What Good is a (Indeed, This) History of Pragmatism?


The philosophical point of the history of pragmatism offered by Cheryl Misak appears to be, to a first approximation, to recover pragmatism from Rorty. She does this by uncovering an “objectivist” pragmatist lineage that begins with Peirce and runs right through the central figures of American analytic philosophy (Sellars, Quine, Goodman, Davidson). In this essay, I raise historical puzzles for Misak’s account, including reasons to doubt that Quine and Sellars are best thought of as pragmatists and reasons to reorient a history of pragmatism in the mid-twentieth-century away from these figures and toward now forgotten figures in American philosophy of science who helped transform the social sciences after the Second World War.