- Rorty and Beyond ed. by Randall Auxier, Eli Kramer and Krzysztof Piotr Skowroński
The key organizing theme of Rorty and Beyond, edited by Randall Auxier, Eli Kramer, and Krzysztof Piotr Skowroński, is—as the title suggests—to consider what pragmatism and philosophy are and could be in a post-Rorty world. As Auxier puts it in his preface to the volume of 19 papers (including the introduction), "no one can deny that the world we now write in is one in which Rorty defined what pragmatism would be, and what it has become. To write beyond Rorty is to address a world whose idea of pragmatism was formed by his work" (x). And, in his introduction to the volume, Eli Kramer suggests that Rorty is best seen as a "transitional philosophical figure," one who "heralded and [End Page 83] inspired a shift in philosophy from one paradigm to another," but whose own position is "no longer useful or very threatening" (2). My general aim in this review is to consider whether and how well the volume as a whole succeeds at plotting and navigating the contours of a philosophical landscape shaped by Rorty's work and influence.
After a preface by one of the editors (Auxier) and an introduction by another (Kramer), the volume is divided into six parts, each with two to four chapters. Aside from the section headings provided by the editors, it is not readily apparent what brings together the chapters in each of the six parts. I offer my own suggestions here, in hopes that it proves helpful for a reader considering this volume for their own research or teaching purposes, before turning to some of the noteworthy chapters.
"Part 1: Take Care of the Future and the Past Will Take Care of Itself" brings together three chapters, each of which, in its own way, considers the tools Rorty uses and thus makes available for thinking about our futures, namely, provocation (Sartwell, chapter 1, which I explore in greater detail below); dystopian narratives that, when "pervaded by a sense of contingency of the events they describe" (39) help us see and respond to the consequences of our actions (Małecki, chapter 2); and edification, which can be paired with theology, against Rorty's secularist intentions, to make room for "the unexpected, the unforeseen, and the strange" (Madzia, chapter 3, 55).
Each of the three chapters in "Part 2: Method and Madness" points to a piece of the puzzle that the authors think is missing in Rorty's work, such as persuasion, which is the sociopolitical dimension of redescription (Skowroński, chapter 4); a pragmatic philosophy of social science, which is the baby Rorty throws out with the bathwater of the correspondence theory of truth and knowledge and the representational theory of mind (Hogan, chapter 5); and truth, Rorty's abandonment of which impedes our attempts to achieve dialogue and peace (Kilanowski, chapter 6).
In "Part 3: Democracy and Its Discontents," four contributors consider the relative fecundity or barrenness of Rorty's political thought, from his failure to develop a conception of concrete social action (Kegley, chapter 7), to his tendency to speak about other cultures "as likely to be inferior in serious ways and as not really worth treating as possible sources of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom" (Ryder, chapter 8; 120); from the poverty of his story of American liberal democracy (Stikkers, chapter 9, which I explore further below), to the fact that he misses something that Dewey does not, namely, that solidarity can and should lead to the reconstruction of individualism (Bell, chapter 10).
The two chapters that comprise "Part 4: Nature, Knowing, and Naturalisms" engage Rorty's naturalism, including one chapter that aims to formulate [End Page 84] a philosophical naturalism that includes notions the author admits Rorty likely would be uncomfortable with: life-world, common sense, and human nature (Gronda, chapter 11), and another that contends that Rorty's criticism of "neo-Carnapian" cognitive science can be productively reoriented as a criticism against what...