In Alan Malachowski (ed.), Blackwell Companion to Rorty. pp. 413-426 (2020)
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This chapter addresses the relationship between Rorty’s pragmatist philosophy and his view of literature and literary writing. It begins by examining the relationship between philosophy and literature, construed by Rorty in terms of the opposition between “normal,” professionalized, argument-centered philosophical discourse and the kind of cultural criticism which emphasizes human finitude and contingency, seeking through the use of irony and literary inventiveness to transform our prevalent visions of what it means to be human. This humanist side of Rorty’s argument is further developed through the discussion of the role that literature plays in intellectual self-formation and moral edification, by educating moral sensibility and providing transformational shifts of conceptual perspective. These dynamics of literary innovation are then shown to dovetail nicely with Rorty’s naturalistic, evolutionary conception of cultural development as well as his views regarding the indispensable role of the personal, the private, and the unshared in producing genuine cultural innovation.
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