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  • Pragmatism
  • Written by Louis Menand
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780679775447
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A Reader

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Synopsis|Table of Contents


Pragmatism has been called America's only major contribution to philosophy. But since its birth was announced a century ago in 1898 by William James, pragmatism has played a vital role in almost every area of American intellectual and cultural life, inspiring judges, educators, politicians, poets, and social prophets.

Now the major texts of American pragmatism, from William James and John Dewey to Richard Rorty and Cornel West, have been brought together and reprinted unabridged. From the first generation of pragmatists, including the Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and the founder of semiotics, Charles Sanders Peirce, to the leading figures in the contemporary pragmatist revival, including the philosopher Hilary Putnam, the jurist Richard Posner, and the literary critic Richard Poirier, all the contributors to this volume are remarkable for the wit and vigor of their prose and the mind-clearing force of their ideas. Edited and with an Introduction by Louis Menand, Pragmatism: A Reader will provide both the general reader and the student of American culture with excitement and pleasure.

Table of Contents


An Introduction to Pragmatism

A Note on the Selections

The First Generation

Charles Sanders Peirce
from "Some Consequences of Four Incapacities" (1968)
"The Fixation of Belief" (1877)
"How to Make Our Ideas Clear" (1878)
from "a Guess at the Riddle" (ca. 1890)
from "Evolutionary Love" (1893)
"A Definition of Pragmatism" (ca. 1904)

William James

from "Habit," in The Principles of Psychology (1890)
"The Will to Believe" (1896)
"What Pragmatism Means," in Pragmatism (1907)
"Pragmatism's Conception of Truth," in Pragmatism (1907)
from "A Pluralistic Universe (1909)

Oliver Wendell Holmes
from "Lecture I: Early Forms of Liability," in The Common Law (1881)
from "Lecture III:Torts--Trespass and Negligence," in The Common Law (1881)
from "Privilege, Malice, and Intent" (1894)
"The Path of the Law" 91897)
from "Ideals and Doubts" (1915)
"Natural Law" (1918)
from Abrams v. United States (1919)

John Dewey
"The Ethics of Democracy" (1888)
"Theories of Knowledge," in Democracy and Education (1916)
from "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy" (1917)
"Experience, Nature and Art," in Experience and Nature (1925)
"I Believe" (1939)

Jane Addams
from "A Function of the Social Settlement" (1899)

George Herbet Mead
"The Mechanism of Social Consciousness" (1912)
"A Contrast of Individualistic and Social Theories of the Self" (ca. 1927)

Contemporary Pragmatism

Richard Rorty
"Philosophy as a Kind of Writing: An Essay on Derrida" (1978-79)
"Postmodernist Bourgeois Liberalism" (1983)

Hilary Putnam
"Fact and Value," in Reason, Truth and History (1981)

Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels
from "Against Theory" (1982)

Richard J. Bernstein
"Pragmatism, Pluralism, and the Healing of Wounds" (1988)

Cornel West
from "Prophetic Pragmatism," in The American Evasion of Philosophy (1989)

Richard A. Posner
"A Pragmatist Manifesto," in The Problems of Jurisprudence (1990)

Richard Poirier
"Reading Pragmatically," in Poetry and Pragmatism (1992)

Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob from "The Future of History," in Telling the Truth About History (1994)



Louis Menand

About Louis Menand

Louis Menand - Pragmatism
Louis Menand, professor of English at Harvard University, is the author of The Metaphysical Club, which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in History. A longtime staff writer for The New Yorker, he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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