Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Great Divide: Neoclassical- vs. Neo-Pragmatism

A chasm divides neoclassical- and neo-pragmatist scholarship in philosophy.

The neoclassicals are the inheritors of the living tradition of classical pragmatism, and anchor themselves to elaborating or developing that tradition. They're historians and/or producers of new ideas in the wake of the founding thinkers.

The neopragmatists are borrowers of a few good ideas of classical pragmatism. They are united by a family resemblance among themselves, and not the various theses of classical or contemporary thinkers. 

A historic discontinuity divides neopragmatism from classical pragmatism, while an intellectual discontinuity divides neopragmatists from neoclassicals. But there is more to it. Neopragmatists are also analytic philosophers, and thus have the institutional support of being members of the dominant tradition of philosophy in the English-speaking world. This underlies a lot of strife, which is visible at the various conferences run by neoclassicals, as there is a reputation and economic deficit.

An anonymous poster sparked my musement on the distinction by linking an Q&A with Huw Price, self-reported "pragmatist." Guess what kind of pragmatist he is by the following question-and-answer that I give in the comments.


  1. Interviewer
    "The metaphysics suggests that perhaps Peirce might be your kind of pragmatist, but the title of your book and this language orietated approach to the subject is kind of solid with Rorty, Wittgenstein and Brandom, and that’s where many people seem to put you. Are you doing metaphysics or are you deflating metaphysics so far that it doesn’t count as metaphysics anymore?"

    "Yes, certainly I’m a pragmatist. In my view, the most helpful way to characterise pragmatism is to say that it approaches a range philosophical issues in the way I just mentioned, by asking about the practical role that philosophically interesting concepts (e.g., that of causation) play in our lives – by looking for explanations, and genealogies, in broadly naturalistic terms (i.e., by starting with the assumption that we are natural creatures in a natural environment).

    I don’t know much about Peirce, so I’m not sure whether I’m his sort of pragmatist, but I’m happy to be seen as kind of solid with Rorty, Wittgenstein and Brandom, as you put it. (We’re, you know, like that.)"

    C.S. Peirce is the founder of pragmatism, by the way.....

  2. thought this might be of interest:

  3. Thanks, DMF, as this is certainly appropriate. While Nagel had some points, most of his criticisms do not stand up well once one slogs through the undisciplined Peirce. Wow, a link to a text. What are things coming to DMF?

    I think that the article would be strengthened by noting that "discipline" is a relative notion, and that a tradition enforces a certain practice (not just a conception) of discipline. Hence, criticizing continental for not being disciplined might amount to no more than "not being like us," which is in part saying "not having the history of practices that we do." While there are substantive things to be said, too often the insubstantial or contingent is masqueraded as the substantial.

  4. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thanks, However I am experiencing problems with your RSS.
    I don't understand the reason why I can't subscribe to it.
    Is there anybody else having similar RSS issues? Anyone
    that knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanks!


    My webpage; Michael Kors