Does Donald Trump’s ‘Pragmatism’ Mean Pragmatism Is Incoherent?

A devastating accusation is making the rounds in America: Donald Trump is a pragmatist; therefore pragmatism is an incoherent ethical and political philosophy. This breathtakingly simple argument establishes its solitary premise by making note of Trump’s assertions that he will do what it takes to fix America’s problems. His supposed inconstancy–his curious admixture of populism,Continue reading “Does Donald Trump’s ‘Pragmatism’ Mean Pragmatism Is Incoherent?”

Alasdair MacIntyre On Relativism And The Immigrant

In ‘Relativism, Power, and Philosophy,’ (Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association,Vol. 59, No. 1, September 1985, pp. 5-22) Alasdair MacIntyre writes: ‘Relativism’…names one kind of conclusion to enquiry into a particular class of problems. Those questions arise in the first place for people who live in certain highly specific types of social andContinue reading “Alasdair MacIntyre On Relativism And The Immigrant”

John Dewey On The ‘Wonder’ Of Communication

In Experience and Nature (Chapter Five, ‘Nature, Communication and Meaning’) John Dewey writes: Of all affairs, communication is the most wonderful….[its] fruit…participation, sharing, is a wonder by the side of which transubstantiation pales. When communication occurs, all natural events are subject to reconsideration and revision; they are re-adapted to meet the requirements of conversation, whether it beContinue reading “John Dewey On The ‘Wonder’ Of Communication”

RIP Hilary Putnam 1926-2016

During the period of my graduate studies in philosophy,  it came to seem to me that William James‘ classic distinction between tough and tender-minded philosophers had been been reworked just a bit. The tough philosophers were still empiricists and positivists but they had begun to show some of the same inclinations that the supposedly tender-mindedContinue reading “RIP Hilary Putnam 1926-2016”

Contra Damon Linker, ‘Leftist Intellectuals’ Are Not ‘Disconnected From Reality’

Over at The Week, Damon Linker accuses ‘the Left’ of being disconnected from reality, basing this charge on his reading of two recent pieces by Corey Robin and Jedediah Purdy. (It begins with a charge that is all too frequently leveled at the Bernie Sanders campaign: that its political plans are political fantasies.) What getsContinue reading “Contra Damon Linker, ‘Leftist Intellectuals’ Are Not ‘Disconnected From Reality’”

Bronowski on the Actively Constructed Good (in the Beautiful)

At the conclusion of The Visionary Eye: Essays in the Arts, Literature and Science, Jacob Bronowski writes: You will have noticed that the aesthetics that I have been developing through these six lectures are in the end rather heavily based on ethics. And you might think that I belong to the school of philosophers whoContinue reading “Bronowski on the Actively Constructed Good (in the Beautiful)”

William James on the Selectivity of Consciousness According to Human Interests

A couple of days ago, I noted humanism‘s affinities with pragmatism, and quoted William James to cement that claim. Today, I want to point to James’ treatment of consciousness to show how fundamental human interests are in his philosophy of mind. (This post is cribbed from Patrick Kiaran Dooley‘s Pragmatism as Humanism: The Philosophy of Willam James,Continue reading “William James on the Selectivity of Consciousness According to Human Interests”

Beware the Easily Defined Philosophical Term

Over the course of my philosophy career, I’ve come to realize I sometimes use technical philosophical terms without an exceedingly determinate conception of their precise meaning. But I do, however, know how to use them in a particular philosophical context that will make sense to an interlocutor–reader, discussant, student–who has a background similar to mine.Continue reading “Beware the Easily Defined Philosophical Term”

Displacements of, Not Solutions to, Philosophical Problems: A Quick Primer

A close, critical reader is worth his weight in gold. I am reminded of this whenever I share a bit of writing with someone who proceeds to clear up confusions deftly and rapidly, and sometimes, represents my position better than I had managed. In part of a rough piece of writing tucked away somewhere, IContinue reading “Displacements of, Not Solutions to, Philosophical Problems: A Quick Primer”

Movies on Philosophers: Rare, Hard to Make, Desirable

Having viewed the rather disappointing Chopin: Desire for Love over the weekend, I’m struck again by how difficult it seems to be to make movies about artists, writers, or perhaps creators of all kinds. My viewing also served to remind me that movies about philosophers’ lives are exceedingly rare, and the few that have been made–or rather, that I am awareContinue reading “Movies on Philosophers: Rare, Hard to Make, Desirable”