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How did the (in)famous and influential “postmodern” philosopher Richard Rorty influence Sam Harris?!
Posted: 24 August 2010 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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I have seen Richard Rorty listed more than once as an influence on Sam Harris including on Rorty’s wikipedia page. Awhile back one of Rorty’s books was on a reading list suggested by Harris. I am not an expert on Rorty and nor am I on Sam Harris but I find the idea that Rorty influenced Harris interesting. Daniel Dennett claimed he learned more from Rorty than any other philosopher. Dennett was in agreement with some of early Rorty’s work in the philosophy of mind, years before Rorty’s turn away from the respectable confines of the analytic school and Anglophone philosophy establishment. And I suppose Rorty brought historical awareness to Dennett of the Western Philosophical tradition and awareness of Continental Philosophy, as he did with countless others. 

Anybody out there familiar with exactly how the controversial ‘pomo’, moral relativist, anti-realist, historicist Rorty influenced a writer that believes in objective truth through correspondence and that science gives of knowledge of how the world really is and even that science provides a foundation for morality (etc)?

Love to get feedback on this. Thanks!

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Posted: 30 August 2010 07:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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yes i can. for a cigarette. i need a gdam cigarette. but yes. very clearly because Rorty was a pragmatist who saw science as the main tool of liberalism. even though he didnt believe in truth. he though human hope through technological advancement could give life meaning. good enough? now gimmee a goddam cigarette!!!! nah, take it easy.

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Posted: 30 August 2010 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Good reply, makes sense to me. But take your own advice—take it easy!!!! And lest you end up like The Hitch I say go cold turkey..Now is your chance, you’re on your way. Well you’re probably young? so at least stop by around 30 or so. Also you forgot to say—Please.—
But if that is all Rorty’s influence is about then that is boring. Banal even. It is the utterly prevalent, widely held view/attitude towards science held by most intellectuals in the late 20th cent. early 21st anyway.

Harris clearly wasn’t influenced by Rorty’s oddball, extremely UNpopular position on truth. Although I think Rorty did believe in truth-just that there is nothing philosophically interesting to say about it. Truth (lower case ‘t’) is simply a word we use to compliment other words that people agree seem to be are working in our favor. 4+4= 8 is true, Rorty would agree, and so are “we should defeat dangerous Muslim terrorists”, “all Americans deserve the best health care coverage” (er, maybe not?), “Borges was a great writer but his politics sucked”, “honey is sweet”, “the sun often looks like a big yellow ball”, “we are all going to die” and “Obama is a disappointing president” and “science cannot be a foundation for morality”.

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Posted: 30 August 2010 02:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I find it downright weird that Harris has come out with his scientific-morality nonsense. His head had seemed so securely screwed down, then he picked up a terrible case of seemingly literalistic utilitarianism. At least he’s not yet a Platonist.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 30 August 2010 11:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Interesting post nonverbal. I’d be interested to hear more of your views on the vexing topic of morality. Do you find Rorty agreeable? If so in what ways do you think he is right?

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Posted: 31 August 2010 12:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Travis of the Cosmos - 30 August 2010 01:23 PM

Good reply, makes sense to me. But take your own advice—take it easy!!!! And lest you end up like The Hitch I say go cold turkey..Now is your chance, you’re on your way. Well you’re probably young? so at least stop by around 30 or so. Also you forgot to say—Please.—
But if that is all Rorty’s influence is about then that is boring. Banal even. It is the utterly prevalent, widely held view/attitude towards science held by most intellectuals in the late 20th cent. early 21st anyway.

Harris clearly wasn’t influenced by Rorty’s oddball, extremely UNpopular position on truth. Although I think Rorty did believe in truth-just that there is nothing philosophically interesting to say about it. Truth (lower case ‘t’) is simply a word we use to compliment other words that people agree seem to be are working in our favor. 4+4= 8 is true, Rorty would agree, and so are “we should defeat dangerous Muslim terrorists”, “all Americans deserve the best health care coverage” (er, maybe not?), “Borges was a great writer but his politics sucked”, “honey is sweet”, “the sun often looks like a big yellow ball”, “we are all going to die” and “Obama is a disappointing president” and “science cannot be a foundation for morality”.

hey, obama’s not so disappointing…in my book, he will be remembered as the guy who coupled the free market with social democracy, which is the kind of system i live in now in germany. but i’m curious if most atheists here agree with my post “nihilism and the god debate” which i think will give some teeth to a real atheist movement. instead of being led by four writers raking in money and fame by pissing off the supposedly-faithful who are really only mad at science because theyre losing their jobs and community solidarity to runaway technology.

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Posted: 31 August 2010 01:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Camus,
OK, I’ll digress from the thread topic for a sec here…
Seriously—Obama is NOT a social democrat, NOT even a liberal and anybody that says he is either
A) doesn’t know what a real progressive or liberal is or
B) is totally full of crap.
The disappointment comes from him LYING about Iraq and doing even less than skeptical people like me figured.

Now Obama coupled the “free market” with what? You mean FDR? Maybe LBJ? HOW? Enlighten me. You aren’t talking about health care for Christ sakes.
Obama is a HUGE failure on health care, his ‘stimulus plan’ sucked, the economy is in absolutely terrible shape from the stand point of the middle class and especially the working class, he has basically continued Bush’s “war on terror” leaving many hated and controversial policies unchanged. Have they legalized psychedelic drugs in Germany?

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Posted: 31 August 2010 03:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Travis of the Cosmos - 31 August 2010 05:02 AM

Camus,
OK, I’ll digress from the thread topic for a sec here…
Seriously—Obama is NOT a social democrat, NOT even a liberal and anybody that says he is either
A) doesn’t know what a real progressive or liberal is or
B) is totally full of crap.
The disappointment comes from him LYING about Iraq and doing even less than skeptical people like me figured.

Now Obama coupled the “free market” with what? You mean FDR? Maybe LBJ? HOW? Enlighten me. You aren’t talking about health care for Christ sakes.
Obama is a HUGE failure on health care, his ‘stimulus plan’ sucked, the economy is in absolutely terrible shape from the stand point of the middle class and especially the working class, he has basically continued Bush’s “war on terror” leaving many hated and controversial policies unchanged. Have they legalized psychedelic drugs in Germany?

Woah, woa…i dont think they legalized them, no, and smoking is illegal in all eating establishments in bavaria, which makes me a bit mad, but thats my problem…but maybe across the sea i dont see obama too clearly, need to clean my binoculars. hmm, ok, there.

how did he lie about iraq, though? they’re pretty much out of the country. early, even, than the deadline.

Anyway, i like the system here (its not perfect, but has been nearly-recession proof recently), and i thought he was pursuing the same kind of system. maybe not. yer in a better position to tell.

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Posted: 31 August 2010 04:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Iraq is a bit obvious. I mean I’m being disingenuous in complaining about that and blaming Obama. He was never going to actually withdraw and thus radically challenge US elites and foreign policy. What they’re doing is pulling out lots of ground troops, but countless thousands will remain carrying out military operations, permanently. The US has a permanent military base in Baghdad larger than Vatican City. As some troops leave, private military contractors are brought in to play an even larger role and of course special operations will continue, perhaps working more with the Iraqi puppet regime that will do as it is told by it’s master.

I wish we had health care for our people like they do in Germany. American’s believe in hating “illegals” (Mexicans) and blaming the poor for our societal and economic problems and the right exploits this racism and ignorance highly effectively. So, something like national health care or single-payer is impossible without leadership willing to fight hard for it.

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Posted: 31 August 2010 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Travis of the Cosmos - 31 August 2010 08:11 AM

Iraq is a bit obvious. I mean I’m being disingenuous in complaining about that and blaming Obama. He was never going to actually withdraw and thus radically challenge US elites and foreign policy. What they’re doing is pulling out lots of ground troops, but countless thousands will remain carrying out military operations, permanently. The US has a permanent military base in Baghdad larger than Vatican City. As some troops leave, private military contractors are brought in to play an even larger role and of course special operations will continue, perhaps working more with the Iraqi puppet regime that will do as it is told by it’s master.

I wish we had health care for our people like they do in Germany. American’s believe in hating “illegals” (Mexicans) and blaming the poor for our societal and economic problems and the right exploits this racism and ignorance highly effectively. So, something like national health care or single-payer is impossible without leadership willing to fight hard for it.

capitalism and socialism have their place, but i think the cutthroat free market just had a longer run than russian communism, in that it didnt persecute its citizens as obviously and it did produce some real good. but i think it ran its course. but thats what democracy’s for, balancing extremes, under the idea that life is worth living in and of itself. give it some time, it will kick in in America. Maybe we can start a movement along those lines. i’m all for it.

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Posted: 31 August 2010 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Travis of the Cosmos - 31 August 2010 03:00 AM

Interesting post nonverbal. I’d be interested to hear more of your views on the vexing topic of morality. Do you find Rorty agreeable? If so in what ways do you think he is right?

Unfortunately, I haven’t read Rorty. He seems interesting, though. I don’t trust much about Dennett, though I suspect that if I were to see him speaking, my feelings would change.

As for the subject of morality, I’ve started a few threads about it on this forum. Obviously it’s a big topic. If you start a thread at the Project Reason forum, I’ll be certain to weigh in, for whatever that might be worth.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 31 August 2010 10:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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nonverbal,
Rorty is very interesting. And actually readable. I’d suggest you check out maybe “Philosophy and Social Hope”. You’ll enjoy arguing with it.

Camus,
I don’t think the Soviet system was “communist” but whatever you call it it was bad.
The best systems seem to me to be what developed in Western Europe post WW2. Social democracies. Heavy taxes, universal health care for all citizens, social programs, low cost higher education (compared to the US esp.), heavy regulation of industry, large/powerful trade unions, less hours in the work week and long paid vacations, job security…. Europe beats the US in every category damn near in terms of quality of life, unless you’re an American millionaire.

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Posted: 31 August 2010 12:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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I appreciate the recommendation, Travis, and just ordered a used copy. Reading the Amazon reviews on that book, Rorty sounds a lot like me if I’d been born with 50 or 60 more IQ points. Many thanks.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 31 August 2010 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Great! I think you’ll get a lot out of the book. Rorty was for a long time the most discussed philosopher alive, his writing style is wonderful (rare indeed for a first-rate philosopher) and he was/is in the forefront of today’s most pressing philosophical issues of both major schools-Continental and Analytical. One of his most valuable contributions was bringing the two together in his work and showing how they relate and how 20th century philosophy is apart of and reaction against the entire Western tradition. Broad, wide-wide ranging, profound thinker. But is Rorty right? Haha. He is useful to students and other philosophers in any case…

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Posted: 11 October 2010 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Harris addressed Rortian pragmatism in the End of Faith. You might check the index. He goes into some detail in an endnote.

I’ve written much about Rorty in my blog at atheistichope.com

I think Harris gets Rorty wrong to the extent that he thinks Rortianism is an affirmation of relativism or a denial of truth.

Best,
Leela

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Posted: 11 October 2010 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Travis of the Cosmos - 30 August 2010 01:23 PM

Harris clearly wasn’t influenced by Rorty’s oddball, extremely UNpopular position on truth. Although I think Rorty did believe in truth-just that there is nothing philosophically interesting to say about it. Truth (lower case ‘t’) is simply a word we use to compliment other words that people agree seem to be are working in our favor. 4+4= 8 is true, Rorty would agree, and so are “we should defeat dangerous Muslim terrorists”, “all Americans deserve the best health care coverage” (er, maybe not?), “Borges was a great writer but his politics sucked”, “honey is sweet”, “the sun often looks like a big yellow ball”, “we are all going to die” and “Obama is a disappointing president” and “science cannot be a foundation for morality”.

Harris of course also has no interest in any capital-t Truth. The difference between Harris and Rorty is that Harris has explicitly endorsed the correspondence theory of truth in spite of admitting that it has some problems. Rorty saw no reason to endorse any theory of truth. Since no philospical theory of truth seems to be able help us better understand what truth is or how to determine which statements are true or how to generate true statements, no theory of truth is worth endorsing since those are the only reasons why someone would pursue a theory of truth to begin with. Rorty thought that after thousands of years of inquiry into truth, we are unlikely to get any further than James who said that truth leads to sucessful action (James went to far to also claim that this itself is a theory of truth) or a semantic definition of truth as the upshot of such sentences as “‘the cat is on the mat’ is true if and only if the cat is on the mat.” Anyone that can make sense of such sentences and can use the word “true” in other such sentences, has pretty much everything that philosophy is likely to ever tell us about truth already in hand. How this position counts as relativism by so many is beyond me.

Best,
Leela

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