Twentieth century philosopher opposed to the concept of knowledge as representation. Whereas Cartesian theories of knowledge are ostensibly concerned with describing the relationship of the observer to an external reality (See also: BrainInAJar) where this relationship is assumed to be as transparent a reflection as that of a mirror. However, Rorty observes that we are active, not passive recipients of experience,* which would suggests that discourse plays a key role in constructing reality.

However, like FriedrichNietzsche (who had argued that science was a decayed aspect of the WillToPower) or MichelFoucault he partly attempts this critique through constructing a genealogy of knowledge, and accordingly suggests that the historical basis for such discursive developments is likely to be perfectly pragmatic. Arguing that there is nothing but discourse is in itself taking a metaphysical stance towards the nature of reality despite being used to criticise the metaphysical enterprise. Without the historical narrative the logical contradiction becomes blatant.

Accordingly, his scepticism concerning the absolute foundations of knowledge led him to considering philosophy as a form of enlightened conversation of the same kind as that practised by literary and cultural critics. One particular extension of this is that such enlightened conversations translate into political terms as entailing democracy and certain rights, especially freedom of speech - see OnFreeSpeech.

See other PhilosophersAndBrigands.

Last edited on Tuesday, January 7, 2003 2:10:18 pm.