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Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,587 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
"Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature" hit the philosophical world like a bombshell. Richard Rorty, a Princeton professor who had contributed to the analytic tradition in philosophy, was now attempting to shrug off all the central problems with which it had long been preoccupied. After publication, the Press was barely able to keep up with demand, and the book has since gon ...more
Hardcover, 1st edition, 424 pages
Published January 21st 1980 by Princeton University Press (first published 1979)
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Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone seriously interested in philosophy
This is a difficult book to review. Rorty, you soon realize, is an exceptionally clever person. He seems to have all of philosophy at his fingertips: he presupposes a good knowledge, just to name the more important candidates, of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Dewey, Frege, Russell, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Moore, Heidegger, Sartre, Quine, Davidson, Feyerabend, Kuhn, Nagel, Derrida, Sellars, Strawson and Putnam. (I can, with considerable goodwil ...more
This is an essay which anybody who has ever regaled a professional philosopher should read. It will make you snort with laughter as Rorty tells you exactly how it is, these guys in their glass castles having obscure debates about nothing that matters, when we all know that philosophy is about the things that do matter. Well, it should be anyway, right? It's lost its way, it used to be vital, now it's irrelevant. We all know it except the professional philosophers and you have to wonder why they ...more
Otto Lehto
Nov 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rorty is not only a philosopher. He is also a man of literature. As such, he is concerned with telling a good story. This makes the book an absolutely gripping read (as far as a philosophy book can ever be).

The problem with telling a story is that you can mistake your fictions for reality. Many readers have pointed out that weaving a narrative of heroes and anti-heroes can lead to misrepresentations. This, ironically, is Rorty's very point. Pretending to see unadulterated reality, as if through
James Klagge
I have just finished reading this for the second time, having used it now twice as a book in my Metaphysics seminar (the first time was 17 years ago). I don't really like the book or its viewpoint, but it is a good object for reflection. The book itself offers a take on the history Western Philosophy as mostly a series of various attempts to see truth as a kind of mirroring and to anchor knowledge in correspondence with the world, and then to offer the author's contrasting view of truth as no mo ...more
David M
May 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a landmark for me. I never would have been able to read Gadamer or Heidegger if I hadn't encountered Rorty first. He gives the best possible introduction to continental philosophy for anyone with a rigorous, empirical, "no bullshit" attitude. That said, I ultimately think the phenomenologists leave Rorty in the dust, but then you have to climb up ladders before you can kick them over.
It should be said, firstly, that I am an avowed pragmatist and as such am a welcome audience to a book such as this. Other readers who more specifically follow the Anglo-American philosophical tradition might feel rather differently. But I found it to be a spirited defense of an alternative to that particular philosophical mission, an alternative that quite simply throws out a lot of the major theoretical problems of the past 250 years as being language games.

My principal failure as a reader was
Indrek Ojam
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ilmselt üks 20. sajandi filosoofia kõige parematest raamatutest. Või õigemini meeldivamatest, sest kuna ma ei kuulu professionaalsete filosoofide hulka, ei päde ka 'paremust' hindama. Aga just küsimused filosoofia süvenevast spetsialiseerumisest ja teaduslikkustumisest, epistemoloogia ja hermeneutika, loodus- ja humanitaarteaduste vahekorrast on minu jaoks selle raamatu kõige huvitavam osa.

Rorty on suuremeelne filosoof, tal on paljude erinevate valdkondade suhtes avar vaatepiir. Ei nähva ega pan
Really Interesting. I'm a bit skeptical of Rorty's take on the history of Philosophy, it seems to me to be a masterwork of editing, rather than a clear story about how philosophy has progressed. Nevertheless, I think that there is a pretty interesting case made against correspondence theory. Of particular value are the last two chapters on Hermeneutics vs. Epistemology, and the role of the philosopher as concerned with "edification."
Jul 31, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended for people who have taken the time to learn the language of hardcore analytic philosophy but want to dissolve the problems anyway. The middle 200 pages of this were a real slog - his impulse is more moral than philosophical, but he pays lip-service to the analytic tradition by using it to prove, basically, that everybody between Descartes and Dewey was a big dum-dum.
Awet Moges
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A mind-blowing work of philosophy that spells the end of an era: epistemology and for that matter, analytic philosophy. If you're into late 20th century philosophy you can't go wrong with Richard Rorty.
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
I’m apprehensive/skeptical about it but all of the hullabaloo seems worth checking out all the same, even if only to know precisely what’s wrong with Rorty’s take.

From a film on Rorty:

sinto que maior parte deste livro me passou ao lado porque não tenho o tipo de background em leituras filosóficas necessário para o compreender na íntegra mas achei que traz ao de cima ideias e questões interessantes e se esforça minimamente para se fazer entender para leigos como eu.
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Fantastic. Redescribes the history of philosophy in light of the criticisms of Wittgenstein, et. al. and presents an alternative vision of a philosophy based on conversation rather than epistemology.
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rorty's updating of Pragmatism includes discussions of how the views of Heidegger and Wittgenstein intersect with that tradition.
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Something good narrator
Joe W.
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A genius. Not Gadamer but a chatty solution to reason's demise nevertheless.
Christopher Roberts
There is one big bone to pick for me with Rorty's book. (Only one? Well, only one that I feel like mentioning.) It comes in his early chapters about the "mind body problem." Rorty insists there is no real problem and that the problem is just an issue of language. Rorty introduces the thought experiment of an alien race that are pure physicalists. Instead of saying, "I feel pain" they say, "my c-fibers are being stimulated." Rorty insists there is no way of knowing whether they really feel pain ...more
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book sat on my shelf for a few years before I decided to read it, but now that I've read it once, I can see returning to it again.

Rorty's project in this work is to move away from the view of philosophy as a discipline which acts to establish timeliness standards of rationality, truth and knowledge that transcend all other disciplines (ie physics, psychology) and can adjudicate knowledge claims that arise between these disciplines. Instead, philosophy should be seen as one discipline among
Eliezer Sneiderman
There was some tough going in the second chapter when Rorty uses the metaphor of Alien Anitpodeans who can read their own brain chemistry. But, the last few chapters were excellent. I recommend listening to the "Partially Examined Life" podcast as one reads the book.
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is my worldview now, he seems completely correct
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Need to reread in a few years - way more here than I can properly assimilate now.
Carl Stevens
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a major best-seller with numerous in-depth reviews out there, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature hardly needs me to explicate in general so I will do so in particular for those who care how this book and others have contributed to my own writer’s philosophy which I have variously termed “literary survival” and “resonance.”
Rorty attacked analytical philosophy’s obsession with the image of the mirror of nature at the cost of recognizing the human nature of philosophical and, indeed, all discou
Shane Wagoner
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since Plato, philosophy has been concerned with getting beyond mere appearance in order to access the intrinsic nature of reality. For thinkers like Descartes and Kant, the ability to perform this feat is what defines humans as something distinct and special within the animal kingdom. However, Darwin made this position increasingly untenable by clarifying our bond to the natural world. Richard Rorty has now come to draw out the philosophical conclusions of such a tie.

Beginning with an explorati
Dec 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The most important work of contemporary philosophy I read as a student. Rorty attempts to show a common pathway between the American, British and Continental traditions in 20th century philosophy. An ambitious project without doubt, but part of Rorty's appeal is that he's more than happy to tilt at windmills. Does he succeed?

If the measure of success is to have generated conversation between these previously three isolated camps then the answer is a resounding yes. There are certainly details th
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I give 5 star reviews to anything I've read that made me seriously reflect on an issue rather than just being an interesting read. Good or bad, right or wrong, Rorty made me do that with this book.

Part-analytic, part-continental, and attempting to dismiss those unhelpful titles in the process, Rorty dismantles the history of epistemology as the perceived backbone of modern thought. He not only tries to show how the particular concerns of our day have emerged from some specific moves in philosoph
Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
Five stars doesn't mean I agree with the whole book, naturally. But I really love Rorty's style here. Big ideas, challenging ideas, yet as a non-specialist I was able to follow much (dare I say most?) of what he wrote. I'm also very sympathetic to his argument, that philosophy needs to abandon its quest to be the grounding mode of inquiry for all else, and the related argument that all modes of knowing need to strive for humility and recognition of the fact that they are ways of knowing and (alm ...more
Dan Geddes
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

See review at:

The chief target of Rorty's work is the notion that epistemology is the arbiter of what is rational in Western cultures. He sees this as an outgrowth of Descartes' project of grounding the new science on a new base of certainty. This new base was the idea of mind, a somewhat ineffable entity that "mirrors" reality with various degrees of accuracy. Kant embellished this notion by describing mind as something that adds to reality in the proces
Tylor Lovins
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rorty's book is a must read if one wants a cogent critique of traditional philosophy, in light of American pragmatism (Dewey, Williams, etc.), Wittgenstein, and Heidegger. Rorty's book gives a perspicuous account of the history of philosophy (in terms of empistemology, the mind, rationality, etc.) and in his conceptual clarification shows the import of some of the ideas, while discarding most of them in a thoroughly pragmatist fashion. Although, as a Wittgensteinian, I don't approve of the way i ...more
A beautiful, fat book to disagree with. Maybe Rorty says the outlandish things he does, e.g., that the mind and language are just inventions, that we need to get rid of epistemology, strictly for an edifying purpose —much like Kierkegaard's indirect communication, like the socratic midwifery in Plato's dialogues—to confront the reader, to get the reader into a position where she must face the problems on her own terms, independent of the reigning vocabularies. Is this possible? If so, what would ...more
Jon Stout
Aug 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pragmatists, Relativists
Shelves: philosophy
It's a rare philosopher who can talk about the commonality among Martin Heidegger, John Dewey and Ludwig Wittgenstein, but Rorty does it. He argues the counterintuitive point that there is no truth out there (contrary to the X-files), which leads to his being charged with being a relativist. He is better than that, however, and finds a pragmatic middle path between absolutism and relativism.
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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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