Obliterative and therapeutic pragmatisms

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.

This method alone can still lead to abstruse metaphysics. Continue reading “Obliterative and therapeutic pragmatisms”

Boyd’s pragmatist theory of reference, maybe

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 the Pragmatism lectures, William James insists that pragmatism makes meaning and truth a matter of what will happen in the future. Continue reading “Boyd’s pragmatist theory of reference, maybe”

Emerson and the philosophy guru

On Facebook, Clayton Littlejohn posts this question:

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

I’ve been mulling over related issues because I taught Emerson last week in my pragmatism seminar. Continue reading “Emerson and the philosophy guru”

Some philosophy texts on github

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:

  1. pragmatism: In addition to Peirce and James, this includes some Emerson.2 I may add more in the course of this semester.
  2. early-modern: I prepared Hume’s first Enquiry and Berkeley’s Principles for student use years ago. Both are nicely formatted complete books.
  3. understanding-science: I also added a repository for the notes on inference that I posted last year. I still mean to add to those, so I might as well set it up now.

The material in 1 and 2 is mostly in the public domain. Where I’ve written something, I offer it under an open license.

forall x v1.4

The new edition of forall x will be posted soon. Anybody who has used the book before will find the changes so small as to make almost no difference, but I wanted to discuss what I did beyond correcting typos. First, I’ve changed the formatting a bit. Second, I’ve changed the notation for substitution instances in proofs (again). Third, I’ve changed the license to be even more permissive.

Continue reading “forall x v1.4”

A big year, forall x

It’s been over a decade since I released the first edition of the open access logic textbook forall x. It’s been a few years since my last update, because it’s been a few years since I last taught logic.

A number of people have made their own editions of forall x over the years, but 2017 was a breakout year: Continue reading “A big year, forall x”

Useful for me now

[It is a mistake to give] an absolute meaning to the epithet useful, which, in truth, has no more meaning if taken by itself than the words high, low, right, and left. It simply designates a relationship and requires a complement: useful for this or that.

I am teaching Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity in my Existentialism class, and I’m struck again by what a great book it is. She elaborates the notion of Bad Faith with much greater clarity than Sartre. There are parts of the book that make me rethink myself and my present situation.

This is striking partly because of context: We spent weeks on Heidegger, who does phenomenology in the most abstract way and only has eyes for metaphysics. Then we spent weeks on Sartre, who dabbles in ethics and has some rich examples but never finds his way around to the ethical question. Sartre writes in Being&Nothingness (in a footnote!) that “the description of [authentic existence] has no place here.”

And now we’re discussing de Beauvoir, whose task is “to consider human life as a game that can be won or lost and to teach… the means of winning.”