The philosopher Richard Rorty is dead. These things happen. He’d have been the first person to admit it. But now that he’s dead it makes sense to ask how successful he was in carrying his bugbear to the grave along with him. That bugbear was philosophy itself, which, although most of his books are filed in that category, Rorty was essentially convinced had become a meaningless enterprise.

He wasn’t alone in this. Philosophers have been in the business of some kind of combined form of patricide and suicide for a long time now. Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger come immediately to mind. There are many others. Rorty thought that philosophy was dead — or at least in the final stages of a terminal illness — because the thing we call philosophy is essentially the impulse to find continuities. When we’re doing philosophy we’re looking for the things that are always true…. More…