity’. Second, I draw attention to an important but sometimes neglected thought that underscores Rorty’s proposal: the alliance of philosophy and literature in making sense of modern lives. With this background in place, in the third section I consider the distinctive version of the private/public split that Rorty invokes, which can be regarded as his version of worldmaking in modernity. I argue that Rorty’s version of the distinction has more going for it than some critics have been prepared to grant, and that it at least provides a basis for further reflection on the important question it helps to answer.
“Coming to Grips with Realism,” Review of Retrieving Realism by Hubert Dreyfus and Charles Taylor (Harvard University Press, 2015) Critical Horizons: A Journal of Philosophy and Critical Theory 18.3 (2017), 281-288. DOI:10.1080/14409917.2017.1293901 *
Retrieving Realism renders the joint philosophical goals of Hubert Dreyfus and Charles Taylor into what is probably their final and most concise form. It has two main objectives: first, it aims to deconstruct the mediationalism that undergirds Western philosophy, and second, it endorses contact theory, or embodied/embedded coping, as an alternative. In this essay, I present the book’s most salient themes and reveal areas that are ripe for further philosophical consideration. I also direct the reader to the work’s genuine ontological challenge: how to come to grips with contact theory beyond the borders of epistemology.