Cheryl Misak presents a history of the great American philosophical tradition of pragmatism, from its inception in the 1870s to the present day. She traces the connections between classical American pragmatism and contemporary analytic philosophy, and draws out the continuing influence of pragmatist ideas in the recent history of philosophy.
This paper reframes the futility debate, moving away from the question “Who decides when to end what is considered to be a medically inappropriate or futile treatment?” and toward the question “How can society make policy that will best account for the multitude of values and conflicts involved in such decision-making?” It offers a pragmatist moral epistemology that provides us with a clear justification of why it is important to take best standards, norms, and physician judgment seriously and a clear (...) justification of why ample opportunity must be made for patients, families, and society to challenge those standards and norms. (shrink)
The pragmatist view of politics is at its very heart epistemic, for it treats morals and politics as a kind of deliberation or inquiry, not terribly unlike other kinds of inquiry. With the exception of Richard Rorty, the pragmatists argue that morals and politics, like science, aim at the truth or at getting things right and that the best method for achieving this aim is a method they sometimes call the scientific method or the method of intelligence – what would (...) now be termed deliberative democracy. Hence, the pragmatists offer an argument for democracy which appeals to the quality of the decisions supplied by democratic procedure. Why should we value decisions that are the products of voting after open debate over private decision-making and then voting, over bargaining, or over elimination of those who disagree with us? We should value them because the deliberative democratic method is more likely to give us true or right or justified answers to our questions. Rorty, of course, thinks that no inquiry aims at the truth and that nothing about pragmatism speaks in democracy's favor. This paper will show how his brand of pragmatism betrays what is good and deeply interesting in the pragmatist tradition. (shrink)
The pragmatist view of politics is at its very heart epistemic, for it treats morals and politics as a kind of deliberation or inquiry, not terribly unlike other kinds of inquiry. With the exception of Richard Rorty, the pragmatists argue that morals and politics, like science, aim at the truth or at getting things right and that the best method for achieving this aim is a method they sometimes call the scientific method or the method of intelligence – what would (...) now be termed deliberative democracy. Hence, the pragmatists offer an argument for democracy which appeals to the quality of the decisions supplied by democratic procedure. Why should we value decisions that are the products of voting after open debate over private decision-making and then voting, over bargaining, or over elimination of those who disagree with us? We should value them because the deliberative democratic method is more likely to give us true or right or justified answers to our questions. Rorty, of course, thinks that no inquiry aims at the truth and that nothing about pragmatism speaks in democracy’s favor. This paper will show how his brand of pragmatism betrays what is good and deeply interesting in the pragmatist tradition. (shrink)
In 1925, the 22 year old Frank Ramsey read a provocative paper to the Apostles titled “On There Being No Discussable Subject”. Many of the papers presented to this ‘Cambridge Conversazione Society’ were not terribly serious, and most have left minimal trace. But after Ramsey died in 1930 just shy of his 27th birthday, this paper was pulled from his manuscript remains by Richard Braithwaite, and printed in the posthumously-published The Foundations of Mathematics, under the title “Epilogue”. A snappy passage (...) from it has been taken to express Ramsey’s view on ethics:most of us would agree that the objectivity of good was a thing we had... (shrink)
Isaac Levi uses C. S. Peirce's fallibilism as a foil for his own "epistemological infallibilism". I argue that Levi's criticisms of Peirce do not hit their target, and that the two pragmatists agree on the fundamental issues concerning background knowledge, certainty, revision of belief, and the aims of inquiry.
I shall draw on my experience of being an ICU patient to make some practical, ethical, and philosophical points about the care of the critically ill. The recurring theme in this paper is ICU psychosis. I suggest that discharged patients ought to be educated about it; I discuss the obstacles in the way of accurately measuring it; I argue that we must rethink autonomy in light of it; and I suggest that the self disintegrates in the face of it.
An underappreciated fact in the history of analytic philosophy is that American pragmatism had an early and strong influence on the Vienna Circle. The path of that influence goes from Charles Peirce to Frank Ramsey to Ludwig Wittgenstein to Moritz Schlick. That path is traced in this paper, and along the way some standard understandings of Ramsey and Wittgenstein, especially, are radically altered.
Cheryl Misak argues that truth ought to be reinstated to a central position in moral and political philosophy. She argues that the correct account of truth is one found in a certain kind of pragmatism: a true belief is one upon which inquiry could not improve, a belief which would not be defeated by experience and argument. This account is not only an improvement on the views of central figures such as Rawls and Habermas, but it can also make sense (...) of the idea that, despite conflict, pluralism, and the expression of difference, our moral and political beliefs aim at truth and can be subject to criticism. Anyone interested in a fresh discussion of political theory and philosophy will find this a fascinating read. (shrink)
This commentary explores the disagreement between Alex Klein and Cheryl Misak about the core insights of American Pragmatism, against a background of agreement. Both take the history of early American pragmatism to be a vital part of the history of analytic philosophy, not a radical break with it. But Misak argues that James seeks to loosen the usual epistemic standards so that religious and scientific belief can both be justified by a unitary set of evidentiary rules, and Klein argues that (...) James’s aim is not primarily to seek a rationale or justification for religious belief. At the heart of the debate is a matter still very much alive in philosophy of science: the nature and status of indispensability arguments or arguments purporting to show that we need to assume some things in order to conduct inquiry. (shrink)
In the early- to mid- 1870s, William James started to argue that if one needs to believe something, then one ought to believe it, even if there is no evidence in its favor. It is not easy to unwind the various things that James said about what he called the will to believe, but one thing is clear. He was initially tempted to put forward a very strong point and despite the refinements he was eventually to make, his is the (...) most contentious version of pragmatist indispensability arguments. Most importantly, it set the stage for how pragmatism was to evolve. In some remarks made in an 1875 review in the Nation2 and in the penultimate draft of “The Will to Believe,” James argues that, given the dearth of .. (shrink)
Abstract The success of the pragmatic account of truth is often thought to founder on the principle of bivalence?the principle which holds that every genuine statement in the indicative mood is either true or false. For pragmatists must, it seems, claim that the principle does not hold for theoretical statements and observation statements about the past. That is, it seems that pragmatists must deny objective truth?values to these perfectly respectable sorts of hypotheses. In this paper, after examining three pragmatist attitudes (...) towards bivalence, I shall suggest that the pragmatist's proper stance is to treat bivalence as a regulative assumption of inquiry. (shrink)
Frank Ramsey is usually taken to be an emotivist or an expressivist about the good: he is usually taken to bifurcate inquiry into fact-stating and non-fact stating domains, ethics falling into the latter. In this paper I shall argue that whatever the very young Ramsey's view might have been, towards the end of his short life, he was coming to a through-going and objective pragmatism about all our beliefs, including those about the good, beauty, and even the meaning of life. (...) Ethical beliefs are not mere expressions of emotion, but rather fall under our cognitive scope. They can be assessed as rational or irrational, true or false. (shrink)
Allow me to begin by thanking Alex Klein, Bjorn Ramberg, Alan Richardson, and Robert Talisse for providing such an excellent set of commentaries on The American Pragmatists, as well as Henry Jackman, for organizing the session at the Canadian Philosophical Association meetings that provided the first forum for the discussion. In this response, I will speak to the general meta-philosophical questions posed by the four commentators, as well as to the more local challenges set to me.All the authors, in different (...) ways, suggest that the very distinction between the history of ideas and philosophy is misplaced. The identification, demarcation and description of philosophical ideas is freighted with what one thinks is .. (shrink)
Nicholas Rescher embraces a more objectivist, realist, analytic pragmatism than the pragmatism which has been in vogue in the last two decades. He rejects any pragmatism for which there is no truth, reality, or objectivity but only conversations or solidarity within this or that vocabulary. Rescher has argued that pragmatism, far from being anti-realist, provides the only good argument for realism and for our ability to operate the causal model of inquiry about the real world. I examine this kind of (...) pragmatist argument, point out its pitfalls, and argue that Rescher avoids them. (shrink)
Cheryl Misak offers a strikingly new view of the development of philosophy in the twentieth century. Pragmatism, the home-grown philosophy of America, thinks of truth not as a static relation between a sentence and the believer-independent world, but rather, a belief that works. The founders of pragmatism, Peirce and James, developed this idea in more and less objective ways. The standard story of the reception of American pragmatism in England is that Russell and Moore savaged James's theory, and that pragmatism (...) has never fully recovered. An alternative, and underappreciated, story is told here. The brilliant Cambridge mathematician, philosopher and economist, Frank Ramsey, was in the mid-1920s heavily influenced by the almost-unheard-of Peirce and was developing a pragmatist position of great promise. He then transmitted that pragmatism to his friend Wittgenstein, although had Ramsey lived past the age of 26 to see what Wittgenstein did with that position, Ramsey would not have liked what he saw. (shrink)