Rorty takes for granted a distinction of Dewey:

Knowing thatKnowing how
Ending the conversationContinuing the conversation
  • Platonists look for a principle or rule, something explicit or that could be made explicit, behind every implicit propriety of practice.

  • Pragmatists argue that explicit principles or theories float on a vast sea of implicit practical skills.

What’s at stake: the order of explanation / conceptual priority between principles and practices.

For example, a cobbler can make good shoes. The platonist looks for what form is behind his mastery, what principle / mental representation makes it possible that the cobbler does that? The pragmatist treats the skill as prior to the principle.

Rorty sees representationalism as the distinctly modern form of platonism as described above.


  1. Lower case because it’s not just Plato implicated here. Kant, too.