Big Pragmatism Map


Michael P. Wolf (Washington & Jefferson College) taught pragmatism this past semester and created a map to help keep things straight. A big map. Not unworkably big, of course, but big. Behold, “A Map of American Pragmatism and Its Roots.” Wolf is now looking for feedback on the map. Feel free to leave it in the comments here or email him directly at mwolf ‘at’ washjeff ‘dot’ edu.

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hjackman
hjackman
7 years ago

Cheryl Misak is currently working on a book arguing that C.S. Peirce (partially though Lady Welby, and C.K. Ogden) had a significant influence on Frank Ramsey, who, in turn, influenced many of the others who are on the chart. The project has progressed a lot over the last year, but you can see the beginnings of it at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQuNWNjYcVYReport

the late donald davidson
the late donald davidson
7 years ago

How about Davidson?Report

Jon@sbcglobal.net
Reply to  the late donald davidson
7 years ago

And why Margolis?Report

michaelpwolf
7 years ago

Yeah, Ramsey might be a nice add. There might be room down among the Brits.

Part of the difficulty there is the tortured nature of each one of the lines. Take Putnam. Explicitly critical of Peirce and James, but also an anti-skeptical fallibilist (but is it a *sufficiently Peircean* anti-skeptical fallibilism…?).Report

michaelpwolf
7 years ago

Yeah, maybe Davidson, too.Report

Matt McAdam
Matt McAdam
7 years ago

What’s the case for saying John McDowell is a pragmatist?Report

michaelpwolf
7 years ago

He’s there more as a “related author” – someone with a lot to say about Wittgenstein, Brandom, Sellars, Davidson, etc. Hence the blue line rather than a black one. I can understand that he might bristle at the label.

Long time, no see, btw Matt.Report

Matthew J. Brown
7 years ago

Jane Addams, FCS Schiller, and George Mead would be important additions, it seems to me. I have a bit of trouble following the arrows, but I think you need a green arrow from Hegel to Dewey and from Kant to Peirce.

In terms of understanding the early Pragmatists (and even some of the later ones), in drawing the relevant red lines, it seems to me that the Transcendentalists (of both the Emerson and Marsh varieties), American Idealists (e.g., the St Louis Hegelians), and American neo-Realists (e.g., Ralph Barton Perry, Roy Wood Sellars, George Santayana) are at least as and probably more important than the most of the earlier British & European philosophers on the map, with the exception of Russell and maybe Green.Report

michaelpwolf
7 years ago

Agreed on the Hegel-Dewey and Kant-Peirce. Those were in an earlier iteration and seem to have been deleted by mistake. And on the St. Louis Hegelians, too, though I remain embarrassingly ignorant of their details. Part of the difficulty in getting all of that earlier stuff in is either compressing the time scale even more, so that’ll have to be one thing to think about in revising. Thanks!Report

Paul L. Franco
7 years ago

Great map!

A case could be made (see especially Murray Murphey, 2006) for extending green and red arrows from C.I. Lewis down to the Logical Positivists (and depending on where you stand on Lewis’s conception of the given, we could extend some red arrows from Sellars to Lewis).

Lewis’s “Experience and Meaning” loomed large enough that Carnap notes in “Testability and Meaning” that it represents the most trenchant criticism of verifiability. Schlick in “Meaning and Verification” called Lewis’s paper “remarkable” and made a concerted effort to highlight the points of agreement between pragmatism as understood by Lewis and positivism (as did Lewis in some papers). [Lewis also figured prominently in Quine’s attempts to secure Carnap a position in the states, if I remember their correspondence correctly.]Report

michaelpwolf
7 years ago

Yeah, there should be a red arrow between Sellars and Lewis for just the reasons you mention. And much like the Hegel-Dewey line mentioned above, I put it in, but it looks like I lost it. (The app crashed once while I was making the initial version, so I think I just missed replacing a couple things.) Thanks!Report

michaelpwolf
7 years ago

Yeah, another good one.Report

michaelpwolf
7 years ago

And he fits, too!Report

Eric Morton
Eric Morton
7 years ago

I think there should probably be a green line connecting Dewey to Rorty.Report

Eric Morton
Eric Morton
7 years ago

Also, a green line between Quine and Rorty.Report

Eric Morton
Eric Morton
7 years ago

Also, a green line from Rorty to Brandom (his student).Report

Eric Morton
Eric Morton
7 years ago

Also, a green line from Rorty to McDowell (McDowell says Mind and World was composed as a result of trying to get under control his reaction to his third reading of Rorty’s PMN).Report

Eric Morton
Eric Morton
7 years ago

However: since McDowell was reacting against Rorty, maybe the line from Rorty to McDowell should be red?Report

michaelpwolf
7 years ago

There are green lines between Dewey-Rorty and Rorty-Brandom, at least in the version I’m seeing. But this may also indicate that the lines are getting to be too hard to read. I like the Rorty-McDowell one, though.Report

Eric Morton
Eric Morton
Reply to  michaelpwolf
7 years ago

I think that when I made my suggestions last night I was still looking at an older version, before Cornell West and Davidson were added, and it had a few less lines. But I’ve got the new one now. A nice map!Report

michaelpwolf
Reply to  Eric Morton
7 years ago

Ah, my misunderstanding, then. Thanks for the suggestions!Report

Carl B. Sachs
7 years ago

This is a real labor of love, Michael!

On my reading of the Lewis-Sellars relation, there should be a reciprocal red line between C. I. Lewis and Roy Wood Sellars (1880-1973), and also a red line running from Dewey to R. W. Sellars. But I would urge a green line from Lewis to Wilfrid Sellars, insofar as WSS tried to reconcile Lewis’s radical empiricism (as WSS saw it) and RWS’s physical realism. That’s how I read WSS’s “Physical Realism” and “Is There a Synthetic ‘A Priori’?” But that’s just my version of the tale!

I would urge that you have a green rather than red line from Rorty to McDowell, if you’re going to have a green line from Brandom to McDowell. I find very little substantive difference between Rorty and Brandom on the Big Issues. Brandom’s project is, basically, translating Rorty’s philosophy into the language of David Lewis. I think that Brandom would pretty much admit as much, too.

Also, there should be a green line from Rorty to Price.Report

michaelpwolf
Reply to  Carl B. Sachs
7 years ago

Thanks, Carl. I like to think of it as putting neurosis to work.

Oddly enough, I just digitized a copy of “Physical Realism” on Monday, which had been sitting (cough cough unread cough) in a binder in my basement for probably 15 years and thought, “Oh, I should read through that.” Maybe both a red and a green there. I would admit I was tortured about what to make the line between Brandom and McDowell. They’re inseparable in my head, but whenever I picture them talking details, it quickly devolves into, “No, you’re compeltely wrong about that.” You’re probably right, though. Red it is. As for RWS, I hope he was born and died conveniently between some of these lines!Report

michaelpwolf
Reply to  michaelpwolf
7 years ago

And having read a lot of Price in the last year, I’m torn about that one, too, btw.Report

Carl B. Sachs
7 years ago

In the interest of accuracy, all the lines should be both green and red!

The precise extent to which Sellars’s “critique of the myth of the given” bear on Lewis’s “the given” is really very subtle and hasn’t really been worked out to my satisfaction (but see Chapter 3 of my forthcoming book!).

For the sorts of purposes you have in mind here, I would guess that the differences between Brandom and McDowell are salient if one is immersed in that discourse, but for most philosophers, it’s “oh, yeah, those two Pittsburgh neo-Hegelians.” So I think a green line connecting them is perfectly understandable for most purposes.

Two other philosophers not usually classified as “pragmatists” but who certainly were influenced by Quine, Davidson, Sellars, and Rorty are Daniel Dennett and Paul Churchland.Report

Jesse
Jesse
7 years ago

A version for the color blind would be helpful.Report

michaelpwolf
Reply to  Jesse
7 years ago

Good thought. Might take a while to rejigger the whole thing.Report

Alan White
7 years ago

Because of the influence of the erotetic view of explanation (among other things) doesn’t Bas van Fraassen belong here?Report

michaelpwolf
Reply to  Alan White
7 years ago

I thought about him, actually. (A small chunk of my dissertation was on his views on explanation, in fact.) I guess he receded a bit in my thinking just because I was starting with the areas covered most thoroughly in the seminar Justin mentioned – language and epistemology – and worked out from there, not quite reaching more squarely phil sci thinkers like him or Churchland. So, only pragmatic reasons for him not being there, you might say. He’s certainly a related author in a similar way, though. I suppose at some point we face the question of whether this is a document for the ages or for my 300-level seminar. I’ll chew on that some more. Thanks for bringing him up.Report

Eric Schliesser
7 years ago

Nice job. And I understand that this is work in progress. Even so, I am struck by the fact that a whole group of American pragmatists, let’s call them the scientific wing, are now systematically ignored: M.R. Cohen, C,W. Morris, Ernest Nagel and his students Kyberg, Isaac Levi, Suppes. (Cohen/Morris/Nagel were instrumental in creating the awkward fusion of Vienna Circle with Pragmatism that created post WWII American Analytical philosophy.)Report

michaelpwolf
Reply to  Eric Schliesser
7 years ago

Eric – Indeed it is a WIP, and your comment probably suggests a noteworthy pattern: it’s not all that deep on the phil sci side. The Van Fraassen and Churchland mentions above hint at the same thing. To accommodate that, it might have to either expand dramatically or get a different format altogether. (It’s already outstripping its original, more modest classroom role.) Maybe it needs to split into two different things going forward.Report

Trevor
7 years ago

I second Matt Brown’s suggestions (especially Addams and Mead). I think Herbert Spencer needs to be on the chart, with red lines from him to all the pragmatists and British idealists.

I find the whole thing a bit unwieldy though. What about a group of smaller charts?Report

Hans-Johann Glock
7 years ago

The map is interesting and informative. I applaud Wolf’s effort (having drawn a far less detailed map of the analytic tradition in my “What is Analytic Philosophy?” I speak from experience). But I have several qualms cum suggestions for revision.
Davidso, together with Quine, can be seen as a ‘logical pragmatist’. But one needs to keep in mind that he quipped “Owing something to pragmatism is not one of my obsessions” (see my “Quine and Davidson” in LePore/Ludwig “A Companion to Dondald Davidson”.
As regards the British sideline, Wittgenstein influenced both Ramsey and Ryle heavily, but not Austin (“Some like Witters, but Moore is my man”).
Most disconcerting is the disregard of contemporary non Anglo-phone authors like Karl-Otto Apel and Jürgen Habermas (unsurprising, given the general intellectual parochialism of current Anglophone academia, yet deplorable nonetheless). They made pragmatism accessible to European audiences. They also gave due weight to G.H. Mead (unlike so many Anglophone scholars of pragmatism). More importantly, they modified pragmatist ideas in interesting, though hardly uncontentious, ways, partly by combining them with crticial theory and speech-act theory. Finally, Habermas at least is a more significant intellectual figure, from a global perspective, than several of the authors included.Report