Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Depew, David. Review of Larry Hickman, et al., eds. JOHN DEWEY BETWEEN PRAGMATISM AND CONSTRUCTIVISM. NDPR (August 2009).

Hickman, Larry A., Stefan Neubert, and Kersten Reich, eds. John Dewey Between Pragmatism and Constructivism. New York: Fordham UP, 2009. The book begins with a lapidary life of Dewey by Hickman and a review of literature by and about him by Neubert. Stikkers, who specializes in "connections between pragmatism and Continental thought", then offers an account of the initial reception of pragmatism in German-speaking countries (270). It started with the Austrian Wilhelm Jerusalem's uptake of Peirce's appeal to community agreement in knowledge claims. Jerusalem thought he saw the relevance of Peirce's idea to turn-of-the-twentieth-century German-language discussions of the sociology of knowledge. He went on to correspond with William James, translate his Pragmatism, and, in published articles, to identify correctly early pragmatism's core belief that "metaphysical concepts express the world reality of a live creature who orients itself to its environment" (79). For Jerusalem and other German-speaking philosophers the American pragmatists were Lebensphilosophen. Relying almost entirely on Jerusalem's interpretations and translations, Max Scheler approved of the American pragmatists' stress on life as the locus of meaning, value, and knowledge, but seems to have viewed their empiricism as ruling out the intuitionism that his own Lebensphilosophie required. Things went downhill from there. Heidegger's critique of Lebensphilosophie rejected naturalism of every sort and a fortiori the American sort. Soon James's clever metaphor about the meaning of a term being its cash value was being taken at face value. Pre-World War II German philosophers, including Heidegger, took pragmatism to be a defense of capitalist ideology on a par with the Communists' blather about dialectical materialism. German interest in American pragmatism has had to contend with this image ever since. If this isn't much of an issue in the present volume it is because the Cologne school has relied on Hans Joas's more or less successful efforts to correct this misunderstanding, as Stikker reports (76). Nonetheless, the old rift between German philosophy and American naturalism is worth bearing in mind because it resurfaces in this volume as the central bone of contention between these latter day American and German Deweyans. . . . Read the review here:

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