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.”
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.
Clarifies our understanding of the development of Hilary’s thought in the late twentieth century, and, as Hilary put it, his ‘conversion’ to pragmatism under Ruth Anna’s influence…Philosophical marriages are rare enough; this one affected the development of philosophy in America…Macarthur has produced the best record of Hilary and Ruth Anna’s collaboration. American philosophy was indeed changed at the Putnams’ breakfast table.
- 496 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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