The Lamp of Reason and the Mirror of Nature

In Randall Auxier, Eli Kramer & Krzysztof P. Skowronski (eds.), Beyond Rorty. Lanham: Lexington Books. pp. 215-234 (2019)
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At the close of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature Richard Rorty lays out a contrast between what he calls 'systematic' and 'edifying' philosophical anthropologies. Whereas the systematic philosopher aims to speak for the ages, the edifying philosopher addresses herself to issues of her day, often by way of shattering conventional idols. Rorty sees these two approaches as mutually exclusive. The aim of this paper is to defend a conception of philosophy as both systematic and edifying in the relevant senses. I first respond to Rorty's argument that Wilfrid Sellars' account of picturing, as an isomorphic relation between the world and states of the central nervous system, involves an illicit 'mind as mirror' metaphor. I then lay out some of the philosophical anthropology that motivates Sellars' account of picturing, and I connect this anthropology to philosophical and scientific work undertaken in Europe and America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On this basis I argue that we are left with a (systematic) project handed down to us by earlier generations, and that in taking up this project we are in the (edifying) business of creating new ways of thinking about ourselves as part of the natural world.

Author's Profile

Preston Stovall
University of Hradec Králové


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