Kenneth Wain and the Lifelong Engagement with Education
18. The Role of Philosophy: Questions Rorty Raises
This chapter offers a critical analysis of Richard Rorty’s views on the role of philosophy and the future of philosophy. It first discusses Rorty’s anti-epistemological stance. It then explores Rorty and Wain’s autobiographical papers and questions the value of autobiography for philosophy. Rorty’s suggestion, that narratives (or literature) should replace philosophy, is discussed, after which some issues related to the philosophy of education are addressed. The chapter concludes with an examination of the feasibility of Wittgenstein’s plea to bring peace to philosophy and some reflections on the future role of philosophy in a “postphilosophical” society.
Throughout his lifetime, Rorty (1931–2007) played a key role in undermining the God-like image of the philosopher upheld by Plato, Kant, and Husserl. Rather than advocating a “superior” path to truth, this countertradition insists on setting aside, dissolving, or simply forgetting about the futile quest for an atemporal, privileged vantage point from which the philosopher can monitor other uses of language.
As the title of Rorty’s publication, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979a), suggests, the mind does not mirror nature, and it can never hope to do so. Concepts such as truth, metaphysics, and epistemology must be given up, as there is no way to attain any justification for the foundations of knowledge. These philosophical concepts have never provided any adequate answers and, from a pragmatic point of view, they are no longer useful. The best we can hope for is to accept our contingent situation in life.
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