Richard Rorty's writings put me off for several reasons, not the least of which is the way he distorts issues and definitions for his own benefit. The man is obviously a relativist as anyone can see, but he doesn't want to accept that label. So what does he do? He redefines the term so that it applies to no one:
"Relativism" is the view that every belief on a certain topic, or perhaps about any topic, is as good as every other. No one holds this view. Except for the occasional cooperative freshman, one cannot find anybody who says that two incompatible opinions on an important topic are equally good. The philosophers who get called "relativists" are those who say that the grounds for choosing between such opinions are less algorithmic than had been thought.
[. . .]
So the real issue is not between people who think that one view is as good as another and people who do not. It is between those think our culture, or purposes, or intuitions, cannot be supported except conversationally, and people who still hope for other sorts of support. (Consequences of Pragmatism, U. of Minnesota Press, 1982, pp. 166-167.)
In an earlier Rorty installment I said, among other things, that "He wants to substitute rhetoric for argument but without quite giving up argument. So he ends up giving shoddy arguments . . . ." You think I'm being unfair, don't you? Well, let's see. Here is a passage from Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Cambridge UP 1989, p. 5:
Truth cannot be out there — cannot exist independently of the human mind — because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of the world can be true or false. The world on its own, — unaided by the describing activities of human beings — cannot.
Rorty is dead, but a thinker lives on in his recorded thoughts, and we honor a thinker by thinking his thoughts with a mind that is at once both open and critical, open but not empty or passive. In Chapter Three of Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Richard Rorty writes:
It is central to the idea of a liberal society that, in respect to words as opposed to deeds, persuasion as opposed to force, anything goes. This openmindedness should not be fostered because Scripture teaches, Truth is great and will prevail, nor because, as Milton suggests, Truth will always win in a free and open encounter. It should be fostered for its own sake. A liberal society is one which is content to call 'true' whatever the upshot of such encounters turns out to be. That is why a liberal society is badly served by an attempt to supply it with 'philosophical foundations.' For the attempt to supply such foundations presupposes a natural order of topics and arguments which is prior to, and overrides the results of, encounters between old and new vocabularies. (pp. 51-52, italics in original, bolding added.)