Among Rorty's most admired essays, and probably his most autobiographical, “Trotsky and the Wild Orchids” made its first appearance as a column in Common Knowledge during the journal's inaugural year. Here it is reprinted, thirty years later, in a symposium called “Whatever Happened to Richard Rorty?” He explains in this essay that, as a child, he loved things that would seem to others contradictory, for example the Trotskian socialism to which his family was committed and the wild orchids that he would search for in the local mountains. Finding his own way between what appeared to others contrary kinds of demand or appeal, he never settled, as a philosopher and public intellectual, on syntheses that made good sense to his contemporaries. They were unable to locate him on their intellectual and political maps. As he writes, “If there is anything to the idea that the best intellectual position is one which is attacked with equal vigor from the political right and the political left, then I am in good shape. . . . The left's favorite word for me is ‘complacent,’ just as the right's is ‘irresponsible.’ ” The editors of Common Knowledge, a venue that Rorty helped to found, have reprinted this essay as a way of stating their view that nothing has “happened to Richard Rorty” in the past three decades that did not happen as well when he was active in his own self‐defense. He was misconstrued but indispensable when alive, and has remained so in the decades since.

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