Richard Rorty: Outgrowing Modern Nihilism (2020)

9783030450571-3 copy

“Professor Llanera has done a great service to all of us who have worried that Rorty’s commitment to liberal versions of autonomy and self-cultivation cannot be squared with the liberatory projects he champions. The careful and deep reading she offers in this book helps us understand how Rorty’s work can contribute significantly to those projects, and is an important contribution to that discussion.” – Marianne Janack is the John Stewart Kennedy Professor of Philosophy at Hamilton College. She is the author of What We Mean By Experience (Stanford University Press) and editor of Re-reading the Canon: Feminist Interpretations of Richard Rorty (Penn State University Press).

“In this encouragingly ambitious and insightful book, Tracy Llanera offers an ingenious interpretation of Richard Rorty’s metaphilosophy along with his writings on egotism and redemption to show how he provides the resources for approaching nihilism as a phenomenon that need not now be overcome but can instead be outgrown. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the cultural problems of modernity.” – Alan Malachowski is a research fellow in the Centre for Applied Ethics at Stellenbosch University. He is the author of Richard Rorty and The New Pragmatism. His edited works include Reading Rorty and The Cambridge Companion to Pragmatism.

“Llanera’s book is a major contribution to understanding Rorty in a way that he himself would have endorsed. Instead of a Rorty as the enfant terrible of a version of American pragmatism that was too close to postmodern relativism, nihilism, cynicism, and narcissism, Llanera reconstructs for us a Rorty that is as much anti-authoritarian as he is a romantic polytheist who argues that our departure from the self-incurred tutelage of subordination to a god must be extended to our subordination to a view of the mind and truth that are equally totalitarian and unjustifiable, and which invariably result in nihilism. For Rorty nihilism results when our yearning for ultimate justifications shipwreck on the reefs of the contingency of our languages. All that we have is the narratives we tell ourselves about how our communities and views of the world can become more ecumenical and capacious. For Rorty, outgrowing nihilism can only come about from our sober realization that all we have is the power to persuade each other of the virtues of better stories of how we enlarged the reach of our “we,” to those to whom we are now loyal.” – Eduardo Mendieta is Professor of Philosophy at Penn State University and Associate Director of the Rock Ethics Institute. He is editor of Take Care of Freedom and Truth Will Take Care of Itself: Interviews with Richard Rorty.

“Rorty’s work is often approached with a focus on its metaphilosophical, epistemological, and political aspects, with the ethical-existential side of his thought neglected in the literature. Llanera’s extraordinary book offers a comprehensive reading of Rorty’s work based precisely on that plane. It values Rorty’s latest writings, identifying in them an existential turn that animates Rorty’s pragmatism. In this way, Llanera places the American philosopher in the great conversation about nihilism and spiritual transformation in the contemporary world.” – Federico Penelas is a researcher at Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) and is professor of philosophy at Universidad de Buenos Aires and Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata.

Tracy Llanera’s guiding idea is that we can read “Rorty’s philosophical project as undergirded by the theme of redemption.” That turns out to be a surprisingly illuminating line to pursue. Articulating a Rortyan notion of redemption in response to the modern challenge of nihilism, Llanera offers a distinctive contribution to an important ongoing debate. Along the way, she shows us that the force and the urgency of famous Rortyan campaigns against representationalism and essentialism will elude us, unless we read them in the light of his enduring concern with questions of meaning and value. Llanera approaches Rorty’s oeuvre with the conversational solidarity that is the heart of hermeneutic virtue. As a result, Rorty is enriched and his readers have been done a great service. – Bjørn Torgrim Ramberg is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oslo. He is the author of Donald Davidson’s Philosophy of Language: An Introduction (Blackwell, 1989) and co-editor of Reflections and Replies: Essays on Tyler Burge (2003, The MIT Press).

“Llanera discovers a unifying, utopian motive for Rorty’s criticisms of absolutism about truth, knowledge and morality. He was critical not because he was the perfect nihilist, but because he offered a path to redemption from egotism which circumvents the nihilism that afflicts absolutism, with absolutism itself portrayed as a product of egotism. This fresh and irreverently Rortian interpretation is one which Rorty himself – who rarely mentioned “nihilism” – would have loved.” – James Tartaglia is Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at Keele University, UK. He is the author of Philosophy in a Meaningless Life and Philosophy in a Technological World: Gods and Titans.

“That Rorty’s pragmatist philosophy speaks directly to questions of human meaning has taken a scholar of Llanera’s talents to discern. Llanera compellingly argues that Rorty’s conception of “pragmatist transcendence” radically reframes debates in onto-theology away from the bugbear of nihilism, and toward notions of the redemptive and the spiritual that are at home in a secular democratic culture. This book marks a tectonic shift in our understanding of Rorty’s relevance for religion and the sacred.” – Chris Voparil is on the Graduate Faculty of Union Institute & University. He is the author of Richard Rorty: Politics and Vision, the co-editor of The Rorty Reader (with Richard Bernstein) and Pragmatism and Justice (with David Rondel and Susan Dieleman).

Out in July 2020. Purchase here.