The Promise of Pragmatism: Modernism and the Crisis of Knowledge and Authority

Overview

For much of our century, pragmatism has enjoyed a charmed life, holding the dominant point of view in American politics, law, education, and social thought in general. After suffering a brief eclipse in the post-World War II period, pragmatism has enjoyed a revival, especially in literary theory and such areas as poststructuralism and deconstruction. In this sweeping critique of pragmatism and neopragmatism, one of our leading intellectual historians traces the attempts of thinkers from William James to Richard ...
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Overview

For much of our century, pragmatism has enjoyed a charmed life, holding the dominant point of view in American politics, law, education, and social thought in general. After suffering a brief eclipse in the post-World War II period, pragmatism has enjoyed a revival, especially in literary theory and such areas as poststructuralism and deconstruction. In this sweeping critique of pragmatism and neopragmatism, one of our leading intellectual historians traces the attempts of thinkers from William James to Richard Rorty to find a response to the crisis of modernism. John Patrick Diggins analyzes the limitations of pragmatism from a historical perspective and dares to ask whether America's one original contribution to the world of philosophy has actually fulfilled its promise. In the late nineteenth century, intellectuals felt themselves in the grips of a spiritual crisis. This confrontation with the "acids of modernity" eroded older faiths and led to a sense that life would continue in the awareness, of absences: knowledge without truth, power without authority, society without spirit, self without identity, politics without virtue, existence without purpose, history without meaning. In Europe, Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Weber faced a world in which God was "dead" and society was succumbing to structures of power and domination. In America, Henry Adams resigned from Harvard when he realized there were no truths to be taught and when he could only conclude: "Experience ceases to educate." To the American philosophers of pragmatism, it was experience that provided the basis on which new methods of knowing could replace older ideas of truth. Diggins examines how, in different ways, William James, Charles Peirce, John Dewey, George H. Mead, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., demonstrated that modernism posed no obstacle in fields such as science, education, religion, law, politics, and diplomacy. Diggins also examines the work of the neopragmatists Jurgen Habermas and R
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226148793
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1995
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 The Disenchantment of the World 22
The Flowering of Intellect and the Decline of Knowledge 22
Politics and Ethics 28
The Cunning of Irony 35
Science: Experimentation, Rationalization, or Acceleration? 40
The "Thirst for the Deed," the Bolshevik Revolution, and "Romantic" Pragmatism 46
History: Evolution or Alienation? 50
2 Who Bore the Failure of the Light: Henry Adams 55
The Hand of the Father 55
The Failure of Classical Ideals 60
History and the Problem of Consciousness 67
Science and the Fate of the Universe 81
Four Problems of Modernism: Authority, Faith, Art, Love 90
3 The Pragmatic Affirmation: William James and the Will to Believe 108
James and Adams's "Serial Law Fallacy" 108
The "Murdered Self" and the Riddle of Consciousness 113
Beyond Rationalism and Empiricism 122
The Right to Choose One's Own Beliefs 127
"Towards Action and Towards Power" 131
Truth as Pleasure, Knowledge as the Disposition to Believe 139
Pragmatism and Its Paradoxes 144
4 Doubt and Deliverance: Charles Sanders Peirce and the Authority of Science 158
"Proud Man/His Glassy Essence" 158
"Thought Is More Without Us Than Within": Peirce versus James 164
Between Realism and Nominalism: Adams and Peirce 170
Synechism, Tychism, and the Dialectic of Doubt and Belief 179
The Objectivity Question 186
Truth as Consensus 190
5 "The Flickering Candles of Consciousness": John Dewey and the Challenge of Uncertainty 205
"Imagination in Action": Dewey in Love 205
"An Inward Laceration": The Tension between Religion and Science 212
The False Quest for Certainty 217
Alienation and the Origins of Mind 222
The Authority of Scientific Inquiry and the Problem of "Truth" 226
Empirical Method and Moral Knowledge 238
6 Focusing on the Foreground: Dewey and the Problem of Historical Knowledge 250
World War I and the Dewey-Bourne Debate 250
The Appeal to the Future 259
The Trotsky Inquiry and the Debate over Means and Ends 266
World War II and the Double Irony of Philosophy and History 270
7 Pragmatism and the Problem of Power 280
The Challenge of Fascism 280
The Obscure Object of Power: Reinhold Niebuhr and Original Sin 283
Dewey and the Classical Tradition 291
The Great Community: Politics as Control 299
The Child and the Curriculum: Education as Freedom 305
8 "The Acids of Modernity": Walter Lippmann and Oliver Wendell Holmes 322
The Odyssey of a Political Moralist 322
Science and the Legitimacy of Government 325
From Pragmatism and "The Phantom Public" to Natural Law 331
The Battle for America's Political Mind: Lippmann versus Dewey 339
Holmes's Quarrel with the Pragmatists 342
Legal Realism and Poststructuralism 348
9 Self and Society 360
The Socialization of Authority and the Fate of the Individual 360
Charles H. Cooley and George H. Mead 365
Classical and Christian Morality and the Disappearance of the Self 371
The Opposing Self: Lionel Trilling 376
10 The Decline and Revival of American Pragmatism 386
"The Corruption of Liberalism" 386
"The New Failure of Nerve": Sydney Hook's Response to Mortimer J. Adler and Allan Bloom 389
Communism and the Vietnam War 396
Epistemology Is Dead, Long Live Pragmatism: Richard Rorty's Quarrel with Philosophy as Theory 406
In Defense of the Enlightenment: Jurgen Habermas and the Promise of "Communicative Action" 417
The Case of the Progressive Historians 423
11 Conclusion: Poststructuralism and America's Intellectual Traditions 427
Philosophy as "Prophylactic": The Lost Legacy of the American Founders 427
Niebuhr and the Illusions of Poststructuralism 434
The Limits of Communication: Habermas 443
Rorty's Political Thought and the Deweyan Legacy 450
Against Theory and the Limits of Redescription: Thorstein Veblen 462
Emerson, Silence, and the Limits of Persuasion 472
The Return to History and the Temptation of "Agreeable Tales" 478
Index 495
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