British Empiricism and American Pragmatism: New Directions and Neglected Arguments

British Empiricism and American Pragmatism: New Directions and Neglected Arguments

British Empiricism and American Pragmatism: New Directions and Neglected Arguments

British Empiricism and American Pragmatism: New Directions and Neglected Arguments

Excerpt

It is not unusual for philosophers to talk about the various "turns" that philosophy has taken in the course of its history. By this they mean new directions begun by individuals or traditions that have departed significantly from previous currents of thought. Thus Socrates initiated the "turn inward," away from a consideration of the material cosmos and toward the person as a citizen of the polis. Descartes took the "subjectivist" or "epistemological turn" toward the self as the starting point and foundation of knowledge. There followed the "empiricist turn" as a reaction against rationalism, quickly succeeded by the "Kantian" or "idealist turn." In more modern times, we have become familiar with the positivist, linguistic -- may we even say deconstructionist? -- turns, proceeding successively or sometimes simultaneously. It can be argued that none of these directions represented a totally new beginning, wholly detached from what went before. Socrates had roots in the pre-Socratic tradition, and Descartes was more of a medievalist than he himself realized. Moreover, the turns that were taken were not one-dimensional, focusing on a single issue, but included many problems clustered tightly or loosely around a central perspective.

I have tried in the present volume to describe the "pragmatic turn" in relation to British empiricism. Over many years of teaching and writing on British empiricism and American pragmatism, I have long been conscious of the influence of the former on the latter. This does not imply any great insight on my part, since to anyone working in these two traditions the links between them as well as their sharp differences are readily apparent. But it is only lately that I have focused more directly on some specific problems with which the pragmatists have taken issue with their predecessors and have given the empirical tradition new directions. Moreover, there is no attempt to repeat or supplant other fine works that have already been done on empiricism and pragmatism. I have simply selected a number of . . .

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