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Richard Rorty, 1931-2007

Richard Rorty, the leading American philosopher and heir to the pragmatist tradition, passed away on Friday, June 8.

He was Professor of Comparative Literature emeritus at Stanford University. In April the American Philosophical Society awarded him the Thomas Jefferson Medal. The prize citation reads: “In recognition of his influential and distinctively American contribution to philosophy and, more widely, to humanistic studies. His work redefined knowledge ‘as a matter of conversation and of social practice, rather than as an attempt to mirror nature’ and thus redefined philosophy itself as an unending, democratically disciplined, social and cultural activity of inquiry, reflection, and exchange, rather than an activity governed and validated by the concept of objective, extramental truth.”

At the awards ceremony, presenter Lionel Gossman celebrated Dr. Rorty as an advocate of “a deeply liberal, democratic, and truly American way of thinking about knowledge.” Dr. Rorty’s published works include Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Consequences of Pragmatism (1982), Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1988), Objectivity, Relativism and Truth: Philosophical Papers I (1991), Essays on Heidegger and Others: Philosophical Papers II (1991), Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America (1998), Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers III (1998), and Philosophy and Social Hope (2000).

UPDATE: Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht’s reflections on Richard Rorty can be read here.

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