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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.



Cynthia Haven, News Service: (650) 724-6184,


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