Rorty and Pirsig

Picked-up from an anonymous hit on the blog, I found this link between Rorty and Pirsig. Including the following from Rorty [Quote] At fifteen I escaped … by going off to the so-called “Hutchins College” of the University of Chicago. (This was the institution immortalized by A. J. Liebling as “the biggest collection juvenile neurotics since the Childrens’ Crusade.”) … I was very confused, but reasonably sure that at Chicago I would find out how grown-ups managed to work the trick I had in mind. When I got to Chicago (in 1946), I found that Hutchins, together with his friends Mortimer Adler and Richard McKeon (the villain of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance [ZAMM]), had enveloped the University of Chicago in a neo-Aristotelian mystique. The most frequent target of their sneers was John Dewey’s pragmatism. [Unquote] From a 1993 essay by Rorty entitled “Wild Orchids and Trotsky”. Seems McKeon’s group was already notorious, as Pirsig discovers while researching and contemplating choosing philosophy as his Chicago PhD subject in the mountains of Montana during the summer of 1961. [“at fifteen” ?? does that make Rorty another child prodigy ? Still haven’t finished The Mirror of Nature yet BTW. Enjoying William James at present.]

Without detracting from the power of ZAMM it does tend to re-inforce critics of Pirsig’s narrow view of philosophies available to him at the time. Evidence is that not until after ZAMM did he discover or at least consider pragmatists, through Williams James, much influenced by Peirce and Dewey, not to mention Nietzsche and the existentialists. Clearly the skewed environment he found himself in at Chicago locked him into that ancient greek debate between the Socratic rhetorical and Aristotelian logical views.

Unless Pirsig set out to deceive us with his apparent ignorance of philosophers which had in fact influenced him, it makes his original thoughts in ZAMM and Lila all the more impressive.

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