Rhetoric Between Philosophy and Poetry

In Alan R. Malachowski (ed.), A companion to Rorty. Hoboken: Wiley. pp. 119–134 (2020)
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Abstract

Called the “greatest philosophical essayist of his time,” Rorty is both famous and notorious in academic philosophy for his uniquely engaging writing style. While his fellow analytic philosophers look askance at his flamboyant prose, suspicious that it lacks the care and precision that their discipline demands, literary intellectuals who champion the essay genre can have their qualms about Rorty as well: his work is too professional and specialized to be properly called essays. I argue not only that Rorty's work fits into the essay genre, but also that his use of the essay form is integral to his rhetorical project of advancing his ideal of pragmatic liberalism. Rorty writes essays because the essay is a pragmatic literary genre: it is anti‐essentialist, conversational, and experimentalist and provocatively aims at “breaking the crust of convention,” in Dewey's phrase. Using the essay, Rorty “joshes” us to becoming more pragmatic and, therefore, better liberals.

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