Richard McKay Rorty: Knowledge as a Mirror, Philosophy of Knowledge

Richard McKay Rorty: Knowledge as a Mirror, Philosophy of Knowledge

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

Spirit is an interesting thing. Even if we can’t say much about our spirits or describe what the spirit is like, most of us still believe that we have this kind of thing deep inside us.

Not only that, we can argue that this thing inside us is the core self (“me”) and is also somehow directly connected to truth or reality. Our tendency to imagine ourselves as having a kind of ‘twin’—a spirit or deep self that speaks the language of reality—was explored by the American philosopher Richard Rorty in the introduction to his book Consequences of Pragmatism (1982). Rorty argues that the soul is a human invention, and that we have this kind of thing, and that he himself placed it there.

Rorty is a philosopher who works in the American tradition of pragmatism. When considering a proposition, most philosophical traditions ask, “Is this true?” he asks; it’s actually “Does this represent everything correctly?” is to ask. But pragmatists think of propositions differently and ask the question, “What are the practical implications of accepting this as true?” they ask. Rorty’s first major book, “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature,” published in 1979, attempts to counter the idea that knowledge is something that accurately reflects the world, like a mental mirror. Rorty argues that this view of knowledge cannot be defended for two reasons. the first is that we assume that our experience of the world is directly “given” to us; We assume that what we experience is the raw data of the world. Second, we assume that after this raw place is collected, our mind (or another ability of our mind) begins to work on it, this information is combined in the mind to form a whole and mirrors what is happening in the world.

Rorty follows philosopher Wilfrid Sellars in arguing that this “given” experience is a myth. We never get to anything like raw data; For example, it is impossible for us to experience a dog, or from outside of thought. We become aware of something only by conceptualizing it, and our concepts are learned through language. Our perceptions are therefore inextricably entangled with the customary methods of language we use to compartmentalize the world.

Rorty argues that knowledge does not reflect nature as “a matter of speech and social practice.” Our judgment in deciding what is knowledge is based on how strongly a ‘fact’ relates to the world, whether it is something ‘society allows us to say’. What we can count as knowledge and what we can’t are therefore limited by the social contexts we live in, our histories, and what those around us will allow us to assert. According to Rorty: “Truth is what your contemporaries don’t punish you for after saying it.”

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook