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Reviews169 Rorty's Humanistic Pragmatism: Philosophy Democratized, by Konstantin Kolenda; xv & 138 pp. Tampa: University of South Florida Press, 1990, $22.95. Richard Rorty's penetrating critique of Anglo-American philosophy has prompted many readers to ask what sorts of investigations and analyses might survive a Rortian turn in philosophy. In Rorty's Humanistic Pragmatism, Konstantin Kolenda outlines and defends a philosophical enterprise informed by Rortian principles and sensibilities. Kolenda argues that "the shifts in the directions advocated by Rorty are in fact constructive and positive. . . . The main message of [Rorty's] writings is that we should take pragmatism seriously. By doing so, we will establish a closer connection between thought and life" (pp. xii-xiii). We should take Rorty's pragmatism seriously, he explains, because "Rorty heeds some of the best impulses of our religious and humanistic traditions . There is a good deal of plain reverence for life, for letting things be" (p. 50). By "humanism," Kolenda apparently means any organization of intellectual resources that evinces a commitment to the whole of human experience. He alternately situates Rorty in various humanistic traditions, including classical American pragmatism, liberal democracy, existentialism, and Christianity. Kolenda defends Rorty's humanistic pragmatism as an attempt to provide a unified response to the three guiding questions of Kant's philosophy: What can I know? What ought I do? What can I hope? These three elements—knowledge, action, and hope—collectively express the whole of human experience, and thus constitute the natural province of philosophy. In confusing Rorty's attack on Philosophy (i.e., philosophy narrowly and analytically construed) with an attack on philosophy itself, his critics routinely fail to appreciate his efforts to recover the humanistic roots ofphilosophy. Byliberatingus from an oppressively narrow conception of what philosophy might and ought to be, Rorty points us in the direction of a genuine ars vitae. The centerpiece of Rorty's humanistic pragmatism, as reconstructed by Kolenda , is the notion oícoping: "To cope is to move through the world knowingly and effectively; it is to be on the lookout for how it might be changed for the better" (p. 67). Although "coping" may strike some philosophers as an unacceptably vague concept on which to base a program for human action, Kolenda welcomes it as an improvement upon the more narrowly defined concepts that animate analytic philosophy. Kolenda also recommends coping as a fruitful strategy for solving many of the problems that currendy occupy American foreign policy: "openness to other cultures, to other ways of handling practical problems or organizing intellectual activity, is also likely to facilitate change in desirable directions. Here Rorty's emphasis on the edifying and reactive side of thought can have practical consequences" (p. 103). Kolenda's extension of 170Philosophy and Literature Rortian principles to the global political arena underscores his own contribution to the reconstruction of "Rorty's humanistic pragmatism." Here it would be especially interesting to know what Rorty himself thinks of this extension and application of his ideas. Those readers who expect from Kolendaa polemical engagementwith Rorty's thoughtare likely to be disappointed. His avowed taskis to provide a sympathetic reconstruction of the humanistic pragmatism that lies at the heart of Rorty's philosophy. Kolenda performs this task deftly, combining a careful explication of Rorty's pragmatism with an inspired vision of its possible ramifications. His reconstruction of Rorty's pragmatism not only situates Rorty within an identifiable tradition of humanistic thought, but also deflects the common charge that Rorty's approach to philosophy is nihilistic. Rorty's Humanistic Pragmatism is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature devoted to Rorty's influence on philosophy. Pennsylvania State UniversityDaniel W. Conway Gendered Interventions: Narrative Discourse in the Victorian Novel, by Robyn R. Warhol; xvii & 246 pp. New Brunswick , New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1989, $37.00. In her preface to Gendered Interventions, Robyn Warhol claims ". . . that our prejudice against earnest (as opposed to ironic) direct address stems from our culture's aversion to feminine gestures" (p. vii). Whereas female novelists attempt to make the reader/narratee sympathize with the characters' plights, their male counterparts remind the reader of the artificiality of the novelistic world and encourage detachment from the characters. Warhol's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 169-170
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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