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Recent Developments In Pragmatism

Willard Van Orman Quine (1908–2000) wanted to naturalize epistemology, to make it a part of the physical sciences. In "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" (1953), he rejected the analytic-synthetic distinction, and the strong distinction between math and logic, on the one hand, and the empirical sciences, on the other. Furthermore, he claimed that experience works on all of our beliefs holistically, and not as a piecemeal series of revisions.

Hilary Putnam (b. 1926) argues, by employing the writings of classical pragmatists, for various versions of realism. His use of figures like James and Dewey has not only served to revitalize interest in their work, but also to bring pragmatic points of view into conversation with many of the important contemporary debates in philosophy of mind.

Throughout his writings, Richard Rorty (b. 1931) argues for antifoundationalism and antiessentialism. According to Rorty, we know our experiences through "final vocabularies," which are always already products of social and historical contingencies. Philosophers do much of the work of clearing out dead vocabularies so that "strong poets" may develop the key terms of new ones.

The extremely prolific Cornel West (b. 1953) continues to develop a "prophetic pragmatism," emphasizing the religious and liberatory elements of pragmatic thought and social action. Through writings, audio recordings, and public presentations on television and radio, West has marked himself as an important advocate for the thoughtful exchange of ideas and the challenging of the political and social status quo.

The online "Pragmatism Cybrary" (www.pragmatism.org) is the chief Internet source of information and interest in the work of past and contemporary pragmatic thinkers. The leading print journals of pragmatism include Transactions of the Charles Sanders Peirce Society and the Journal of Speculative Philosophy.


Dewey, John. The Collected Works of John Dewey, 1882–1953, edited by Jo Ann Boydston. 37 vols. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1969–1991.

Flower, Elizabeth and Murray Murphey. A History of Philosophy in America. 2 vols. New York: Putnam's, 1977.

James, William. The Works of William James, edited by Frederick H. Burkhardt and Fredson Bowers. 19 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975–1988.

McDermott, John J. Streams of Experience: Reflections on the History and Philosophy of American Culture. Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. Collected Papers, 8 vols., edited by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (vols. 1–6) and Arthur Burks (vols. 7–8). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931–1966.

Quine, Willard Van Orman. From a Logical Point of View. New York: Harper and Row, 1953.

Rorty, Richard. Consequences of Pragmatism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982.

Schneider, Herbert W. A History of American Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1946.

Seigfried, Charlene Haddock. Pragmatism and Feminism: Reweaving the Social Fabric. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

West, Cornel. The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.

Stephen Barnes

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Positive Number to Propaganda - World War IiPragmatism - Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, John Dewey, Other Key Figures In The History Of Pragmatism