Pragmatism and the AAUP

By Burgan, Mary A. | Academe, September/October 2002 | Go to article overview

Pragmatism and the AAUP


Burgan, Mary A., Academe


Noting that the founding of the AAUP figures importantly in its chapter on "freedoms," a friend recently gave me a copy of Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America. I've just finished reading this superb study of the rise of American pragmatism, and in the spirit of the thinkers chronicled there, I now report on how the book has been useful to me as general secretary of the AAUP.

But first let me warn that I am an English professor and not a philosopher: after spending fifteen precious minutes cogitating, I gave up on answering a question about pragmatism on my doctoral prelims, and I finally wrote about Henry rather than William James. Nevertheless, Menand's book has alerted me to the extent of my continuing intellectual debts to thinkers like William James and John Dewey.

There are three features among the ideas in tum-of-the-century American "metaphysics" that endure in my own thinking these days. The first is the notion that truth is so much the product of collaborative, and often oppositional, searching that the process itself is essential to the knowing. Epistemological propositions about the ways through which we may (or may not) gain access to universal truths may be argued philosophically, but American intellectuals have generally agreed that no one proposition can be allowed to dominate over others in the academy. Menand's analysis emphasizes that this agreement was not merely a comproraise but a philosophical conclusion of great import to the progress of such disciplines as biology, anthropology, education, and the social sciences.

The second notion is that if truth is a product of collective dialogue, it must be pursued freely. Menand shows that although major American universities were founded by corporate magnates, the liberal tendencies of pragmatism were critical in resisting the founders' instinct to ally research and teaching according to their economic, political, or ideological interests. The third striking feature of pragmatism has been its suspicion of any rhetoric of rightness, or of righteousness.

Menand doesn't dwell on A. 0. Lovejoy, Dewey's partner in founding the AAUP, but Lovejoy's concept of "metaphysical pathos" denotes the liabilities of rhetoric. In The Great Chain of Being, Lovejoy coins that phrase to express the unacknowledged attachment that can weight certain concepts with a kind of emotional value that prohibits further discussion or critique.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pragmatism and the AAUP
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.