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  • Pragmatism in Transition: Contemporary Perspectives on C.I. Lewis ed. by Peter Olen and Carl Sachs
  • Paul L. Franco
Peter Olen and Carl Sachs (eds.) Pragmatism in Transition: Contemporary Perspectives on C.I. Lewis Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 222 pp., incl. index.

In Scott Edgar's introduction to a special issue of the Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy, "Method, Science, and Mathematics: Neo-Kantianism and Analytic Philosophy" co-edited with Lydia Patton, Edgar mentions a "growing gap between historiographical narratives about the history of early analytic philosophy" (2018, 7). Edgar sketches three narratives, not intended as exhaustive, respectively concerned with [1] "philosophical questions about meaning, reference, and other features of language"; [2] "the application of precise, formal methods to philosophical problems"; and [3] "the philosophy of empirical science" (7). On Edgar's view, [2] and [3] "are unified by the fact that … analytic philosophy is a tradition that focuses on philosophical reactions to the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century revolutions in logic, mathematics, and physics" (7).

The essays in Pragmatism in Transition not only make a strong case that C.I. Lewis has a central place in narratives centering early analytic philosophy's reaction to the revolutions in logic, mathematics, and physics, but also to narratives focusing on other strands of analytic philosophy in the early decades of the twentieth century. For example, individual essays in this volume argue Lewis's conceptual pragmatism is relevant, and in some cases central to understanding the development of American pragmatism;1 the relationship between pragmatism and logical positivism;2 the role of the a priori in empirical knowledge and conceptual change in the sciences;3 Wilfrid Sellars on the myth of the given;4 and the development of logics in the twentieth century.5 Read collectively, the essays make a persuasive case for (re-)acknowledging Lewis's central role in the development of twentieth century American analytic philosophy, especially given the unique place his work occupies [End Page 273] conceptually and chronologically between classical pragmatism and early analytic philosophy.

For historians of philosophy and philosophers unfamiliar with Lewis's work, the essays provide a wide-ranging introduction to Lewis's unique pragmatic approach to metaethics, logic, epistemology, and philosophy of science. Those familiar with Lewis's conceptual pragmatism, especially as articulated in his 1929 Mind and the World Order, will find many of the interpretive and exegetical remarks display close engagement with Lewis's works and sensitivity to Lewis's historical context. Indeed, one thing I think this collection does especially well is fill a (narrowing) gap in the history of analytic philosophy on Lewis's role in the development of analytic philosophy and philosophy of science in America from the early- to mid-twentieth century.

With this virtue in mind, my review highlights a few themes of Pragmatism in Transition as they relate to the historiography of analytic philosophy and the history of philosophy of science. Given this focus, I will not remark on Kegley's essay detailing affinities between Lewis's philosophy and the views of earlier pragmatists. Such details, though, are likely of special interest to readers of this journal as they contextualize Lewis's guiding questions and concerns in the American pragmatist tradition.6 I also will not engage Heney's treatment of Lewis's metaethics, from which I learned a lot about Lewis's understanding of value judgments. Nor will I tackle Shieh's careful reconstruction of Lewis's criticisms of Bertrand Russell's account of material implication, which historians of logic and early analytic philosophy will find valuable. I will mention, though, that since Kegley, Heney, and Shieh engage Lewis's work beyond epistemology before and after Mind and the World Order, they provide valuable context for those essays that mostly center the epistemological themes of Lewis's Mind and the World Order.

Lewis & Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy of Science

As a few of the essays note, Lewis did not make the linguistic turn that has been a dominant theme of histories of early analytic philosophy with the focus of Edgar's narrative [1].7 But Lewis's work is concerned with the philosophical significance of the revolutions in logic, mathematics...


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