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on 5 March 2001
After studying philosophy of science and social science for 2 years at degree level, and struggling to find words that said what I wanted, this book came as a huge relief to me.
Rorty sucessfully manages to cut a gulf between the idea of language as a tool and the descent into the popular misrepresentation that this is often given by people who misunderstand it.
"We need to make a distinction between the claim that the world is out there and the claim that truth is out there. To say that the world is out there, ..., is to say with common sense, that most things in space and time are the effects of causes which do not include human mental states. To say that truth is not out there is simply to say that where there are no sentences there is no truth, that sentences are elements of human languages, and that human languages are human creations.... The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not."
Dazzlingly useful clarifications like this, which come on every page, make this one of the most rewarding books I have ever read.
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on 18 August 2014
Rorty's book is interesting, but you have to be careful who you buy it from. I bought my new paperback copy from Aphrohead Books, but when later I discovered that 30 pages of the book were missing, neither the Amazon marketplace seller nor Amazon offered any help, much less a refund. Aphrohead were particularly obstructive, repeatedly referring me to Amazon in one-line emails. Buyer beware!

As for Rorty's book, well, he assumes that nominalism and historicism are the only truths while at the same time denying that there can be any privileged position from which to judge the world. He tries in a roundabout way to bully people into thinking that if you don't agree with his standpoint on the world, then you are voting for cruelty all round. That is just not true, though of course it could be. If as he also seems to claim our only salvation is in reading literature that will guide our responses towards properly human and humane forms of life, who is going to judge which novels should be in this new canon? He wants us all to read Dickens, Nabokov and Orwell, but what if people want to read 50 Shades of Grey and watch Dallas and Eastenders? Ultimately his is a version of Plato's Republic ruled by a guardian class of tenured professors. Philosophy is after all what professors do with their tenure.
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on 28 September 2009
I thought this book was magnificent, and I feel lucky that I happened to pick it up by chance. I never studied philosophy but I read it for my own personal enjoyment and development, and I have found this book to be the closest to my personal philosophy. He takes the good stuff from both Analytical and Continental philosophy. He thinks that literature is the best means we have of representing and understanding our world, which I agree with. He also finds a way to reconcile my love of cruel, elitist or anti-humanist writers and thinkers like Nietzsche and Nabokov with my instinctive liberal humanist feelings. A brilliant book.
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on 1 March 1998
In _Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity_, Rorty explores the end of objective realism due to linguistic faults in our language. I find Rorty's claims insightful and stimulating in this book, which is what we except from such a writer. In the book, Rorty examines the issue of our personal contingencies, and how the ideas that we have based on those contingencies should immediately placed under suspicion.
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on 4 April 1999
An amiable work that skillfully countervails the pretentious self-importance that pervades the chic pseudo-disciplines of "culural studies," "deconstructionism," and whatever other shallow fare that is served up these days under the auspices of "post-modernism." However, readers of a genuinely philosophical temper may recoil at Rorty's glaringly tendentious engagement with the likes of Heidegger, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein. Beneath the generally helpful suggestions concerning the self-image of non-theistic liberal intellectuals is a lot of fluff which passes for self-evident profundity among those lacking the severity appropriate to philosophers.
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on 31 August 1999
I like books, but this book was too complex. I read lots and lots of books, but Rorty's arguments are too confusing. Subjects on literature and politics and history are too hard to be put in the same book. I believe books like this are written for the elites who like books that are too complex for others who enjoy books on a normal basis like I.
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