Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity
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Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  960 ratings  ·  58 reviews
In this book, major American philosopher Richard Rorty argues that thinkers such as Nietzsche, Freud, and Wittgenstein have enabled societies to see themselves as historical contingencies, rather than as expressions of underlying, ahistorical human nature, or as realizations of suprahistorical goals. This ironic perspective on the human condition is valuable but it cannot...more
Paperback, 220 pages
Published February 24th 1989 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1989)
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Hadrian
1) Our own truths are the results of individual interpretations of language. For further detail, read Heidegger Wittgenstein.

2) Different people will interpret things differently. Some of these interpretations are irreconcilable. This is OK. For counterexamples, see Plato and Kant.

3) It's OK to you to try and think independently.

3a) Literature and poetry are useful means to think and explore independently. Not just in aesthetics, but on social issues as well. Not just Nabokov, but Orwell.

4) Yes...more
Ryan
I read this book as a challenge to myself. An engineering education tends to engender a Manichean sensibility, as solutions are either correct or incorrect. When Richard Rorty died in 2007, I read a slate.com profile that classified him as that worst pariah of American middle-class sensibility - a relativist. But, there was a definite measure of respect for the positions he took. So I decided to give him a try, hoping to open my mind, but expecting to dance gleefully on his bleeding heart.

Sadly,...more
Trevor
I was at work a week or so ago and my boss got me to track down a quote by this guy and then to read over the article the quote was from. The article is here:

http://web1.uct.usm.maine.edu/~bcj/is...

Anyway, I’ve tended to avoid American pragmatists since a bad experience in my undergrad degree. But I’ve been reading lots of Dewey – you sort of have to if you are going to be doing anything around the sociology of education – and then the article above was so interesting that I thought I might rea...more
Thomas Bundy
Rorty posits a philosophy that in internally inconsistent, and ultimately, cowardly. To the degree that people can create their own ironic selves, they will necessarily tend to destroy solidarity. His notion of solidarity contradicts the contingent, ironic existences he argues that we have. He just doesn't LIKE that self-creators will come along that will increase suffering, so he creates a scheme that rejects their projects.

The purpose of this ideal liberal society is to eradicate cruelty and s...more
Darran Mclaughlin
Outstanding. This is the closest that a work of philosophy has ever come to reflecting my own personal beliefs. Rorty was an analytical philosopher in the Anglo-American tradition that had a 'road to Damascus' conversion to Continental philosophy. His writing is in the tradition of Nietzsche, Heidegger and Derrida combined with the Pragmatists, but he writes very clearly. He writes in such a way as to express exactly what he means to say, without ducking behind vague and complex language like ma...more
Intery
"Случайност, ирония и солидарност" не дава ясни и точни отговори, а предлага още една посока на мислене как можем да бъдем по-добри. В утопията на Рорти хората са либерални ироници. Либерални, защото смятат, че жестокостта е най-лошата човешка черта; ироници, защото са осъзнали случайността на убежденията и мирогледа си. Книгата е разделена на няколко части, всяка от които аргументира или разширява тази идея.
Една от частите е отделена за обяснение как истината не е "там отвън", а е конструкт вър...more
Shane Eide
www.emergenthermit.com

The late Richard Rorty scandalized people with his ‘relaxed attitude’ when it came to truth. He was often charged with terms like ‘flippant’ and ‘relativistic.’ To rest at such a description of Rorty as a thinker would be to ignore his contribution to the dialogue of liberal thought, and also, to entertain the most refined prejudice of one contingent vocabulary. Contingent vocabularies are what this book is all about. In Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Rorty sets out to...more
Nick Wellings
The publication of Contingency Irony, Solidarity seems to have been a major event in philosophy. It seems that many philosophers were scandalised, angry or offended by the text and its position. It was true to say that to read CIS was to encounter an intellectually brave and morally novel work like nothing I have read before. Why?

Rorty wants to show us a preffered state of society. To do this Contingency Irony Solidarity (CIS) thumbs its nose at a lot of sacred cows. Rorty attempts to pull the...more
Matthew Gallaway
Rorty's conception of language and fiction changed my life. Five fucking stars.
Sharifa
An absolute must-read for any student (or fan) of the analytic tradition in Western philosophy.

Rorty criticizes not only basic assumptions in the Enlightenment tradition's approach towards examining meaning, speech and truth but also how this approach that we've inherited is flawed in understanding itself and other systems of thought. If all this sounds excessively obtuse, I hope you take my word it isn't. The implications of these ideas range not only from the political and sociological but al...more
Laura
The arrogant musings of a left-wing social philosopher who essentially divides people into three categories: dumb bunnies, common-sensers, and people who have the deep insight to agree with him. The only take-home message worth taking home was that philosophy is not as effective a vehicle for ideas as literature, which I knew beforehand.
Wesley
The late professor Rorty changed my life. Not that I agree with all his opinions, but the depth of his reasoning, the erudition and gravity and unshakable reasonableness of his writing opened my mind to new levels of thinking. Coupled with Nietzsche's Beyond Good & Evil (which I read for the same class when I was a sophomore), the effect was literally life-changing.

The book is about the impossibility of transcultural values, the possibilities and promise of sloughing off Enlightenment ration...more
Andrew
Oh my, this was an interesting one. So much of what Rorty said, I agreed with to a T. Things that seem so obvious, but in the ordinary sphere of discourse are always clouded by metaphysical bullshit. The one thing he said that I couldn't jibe with (and I don't know whether I disagree with it or not, it was certainly disconcerting) was his notion of a divide between private ironism and public non-ironism. Either way, his whole thesis is very interesting and thought-provoking, and, to phrase it in...more
Yvonne
yes, it is a philosphical book but in short it is about the power of books and literature! It will change your perspective on reading and the use of books. Great!
Mattschratz
If nothing else, read the five-star essay, that you don't even need too much philosophy background to appreciate, on Nabokov entitled "The Barber of Kasbeam"
Christoph
I must hand it to Rorty, he truly knows his language and how to use it (which underscores his thesis!). I picked up CIS with skepticism on the general theory backing his beliefs (pragmatism) since I do not really believe it exists. Perhaps, this is the position Rorty is hoping you will approach from, any respectable metaphysician would, so as to break down your worldview (if such a thing existed in the first place), rebuild it in a new language, and set you sailing on your way with the idea that...more
Matt
If you're not going to say ONE WORD about Newt Gingrinch, Rorty, then why'd you put him on the cover?

Rorty thinks that the ideas we have and the truths we hold are formed and limited by our vocabularies. As language changes and evolves, and we re-describe the world, immutable truths and the things we value, the way we want our society ordered, changes. I found it to be an intelligent and consistent explanation of what very generically is often short-handed as post modern thought. He openly dodg...more
thegift
fascinating meta-philosophy critique, about entire tendencies in thought towards metaphysician- here a bad thing- and the ironist- generally a good thing- but I can see how he could annoy those who are searching for some kind of holistic certainty, some way of thought that is atemporal, usually given capitals whether thick or thin, according to your particular final vocabulary...

so he does not refer to my favourite philosopher, so he gets things out of Heidegger, Nietzsche, even Kant, which I do...more
Digo-Tornado Yes!
Has been the foundation and departure point for much of my philosophical perspective. Rorty takes the deconstructionalist problem of "différance" and gives us a way to move forward. Here is a modern way of thinking that can give value to the individual as well as the whole. Although certainly not a metaphysician, Rorty still manages to describe a way of being that emphasizes inclusiveness, and in doing so, almost refers to a concept of larger otherness, even if it is "contingent". If there are m...more
Scott
I bought a used copy March 29, 2008, at Alias Books on Sawtelle, along with Roger Lewin's "On Complexity," Tyler Volk's "Metapatterns," Stephen Hawking's "A Briefer History of Time," and John Cage's "A Year From Monday."

My notes say, "which I immediately dragged as I now understand this is his most significant book." I'm not sure where I learned that, but at some point I learned that Brian Eno used to give this book to people, so I'm sure that had something to do with it, although I was familiar...more
Heather
I know that Richard Rorty is a potentially polarizing figure, but I love this book and have found it very useful. I especially have benefited (in my own teaching and research) from his discussion about "cruelty," particularly in relation to Lolita and 1984. I also praise him for his reading of Elaine Scarry (who I also find immensely useful)!
Kevin
Rorty thoughtfully encapsulates many of the modern critiques of metaphysical certainty, though his overview is much indebted to the more radical French theorists (Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, and many others) to whose work Rorty only gives cursory attention. However, Rorty’s answer to the charge of moral relativism these poststructural theorists often receive proves disappointing at best— as if to reduce liberalism to its simplest tenant (avoid cruelty) is enough to create moral imperative from w...more
Shawn
It took a while to get to this book, but worth the wait. I've been digging around in philosophy lately, trying to answer the question of how the Enlightenment could be so good and so bad for people. This book offers such a great way forward from the traditional opposites of private versus public theories, analytic and continental philosophies, etc. I have only read through it once, mind you, and am not all that sophisticated as a philosopher (largely self-taught), but I am awarding the five star...more
Daniel Guzman
Recomiendo este libro ampliamente, cambio radicalmente mi forma de pensar ya que este autor es un filosofo distinto a los demás y nos invita a lo mismo.Claramente Rorty tiene una perspectiva distinta de lo que es el mundo, la filosofía tradicional se ve seriamente cuestionada con una argumentación muy solida, la idea de un mundo carente de una naturaleza intrínseca sirve para dejar a un lado de tajo la pelea entre el absolutismo y el relativismo, mientras que la visión ironista de Rorty plantea...more
Katrina Becker
Not. My. Favorite. As in, at all. I was all set to give it 1 star (only because zero's not an option) until I got to the 3rd section (last 3 chapters) and Rorty started speaking English. Also, he brought in Nabokov, 1984, and human solidarity, all of which I can at least follow if not discuss at length. So those chapters were quite good, but definitely not enough to endear me to this book one bit. For sure a book by a philosopher, about philosophers, for philosophers. Let's just say, I'm not a p...more
Danielroffle
As is often the case with my (thouroughly dilettante) ventures into reading philosophy, I couldn't really sum up what this book is about to you if you asked me right now, but bits and pieces of it often roll around in my head. I remember agreeing strongly with Rorty's skepticism about a universal morality, and with his conviction that hurting others is the worst anyone can do; I don't remember being too convinced by how he tried to reconcile the two. I also remember the passages on how intellect...more
Carl
Obama's win inspired me to reread this book of pragmatic ideas, a favorite. Too bad Rorty didn't live to see his victory, not simply because our next President is an African American (which itself represents a liberal utopian ideal), but because Obama, in his actual speech, is a shift from cowboy cliches to liberal intellectualism. I'm hopeful that Obama will continue to redescribe America, as Rorty might say, rather than falling into old, ineffective ways of talking about things that matter to...more
Mark
A pretty important book, I think. The first two chapters are a bear to read: You have to balance your mind pretty carefully to accept any of it. Chapter 3 through 6 are much more interesting and useful, chapters 7 and 8 are engaging enough in their own way.

The prose is extremely readable and accessible, but the ideas are initially challenging.

I do feel like I understand the concept of "self creation" much better. It doesn't seem as naively escapist as it once did to me.
Kirk Ashworth
This book is trying to be a straightforward discussion of idealist, romantic subject/object philosophies and the new vocabularies that have evolved, are evolving, can evolve. It uses Davidson's belief that language is not a medium, but a "passing theory" finding convergence and fusing the private and the social. I will need quite a bit more time with this one, but I get a sense of how it precedes his more recent book Achieving Our Country.
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100476
Richard Rorty (1931–2007) developed a distinctive and controversial brand of pragmatism that expressed itself along two main axes. One is negative—a critical diagnosis of what Rorty takes to be defining projects of modern philosophy. The other is positive—an attempt to show what intellectual culture might look like, once we free ourselves from the governing metaphors of mind and knowledge in which...more
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Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature Philosophy and Social Hope Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers (Philosophical Papers (Cambridge)) (Volume 1) Consequences of Pragmatism: Essays 1972-1980

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