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Pragmatism as a Way of Life

Pragmatism as a Way of Life

The Lasting Legacy of William James and John Dewey

Hilary Putnam, Ruth Anna Putnam

Edited by David Macarthur

ISBN 9780674967502

Publication date: 05/15/2017

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Throughout his diverse and highly influential career, Hilary Putnam was famous for changing his mind. As a pragmatist he treated philosophical “positions” as experiments in deliberate living. His aim was not to fix on one position but to attempt to do justice to the depth and complexity of reality. In this new collection, he and Ruth Anna Putnam argue that key elements of the classical pragmatism of William James and John Dewey provide a framework for the most progressive and forward-looking forms of philosophy in contemporary thought. The Putnams present a compelling defense of the radical originality of the philosophical ideas of James and Dewey and their usefulness in confronting the urgent social, political, and moral problems of the twenty-first century.

Pragmatism as a Way of Life brings together almost all of the Putnams’ pragmatist writings—essays they wrote as individuals and as coauthors. The pragmatism they endorse, though respectful of the sciences, is an open experience-based philosophy of our everyday lives that trenchantly criticizes the fact/value dualism running through contemporary culture. Hilary Putnam argues that all facts are dependent on cognitive values, while Ruth Anna Putnam turns the problem around, illuminating the factual basis of moral principles. Together, they offer a shared vision which, in Hilary’s words, “could serve as a manifesto for what the two of us would like philosophy to look like in the twenty-first century and beyond.”

Praise

  • Pragmatism as a Way of Life is, among other things, an argument for the value of philosophy. As the Putnams see it, pragmatism means thinking about the world ‘in ways that are relevant to the real problems of real human beings.’ It’s an approach to philosophy that manages to be humble and hopeful while, for the most part, keeping its feet firmly on the ground…The language of the Putnams tends to be blessedly lucid and conversational, even when dealing with fairly knotty quandaries. The book isn’t hammock reading, or Metaphysics for Morons, but it is a reminder of why philosophy might be useful to people who don’t park in the faculty-only lot.

    —Tom Bartlett, Chronicle of Higher Education

Authors

  • Hilary Putnam was Cogan University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University.
  • Ruth Anna Putnam was Professor Emerita of Philosophy at Wellesley College.
  • David Macarthur is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. With Mario De Caro, he edited Naturalism in Question, Naturalism and Normativity, and Hilary Putnam’s Philosophy in an Age of Science. He also edited Hilary and Ruth Anna Putnam’s Pragmatism as a Way of Life.

Book Details

  • 496 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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