Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sperry, Elizabeth A. Review of Alan Malachowski, THE NEW PRAGMATISM. NDPR (May 2010).

Malachowski, Alan. The New Pragmatism. Chesham: Acumen, 2010. Alan Malachowski's The New Pragmatism accomplishes its central goal, which is to introduce non-specialists to the work of Rorty, Putnam, and their forebears Peirce, James, and Dewey. Malachowski nicely explains the main connections and points of difference between these figures, as well as how their work has been received. Philosophers who lack detailed knowledge of pragmatism could do worse than to begin with this relatively slim volume, which reads quickly, neither bogging down under a load of technicalities nor over-simplifying the issues. Malachowski urges adoption of the term "The New Pragmatism" (apparently coined by Cheryl Misak) to describe the work of Putnam, Rorty, and their philosophical co-workers, because, he says, the "neo" in neo-pragmatism implies inferiority to classical pragmatism. Rorty sometimes called himself a neo-pragmatist, so presumably the rhetorical concern is not universal. Regardless, Malachowski treats Putnam, Rorty, and the classical pragmatists with equal respect, which is not always the case in this philosophical arena. Quite often scholars attached to Dewey are dismissive of Rorty, or those impressed by Putnam have little time for James (this despite the fact that Rorty wrote admiringly of Dewey, as did Putnam of James). Malachowski's unabashedly pro-pragmatist stance enables him to analyze each figure's strengths and weaknesses charitably, and to explain how less-than-nuanced criticisms -- for instance, those lobbed by Russell against James -- have been readily accepted in some philosophical circles. . . . Read the whole review here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=19671.

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