Tom Stoppard vs. Richard Rorty

I read a quote from the playwright Tom Stoppard about his view of playwriting. ‘My whole life,’ he tells his interviewer, ‘is waiting for the questions to which I have prepared answers.’ This view of things, albeit clever-sounding, is backward.

Some years ago, I read something very different in in one of Raymond Geuss’s books. He related that what he learned from the late Richard Rorty was that especially interesting philosophy goes about changing the topic of conversation. This means: inventing a novel question or changing the questions of deep significance we now think to ask.

When we invent a novel question (or change our deep questions) that strikes us as startlingly interesting, then the fact that no answer is forthcoming serves to give us pause. Within this capacious pause, we might very well reorient our entire lives. And how interesting that would be to be set, clear-eyed, on a higher course.