Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature by Richard Rorty - review by Stewart R Sutherland

Stewart R Sutherland

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature


Blackwell 401pp £12.50 order from our bookshop

A story is told of G. E. Moore, seated in his study, being asked, ‘What is philosophy?’ He replied, after a pause, with a wave of his hand at the bulging shelves, ‘What all these books are about’. Professor Rorty implicitly asks ‘What is philosophy?’ but explicitly, with a wave of his pen at many of the established classics of Western philosophy from Descartes onwards, tells us that philosophy is not what all these books are about. I think that he might be persuaded to admit that philosophy was what Descartes’s Meditations, Locke’s Essay, Kant’s Critiques, Russell’s Our Knowledge of the External World, were about, although he might regard such a remark as misleading, and he would want to argue that this was an unfortunate state of affairs.

His most stimulating and original book offers us a thesis about the nature of philosophy. As such it is most firmly a work of philosophy. The thesis he offers however, is negative, at best therapeutic rather than constructive. He thinks that since the time of Descartes philosophers have been seduced

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

OUP Niven

Follow Literary Review on Twitter