Richard Rorty, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 75, had a lot to say on philosophy, knowledge, and language, some of which I was happy to recently rediscover.
As philosophers so often are, he was known primarily for his dissection of the work of other philosophers; in this case his criticism of analytic philosophy, as exemplified in his 1979 book, “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.”
Rorty embraced the American pragmatism of Dewey, Peirce, and James in attacking the analytics’ persistent attempts to nail down an eternally exact description of truth and knowledge.  “Truth is not out there,” he said – at least a truth separate from our own beliefs and language.
Rorty wrote of the contingency of language; that truth is determined by human agreement using roughly equivalent language.  Truth can not exist independently of the human created vocabularies used to desribe it, and so truth is not possible in the world beyond the human mind.  Rorty believed that the world does not speak.  Only people do.
Because much of his work upset the dogmas of mainstream philosophy, and because of Rorty’s controversial divergenge into writing about politics, the importance of all his work seems to have been stifled from the main stream.  Which is a shame.

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