Poetry and Philosophy: Richard Rorty on Philip Larkin’s ‘Continuing to Live’

In the second chapter of Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, called ‘The Contingency of Selfhood’, Richard Rorty uses the last part of a poem by Philip Larkin (1922-1985), Continuing to Live to clarify his ideas about the self. Rorty places Continuing to Live against the background of what he sees as the battle between poetry and philosophy. Philosophers seek the truths of life, eternal truths that hold for all ages and places, whereas poets celebrate individuality and contingency. Larkin however had found an eternal truth that dominated his life and his work as a poet. Death is the utmost truth that thought can never pass. It leaves ‘nothing to be said’.

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