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One of Richard Rorty’s most famous aphorisms is “Truth is simply a compliment paid to sentences seen to be paying their way”. (Actually, he didn’t quite say this anywhere. What he said wasn’t quite as pithy, and he credited someone else, “On James’s view, ‘true’ resembles ‘good” or ‘rational’ in being a normative notion, a compliment paid to sentences that seem to be paying their way and that fit with other sentences which are doing so”.)

It’s a great sound bite, and a very controversial one, because it suggests that truth doesn’t have to “get things right” about the world, it only has to be useful. However, I think in his essay, “Response to Ramberg”, in the book “Rorty and his Critics”, Rorty partially recanted the sentiment expressed in the aphorism: “Ramberg sets me straight here too. He tells me, in effect, that it was a mistake on my part to go from criticism of attempts to define truth as accurate representation of the intrinsic nature of reality to a denial that true statements get things right. What I should have done, he makes me realize, is to grant Davidson’s point that most of our beliefs about anything (snow, molecules, the moral law) must be true of that thing — must get that thing right”. …

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Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

[This is a reply to the following blog post: Mutual mutation.]

Wow, so many great insights in one post! (BTW, I too love using etymology for insights.)

I agree that entering into a mutual relationship is the most profound interaction. I think of the Buddhist concept of mutual causation/reciprocal causation/dependent origination/dependent co-arising. Mutualism is the driving force of increasing complexity in the universe.

I’m not quite as clear on how this transformation of other and self into mutualness happens in detail. But I think it shows not only that otherness is transcendent, real, relevant and radically surprising but equally that self is transcendent, real, relevant and radically surprising. From time to time we surprise ourselves by suddenly embracing (prehending, grasping) some part of otherness as selfness, e.g., …

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Photo by Hannah Wright on Unsplash

My fellow Rortian, Stephen Taylor, has written a thought provoking post on Rorty’s relationship with language (Rorty Therapy). I take away the following claims from his post:

  1. Rorty views language as humanity’s most important tool.
  2. Rorty goes beyond this to privilege language as uniquely constitutive of our human way of being.
  3. Rorty fails to see that the sum of all instrumental relations (both linguistic and non-linguistic) falls well short of constituting the whole.
  4. Rorty fails to see interaction, not language, as the essential ingredient of a human being.

For a Rortian, the first claim goes without saying, so I won’t address it further. …


Nick Gall

I am an Ironist currently exploring new career paths.

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