Dewey, Pragmatism, and Economic Methodology (review)
- Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy
- Indiana University Press
- Volume 41, Number 2, Spring 2005
- pp. 429-434
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Book Reviews Dewey, Pragmatism, and Economic Methodology Elias L. Khalil, editor Routledge: London and New York, 2004 xii + 384 pp. The contributions to this volume were presented at a conference in July, 2001, in Great Barrington, MA, intended, according to the editor, "to assess the recent revitalization of John Dewey in relation to debates surrounding postmodernism in philosophy, on the one hand, and to methodological controversies in economics, on the other" (p. 2). Of the twenty chapters, thirteen were written by philosophers (in order of appearance, Frank X. Ryan, Richard J. Bernstein, Sami PihlstrÃ¶m, Joseph Margolis, David L. Hildebrand, Larry A. Hickman, Vincent Colapietro, John E. Smith, Peter H. Hare, Sandra B. Rosenthal, Tom Burke, John J. Stuhr, and Isaac Levi); five by economists (D. Wade Hands, Alex Viskovatoff, Michael S. Lawlor, Peter J. Boettke/Don Lavoie/Virgil Henry Storr, and William Milberg); one by a legal scholar and federal judge (Richard A. Posner); and one by a scholar of literary criticism (Stanley Fish). In his introduction, Khalil, an economist, describes the background of the sponsoring organization, the Behavioral Research Council (originally a separate organization, but for some time now a division of the American Institute for Economic Research), and its strong emphasis on John Dewey's work on inquiry, particularly his collaboration with Arthur F. Bentley, which culminated in their Knowing and the Known (1949). Although apparently contributors were encouraged to focus attention on that collaboration, some did not. Fish, for example, does not directly discuss Dewey at all, and nothing by Dewey appears in his Bibliography. Posner focuses on Dewey's work in the 1930's. Despite his favorable assessment of Dewey's "epistemic democracy" and his negative assessment of Dewey's "cognitive democracy," he ignores Knowing and the Known (K&K), which so emphasizes a social treatment of epistemic issues. Another problem for a reviewer is that some authors made a marked effort to address a relatively general audience, while others wrote just as they would for a specialized professional journal. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society Spring, 2005, Vol. XLI, No. 2 430 Book Reviews A greater problem is that the articles, often densely argued and by highly competent specialists, cover such a wide range of topics; among them debates about "classical pragmatism," its relation to postmodernism and the extent to which Dewey may have anticipated that movement, the "linguistic turn" in philosophy, Dewey's relation to Peirce and Rorty, among other philosophers, and a host of methodological issues in economics. To describe those articles adequately, let alone critically discuss them, would require far more space than even the generous amount provided by this journal. Rather than attempting to discuss each of the contributions so briefly that little purpose would be served, I shall emphasize K&K and consider some of the general issues raised by the Khalil book. To that end, the articles by Hare and Smith make useful points. Hare notes that one of the reasons for the neglect of K&K is that many think the book too much reflects Bentley's views, which they deem unfortunate; a view from which Hare disassociates himself. Smith indirectly discusses that point, referring to K&K favorably as a "remarkable collaboration" (p. 134). He spends considerable time discussing the two-decade, formidable correspondence (some 650 pages when printed in Ratner and Altman, 1964) between Dewey and Bentley, with K&K as the main product of that collaboration. Bentley served as a gadfly to Dewey, often about the latter's earlier terminology, which in turn led Dewey to rethink and to reformulate many of his earlier efforts, not least those in his Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. Hare notes that Dewey's Logic was almost "stillborn" in respect to its target audience (formal logicians and analytic philosophers), and K&K similarly had little impact on its target audience, partly as a result of being "many decades ahead of its time" (p. 145). I would add to this list Dewey's celebrated (perhaps especially by psychologists) 1896 reflex arc article, the message of which seems to have been more honored in the breach than the observance. (I shall return to this article later.) Hare also makes an impressive plea for organized cooperation among philosophers and scientists (including neurobiological investigators), noting that...