In this book, major American philosopher Richard Rorty argues that thinkers such as Nietzsche, Freud, and Wittgenstein have enabled societies to see themselves as historical contingencies, rather than as expressions of underlying, ahistorical human nature, or as realizations of suprahistorical goals. This ironic perspective on the human condition is valuable but it cannot advance Liberalism's social and political goals. In fact, Rorty believes that it is literature and not philosophy that can do this, by promoting a genuine sense of human solidarity. Specifically, it is novelists such as Orwell and Nabokov who succeed in awakening us to the cruelty of particular social practices and individual attitudes. Thus, a truly liberal culture would fuse the private, individual freedom of the ironic, philosophical perspective with the public project of human solidarity as it is engendered through the insights and sensibilities of great writers. Rorty uses a wide range of references--from philosophy to social theory to literary criticism--to elucidate his beliefs.
"...bristles with big and unsettling ideas...No brief summary of this book can begin to convey its freshness, scope, and immense erudition...Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity will induce intellectual tingles in the philosopher and layman alike. It is going to be read for a long time." The Philadelphia Inquirer "This is Rorty at his most stimulating, and he emerges as a major political theorist." Library Journal "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity is not only readable, informative and ceaselessly interesting; it is a bold and topical manifest about the entire philosophical and political prospect of our 'post-modern' times. Jonathan Re'e Radical Philosophy "...consistently provocative, and every page excites philosophic thought." Philosophy and Literature "An exciting book. For millennia philosophers have been debating whether the universe is out there to be discovered or is rather in effect invented by thinkers who can never get beyond their own categories. Rorty is our most prominent perspectivist today...Rorty writes with erudition and style. His views are always stimulating, though they will inevitably tend to infuriate readers who are not ready for a 'postmetaphysical' world." H. L. Shapiro, Choice