I was surprised: I'd always assumed Rorty had a sunny disposition. On the cover photo of probably his best known work 'Contingency, Irony and Solidarity' he's shown relaxing in a sunlit, blooming garden - an American arcadia in pastels (above). It felt Californian in spirit, even if that may not have been its location in strictly geographical terms.
For me, this situation explained a lot about the book, in which he suggests that in a world of post-modern, relativistic morality one way to create a basis for solidarity is through literature. The claim is that it provokes a universal feeling of empathy with those suffering cruelty and is thereby productive of an all-embracing solidarity. In one of those tricksy philosophical tricks, he dodges the question by providing an answer from a different terrain.
Always seemed a questionable thesis, given you had Nazis reading Goethe and Bolsheviks reading Gorky. But I put it down to the optimism you might feel about this sort of thing when sitting in a beautiful garden on one of the untouchable coasts of the US. Makes it all even more puzzling now.
I wonder whether in finding some humour in Rorty's interview I've done something that undermines his thesis?