A collection of Hilary Putnam’s stimulating, incisive responses to such varied and eminent thinkers as Richard Rorty, Jürgen Habermas, Noam Chomsky, Martha Nussbaum, W. V. Quine, Wilfrid Sellars, John McDowell, and Cornel West.
Hilary Putnam (1926–2016) was renowned—some would say infamous—for changing his philosophical positions over the course of his long and much-admired career. This collection of essays, the first of its kind, showcases how his ideas evolved as he wrestled with the work of his contemporaries.
Divided into five thematic sections, Philosophy as Dialogue begins with questions of language and formal logic, tracing Putnam’s reactions to the arguments of Wilfrid Sellars, Noam Chomsky, Charles Travis, and Tyler Burge. Next, it brings together Putnam’s responses to realists and antirealists, philosophers of science and of perception, followed by forays into pragmatism and skepticism. While Putnam devoted most of his efforts to logic, mathematics, and the philosophy of mind, he also took up issues in moral philosophy, politics, and religion. Here we read him in conversation with giants of these fields, including Martha Nussbaum, Jürgen Habermas, Elizabeth Anscombe, Cora Diamond, Richard Rorty, and Franz Rosenzweig. Finally, Philosophy as Dialogue presents Putnam’s deeply personal and largely unknown writing on philosophical method that reveals the influence of W. V. Quine, Michael Dummett, and Stanley Cavell on his work.
Once more, Mario De Caro and David Macarthur have presented and introduced a choice selection of Hilary Putnam’s writings that will change the way he is understood. Most of all, these thirty-six replies and responses to his contemporaries showcase the extraordinary—perhaps even unparalleled—breadth of his work, and his capacity to engage deeply with seemingly every mode of philosophy.
Philosophy as Dialogue conveys on every page the generous and deep intelligence with which Hilary Putnam responded to the thoughts of other philosophers. The value of the book lies not only in the wealth of ideas expressed in it but also in how it demonstrates the open-endedness and conversational character of philosophy.
This volume enables the reader to see Hilary Putnam, one of the greatest philosophers of the last century, in his element: in dialogue with other philosophers, both alive and dead, and with himself. On a vast array of topics—from philosophy of language to metaphysics to ethics; from varieties of realism to theism, pragmatism, skepticism, and relativism—Putnam offers incisive objections and illuminating insights. Most of all, Putnam exemplifies the mind in action, constantly reconsidering its own commitments, never satisfied, yet always in love with the activity of thinking with others.
This volume displays Putnam’s mastery of the art of philosophy: a life of teaching and learning, absorbed in the specific joy of self-discovery through colloquy.
The striking variety of essays testify to Putnam’s wide-ranging intellect, and his penetrating responses to fellow philosophers exemplify his belief that one of the purposes of philosophy is to ‘encounter texts which anger, provoke, inspire, transform, repulse, or all of these at once.’ Scholars will appreciate this edifying addition to Putnam’s oeuvre.
This volume has a larger metaphilosophical goal: to make philosophy (explicitly) dialogical again. Although the fact that Putnam ‘changed his mind’ several times during his career is often cited as a quirky idiosyncrasy, it should rather be seen as an example to follow: ‘philosophers should never assume that they have reached the final truth on a topic of philosophical interest and should always be open to alternative viewpoints’…Changing one’s mind in philosophy should be the rule, not the exception.
- 368 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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