- Pragmatism with Purpose: Selected Writings by Peter Hare
The author of the book under review here needs no introduction to the readers of this journal. Peter H. Hare (1935–2008), who served for several decades as a distinguished professor and department chair at the SUNY Buffalo Philosophy Department, was a co-editor of Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society for more than thirty years and played an absolutely crucial role in supporting and enhancing scholarship on pragmatism and American philosophy not only in the United States but globally, always insisting on the active internationalization of American philosophy. He was not as prolific a writer as some of his pragmatist colleagues have been – perhaps largely because he was always primarily unselfishly concerned with promoting others', especially junior scholars', publishing activities and academic careers rather than his own – and his numerous editorial, administrative, and societal responsibilities may occasionally have eclipsed our understanding of what he himself really thought about various first-hand philosophical questions. As many of his writings are scattered around in journals and collections not all of which are widely available, the editors of this post-humous collection of essays have done a great service to the scholarly community. This volume of twenty selected essays by Peter Hare (six of them co-authored) contains some well-known contributions along with hidden treasures.
The topics covered by the essays are as diverse as American philosophy itself. Part I focuses on the ethics of belief, especially William James's "will to believe" argument, while Part II offers more varied reflections on classical pragmatism and pragmatic naturalism, continued by the [End Page 335] treatment of naturalism and holistic pragmatism in Part III. Hare's interest in the philosophy of religion – in a critical yet constructive spirit – is manifested in Part IV, whereas Part V discusses the past and future of American philosophy. Part VI moves on to philosophical examinations of poetry, and the volume concludes by the critical essays on various wider socio-cultural topics in Part VII.
In addition, the book contains some interesting albeit brief autobiographical materials as well as an introductory essay by Vincent Colapietro whose explorations of issues of naturalism especially in the context of James's philosophy are highly relevant as they canvass some of Hare's philosophical background, interestingly referring to a tension between naturalism (or natural realism) and Jamesian pluralism as a possibly "irreconcilable conflict within Peter's philosophical soul" (3). Yet, the introduction might have focused more explicitly on Hare's own views and the development of his position manifested by the essays themselves. Now no clear statement is offered by the editors as to why these writings in particular have been selected as representative of his ideas. A more serious defect, however, is the absence of any comprehensive list of Peter Hare's writings. A full bibliography, or at least a list of the original publications reprinted here, could relatively easily have been included. Now it is not always clear when exactly the essays reprinted in the book were originally written.
Hare's examinations of James's "will to believe" and related issues in the ethics of belief are among the most perceptive that can be found in the vast scholarly literature addressing these topics. The first chapter, in particular, offers a careful differentiation between epistemic duties, the duty to believe, the rights to believe, and the will to believe, as well as, at a meta-level, both the right and the duty to will to believe (49). While James clearly seems to be Hare's favorite classical pragmatist, analyzed in some detail in chapters 1–4 and again in chapter 16, several little known or neglected figures of the American philosophical tradition are also discussed in the book, including Dickinson Miller and C.J. Ducasse (chapters 2 and 7), Frederick Harold Young (chapter 5), and Justus Buchler (chapter 11).
Hare is constantly preoccupied with Morton White's holistic pragmatism (or epistemic corporatism), explored in detail in chapter 8. His proposal...