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Open AccessArticle

Taking Rorty’s Irony Seriously

School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
Humanities 2013, 2(2), 292-312;
Received: 4 May 2013 / Revised: 26 May 2013 / Accepted: 6 June 2013 / Published: 12 June 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Legacy of Richard Rorty)
PDF [105 KB, uploaded 12 June 2013]


Richard Rorty’s Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (CIS) is an ambitious and provocative, but for many readers a deeply flawed work. This paper argues that many of its apparent flaws can be understood as integral to Rorty’s attempt to write a work of private, post-theoretical irony. The paper’s first section outlines the substantive theoretical claims about language, selfhood and community which Rorty proposes as an antiessentialist alternative to ‘metaphysics’. The second identifies three difficulties—residual dualism, conceptual problems with the public-private distinction, and the work’s self-referential consistency—which constitute serious, but obvious problems for those substantive claims. The third section argues that Rorty’s metaphilosophical discussion of ‘ironist theory’ suggests CIS should be read as a personal work of irony which eschews theoretical ambitions, showing how this is consistent with and provides a motive for accepting the presence of conspicuous difficulties. The final section considers how the work’s metaphilosophical views interact with its substantive theoretical claims. The work’s irony is interpreted as resulting from the tension between these, so as to coexist rather than conflict with Rorty’s enduring commitments to liberalism and pragmatism. View Full-Text
Keywords: Rorty; irony; metaphilosophy; pragmatism; continental philosophy Rorty; irony; metaphilosophy; pragmatism; continental philosophy
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Inkpin, A. Taking Rorty’s Irony Seriously. Humanities 2013, 2, 292-312.

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