Beyond Realism and Antirealism: John Dewey and the Neopragmatists

Overview

Perhaps the most significant development in American philosophy in recent times has been the extraordinary renaissance of Pragmatism, marked most notably by the reformulations of the so-called "Neopragmatists" Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam. With Pragmatism offering the allure of potentially resolving the impasse between epistemological realists and antirealists, analytic and continental philosophers, as well as thinkers across the disciplines, have been energized and engaged ...

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Overview

Perhaps the most significant development in American philosophy in recent times has been the extraordinary renaissance of Pragmatism, marked most notably by the reformulations of the so-called "Neopragmatists" Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam. With Pragmatism offering the allure of potentially resolving the impasse between epistemological realists and antirealists, analytic and continental philosophers, as well as thinkers across the disciplines, have been energized and engaged by this movement.

In Beyond Realism and Antirealism: John Dewey and the Neopragmatists, David L. Hildebrand asks two important questions: first, how faithful are the Neopragmatists' reformulations of Classical Pragmatism (particularly Deweyan Pragmatism)? Second, and more significantly, can their Neopragmatisms work?

In assessing Neopragmatism, Hildebrand advances a number of historical and critical points:
Current debates between realists and antirealists (as well as objectivists and relativists) are similar to early 20th century debates between realists and idealists that Pragmatism addressed extensively.
Despite their debts to Dewey, the Neopragmatists are reenacting realist and idealist stands in their debate over realism, thus giving life to something shown fruitless by earlier Pragmatists.
What is absent from the Neopragmatist's position is precisely what makes Pragmatism enduring: namely, its metaphysical conception of experience and a practical starting point for philosophical inquiry that such experience dictates.
Pragmatism cannot take the "linguistic turn" insofar as that turn mandates a theoretical starting point.
While Pragmatism's view of truth is perspectival, it is nevertheless not a relativism.
Pace Rorty, Pragmatism need not be hostile to metaphysics; indeed, it demonstrates how pragmatic instrumentalism and metaphysics are complementary.

In examining these and other difficulties in Neopragmatism, Hildebrand is able to propose some distinct directions for Pragmatism. Beyond Realism and Antirealism will provoke specialists and non-specialists alike to rethink not only the definition of Pragmatism, but its very purpose.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
David Hildebrand's attempt to restate Dewey's central message is intelligent, well-informed, and well-argued, as are his polemics against what he takes to be Putnam's and my own misunderstandings of Dewey.
—Richard Rorty, Stanford University

Beyond Realism and Antirealism packs a double punch. Mobilizing a meticulous study of early twentieth-century classical pragmatism, Hildebrand engages the key neopragmatic positions of Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam. Then, driving his own thesis home, he offers what he terms Dewey's 'practical stance' as a corrective to the limitations of the linguistic turn.
—Larry Hickman, Director, The Center for Dewey Studies, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

It is indeed ingratiating to discover a scholar who is not only aware of, but champions, the vital Deweyan conceptions of having vs. knowing, primary experience, and the centrality of inquiry.
—Frank X. Ryan, Kent State University

Pragmatism was 'revived' in the 1970s and 1980s and was led at once into philosophical dead ends that John Dewey had already skillfully dismantled. Now, David Hildebrand corrects the record; provides an informed, splendidly argued, indispensable part of the recovery of Dewey's analysis of realism-still hardly bettered by anyone today.
—Joseph Margolis, Temple University

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Product Details

Meet the Author

David L. Hildebrand teaches philosophy at the University of Colorado at Denver.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Abbreviations
1 Introduction 1
2 Dewey and Realism 8
3 Dewey and Idealism 30
4 Rorty, Putnam, and Classical Pragmatism 87
5 Neopragmatism's Realism/Antirealism Debate 155
6 Beyond Realism and Antirealism 177
Notes 195
Bibliography 227
Index 235
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2003

    Finally! a book about why the Neopragmatist do not get it!

    This book confronts for the first time the differences between Neo-Pragmatism and the classical figures. David argues that although Putnam and Rorty consider themselves pragmatists they have failed to understand the more radical and significant insights of Dewey¿s philosophy. His criticism is not superficial. He makes an effort to understand even the particular differences between Putnam and Rorty. It is well written and it is a very important book for anyone interested in American Philosophy. Dr. Gregorio Fernando Pappas Texas A & M University

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2003

    Recovering Dewey's 'Tertium Quid'

    Although many essays (and anthologies of essays) have appeared on the topic of classical pragmatism versus neopragmatism, this is the first book-length project I know of to tackle the controversy from a viewpoint fully conversant with and sympathetic to Dewey¿s signal contribution. It is quite refreshing to discover a scholar who not is not only aware of, but champions, the vital Deweyan conceptions of having versus knowing, primary experience, and the centrality of inquiry. Hildebrand¿s grasp of Dewey¿s engagement with direct and critical realism is exemplary, and his ¿deconstruction¿ of Rorty¿s antirealism is nothing short of amazing¿¿wicked¿ comes to mind! Although Hildebrand¿s alternative ¿practical standpoint¿ falls short, in my view, of Dewey¿s full transactional integration of experience and nature, this book opens up an area of research of vital importance. It is well written, informed, and cogent.

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