Being Constructive: On Misak’s Creation of Pragmatism


This commentary on Cheryl Misak’s The American Pragmatists opens with a schematic distinction between Type I philosophers, who think of their problems in ahistorical terms, and Type II philosophers, who take the genesis of the vocabulary in which problems are stated to have philosophical import. I suggest that Misak is a moderate Type II philosopher, who constructs a successful narrative of pragmatism around the issue of objectivity. The narrative carefully traces the dialectic of convergence and conflict that shapes pragmatist thought on this central topic, smoothly connecting—both historically and systematically—with central concerns in contemporary Anglophone philosophy. Misak thus achieves a main aim, namely, to open avenues of dialogical engagement across sub-disciplinary boundaries. Success has a cost, of course, and I conclude by briefly suggesting what may be left in the shadows cast by this generally illuminating story.