On Transforming Philosophy: A Metaphilosophical Inquiry

On Transforming Philosophy: A Metaphilosophical Inquiry

On Transforming Philosophy: A Metaphilosophical Inquiry

On Transforming Philosophy: A Metaphilosophical Inquiry

Synopsis

Since Rorty, the crisis of method and interests in philosophy has been at the forefront of metaphilosophy. In this book, Kai Nielsen, one of the most prominent critics of philosophy-as-usual, examines critically the most important claims made on behalf of philosophy. After rejecting as chimerical the ambitious claims of traditional, especially foundational, epistemology and metaphysics, he presents the case for a more modest view of what philosophy can accomplish. Nielsen insists that philosophy must be devoted to actual problems of real people in everyday life. Influenced substantively by Dewey and more methodologically by Rawls, he carves out a defensible terrain for philosophy to inhabit- a terrain cleared of the more extravagant but implausible claims made by traditional philosophy. Nielsen has been a major voice in debates about the scope of philosophy, and this latest work of his will be an important contribution to the "end of philosophy debate."

Excerpt

When I first conceived of this book, I intended to write a short book and one, the great philosophical figures of the past and a few very eminent contemporaries aside, which made no reference to other philosophers and contained no quotations, footnotes and the like. I ended up doing neither. Indeed I went nearly to the exact opposite. I wrote a rather long book with, among other things, extensive discussions of my contemporaries and near contemporaries.

Not doing the first is easier to explain than not doing the second. Metaphilosophy is too tangled, ramified and varied a subject for a persuasive brief treatment. Where obsessions about what one is doing, or should be doing, in doing philosophy, and about the very point of doing it, grip one, one will become entrapped in metaphilosophy. There are people (people who will probably not read this book unless they have to for some reason) who think they know perfectly well what philosophy is and just resolutely set about doing it. Their metaphilosophical account, if they were ever to give one, could (and probably would) be very brief indeed. But not so for the poor souls who are perplexed about philosophy itself and its point (if any). I am one of those poor souls and have been for a long time--from almost the time when I began to study philosophy. Sometimes my metaphilosophical passions have raged stronger than others. But, submerged or not, they have always been there. It is, at least for now, impossible for me to write a short book on metaphilosophy.

The second failure or about-face is less easy to explain. I will approach it indirectly by first speaking of the audience for which this book is designed and of some of the problems that generates. I envisage it principally for two kinds of audience. First, as a text for a variety of students, I see it, very centrally, as a text for undergraduates who have had two or three or preferably more courses in philosophy. the ideal place for them to encounter it is in a middle level or upper level undergraduate or undergraduate/graduate course or seminar devoted in whole or in part to . . .

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