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100 Years of Pragmatism

William James's Revolutionary Philosophy

Edited by John J. Stuhr

William James claimed that his Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking would prove triumphant and epoch-making. Today, after more than 100 years, how is pragmatism to be understood? What has been its cultural and philosophical impact? Is it a crucial resource for current problems and for life and thought in the future? John J. Stuhr and the distinguished contributors to this multidisciplinary volume address these questions, situating them in personal, philosophical, political, American, and global contexts. Engaging James in original ways, these 11 essays probe and extend the significance of pragmatism as they focus on four major, overlapping themes: pragmatism and American culture; pragmatism as a method of thinking and settling disagreements; pragmatism as theory of truth; and pragmatism as a mood, attitude, or temperament.

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Active Life, The

Miller's Metaphysics of Democracy

The ancient antagonism between the active and the contemplative lives is taken up in this innovative and wide-ranging examination of John William Miller’s effort to forge a metaphysics of democracy. The Active Life sheds new light on Miller’s actualist philosophy—its scope, its systematic character, and its dialectical form. Michael J. McGandy persuasively sets Miller’s actualism in the context of Hannah Arendt’s understanding of the active life and skillfully presents actualism as a response to Whitman’s challenge to craft a democratic form of metaphysics. McGandy concludes that Miller reveals how the philosophical and the political are inextricably connected, how there is no active life without the contemplative life, and that the contemplative life is founded in the active life.

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After Emerson

John T. Lysaker

John T. Lysaker works between and weaves together questions and replies in philosophical psychology, Emerson studies, and ethics in this book of deep existential questioning. Each essay in this atypical, philosophical book employs recurring terms, phrases, and questions that characterize our contemporary age. Setting out from the idea of where we are in an almost literal sense, Lysaker takes readers on an intellectual journey intothematic concerns and commitments of broad interest, such as the nature of self and self-experience, ethical life, poetry and philosophy, and history and race. In the manner of Emerson, Cavell, and Rorty, Lysaker's vibrant writing is certain to have a transformative effect on American philosophy today.

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The American Evasion of Philosophy

A Genealogy of Pragmatism

Cornel West

Taking Emerson as his starting point, Cornel West’s basic task in this ambitious enterprise is to chart the emergence, development, decline, and recent resurgence of American pragmatism. John Dewey is the central figure in West’s pantheon of pragmatists, but he treats as well such varied mid-century representatives of the tradition as Sidney Hook, C. Wright Mills, W. E. B. Du Bois, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Lionel Trilling. West’s "genealogy" is, ultimately, a very personal work, for it is imbued throughout with the author’s conviction that a thorough reexamination of American pragmatism may help inspire and instruct contemporary efforts to remake and reform American society and culture.

"West . . . may well be the pre-eminent African American intellectual of our generation."—The Nation

"The American Evasion of Philosophy is a highly intelligent and provocative book. Cornel West gives us illuminating readings of the political thought of Emerson and James; provides a penetrating critical assessment of Dewey, his central figure; and offers a brilliant interpretation—appreciative yet far from uncritical—of the contemporary philosopher and neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty. . . . What shines through, throughout the work, is West's firm commitment to a radical vision of a philosophic discourse as inextricably linked to cultural criticism and political engagement."—Paul S. Boyer, professor emeritus of history, University of Wisconsin–Madison.



Wisconsin Project on American Writers

Frank Lentricchia, General Editor


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Animal Pragmatism

Rethinking Human-Nonhuman Relationships

Erin McKenna and Andrew Light, eds.

What does American pragmatism contribute to contemporary debates about human-animal relationships? Does it acknowledge our connections to all living things? Does it bring us closer to an ethical treatment of all animals? What about hunting, vegetarianism, animal experimentation, and the welfare of farm animals? While questions about human relations with animals have been with us for millennia, there has been a marked rise in public awareness about animal issues -- even McDonald's advertises that they use humanely treated animals as food sources. In Animal Pragmatism, 12 lively and provocative essays address concerns at the intersection of pragmatist philosophy and animal welfare. Topics cover a broad range of issues, including moral consideration of animals, the ethics of animal experimentation, institutional animal care, environmental protection of animal habitat, farm animal welfare, animal communication, and animal morals. Readers who interact with animals, whether as pets or on a plate, will find a robust and fascinating exploration of human-nonhuman relationships.

Contributors are James M. Albrecht, Douglas R. Anderson, Steven Fesmire, Glenn Kuehn, Todd Lekan, Andrew Light, John J. McDermott, Erin McKenna, Phillip McReynolds, Ben Minteer, Matthew Pamental, Paul Thompson, and Jennifer Welchman.

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Becoming John Dewey

Dilemmas of a Philosopher and Naturalist

Thomas C. Dalton

As one of America's "public intellectuals," John Dewey was engaged in a lifelong struggle to understand the human mind and the nature of human inquiry. According to Thomas C. Dalton, the successful pursuit of this mission demanded that Dewey become more than just a philosopher; it compelled him to become thoroughly familiar with the theories and methods of physics, psychology, and neurosciences, as well as become engaged in educational and social reform. Tapping archival sources and Dewey's extensive correspondence, Dalton reveals that Dewey had close personal and intellectual ties to scientists and scholars who helped form the mature expression of his thought. Dewey's relationships with F. M. Alexander, Henri Matisse, Niels Bohr, Myrtle McGraw, and Lawrence K. Frank, among others, show how Dewey dispersed pragmatism throughout American thought and culture.

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C. I. Lewis in Focus

The Pulse of Pragmatism

Sandra B. Rosenthal

C. I. Lewis (1883--1964) was one of the most important thinkers of his generation. In this book, Sandra B. Rosenthal explores Lewis's philosophical vision, and links his thought to the traditions of classical American pragmatism. Tracing Lewis's influences, she explains the central concepts informing his thinking and how he developed a unique and practical vision of the human experience. She shows how Lewis contributed to the enrichment and expansion of pragmatism, opening new paths of constructive dialogue with other traditions. This book will become a standard reference for readers who want to know more about one of American philosophy's most distinguished minds.

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Confucian Democracy

A Deweyan Reconstruction

Using both Confucian texts and the work of American pragmatist John Dewey, this book offers a distinctly Confucian model of democracy. Through a detailed study of relevant concepts and theories in Confucianism and John Dewey’s pragmatist philosophy, this book illustrates the possibility of Confucian democracy and offers an alternative to Western liberal models. Sor-hoon Tan synthesizes the two philosophies through a comparative examination of individuals and community, democratic ideals of equality and freedom, and the nature of ethical and political order. By constructing a model of Confucian democracy that combines the strengths of both Confucianism and Deweyan pragmatism, this book explores how a premodern tradition could be put in dialogue with contemporary political and philosophical theories.

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Conversations on Peirce

Reals and Ideals

Douglas Anderson

The essays in this book have grown out of conversations between the authors and their colleagues and students over the last decade and a half. Their germinal question concerned the ways in which Charles Sanders Peirce was and was not both an idealist and a realist. The dialogue began as an exploration of Peirce's explicit uses of these ideas and then turned to consider the way in which answers to the initial question shed light on other dimensions of Peirce's architectonic.The essays explore the nature of semiotic interpretation, perception, and inquiry. Moreover, considering the roles of idealism and realism in Peirce's thought led to considerations of Peirce's place in the historical development of pragmatism. The authors find his realism turning sharply against the nominalistic conceptions of science endorsed both explicitly and implicitly by his nonpragmatist contemporaries. And they find his version of pragmatism holding a middle ground between the thought of John Dewey and Josiah Royce. The essays aims to invite others to consider the import of these central themes of Peircean thought.

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Critical Environments

Postmodern Theory and the Pragmatics of the “Outside”

Cary Wolfe

Taking up the problem that has stalled contemporary theory—its treatment of the object of knowledge, the “outside,” as nothing but what a particular discourse makes of it—this book suggests a solution: a reinvigorated, posthumanist form of pragmatism.

Author Cary Wolfe investigates three of the most significant strains of postmodern theory (pragmatism, systems theory, and poststructuralism) and shows how each confronts the specter of an “outside” not wholly constituted by discourses, language games, and interpretive communities. He then assesses these confrontations in light of an essentially pragmatic view of theory, one that constantly asks what practical and material difference it makes, and to whom, how these issues are negotiated. Wolfe concludes by comparing the pragmatist view of the relation of theory to politics with important work in contemporary post-Marxism. In arguing for a pragmatist orientation for postmodern theory, Wolfe deploys continental critical theory to avoid the nativism and “American exceptionalism” that has traditionally accompanied pragmatist philosophy.

Unique in its collation of major theorists rarely considered together, Critical Environments incorporates detailed discussions of the work of Richard Rorty, Walter Benn Michaels, Stanley Cavell, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Niklas Luhmann, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Fredric Jameson, and others, and ranges across fields from feminist philosophy of science to the theory of ideology. Wolfe draws on recent work in systems theory to articulate a properly postmodern pragmatism. In doing so, he offers American readers a detailed introduction to systems theory, which he situates and critiques in the broader context of philosophical pragmatism, the theory of democratic social antagonism, and materialist theories of ideology, knowledge, and power. An answer to the widespread charge of relativism leveled against postmodern theory, his work will enhance and inspire new kinds of critical thought.

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