This is the introduction to a conference paper that I will be giving at the New Mexico-West Texas conference this weekend.
Pragmatism and Phenomenology: A Reconciliation
Scott Aikin in his 2006 article, "Pragmatism, Naturalism, and Phenomenology" argues that pragmatism and phenomenology are incompatible. Pragmatic naturalism is incompatible with phenomenology's anti-naturalism. Therefore, pragmatists trying to appropriate insights from phenomenology encounter a dilemma: either reject naturalism and thereby pragmatism, or reject anti-naturalism and thereby phenomenology. Aikin names a list of pragmatists faced with this dilemma: Bruce Wilshire, Sandra Rosenthal, Victor Kestenbaum, Vincent Colapietro, Philip Bourgeois, Shannon Sullivan, and others. Aikin has thrown down the gauntlet.
I will argue that Aikin's dilemma is unmerited, because he has misidentified its horns. It will require no subtlety and few words to establish this. Given his definition of naturalism, all of the classical pragmatists are neither naturalists nor pragmatists. Moreover, most discussion of "phenomenology" misconstrues phenomenological method as subjective self-reporting. The term "phenomenology" in his usage refers to a narrow reading of Husserl and not pre- or post-Husserlian phenomenology. As stated, the two horns of Aikin's dilemma are neither classical pragmatism nor phenomenology, but scientific naturalism and subjectivism.
There are antipathies between classical pragmatism's naturalism and classical Continental phenomenology, but I will argue that they do not proscribe pragmatic appropriation of phenomenology in general. In the conclusion, I will argue for phenomenologically-informed pragmatism, and will discuss one barrier to the appropriation of classical Continental phenomenology, the principle of continuity.