This book examines the issue of moral realism from a pragmatist point of view, drawing attention to our human practices of ethical evaluation and deliberation. It defends the essentially ungrounded and humanly fundamental place of ethics in our thought and action. Ethics must remain beyond justification and ubiquitous in our human form of life.
This essay first applies the general issue of realism vs. antirealism to theology and the philosophy of religion, distinguishing between several different ”levels’ of the realism dispute in this context. A pragmatic approach to the problem of realism regarding religion and theology is sketched and tentatively defended. The similarities and differences of scientific realism, on the one hand, and religious and/or theological realism, on the other hand, are thereby also illuminated. The concept of recognition is shown to be crucially relevant (...) to the issue of realism especially in its pragmatist articulation. (shrink)
This essay examines critically a number of characteristics of transcendental philosophy. The question, ?What, if anything, distinguishes transcendental philosophy and transcendental arguments from other types of philosophy and argument??, is given a negative answer: nothing, no essential thing, demarcates transcendental argumentation or philosophy from other kinds of philosophical reflection. In particular, argumentative structure alone is not a defining feature of transcendental philosophy. Illustrative examples of recent debates on the meaning and philosophical relevance of the ?transcendental? are discussed in the essay: (...) e.g., attempts to ?naturalize? the transcendental, Wittgensteinian reflections on the limits of meaningful language, and ?merely methodological? interpretations of Kantian transcendental idealism. Through these case studies, it is shown how transcendental inquiry can be rearticulated in a pragmatist context. (shrink)
Pragmatist Metaphysics proposes a pragmatist re-articulation of the nature, aims and methods of metaphysics. Rather than regarding metaphysics as a ‘first philosophy’, an inquiry into the world independent of human perspectives, the pragmatist views metaphysics as an inquiry into categorizations of reality laden with human practices. Insofar as our categorizations of reality are practice-laden, they are also, inevitably, value-laden. Sami Pihlström argues that metaphysics does not, then, study the world’s ‘own’ categorial structure, but a structure we, through our conceptual and (...) practical activities, impose on the reality we experience and interact with. Engaging with the classical American pragmatists, in particular William James, and neopragmatists, including Hilary Putnam, the author seeks to correct long-held misconceptions regarding the nature of the relationship between metaphysics and pragmatism. He argues that a coherent metaphysical alternative to the currently fashionable realist metaphysics emerges from pragmatism and that pragmatism itself should be reinterpreted in a metaphysically serious manner. Moreover, the book argues that, from a pragmatist perspective, metaphysics must be inextricably linked with ethics. (shrink)
: This paper discusses critically W.V. Quine's relation to the tradition of pragmatism. Even though Quine is often regarded as a pragmatist, it is far from clear what his commitment to pragmatism actually amounts to. It is argued that while there are pragmatist elements in Quine's position, this is not sufficient to classify him as a pragmatist in any strong historical sense; indeed, he was not even clear himself what it means to be a pragmatist. It is also shown that (...) neither Quine's philosophy nor pragmatism are as anti-metaphysical as has sometimes been thought. In order to enrich the picture of Quine's place in the pragmatist tradition, some neopragmatist criticisms of his ideas (e.g., by Hilary Putnam and Richard Rorty) are also discussed. (shrink)
This paper examines the possibility of setting a boundary between religion and “pseudo-religion” (or superstition). Philosophers of religion inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ideas, in particular, insist that religious language-use can be neither legitimated nor criticized from the perspective of non-religious language-games. Thus, for example, the “theodicist” requirement that the existence of evil should be theoretically reconciled with theism can be argued to be pseudo-religious (superstitious). Another example discussed in the paper is the relation between religion and morality. The paper concludes (...) by reflecting on the issue of relativism arising from the Wittgensteinian contention that the religion vs. pseudo-religion division can only be drawn within a religious framework, and on Wittgenstein’s own suggestion that the religious person “uses a picture”. (shrink)
This paper examines the metaphysical status of the fact-value entanglement. According to Hilary Putnam, among others, this is a major theme in both classical and recent pragmatism, but its relevance obviously extends beyond pragmatism scholarship. The pragmatic naturalist must make sense of the entanglement thesis within a broadly non-reductively naturalist account of reality. Two rival options for such metaphysics are discussed: values may be claimed to emerge from facts (or normativity from factuality), or fact and value may be considered continuous. (...) Thus, pragmatic naturalism about fact and value may be based on either emergentism or Peircean synechism. This is a crucial tension not only in pragmatist philosophy of value but in pragmatically naturalist metaphysics generally. (shrink)
This article considers a central ethically relevant interpersonal emotion, guilt. It is argued that guilt, as an irreducible moral category, has a constitutive role to play in our ways of conceptualizing our relations to other people. Without experiencing guilt, or being able to do so, we would not be capable of employing the moral concepts and judgments we do employ. Elaborating on this argument, the paper deals with what may be described as the "metaphysics of guilt." More generally, it is (...) suggested, through a case study on the concept of guilt, that a moral theory avoiding naïve emotivism yet emphasizing the role of emotions in morality can and should pay attention to the transcendental status of emotions such as guilt--emotions constitutive of our concept of moral seriousness. Instead of psychologizing moral emotions, the paper employs Raimond Gaita's Wittgenstein-inspired way of examining the place of the concepts of guilt and remorse in our ethical language-use. Finally, some methodological remarks on the possibility of transcendental reflection in moral philosophy are presented. While it is not necessary to commit oneself to any specific religious tradition in order to emphasize the constitutive role of guilt in the way suggested in the paper, it turns out that the moral depth of this concept requires that one is least open to religiously relevant ways of using moral language. In the fundamental metaphysical sense examined in the paper, guilt is a concept whose home language-game is religious rather than secular ethics. (shrink)
This paper reconsiders the relation between Kantian transcendental reflection (including transcendental idealism) and 20th century philosophy of science. As has been pointed out by Michael Friedman and others, the notion of a "relativized a priori" played a central role in Rudolf Carnap's, Hans Reichenbach's and other logical empiricists' thought. Thus, even though the logical empiricists dispensed with Kantian synthetic a priori judgments, they did maintain a crucial Kantian doctrine, viz., a distinction between the (transcendental) level of establishing norms for empirical (...) inquiry and the (empirical) level of norm-governed inquiry itself. Even though Thomas Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions is often taken to be diametrically opposed to the received view of science inherited from logical empiricism, a version of this basically Kantian distinction is preserved in Kuhn's thought. In this respect, as Friedman has argued, Kuhn is closer to Carnap's theory of linguistic frameworks than, say, W.V. Quine's holistic naturalism. Kuhn, indeed, might be described as a "new Kant" in post-empiricist philosophy of science. This article examines, first, the relativization of the Kantian a priori in Reichenbach's work, arguing that while Reichenbach (after having given up his original Kantianism) criticized "transcendentalism", he nevertheless retained, in a reinterpreted form, a Kantian-like transcendental method, claiming that the task of philosophy (of science) is to discover and analyze the presuppositions underlying the applicability of conceptual systems. Then, some reflections on Kuhn's views on realism are offered, and it is suggested that Kuhn (as well as some other influential contributors to the realism debate, such as Hilary Putnam) can be reinterpreted as a (relativized, naturalized) Kantian transcendental idealist. Given the central importance of Kuhnian themes in contemporary philosophy of science, it is no exaggeration to claim that Kantian transcendental inquiry into the constitutive principles of empirical knowledge, and even transcendental idealism (as the framework for such inquiry), still have a crucial role to play in this field and deserve further scrutiny. (shrink)
Transcendental Guilt challenges traditional ways of understanding moral philosophy by proposing, instead of mainstream ethical theorizing, a serious moral reflection on our ethical finitude, focusing on the concept of guilt. It argues that guilt plays a "transcendental" role in our ethical lives by being constitutive of the seriousness characteristic of the moral point of view.
This paper seeks to show that the turn toward local scientific practices in the philosophy of science is not a turn away from transcendental investigations. On the contrary, a pragmatist approach can very well be (re)connected with Kantian transcendental examination of the necessary conditions for the possibility of scientific representation and cognition, insofar as the a priori conditions that transcendental philosophy of science examines are understood as historically relative and thus potentially changing. The issue of scientific realism will be considered (...) from this perspective, with special emphasis on Thomas Kuhn's conception of paradigms as frameworks making truth-valued scientific statements possible and on Charles S. Peirce's realism about "real generals". (shrink)
This essay examines the speculative metaphysical doctrine of panpsychism, which some (though only a few) philosophers regard as a plausible solution to the problem of explaining the possibility of conscious experience. After a survey of some of the main arguments for and against panpsychism, the metaphysically realist background assumption of the doctrine is uncovered and questioned. A pragmatic reinterpretation of panpsychism, drawn from the work of William James,is then proposed. In order to be treated truly pragmatically, panpsychism—like any other metaphysical (...) position—ought to be subjected to Jamesian pragmatic pluralism. Something like “panculturalism” follows as a result: both panpsychism and its metaphysical rivals are, in the end, cultural posits arising fromhuman practices of engaging with reality. (shrink)
This survey article discusses the pragmatist tradition in twentieth century philosophy of science. Pragmatism, originating with Charles Peirce's writings on the pragmatic maxim in the 1870s, is a background both for scientific realism and, via the views of William James and John Dewey, for the relativist and/or constructivist forms of neopragmatism that have often been seen as challenging the very ideas of scientific rationality and objectivity. The paper shows how the issue of realism arises in pragmatist philosophy of science and (...) how some pragmatists, classical and modern, have attempted to deal with it. Various dimensions of the realism dispute are thus discussed, especially realism as contrasted to instrumentalism and realism as contrasted to relativism/constructivism. It is argued that the pragmatist tradition cannot avoid these tensions but is largely constituted by them. (shrink)
This paper explicates and defends Morton White’s holistic pragmatism, the view that descriptive and normative statements form a “seamless web” which must be tested as a “unified whole”. This position, originally formulated as a methodological and epistemic principle, can be extended into a more general philosophy of culture, as White himself has shown in his book, A Philosophy of Culture . On the basis of holistic pragmatism, the paper also offers a pragmatist conception of metaphilosophy and defends the need for (...) interdisciplinary inquiry. (shrink)
Abstract: This article defends a controversial metaphilosophical thesis: it is not immediately obvious that "the best argument wins" in philosophy. Certain philosophical views, for example, extremely controversial ethical positions, may be intolerable and impossible to take seriously as contributions to ethical discussion, irrespective of their argumentative merits. As a case study of this metaphilosophical issue, the article discusses David Benatar's recent thesis that it is, for everyone, harmful to exist. It is argued that ethical and cultural "unthinkabilities" set limits to (...) philosophical reasoning that even the most insightful arguments cannot transcend. (shrink)
Commenting upon some recent literature on the topic, this paper examinestwo strategies by means of which one might try to defend theism: (1) a pragmatic (Jamesian) strategy, which focuses on the idea that religiousbelief has beneficial consequences in the believer's life, and (2) a transcendental (Kantian) strategy, according to which theism is requiredas a condition of our self-understanding as ethically oriented creatures.Both strategies are found unsatisfactory, unless synthesized and thussupported by each other. While no argument, either pragmatic ortranscendental, can demonstrate (...) the existence of God, a pragmatictranscendental argument might have a legitimate role to play in thephilosophy of religion. The problem of relativism arises, however. It isconcluded that it remains unclear whether a religious believer could justifyher or his beliefs to anyone who does not already share those beliefs. (shrink)
This book takes a fresh look at how William James' conceptions of the human mind, death , and religion provide us with a viable alternative to many contemporary philosophical approaches. The distinctive Jamesian perspective is illuminated through critical discussions of several different theories and conjectures. The overall argument of this volume is that pragmatist metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of religion must be subordinated to ethics. To provide an historical and philosophical context for this revolutionary conception of the pragmatic (...) method, an introductory discussion of James' views on pragmatism, realism, and truth is also included. Instead of focusing on the general issues of realism and pragmatism, however, the volume examines the applications of these issues to topics such as death, evil, and other minds. The book is vital reading not only for James scholars and pragmatists, but for anyone thinking seriously about human mortality and the endless ethical challenges our life with other human beings that confront us. (shrink)
This essay provides a criticai review of contemporary controversies related to the notion of emergence by discussing, among other recent views, Achim Stephan's defense of the ontological tradition of emergentist thought along the lines of C. D. Broad. Stephan's distinctions between various notions of emergence, different in strength, are useful as they clarify the state of discussion. There are, however, several unsettled problems concerning emergence. Some of these (e. g., downward causation) have been dealt with by Stephan, Kim, and others, (...) though not entirely sausfactorily, while others (e. g., the nature of properties, the issue of realism) would require further mvestigation in this context. It is argued in particular that downward causation would not trouble emergentists, were they willing to adopt a more Kantian and/or Wittgensteinian approach. Some examples of such an option are given. Thus, the article sketches a philosophical perspective from which a radical reassessment of the emergence debate could be pursued. (shrink)
It is trivially true that solipsism, the view that “the world is my world” and that whatever there is is ontologically dependent on my thought or language, cannot be conclusively refuted. The issue of solipsism is, however, an important one. The paper considers this issue mainly from the point of view of Wittgenstein's remarks on solipsism in the Tractatus and in his early Notebooks. It is argued that we should not accept the Wittgensteinian idea that solipsism eventually coincides with “pure (...) realism”. A position labeled “pragmatic realism” is briefly sketched in order to avoid both solipsism and what I call “credo realism”. Thus, I try to show that the issue of solipsism vs. realism should not simply be dismissed and that it should be approached from a pragmatist perspective. (shrink)
This paper reconsiders the relation between Kantian transcendental reflection and 20th century philosophy of science. As has been pointed out by Michael Friedman and others, the notion of a "relativized a priori" played a central role in Rudolf Carnap's, Hans Reichenbach's and other logical empiricists' thought. Thus, even though the logical empiricists dispensed with Kantian synthetic a priori judgments, they did maintain a crucial Kantian doctrine, viz., a distinction between the level of establishing norms for empirical inquiry and the level (...) of norm-governed inquiry itself. Even though Thomas Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions is often taken to be diametrically opposed to the received view of science inherited from logical empiricism, a version of this basically Kantian distinction is preserved in Kuhn's thought. In this respect, as Friedman has argued, Kuhn is closer to Carnap's theory of linguistic frameworks than, say, W.V. Quine's holistic naturalism. Kuhn, indeed, might be described as a "new Kant" in post-empiricist philosophy of science. This article examines, first, the relativization of the Kantian a priori in Reichenbach's work, arguing that while Reichenbach criticized "transcendentalism", he nevertheless retained, in a reinterpreted form, a Kantian-like transcendental method, claiming that the task of philosophy is to discover and analyze the presuppositions underlying the applicability of conceptual systems. Then, some reflections on Kuhn's views on realism are offered, and it is suggested that Kuhn can be reinterpreted as a Kantian transcendental idealist. Given the central importance of Kuhnian themes in contemporary philosophy of science, it is no exaggeration to claim that Kantian transcendental inquiry into the constitutive principles of empirical knowledge, and even transcendental idealism, still have a crucial role to play in this field and deserve further scrutiny. (shrink)
This paper discusses critically W.V. Quine's relation to the tradition of pragmatism. Even though Quine is often regarded as a pragmatist, it is far from clear what his commitment to pragmatism actually amounts to. It is argued that while there are pragmatist elements in Quine's position, this is not sufficient to classify him as a pragmatist in any strong historical sense; indeed, he was not even clear himself what it means to be a pragmatist. It is also shown that neither (...) Quine's philosophy nor pragmatism are as anti-metaphysical as has sometimes been thought. In order to enrich the picture of Quine's place in the pragmatist tradition, some neopragmatist criticisms of his ideas are also discussed. (shrink)
I argue that we should emancipate the problem of evil and suffering from theodicist assumptions that lead to a chronic non-acknowledgment of the sufferers’ experiential point of view. This also entails emancipating the problem of evil and suffering from the need to consider the so-called argument from evil. In the argument ‘from’ evil, evil and suffering are seen as pieces of empirical evidence against theism. This presupposes understanding theism as a hypothesis to be tested in an evidentialist game of argumentation. (...) Such a presupposition already fails to acknowledge the depth and variety of both religious and nonreligious approaches to living with evil and suffering. One way of cashing out what moral antitheodicism amounts to is to analyze theodicism as a failure of recognizing others’ suffering. Furthermore, one way of cashing out what this mis- or nonrecognition amounts to is to analyze the unforgivability of evil. Focusing on recognition and forgiveness here can be understood as an attempt to show that there is something seriously wrong with mainstream analytic philosophers’ of religion preoccupation with the argument from evil. In contrast, an ethically proper response to evil and suffering emerges from a serious consideration of recognition, forgiveness, and the unforgivable. (shrink)
This essay discusses critically the ways in which different metaphors employed to illustrate the practices of knowledge production and knowledge acquisition as well as scientific and scholarly research shape our understanding of the academic form of life. The essay examines the metaphors of knowledge and their role in academia by means of philosophical analysis and a rhetorical analysis of language, thereby defending the core values of academic freedom. It focuses on two pairs of metaphors highly relevant to the tensions characteristic (...) of contemporary academic work: verticality and horizontality, on the one hand, and change and stability, on the other. The entanglement of perspectives from philosophy and historical rhetoric serves a metaphilosophical goal here: to show that our philosophical understanding of the nature of inquiry will be considerably enhanced if we seriously, and with both historical and literary sensibilities, study the metaphors we use in characterizing our epistemic and cognitive projects. (shrink)
This well-organized editorial material is useful especially for students and general educated readers coming to study these works for the first time, but also for the specialist who wants to check details or keep up with central literature. The editor's notes offer historical contextualization, terminological and etymological clarifications, and information on both the well-known and the relatively unknown authors cited by Emerson.... Callaway has modernized the spelling of the prose, but otherwise the editions follow the originals. ".
This paper discusses the ancient problem of meaningful life. Given the amount of evil and absurdity in the world around us, how can human life be experienced as meaningful? Two traditional approaches to this issue are identified and critically discussed: the life of action and the life of contemplation. It is argued that none of these can resolve the problem in a satisfactory manner. Finally, the notion of guilt is briefly taken up as one potential source of meaning.
This paper provides a critical discussion of the concept of applied philosophy. Writers specializing in applied philosophy (e.g., in the various fields of applied ethics) often assume what is here called the traditional concept of applied philosophy, i.e., they think of themselves as applying a “pure” (in itself nonapplied) philosophical theory to some humanly important practical problem area. If understood along these lines, applied philosophy can be taken to be analogous toapplied science. However, this analogy collapses as soon as we (...) realize that the “results” of applied philosophy cannot usually be regarded as instantiations of the von Wrightian technical norm, which can be considered the basic form of the results of applied scientific research. On the other hand, the postmodernist, antiscientific rival of traditional applied philosophy, viz., “media philosophy,” is argued to be little more than a relativist, degraded version of the traditional conception. Finally, it is suggested that the dichotomy between pure and applied philosophy should be abandoned in favor of a pragmatist view, which urges that all significant philosophical problems are always already embedded in human practice. (shrink)
Is there a god? What do we, and what should we, mean by this question? How, if at all, might the question, given that its meaning(s) can be clarified, be settled or even rationally discussed? Is there any chance for a reasonable, scientifically minded person to believe in the reality of God, or is atheism the only intellectually responsible option for us today? Is theism inevitably committed to the pseudoscientific absurdities of creationism, the "intelligent design theory," and other unfortunately increasingly (...) influential fundamentalisms?The purpose of this article is not to solve these issues in the philosophy of religion. Nor will I engage in the science vs. religion controversy in any detail. I do, however .. (shrink)
According to a received understanding of classical pragmatism, William James was not a moral and political philosopher. It has been assumed that he wrote only one article on ethics, “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life”. In a sense this assumption is true; there is no book by him on ethics analogous to his major works addressing topics in epistemology, metaphysics, philosophical psychology, philosophy of religion, and theory of truth – or analogous to other classical pragmatists’, such as John Dewey’s, (...) books on ethics. However, James scholars have increasingly, and in my view... (shrink)
Although William James wrote little directly on ethics, commentators have increasingly recognized that a central current—perhaps even the main underlying orientation—of his philosophical work is ethical. The famous 1891 essay, "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life,"1 is thus only the tip of an iceberg. It is his only article explicitly dealing with moral philosophy; yet, arguably, ethical considerations are built into the fabric of his pragmatism, especially its leading idea that theories and worldviews ought to be examined in terms (...) of their practical relevance in human life. In a diary entry in 1870 (quoted in the book under review, 49), James asked: "Shall I frankly throw the moral business overboard, as one .. (shrink)