Realistic Pragmatism

An Introduction to Pragmatic Philosophy

By Nicholas Rescher

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791444085, 254 pages, December 1999
Hardcover : 9780791444078, 254 pages, December 1999

Table of contents



One. Setting the Stage

1. The Historical Background
2. The Diversity of Pragmatisms
3. The Meaning of Pragmatism's Variations

Two. Pragmatism in Crisis

1. The Guiding Idea of the Pragmatic Program
2. The Jamesean Transformation and its Aftermath
3. Postmodern Pragmatism and its Contrary
4. A Return to the Peircean Roots
5. Three Traditional Objections to Pragmatism
6. The Turn to Methodological Pragmatism

Three. Methodological Pragmatism in the Cognitive Domain

1. Aspects of Methodology: Teleology
2. The Special Case of Cognitive Methodology: The Methodologically Pragmatic Validation of Knowledge Claims
3. Why this Link Between Pragmatic Efficacy and Truthfulness?
4. The Generality of the Methodological Approach Overcomes Various Objections
5. How the Present Methodological Approach Contrasts with that of Peirce

Four. Fallibilism and the Pragmatic Epistemology of Science

1. Monitoring the Adequacy of Science
2. The Arbitrament of Praxis
3. The Fallibilist Perpsective

Five. Metaphysical Realism and the Pragmatic Basis of Objectivity

1. The Existential Component of Realism
2. Realism in its Regulative / Pragmatic Aspect
3. Realism and Objectivity as a Requisite of Communication
4.Retrojustification: The Wisdom of Hindsight

Six. Pragmatism and the Theory of Language: Use Conditions vs. Truth Conditions

1. Truth-Conditions vs. Use-Conditions
2. The "Logic" of Use-Conditions: Pragmatics vs. Semantics
3. Semantics, Pragmatics, and the Issue of Meaning
4. The Duality of Truth and Usage Roots in the Cognitive Opacity of Real Things
5. The Inductive Aspect
6. Advantages of a Pragmatic Approach to Meaning

Seven. Pragmatism and Value

1. Purposiveness and Value
2. Evaluative Rationality and Appropriate Ends: Against the Humean Conception of Reason
3. The Crucial Role of Interests and Needs: Wants and Preferences are not Enough
4. The Pragmatic Aspect

Eight. Morality, Pragmatism, and the Obligations of Personhood

1. The Functional Nature of Morality
2. Is Rational Controversy About Morality Possible?
3. The Ethics of Collaboration and Communication in Science as an Instance
4. On the Rationale of Moral Obligation
5. Obligations and Interest
6. The Pragmatic Dimension

Nine. Pragmatism and Philosophy

1. Against Philosophical Scepticism
2. Philosophizing as Truth-Estimative Conjecture
3. Pragmatism as a Via Media
4. Is Circularity a Problem?
5. Is Fragmentation a Problem?
6. The Advantages of Realistic Over Relativistic Pragmatism
7. The Complexity of Pragmatism

Name Index

Recovers classical pragmatism from recent deconstructive interpretations.


Nicholas Rescher gives a compact but comprehensive overview of pragmatism that does justice to the doctrine's original realistic and objectivistic purport. By providing a historically faithful version of a pragmatist position that is at once grounded in the root inspirations of the doctrine and able to overcome the sorts of objections that have often been advanced against it, Rescher defends the pragmatic tradition against a deconstruction into philosophical vacuity.

Nicholas Rescher is University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of numerous works, including Predicting the Future: An Introduction to the Theory of Forecasting, Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy, and Dialectics: A Controversy-Oriented Approach to the Theory of Knowledge, all published by SUNY Press.


"This book is to be recommended for its effective portrayal of a hard-nosed objectivist, realist pragmatism." — Philosophy in Review

"In the course of sketching an entire philosophy of 'methodological' pragmatism, Rescher presides over the challenging and potentially fruitful union of the pragmatic perspective with such unlikely partners as the ontological duty of self-realization. To his credit, he manages to make such weddings appear desirable and carries them off with aplomb in the name of sweet reason. I am not convinced that all these marriages can last or that they are likely to issue in happy offspring, but demonstrating that they are possible is itself a remarkable achievement. This book is a significant contribution to the literature of contemporary pragmatism." — John Lachs, author of The Relevance of Philosophy to Life

"The chapters on values are the best discussion of pragmatism's attempt to deal with value in a non-relativistic way that I have seen." — Robert G. Meyers, author of The Likelihood of Knowledge

"Given the philosophical sophistication and subtlety of Nicholas Rescher, this book is truly sui generis." — Vincent Colapietro, author of Peirce's Approach to the Self: A Semiotic Perspective on Human Subjectivity