1. What's the source for this comment?

Rorty infamously claimed (in so many words) that there is no essential difference between philosophy and litcrit.

  1. Has any other philosophers argued this?
  • I hope not. It doesn't say much for Rorty's philosophical approach, It's a view that seems to depend on not understanding philosophy.any better than Finnegan;s Wake. – PeterJ Sep 14 at 11:31
  • Rorty claimed a lot more than that, in the Mirror of Nature he characterized "the entire culture, from physics to poetry, as a single, continuous, seamless activity in which the divisions are merely institutional and pedagogical". His inspiration is of course Derrida, "there is nothing outside the text". See Have any philosophers applied the concept of “underdetermination” to non-scientific contexts? – Conifold Sep 15 at 19:51
up vote 1 down vote accepted

If you're looking for where Rorty says this or might be taken to imply it, then Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989), is the best place to start. I base this advice on the following review :

There is another crucial dualism in these essays. For Rorty, there are two kinds of philosophical methods or procedures: the arguments of common sense and the descriptions of intellectuals. This dualism defines the second dominant feature of Rorty's stories. Rorty rejects common sense and traditional argumentation, and instead proceeds by literary criticism, description, and redescription - by sweeping stories about the histories of philosophy and literature. Rorty seems to view common sense as hopelessly narrow and naive, and he characterizes philosophy by-argument as hopelessly tied to foundationalist epistemologies, transcendental metaphysics, and supposed final, essential vocabularies.

By contrast, he advocates philosophy-by-redescription, and awards it the "ironist" seal of approval. Ironist philosophers, Rorty explains, are "never quite able to take themselves seriously because they are always aware that the terms in which they describe themselves are subject to change, always aware of the contingency and fragility of their final vocabularies, and thus of their selves" (74 75). However, it does seem that ironist philosophers take one another very seriously. In fact, as Rorty describes them, they seem downright clubby: "So our doubts about our own characters or our own culture can be resolved or assuaged only by enlarging our acquaintance. The easiest way of doing that is to read books, and so ironists spend more of their time placing books than in placing real life people" (80). Ironists, Rorty continues, take literary critics as their moral advisers because these critics have large ranges of acquaintances - they "have been around." This may be so, but it is instructive to note that at least in one important and distressing respect, ironists and traditional metaphysicians are alike. Although they differ about the reality of contingency, both fear contingency. For Rorty, contingency is dangerous, threatening, humiliating; it suggests that life is futile. As a result: "Literary criticism does for ironists what the search for universal moral principles is supposed to do for metaphysicians" (80). (John J. Stuhr, 'Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty', The Personalist Forum, Vol. 5, No. 2, Humanism (Fall 1989), pp. 149-152 : 150.)


R. Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0521353816.

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