requiem for certainty

Archive for November 2009

Challenging Philosophy: Richard Rorty, Bernard Williams, Michel Foucault

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The three most important philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century were Bernard Williams, Michel Foucault, and Richard Rorty. The importance of each can in large part be attributed to the profound challenges they posed to entrenched assumptions about philosophy, its role in our lives, and its place midst our liberal democratic cultures. I insist on referring to the challenges posted by these three thinkers as profound—for their challenges, when taken seriously, run very deep indeed. By the time that Williams, Foucault, and Rorty had each finished laying out the intellectual projects characteristic of their mature work, it was clear that they had overturned many of the working assumptions of the philosophical tradition in which they had been reared. In this way, each of these thinkers challenged their respective traditions to move on to more ambitious and cunning conceptions of philosophy. Each exhibited inspiring levels of intellectual rigor and critical courage in provoking their respective traditions of thought to adopt a new self-image.

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Written by Colin Koopman

November 19, 2009 at 6:02 am