A Turn In The South

Pragmatism: An Introduction

Pragmatism: An IntroductionPragmatism: An Introduction by Michael Bacon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Last semester I taught William James' Pragmatism in my intro to philosophy class. I also used video clips of Cornel West and Richard Rorty (both pragmatists) discussing truth. Researching for those clips and other materials to use, I realized a need to catch up on more recent work in Pragmatism, as my understanding was still focused mostly on what I had learned of James and Peirce in school (I never cared much for Dewey). I even had a limited understanding of Rorty despite having read his major work (Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature) and also having been taught by Don Wester who was very into Rorty.

This book is a nice survey of more recent trends in pragmatism while also discussing how figures such as Quine, Sellars, Davidson, and Habermas are pragmatic.

One thing I did notice was that I'm much more of a Jamesian than a pragmatist as this book understands it. And to me process philosophy was always the systematization of Jamesian intuitions (another connection was Charles Hartshorne's role in editing Peirce's collected writings). None of the figures from the process tradition or the American philosophers we had read with Don Wester (like Richard Neville and Frederick Ferre) figured in this book. Nor did West, who has himself written books on pragmatism. So, while the book claims to demonstrating the breadth of the pragmatic tradition, I felt that the aspect of the tradition that I resonate with was not covered.

The best section of the book is its discussion of Rorty. I have decided that I need to read more Rorty, especially his works on contingency and democracy that were published in the late 80's and 90's. I may also look up some of the more recent writers the book discussed, particularly Cheryl Misak, a Pierce scholar.

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