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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Reproduction Restriction
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing History
  • Historical Background
  • Historical Background
  • Collection Scope and Content Summary
  • Collection Arrangement
  • Processing Note

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections and Archives, University of California, Irvine Libraries
    Title: Richard Rorty papers
    Creator: Rorty, Richard
    Identifier/Call Number: MS.C.017
    Physical Description: 24.3 Linear Feet (61 boxes and 1 oversized folder)
    Date (inclusive): 1863-2003
    Date (bulk): bulk
    Language of Material: The collection is primarily in English, with some materials in other languages, particularly German and French.
    Abstract: Richard Rorty (1931-2007) was a pragmatist philosopher, critical theorist, and public intellectual. This collection comprises manuscripts, teaching files, professional correspondence, research notes, biographical material, and ephemera. It also includes some family papers and correspondence, as well as writings dating to his youth. The collection includes digital files transferred from Rorty's computer disks and made available to researchers electronically.
    The born digital files are available online.


    The collection is open for research, with the exception of some materials relating to students in Series 5, Teaching files. Restrictions on the earliest of these student records will be lifted beginning in 2033.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

    Reproduction Restriction

    All reproduction of materials written by Jacques Derrida must be authorized by designates of his heirs. Contact Special Collections and Archives for more information.

    Preferred Citation

    Richard Rorty Papers. MS-C017. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California. Date accessed.
    For the benefit of current and future researchers, please cite any additional information about sources consulted in this collection, including permanent URLs, item or folder descriptions, and box/folder locations.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Richard Rorty, 2006.

    Processing History

    Processed by Dawn Schmitz, with assistance from Brian Garcia, Ali Meghdadi, and Tae Sung, 2009-2010. Modifications to arrangement of correspondence, Audra Eagle Yun, with scholars Christopher Voparil and Wojciech Malecki, 2012.

    Historical Background

    Richard McKay Rorty (1931-2007) is commonly described as one of the most influential thinkers of his era. A philosopher with a remarkably broad intellectual range, his work included the development of a distinctive brand of pragmatism as well as significant contributions to literary criticism, political theory, and other scholarly fields. He was also a public intellectual, writing for such publications as The Nation and The Atlantic.
    Rorty was born on October 4, 1931, in New York City. The son of writers and activists James Rorty and Winifred Raushenbush Rorty (and the grandson of prominent Social Gospel theologian Walter Rauschenbusch), he later wrote in an autobiographical sketch, "At 12, I knew that the point of being human was to spend one's life fighting social injustice." His family moved to Flatbrookville, New Jersey, when he was a child.
    Rorty enrolled in the University of Chicago at age 15, eventually earning his B.A. (1949) and M.A. (1952) in philosophy, studying under Rudolf Carnap, Charles Hartshorne, and Richard McKeon. After completing his Ph.D. (1956) at Yale University with the dissertation, "The Concept of Potentiality," supervised by Paul Weiss, Rorty served two years in the army before receiving his first academic appointment at Wellesley College. From 1961 to 1982 Rorty taught in the philosophy department at Princeton University before moving to the University of Virginia as Kenan Professor of the Humanities. In 1998, Rorty accepted his final academic position at Stanford University in the Department of Comparative Literature.
    While Rorty gained scholarly attention with his article, "Mind-Body Identity, Privacy and Categories," (1965) and his edited anthology The Linguistic Turn (1967), his most provocative work was yet to come. By combining what he learned from analytic, continental, and pragmatist philosophers, Rorty developed an “anti-Philosophy” that emphasized the historical contingency of philosophy as one literary genre beside the sciences and arts. His version of anti-essentialism and anti-foundationalism was developed in such important works as Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979); Consequences of Pragmatism (1982); Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989); Achieving Our Country (1998); Philosophy and Social Hope (2000); and four volumes of his philosophical papers: Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth (1991), Essays on Heidegger and Others (1991), Truth and Progress (1998) and Philosophy as Cultural Politics (2007). The social and political consequences that emerge from this version of neopragmatism, Rorty contended, are those of a romantic liberalism that promotes justice and democracy by reducing cruelty and increasing solidarity through the redescription of our contingent vocabularies.
    Richard Rorty died of pancreatic cancer June 8, 2007, in Palo Alto, California.

    Historical Background


    1931 Born on October 4th, in New York City
    1946 Enrolls in University of Chicago just before his fifteenth birthday
    1949 B.A., University of Chicago
    1952 M.A., University of Chicago
    1956 Ph.D., Yale University (dissertation: "The Concept of Potentiality")
    1957-1958 Army of the United States
    1958-1961 Instructor and Assistant Professor, Wellesley College
    1961-1982 Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University
    1967 The Linguistic Turn (ed.) published by the University of Chicago Press
    1968-1969 American Council of Learned Societies fellowship
    1973 Exegesis and Argument: Studies in Greek Philosophy Presented to Gregory Vlastos (edited with Edward Lee and Alexander Mourelatos) published by VanGorcum
    1973-1974 Guggenheim Fellowship
    1979 Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature published by Princeton University Press
    1979 President, American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division
    1981-1986 MacArthur Fellowship
    1982 Consequences of Pragmatism published by the University of Minnesota Press
    1982-1998 University Professor of the Humanities, University of Virginia (named Professor Emeritus, 1998)
    1985 Philosophy in History (edited with J.B. Schneewind and Quentin Skinner) published by Cambridge University Press
    1986 Northcliffe Lectures, University College, London
    1987 Clark Lectures, Trinity College, Cambridge
    1989 Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity published by Cambridge University Press
    1990-1991 National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship
    1991 Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers I published by Cambridge University Press
    1991 Essays on Heidegger and Others: Philosophical Papers II published by Cambridge University Press
    1992 The Linguistic Turn published in second, enlarged edition by the University of Chicago Press
    1994 Hoffnung statt Erkenntnis: Einleitung in die pragmatische Philosophie (three lectures delivered in Vienna and Paris in 1993) published by Passagen Verlag
    1997 Truth, Politics and 'Post-Modernism' (Spinoza lectures, University of Amsterdam) published by Van Gorcum
    1997 Massey Lectures, Harvard University
    1998-2007 Professor of Comparative Literature, Stanford University (named Professor Emeritus, 2005)
    1998 Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America published by Harvard University Press
    1998 Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers III published by Cambridge University Press
    2000 Philosophy and Social Hope published by Penguin
    2005 The Future of Religion (edited with Gianni Vattimo) published by Columbia University Press
    2006 Take Care of Freedom and Truth Will Take Care of Itself, Interviews with Richard Rorty (edited and with an introduction by Eduardo Mendieta) published by Stanford University Press
    2007 Philosophy as Cultural Politics: Philosophical Papers IV published by Cambridge University Press
    2007 Awarded the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts, Humanities, or Social Sciences by the American Philosophical Society
    2007 Dies on June 8 in Palo Alto, California, at age 75
    2010 The Philosophy of Richard Rorty (edited by Randall E. Auxier and Lewis Edwin Hahn) published by Open Court

    Collection Scope and Content Summary

    Richard Rorty (1931-2007) was a pragmatist philosopher, critical theorist, and public intellectual. This collection comprises manuscripts, teaching files, professional correspondence, research notes, biographical material, and ephemera. It also includes some family papers and correspondence, as well as writings dating to his youth. The collection includes digital files transferred from Rorty's computer disks and made available to researchers electronically at UCIspace @ the Libraries .
    Included are: manuscripts and typescripts of published writings, conference papers, invited lectures, public speeches, and other intellectual work; incoming and outgoing professional correspondence, including manuscripts sent to him by colleagues; teaching files including lecture notes, syllabi, assignments, and exams; professional activities files; research notes and other materials; and some biographical material including posters and programs for public lectures and symposia, printed materials such as reviews of Rorty's work and articles about him, and a very small number of photographs. The collection also includes a significant amount of family correspondence, dating to Rorty's childhood, as well as his earliest writings. There are also some papers relating to his parents and some members of his extended family.

    Collection Arrangement

    This collection is arranged in 8 series:
    • Series 1. Early life and family papers, 1863-2000 (Bulk, 1942-1979), 2.4 linear feet
    • Series 2. Writings, 1961-2000, 3.4 linear feet
    • Series 3. Correspondence, 1955-2001 (Bulk, 1961-1995), 10.8 linear feet
    • Series 4. Notes and research materials, 1962-1999, 1.6 linear feet
    • Series 5. Teaching files, 1958-2002, 3.6 linear feet
    • Series 6. Professional activities, 1965-1999, 1.4 linear feet
    • Series 7. Biographical material, 1964-1997, 0.9 linear feet
    • Series 8. Born-digital files, 1988-2003, 0.2 linear feet and 1027 digital files

    Processing Note

    In order to facilitate access to the collection, processing work on it was expedited. Manuscripts were filed and described by working title, professional correspondence was filed by the approximate year and the first letter of the correspondent's name, date ranges were sometimes approximated, and other steps were taken to ensure the materials could be made available for research in a timely fashion. In 2012, approximately ten modifications were made to the arrangement of the correspondence based on feedback from two Rorty scholars, who identified correspondent surnames as they researched the Rorty papers.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Philosophy, American -- 20th century
    Critical theory -- Archives.
    Rorty, Richard -- Archives
    Rorty, Richard