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Discussion on Postmodernism

These traditional philosophical questions are important only the sense that they are considered important by those who pursue them. Seeking to define the knowable and unknowable, and theorizing about it, serves no useful purpose, according to Rorty, and usefulness should be at the root and foundation of all philosophical discourse (Rorty, 1981).

In following the path of the pragmatists, including Dewey, Peirce and William James, Rorty took the approach that philosophy has a place in the everyday world, and he often exhorted the political Left to exercise greater resolve in using philosophy to move forward issues such as civil rights, poverty and social justice. To this end, although he was an academic who lived and flourished in university surroundings, he also regularly published in popular magazines and his writings were more accessible to non-academic readers than many philosophers (Cohen, 2007). As a result, his reach extended beyond the halls of academia and brought his approach into the popular press and often, into popular discourse.

Rorty not only made philosophy accessible to the average person, he believed that philosophy belonged in the practical rather than theoretical realm. "Pragmatism" for Rorty built on the idea that philosophy without action is useless. Rather than looking inward and indulging in self-congratulation when touting progressive ideals, Rorty famously exhorted the political Left to take action based on those ideals: "The UC Berkeley English department is now fully multicultural, but what have they done lately for East Oakland?" (Seery, 2007).

By maintaining that philosophy belonged in the "real world," and not just in academia, Rorty brought philosophy into the political arena, as well. Nowhere is this more evident than in Achieving Our Country published a decade before his death. In this book, Rorty distinguishes between American liberalism when the country was new, a...

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