The Revival of Pragmatism: New Essays on Social Thought, Law, and Culture

Duke University Press
Free sample

Although long considered the most distinctive American contribution to philosophy, pragmatism—with its problem-solving emphasis and its contingent view of truth—lost popularity in mid-century after the advent of World War II, the horror of the Holocaust, and the dawning of the Cold War. Since the 1960s, however, pragmatism in many guises has again gained prominence, finding congenial places to flourish within growing intellectual movements. This volume of new essays brings together leading philosophers, historians, legal scholars, social thinkers, and literary critics to examine the far-reaching effects of this revival.
As the twenty-five intellectuals who take part in this discussion show, pragmatism has become a complex terrain on which a rich variety of contemporary debates have been played out. Contributors such as Richard Rorty, Stanley Cavell, Nancy Fraser, Robert Westbrook, Hilary Putnam, and Morris Dickstein trace pragmatism’s cultural and intellectual evolution, consider its connection to democracy, and discuss its complex relationship to the work of Emerson, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein. They show the influence of pragmatism on black intellectuals such as W. E. B. Du Bois, explore its view of poetic language, and debate its effects on social science, history, and jurisprudence. Also including essays by critics of the revival such as Alan Wolfe and John Patrick Diggins, the volume concludes with a response to the whole collection from Stanley Fish.
Including an extensive bibliography, this interdisciplinary work provides an in-depth and broadly gauged introduction to pragmatism, one that will be crucial for understanding the shape of the transformations taking place in the American social and philosophical scene at the end of the twentieth century.

Contributors. Richard Bernstein, David Bromwich, Ray Carney, Stanley Cavell, Morris Dickstein, John Patrick Diggins, Stanley Fish, Nancy Fraser, Thomas C. Grey, Giles Gunn, Hans Joas, James T. Kloppenberg, David Luban, Louis Menand, Sidney Morgenbesser, Richard Poirier, Richard A. Posner, Ross Posnock, Hilary Putnam, Ruth Anna Putnam, Richard Rorty, Michel Rosenfeld, Richard H. Weisberg, Robert B. Westbrook, Alan Wolfe


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About the author

Morris Dickstein is Distinguished Professor of English at Queens College and at the Graduate School of the City University of New York. His previous books include Double Agent: The Critic and Society and Gates of Eden: American Culture in the Sixties.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Nov 23, 1998
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Pages
464
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ISBN
9780822382522
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Reference
Philosophy / Movements / Pragmatism
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Controversy over what role “the great books” should play in college curricula and questions about who defines “the literary canon” are at the forefront of debates in higher education. The Politics of Liberal Education enters this discussion with a sophisticated defense of educational reform in response to attacks by academic traditionalists. The authors here—themselves distinguished scholars and educators—share the belief that American schools, colleges, and universities can do a far better job of educating the nation’s increasingly diverse population and that the liberal arts must play a central role in providing students with the resources they need to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
Within this area of consensus, however, the contributors display a wide range of approaches, illuminating the issues from the perspectives of their particular disciplines—classics, education, English, history, and philosophy, among others—and their individual experiences as teachers. Among the topics they discuss are canon-formation in the ancient world, the idea of a “common culture,” and the educational implications of such social movements as feminism, technological changes including computers and television, and intellectual developments such as “theory.” Readers interested in the controversies over American education will find this volume an informed alternative to sensationalized treatments of these issues.

Contributors. Stanley Fish, Phyllis Franklin, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Henry A. Giroux, Darryl J. Gless, Gerald Graff, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, George A. Kennedy, Bruce Kuklick, Richard A. Lanham, Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, Alexander Nehamas, Mary Louise Pratt, Richard Rorty, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

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


The problem of translation has become increasingly central to critical reflections on modernity and its universalizing processes. Approaching translation as a symbolic and material exchange among peoples and civilizations—and not as a purely linguistic or literary matter, the essays in Tokens of Exchange focus on China and its interactions with the West to historicize an economy of translation. Rejecting the familiar regional approach to non-Western societies, contributors contend that “national histories” and “world history” must be read with absolute attention to the types of epistemological translatability that have been constructed among the various languages and cultures in modern times.
By studying the production and circulation of meaning as value in areas including history, religion, language, law, visual art, music, and pedagogy, essays consider exchanges between Jesuit and Protestant missionaries and the Chinese between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries and focus on the interchanges occasioned by the spread of capitalism and imperialism. Concentrating on ideological reciprocity and nonreciprocity in science, medicine, and cultural pathologies, contributors also posit that such exchanges often lead to racialized and essentialized ideas about culture, sexuality, and nation. The collection turns to the role of language itself as a site of the universalization of knowledge in its contemplation of such processes as the invention of Basic English and the global teaching of the English language. By focusing on the moments wherein meaning-value is exchanged in the translation from one language to another, the essays highlight the circulation of the global in the local as they address the role played by historical translation in the universalizing processes of modernity and globalization.
The collection will engage students and scholars of global cultural processes, Chinese studies, world history, literary studies, history of science, and anthropology, as well as cultural and postcolonial studies.

Contributors. Jianhua Chen, Nancy Chen, Alexis Dudden Eastwood, Roger Hart, Larissa Heinrich, James Hevia, Andrew F. Jones, Wan Shun Eva Lam, Lydia H. Liu, Deborah T. L. Sang, Haun Saussy, Q. S. Tong, Qiong Zhang

The Metaphysical Club is the winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for History.

A riveting, original book about the creation of modern American thought.

The Metaphysical Club was an informal group that met in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1872, to talk about ideas. Its members included Oliver Well Holmes, Jr., future associate justice of the United States Supreme Court; William James, the father of modern American psychology; and Charles Sanders Peirce, logician, scientist, and the founder of semiotics. The Club was probably in existence for about nine months. No records were kept. The one thing we know that came out of it was an idea -- an idea about ideas. This book is the story of that idea. Holmes, James, and Peirce all believed that ideas are not things "out there" waiting to be discovered but are tools people invent -- like knives and forks and microchips -- to make their way in the world. They thought that ideas are produced not by individuals, but by groups of individuals -- that ideas are social. They do not develop according to some inner logic of their own but are entirely depent -- like germs -- on their human carriers and environment. And they thought that the survival of any idea deps not on its immutability but on its adaptability. The Metaphysical Club is written in the spirit of this idea about ideas. It is not a history of philosophy but an absorbing narrative about personalities and social history, a story about America. It begins with the Civil War and s in 1919 with Justice Holmes's dissenting opinion in the case of U.S. v. Abrams-the basis for the constitutional law of free speech. The first four sections of the book focus on Holmes, James, Peirce, and their intellectual heir, John Dewey. The last section discusses some of the fundamental twentieth-century ideas they are associated with. This is a book about a way of thinking that changed American life.

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