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The Things in Heaven and Earth:An Essay in Pragmatic Naturalism

An Essay in Pragmatic Naturalism

John Ryder

Publication Year: 2013

The Things in Heaven and Earth develops and applies the American philosophical naturalist tradition of the mid-20th century, specifically the work of three of the most prominent figures of what is called Columbia Naturalism: John Dewey, John Herman Randall Jr., and Justus Buchler. The book argues for the philosophical value and usefulness of this underappreciated tradition for a number of contemporary theoretical and practical issues, such as the modernist/postmodernist divide and debates over philosophical constructivism.Pragmatic naturalism offers a distinctive ontology of constitutive relations. Relying on Buchler's ordinal ontology and on the relationality implicit in Dewey's instrumentalism, the book gives a detailed account of this approach in chapters that deal with issues in systematic ontology, epistemology, constructivism and objectivity, philosophical theology, art, democratic theory, foreign policy, education, humanism, and cosmopolitanism.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: American Philosophy

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-8


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

This study has been many years in the making, and there are therefore a great many debts to acknowledge. Because his influence permeates nearly every page, the most important such debt is to Justus Buchler, with whom I had the privilege to study as a graduate student. His brilliance and philosophical...

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pp. 1-11

When Hamlet says, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” he is responding to Horatio’s surprise at hearing the voice of the ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father. Horatio’s surprise is of course understandable. We organize...

Part One. Contemporary Pragmatic Naturalism

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pp. 13-28

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One. Reconciling Pragmatism and Naturalism

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pp. 15-36

Philosophy, Descartes’s noteworthy effort notwithstanding, does not have the luxury to begin at the beginning.1 Like most other forms of inquiry and query, it has no choice but to engage a topic in light of its own history. Our study of pragmatic naturalism and its many virtues is...

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Two. The Value of Pragmatic Naturalism

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pp. 37-54

The first of its traits, which it shares in general outline with other forms of naturalism, is that nature is broadly and richly enough conceived that there is no philosophical need to posit anything outside nature. The usual candidate for the designation “nonnatural” is the “supernatural,” so we are...

Part Two. Being and Knowing

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pp. 55-70

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Three. An Ontology of Constitutive Relations

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pp. 57-76

I have made the claim that a central characteristic of pragmatic naturalism is its relational, ordinal ontology, and I have offered the beginnings of a case for its plausibility.1 It is necessary now to describe in greater detail what an ordinal ontology is and how it can be taken seriously as a...

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Four. Particulars and Relations

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pp. 77-93

It is widely accepted that for the most part particulars do indeed enter into genuine relations, but that the particulars themselves are not relational.1 I will call this the standard view, and it is one of the critical assumptions, perhaps the most critical, that underlies traditional, nonrelational...

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Five. Making Sense of World Making

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pp. 95-118

In 1978 Nelson Goodman in Ways of Worldmaking wrote that both objects and knowledge are in important ways constructed: “If worlds are as much made as found, so also knowing is as much remaking as reporting.”1 Goodman at the time was concerned primarily with art and...

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Six. God and Faith

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pp. 119-140

One of the thornier problems for pragmatic naturalism is how to understand religion and God.1 On the one hand, naturalism rests on the assumption that what ever there is, it is fully a natural entity. This means, among other things, that neither nature in general nor anything...

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Seven. Art and Knowledge

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pp. 141-176

I have made the case in previous chapters that nature is to be understood as a term or concept of the widest possible scope, which is to say that it is understood to be all-inclusive.1 Whatever there is, in other words, is natural. In the effort to put some flesh on such a bare-bones concept we...

Part Three. Social Experience

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pp. 177-192

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Eight. The Democratic Challenge

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pp. 179-209

If the primary intellectual source of the first several chapters has been Justus Buchler’s ordinal ontology and theory of judgment, then the philosophical basis of the remaining chapters devoted to social and political matters is John Dewey’s understanding of democracy.1 It is worthwhile...

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Nine. Democracy and Its Problems

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pp. 211-239

In the previous chapter I explicated a Deweyan conception of democracy and made something of a case for its reasonableness as a social condition to which we might aspire and as an approach to understanding how we might address contemporary social issues.1 However, even if...

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Ten. International Relations and Foreign Policy

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pp. 241-271

Borders of all kinds are both a blessing and a curse.1 On the one hand they are a blessing in that they allow us to distinguish between this and that. Importantly for philosophical purposes they allow us to individuate one complex from others, whether that complex is an individual...

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Eleven. Cosmopolitanism and Humanism

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pp. 273-295

Despite the triumphalism in the West at the end of the Cold War, the past two de cades have for the most part not been a good time for democracy.1 As a practical goal for political development, it has been used too readily to justify foreign and military policies and practices that...

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Conclusion. Pragmatic Naturalism and the Big Narrative

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pp. 297-302

Hamlet reproached Horatio for failing to account for ghosts in his philosophy. We of course should not be too hard on Horatio because most of the rest of us would until now not have been able to account for ghosts either, not to mention any number of other features of many...


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pp. 303-319


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pp. 321-327

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250592
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823244683
Print-ISBN-10: 0823244687

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Text
Series Title: American Philosophy