I’ve been blogging recently about whether “pragmatism” is a sufficiently precise term to be one which we ought to use, apart from its being historically entrenched. In the course of reading Dewey again, I’m thinking about another aspect of the pragmatist tradition.
James says that pragmatism is, in one sense, a method. It’s typically expressed by the pragmatic maxim that discovering the meaning of a concept is best done by tracing out its practical consequences.
Last Summer, Cristyn and I went down to Poughkeepsie to talk with Barry Lam about cover songs. The episode of his podcast featuring us dropped today.
Barry has other guests who address historical and musicological issues. I’m chuffed, though, that the distinctions form my paper with Cristyn and Christy provided the philosophical thread of the episode.
The whole episode is genuinely interesting and engaging, and I think I’d say so even if I didn’t figure in it. I was actually surprised that I didn’t wince at hearing my own recorded voice, testament perhaps to Barry’s skills as a recording engineer.
In the previous post, I suggested that there might be no unified “pragmatism”. By this I meant that we wouldn’t (as a matter of philosophical method) want to invent the term if it weren’t (as a matter of the history of philosophy) already entrenched and an actors’ category. I’m not sure if I want to take that back, but I do want to talk about something in the neighborhood of “pragmatism” that probably deserves a name.
In teaching pragmatism this semester, I’m rereading Peirce and James. It occurs to me that James explicitly rejects a central feature of Peirce’s pragmatism in a way that James himself does not recognize.
As I student, I wrote lots of papers. It was clear when I was done with a paper, because I turned it in and got a grade. As a professor, I write with an eye towards publishing. When I’m happy enough with a paper, I submit it somewhere. When it’s rejected, then what?1
Rejection is a strange and ambiguous thing. Sometimes rejection is because the journal had too many submissions or because the referee was just cranky. There’s no extra stamp to indicate that the paper just isn’t publishable.2 I revise it or don’t, and then I submit it somewhere else. Some papers, even ones that find a good home in the end, are rejected multiple times.
Next month Kareem Khalifa (Middlebury College) is visiting Albany to present work that he developed in collaboration with Emily Sullivan (Delft University of Technology).
Will it turn out to be a comedy of errors, or can they show that the sound and fury about the epistemic role of idealization is just a tempest in a teapot? Either way would be interesting, and all’s well that ends well.
Idealizations and Understanding: Much Ado About Nothing?
3:00-5:00, March 9, 2018
UAlbany Humanities Building, room 354
Abstract: Idealizations frequently advance scientific understanding. Because of this, many have argued that understanding is non-factive or that falsehoods play a distinct epistemic role. In this paper, we argue that these positions greatly overstate idealizations’ epistemic import. We bring work on epistemic value to bear on the debate surrounding idealizations and understanding, arguing that idealizations qua falsehoods only have non-epistemic value. We argue for this claim by criticizing the four leading approaches that give epistemic importance to idealizations. For each of these approaches, we show that: (a) idealizations’ false components only promote psychological convenience instead of the epistemic good of understanding, and (b) only the true components of idealizations have epistemic value.
Imagine there were a philosophy guru. You could ask the guru questions, get the guru’s answer, the answers would always be right, but the answers wouldn’t come with arguments or explanations. … If you wrote those answers down … would you be doing philosophy?
Numerous respondents say NO, on the grounds that philosophy involves giving arguments. It’s the game of giving and asking for reasons. Mere answers aren’t reasons.1
Here is a thought experiment of the a demon creeps into your loneliest loneliness variety. Imagine this:
At a moment in time, everyone in the world is given this solitary choice: They must choose one person in the world, and that person will die immediately. Everyone knows that everyone has this choice and this power. Each may reflect on their choice for a while, but nobody gets to confer or coordinate.
Over the years, I’ve prepared a number of different texts to give to my own students. For example: cleaned up electronic versions of Peirce’s “Fixation of Belief” and Berkeley’s Principles. I’ve had occasional thoughts about sharing them, but didn’t have a sensible platform for doing so.1
In making the most recent update to forall x, I starting using github. It’s primarily a platform for writing software and maintaining code, but it is also well suited for hosting LaTeX documents. Keeping track of which version I used in which semester is a mess that git cleans up, and it’s no extra effort to share the files.
So I created three github repositories today:
pragmatism: In addition to Peirce and James, this includes some Emerson.2 I may add more in the course of this semester.
early-modern: I prepared Hume’s first Enquiry and Berkeley’s Principles for student use years ago. Both are nicely formatted complete books.