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I recently read (and listened to parts of) Rorty’s last lecture, Dewey and Posner on Pragmatism and Moral Progress. In it, he makes an astonishing claim (at least it astonished me):

We can cheerfully agree that truths — all kinds of truths — are eternal and absolute.

I find it almost impossible to believe Rorty said this. Here’s the context for the quote (bolding throughout this essay is added unless otherwise specified):

But pragmatists, at least those of my sect, do not think that anything — either the physical world or the consensus of inquirers — makes beliefs true. We…

Areopagus hill Saint Paul from Acropolis Athens
Areopagus hill Saint Paul from Acropolis Athens

I just finished listening to one of the most moving podcasts I’ve ever heard: Episode 7 — Charles Peirce and Inquiry as an Act of Love with David O’Hara on Damn the Absolute! The entire discussion was illuminating for me, but what brought me to tears was Prof. David O’Hara’s answer to host Jeffrey Howard’s final question. David relates a personal anecdote about his encounter as a graduate student with Richard Rorty, and his subsequent engagement with Rorty’s views regarding religion and inquiry.

David puts the conclusion he draws from this experience beautifully: “What we need to do is spend…

Despite the fact that I’ve been thinking, talking, and writing about the concept of the hourglass for around twenty years, it was only after my friend and fellow Rortian, Stephen Taylor, asked me to “write up a condensed conveyance of the bowtie/hourglass concept that I can link to from my blog”, that I realized I’d never done so before. I’ve written about spanning layers, and middle-out, and web-oriented architecture (which are all just variations on the hourglass theme); but I’ve never just written a simple, brief summary of the hourglass concept. So here goes…

As you can see from the…

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…

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[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…

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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…

Wikipedia: Gustave Doré’s depiction of Canto VII of Dante’s Inferno turns the rocks that the damned hoarders and wasters are forced to move around, Sisyphus-like, into giant bags of gold, emphasising the reason for their punishment.

Albert Camus once said, “one must imagine Sisyphus happy”. That seems impossible to do if one feels deeply the meaningless monotony of struggling to roll the same massive boulder up the same hill each day, forever.

The myth of Sisyphus is a powerfully visceral metaphor for the concept of eternal recurrence (also known as eternal return and eternal repetition):

Fellow man! Your whole life, like a sandglass, will always be reversed and will ever run out again, — a long minute of time will elapse until all those conditions out of which you were evolved return in the wheel of…

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[This is an “abandoned” (in the sense of “works are never finished, only abandoned”) response to Stephen Taylor, on our discussion of the Rorty and the concept of progress on his anomalogue blog. I post it here to generate further discussion and because it is too long to be a comment. I post it in its somewhat inchoate state because I told myself I would respond, and it will take quite a while for me to produce a more coherent version (and when I do it will probably be a major part of the book I am writing).]

Thank YOU…

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Although it is now generally accepted by physicists working on quantum information theory and quantum thermodynamics that the entropy of the universe is conserved, mainstream science still promotes an image of the universe where entropy is increasing. I am collecting examples of claims that the entropy of the universe is conserved.

Here is one such example:

What is crucial now is that a theorem of quantum mechanics tells us that if we consider a sufficiently larger system, the whole entropy of this larger system is conserved and therefore the process is fully reversible (Fredkin and Toffoli 1982; Auletta and Wang…

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Causation without representation is how I refer to Richard Rorty’s anti-representationalism. I’ve been thinking about the issue a lot lately, and I was fortunate enough to bump into Martin J Kelly Jr on Facebook who seems willing to engage in a careful discussion of the issues involved. Instead of copying over the whole thread, I’ll just start with this set of claims by Martin:

Rorty is arguing a skeptical point. Because we can’t give complete, philosophically justifiable accounts of the foundations of knowledge (from real world into the ‘mind’), then it follows that our language that is caused by the…

Nick Gall

I am an Ironist currently exploring new career paths.

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