Beginning with Rorty’s early work on concept-change in the philosophy of mind, the book traces his increasing hostility to the idea that philosophy is cognitively privileged with respect to other disciplines. After the publication of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, this led to a new emphasis on preserving the moral and political inheritance of the enlightenment by detaching it from the traditional search for rational foundations. This emerging project led Rorty to champion ‘ironic’ thinkers like Foucault and Derrida, and to his attempt to update the liberalism of J. S. Mill by offering a non-universalistic account of the individual’s need to balance their own private interests against their commitments to others.
By returning him to his philosophical roots, Gascoigne shows why Rorty’s pragmatism is of continuing relevance to anyone interested in ongoing debates about the nature and limits of philosophy, and the implications these debates have for our understanding of what role the intellectual might play in contemporary life. This book serves as both an excellent introduction to Rorty’s work and an innovative critique which contributes to ongoing debates in the field.