restricted access Realism and Receptivity: The Role of the Transcendent in Pragmatism

Philip Kitcher’s arguments for realism and secular humanism reveal a question as to the role of transcendence in pragmatism. There is a tension between Deweyan anti-foundationalism and naturalism—between the continuity of experience and nature, and the external reality of the universe—which re-emerges in Kitcher’s “real realism.” The transcendence of the natural and the transcendence of the supernatural are distinct as regards their accessibility to inquiry. But the pragmatic fallibilist resistance to sources of justification external to the process of inquiry, or “sky-hooks,” also clashes with the transcendence of nature insofar as it is viewed as a foundation. I argue that transcendence can be conceived not as a substance or ground, but as a possibility of radical receptivity or renewal, and that this is compatible with the continuity of inquiry. If this shift is made, religious transcendence can appear less as a flight to another world and more a method of producing a break with the (sinful) past, a possibility absent in Kitcher’s secular humanism and one arguably more important than its lack of religious community.