Friday, June 11, 2010

New book: "The Pragmatic Turn" by Richard Bernstein

The Pragmatic Turn

by Richard J. Bernstein

(Polity Press, 2010)

263 pages


In this major new work, Richard J. Bernstein argues that many of the most important themes in philosophy during the past one hundred and fifty years are variations and developments of ideas that were prominent in the classical American pragmatists: Charles S. Peirce, William James, John Dewey and George H Mead.

Bernstein develops an alternative reading of contemporary philosophy that brings out the persistence and continuity of pragmatic themes. He critically examines the work of leading contemporary philosophers who have been deeply influenced by pragmatism, including Hilary Putnam, Jürgen Habermas, Richard Rorty, and Robert Brandom, and he explains why the discussion of pragmatism is so alive, varied and widespread.


Prologue [preview]
1. Charles S. Peirce's Critique of Cartesianism
2. The Ethical Consequences of William James's Pragmatic Pluralism
3. John Dewey's Vision of Radical Democracy
4. Hegel and Pragmatism
5. Pragmatism, Objectivity, and Truth
6. Experience and the Linguistic Turn
7. Hilary Putnam: The Entanglement of Fact and Value
8. Jürgen Habermas's Kantian Pragmatism
9. Richard Rorty's Deep Humanism

Excerpts from Bernstein's preface and prologue:

"This book is not intended to be a history or survey of pragmatism. I have lived with the pragmatists for more than 50 years, and I want to share what I have learned from them. I believe that my original intuitions about the importance of pragmatism and the sea change it initiated have been fully vindicated. Today, all vigorous creative discussion of pragmatic themes by thinkers all over the world is more widespread than it has ever been in the past".

"When I teach courses dealing with pragmatism (old and new), I tell my students that it is best to think of the discourse about pragmatism as an open-ended conversation with many loose ends and targents. I don't mean an "idealized" conversation or dialogue, so frequently described and praised by philosophers. Rather, it is a conversation more like the type that occurs at New York dinner parties where there are misunderstandings, speaking at cross-purposes, conflicts, and contradictions, with personalized voices stressing different points of view (and sometimes talking at the same time). It can seem chaotic, yet somehow the entire conversation is more vital and illuminating than any of the individual voices demanding to be heard. This is what the conversation of pragmatism has been like."

Richard J. Bernstein is Vera List Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, New York.

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