Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Richard Rorty began the process of plotting out the ideas and approach of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature while holding an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship in 1969-1970. The major portion of the manuscript was drafted during 1973-1974, while he held a Guggenheim Fellowship. Thus, by the time it reached final form, the book had been about ten years in the making—the rest of the work and revisions being fitted around his regular teaching load at Princeton University.

The philosophical method within which Rorty had been trained played a large role in the way that he approached, organized, and developed this book. He had been taught that a philosophical problem wasa product of the unconscious adoption of assumptions built into the vocabulary in which the problem was stated—assumptions which were to be questioned before the problem itself was taken seriously.

By using some of the seed-work done by Wilfred Sellars and W. V. O. Quine, Rorty began to turn the tools of the discipline of philosophy upon its own underlying assumptions. By so doing, he hoped to do what he calls “therapeutic” or “edifying” philosophy as opposed to taking a systematic approach. This would be accomplished by unmasking the unstated assumptions and revealing them for what they are—“optional” tools in “a way” of doing philosophy.

Rorty divides his 401 pages into three primary parts. Within the first two parts, although sporadic attention is paid to other edifying philosophers (the prime examples of the therapeutic approach being Ludwig...

(The entire section is 654 words.)