October 22, 2007
Leading philosopher Habermas to deliver Richard Rorty memorial lecture Nov. 2
Distinguished philosopher Jürgen Habermas is scheduled to give a memorial lecture for the late Richard Rorty, a Stanford professor emeritus of comparative literature, at 5 p.m. Nov. 2 in Cubberley Auditorium.
Habermas' lecture, which is free and open to the public, is titled, "'And to define America, her athletic democracy
' Richard Rorty: Philosopher and Language-Shaper." The citation in the title is from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.
Like Rorty, Habermas, a professor emeritus at Frankfurt University, is a public intellectual. Habermas grew up in Nazi Germany and was a member of the Hitler Youth; he described his father as a "passive sympathizer" with Nazism. Habermas' advocacy of the Enlightenment values of reason, democracy and debate is, in part, a reaction to his postwar realization that he had grown up in a "politically criminal system."
Describing the thread running through his work to the New York Times magazine in 1994, Habermas said, "I think that a certain form of unrestrained communication brings to the fore the deepest force of reason, which enables us to overcome egocentric or ethnocentric perspectives and reach an expanded
view." Rorty called him "the leading systematic philosopher of our time."
Rorty, perhaps best known for revitalizing the philosophical school of pragmatism, died June 8 of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 75.