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Beyond Realism and Antirealism

John Dewey and the Neopragmatists

David L. Hildebrand

Publication Year: 2003

Perhaps the most significant development in American philosophy in recent times has been the extraordinary renaissance of Pragmatism, marked most notably by the reformulations of the so-called "Neopragmatists" Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam. With Pragmatism offering the allure of potentially resolving the impasse between epistemological realists and antirealists, analytic and continental philosophers, as well as thinkers across the disciplines, have been energized and engaged by this movement. In Beyond Realism and Antirealism: John Dewey and the Neopragmatists, David L. Hildebrand asks two important questions: first, how faithful are the Neopragmatists' reformulations of Classical Pragmatism (particularly Deweyan Pragmatism)? Second, and more significantly, can their Neopragmatisms work? In assessing Neopragmatism, Hildebrand advances a number of historical and critical points: Current debates between realists and antirealists (as well as objectivists and relativists) are similar to early 20th century debates between realists and idealists that Pragmatism addressed extensively. Despite their debts to Dewey, the Neopragmatists are reenacting realist and idealist stands in their debate over realism, thus giving life to something shown fruitless by earlier Pragmatists. What is absent from the Neopragmatist's position is precisely what makes Pragmatism enduring: namely, its metaphysical conception of experience and a practical starting point for philosophical inquiry that such experience dictates. Pragmatism cannot take the "linguistic turn" insofar as that turn mandates a theoretical starting point. While Pragmatism's view of truth is perspectival, it is nevertheless not a relativism. Pace Rorty, Pragmatism need not be hostile to metaphysics; indeed, it demonstrates how pragmatic instrumentalism and metaphysics are complementary. In examining these and other difficulties in Neopragmatism, Hildebrand is able to propose some distinct directions for Pragmatism. Beyond Realism and Antirealism will provoke specialists and non-specialists alike to rethink not only the definition of Pragmatism, but its very purpose.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book grew out a confrontation with a simple question: What is pragmatism? Perhaps I can save time for some readers by giving the answer: no one really knows. Ever since A. O. Lovejoy published “The Thirteen Pragmatisms” in 1908, any hope of permanently fixing a single meaning went out the window. Even now, the meaning of pragmatism...


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pp. xi-xii

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Chapter 1: Introduction

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pp. 1-7

Pragmatism has undergone an extraordinary renaissance in the last two decades. Burgeoning interest in John Dewey, William James, and Charles S. Peirce has led many to embrace pragmatism as a distinctively American via media, capable of bridging the contemporary divide between philosophy as cultural criticism and philosophy as fundamental science...

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Chapter 2: Dewey and Realism

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pp. 8-29

Although Dewey’s mature metaphysical and epistemological views may be traced to a number of important influences (such as Kant, Hegel, Darwin, Peirce, and James), it would be incautious to overlook the influence evolving American realisms had upon him. Around the time of his 1905 move to Columbia...

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Chapter 3: Dewey and Idealism

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pp. 30-86

Dewey’s rejection of the central tenets of traditional epistemology was also a rejection of the metaphysical picture on which those tenets were based. What his pragmatism offered was not, as some have charged, just another totalizing metaphysics that places vulgar human interests at the center of everything nor “a contemplative survey of existence”...

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Chapter 4: Rorty, Putnam, and Classical Pragmatism

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pp. 87-154

Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam are the most prominent representatives of neopragmatism today. Their numerous books and articles include critical studies of the classical pragmatists1 as well as new formulations of pragmatism (i.e., “neopragmatism”) for the contemporary philosophical scene...

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Chapter 5: Neopragmatism’s Realism/Antirealism Debate

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pp. 155-176

As the twenty-first century begins, the debates between realists and antirealists show few signs of abating. At the heart of these epistemological and metaphysical debates are questions such as, What makes a sentence true? How does language hook onto the world? And “Is reality intrinsically determinate, or is its determinacy a result...

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Chapter 6: Beyond Realism and Antirealism

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pp. 177-194

The title of this chapter and book seems to promise too much: the resolution of a formidable controversy that has occupied prominent philosophers for decades. Some might say that ambitious promises don’t suit pragmatists, who should know better than to blithely reproduce the arrogance of the very philosophical defendants they would call to court...


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pp. 195-226


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pp. 227-234


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pp. 235-241

E-ISBN-13: 9780826591692
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826514264
Print-ISBN-10: 082651426X

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2003

OCLC Number: 62189969
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Beyond Realism and Antirealism

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Subject Headings

  • Pragmatism
  • Realism.
  • Dewey, John, 1859-1952.
  • Rorty, Richard.
  • Putnam, Hilary.
  • Philosophy, American.
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