Philosophy and Social Hope

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Since Plato most philosophy has aimed at true knowledge, penetrating beneath appearances to an underlying reality. Against this tradition, Richard Rorty convincingly argues, pragmatism offers a new philosophy of hope. One of the most controversial figures in recent philosophical and wider literary and cultural debate, Rorty brings together an original collection of his most recent philosophical and cultural writings. He explains in a fascinating memoir how he began to move away from Plato towards William James and Dewey, culminating in his own version of pragmatism. What ultimately matters, Rorty suggests, is not whether our ideas correspond to some fundamental reality but whether they help us carry out practical tasks and create a fairer and more democratic society.
Aimed at a general audience, this volume offers a stimulating summary of Rorty's central philosophical beliefs, as well as some challenging insights into contemporary culture, justice, education, and love.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 4th.Printing edition (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140262881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140262889
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces

Customer Reviews

A powerful case for pragmatism

One person found this helpful.
 on February 11, 2014
By Misha
Written with eloquent simplicity, “Philosophy and social hope” has convinced me to replace “Truth” with “what works”. 4 years after reading this book, I still find that the conclusions that I arrive at on a daily basis are inconsistent with my above commitment to pragmatism. The language and cultural dogma that support the “truth as correspondence” theory is so pervasive that if I’m not vigilant, I find myself grasping at the nonsensical dichotomies that Rorty spent his life unraveling.

Nice introduction to Rorty’s thought

 on September 5, 2010
By Turinio
As a lay reader, I found these collection of essays to be a great introduction to Rorty. First, It deals with the central issues of its thought, such as its criticism of the reality-appearance distinction, in a very clear way that does not presuppose any particular knowledge of philosophy. Second, it tells the story of how Rorty ended up where he did, from his intention to be a Platonist in his teens to how he became an admirer of Dewey. This is always very interesting reading. Third, it covers several applications of the pragmatic thought in different realms, such as education and law. Finally, it is not a long book (270 pages), so it leaves you wanting for more.

Helpful For Courses on Ethics

2 people found this helpful.
 on April 19, 2009
By P. Costello
To my chagrin, I admit that this is the first book by Rorty that I have read. I will now read much more by him. The ethics of pragmatism, at least as he enunciates it in the introduction and several chapters of this book, is very interesting, if not fully compelling (at least to a transcendental phenomenologist such as myself). And I have found his book a very readable addition to standard selections from Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Mill, and de Beauvoir in my General Ethics courses.


 on January 1, 2013
By D. Pinski
This book is a good overview of essential ideas of R. Rorty written by the author to clarify his world outlook. It is written in a clear and engaging language that attempts to introduce the concept of pragmatism to a broad audience of non-specialists in philosophy. Highly recommend to both philosophers and those who do not practice philosophy but is interested in its topics.

Nice & Clear… Whether it’s agreeable is up to you.

6 people found this helpful.
 on April 28, 2001
By Hiroo Yamagata
I knew that he was a so-called “relativist”, and so I was rather skeptic about his writings. So, I was rather surprised to find a clear and reasonable discussion about a lot of things in this book. The position of the liberal left in America, and its relation with the labor union movement…

Acid on the Dross

56 people found this helpful.
 on April 21, 2003
By Dr. D. E. McClean
Rorty is one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries not because he offers a new theory or new system, but precisely because he is so good at warning us about getting addicted to theories and systems. For this he is hated by many philosophers, despised by many in the literati, scorned by metaphysicians and clerics (as a nihilist or relativist), and reviled by philosophical purists who believe he gleefully misreads the works of their heroes and masters.

Five Stars

 on February 17, 2016
By Liza Kimball
Great philosophy book by talented Richard Rorty

No professional philosopher should write this well!

46 people found this helpful.
 on January 6, 2000
By Jeff Bricker
Richard Rorty has been enlivening the American intellectual scene for two decades now. His prose is fluid, clear, and graceful. This is perhaps his first collection of essays aimed at the average educated reader (as opposed to his fellow philosophers). It opens with a wry mini-autobiography, followed by three linked essays where Rorty, once again, makes his case for American pragmatism. There is also a fine discussion of Thomas Kuhn and a provocative piece about Heidegger’s Nazism. The essay on Religion As Conversation-stopper is also first-rate. Unfortunately, Penguin has issued this book on cheap paper and the print font is minuscule– America’a most interesting philosopher deserves better!

Rorty for the common reader

 on December 3, 2014
By Stanley Crowe
Let me start by admitting that I share Rorty’s politics, pretty much. He called himself a Hubert Humphrey liberal — I tend to think that we need more people like Aneurin Bevan (I grew up in the UK). But Rorty is quite clear that there is no necessary bright line connecting his anti-essentialism and anti-foundationalism to democratic politics. He shares his anti-essentialism and his anti-foundationalism with Heidegger and Nietzsche, and his politics with neither of them. The book, then, is an invitation and sometimes a provocation to thought — it doesn’t have a specifically political agenda, despite the fact that Rorty is open about his politics. Readers who feel that his anti-essentialism and anti-foundationalism are simply asserted and not earned should read “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” (PMN), where he makes his case for these positions by a critical look at Descartes, Kant, Dewey, Putnam, Quine, Davidson, and Sellars. It’s hard going in places for a non-philosopher like me, and I don’t know enough to know if he’s always totally fair to these thinkers, but it is clear that he’s dealing with them on the level of seriousness that they take themselves and not merely dismissing them. The arguments are detailed and dense. His sense of how different problems (philosophical and other) emerge at specific times and at particular stages of a culture is a valuable perspective, affecting as it does how we think about language and the way sentences in a language might connect inferentially in different ways at different times. It’s this historicism that enables him to say that we know more than Plato (or Kant) knew and that that might be part of a reason for not being in thrall to Platonic (or Kantian) language in formulating OUR problems and solutions.

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