The Crisis of Philosophy

By Michael H. McCarthy

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791401538, 408 pages, November 1989
Hardcover : 9780791401521, 408 pages, November 1989

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Table of contents


I   The Crisis of Philosophy

A. Autonomous Science

B. From Classical to Historical Consciousness

C. The Matrix of Cognitive Meaning—An Orienting Map

D. Pure Mathematics and the New Logic

E. Foundational Inquiry

F. Philosophy Naturalized

G. Psychologism and its Critics

II  The Primacy of Logic—A Case Study in Foundational Inquiry

A. The Logician's Perspective

B. The Locus of Epistemic Invariance

C. The Specter of Psychologism

D. Principles of Philosophical Analysis

E. The Limits of Empiricism

F. A Common Stock of Thoughts

G. Privacy, Objectivity, and Realism

H. The Failure to Discern Alternatives

III The Genesis of Husserl's Phenomenology—From Descriptive Psychology to Transcendental Idealism

A. Philosophy in Search of Itself

B. Dual Influences on the Early Husserl

C. The Refutation of Psychologism

D. The Autonomy of Pure Logic

E. The Clarification of Pure Logic

F. The Identification and Suspension of the Natural Attitude

IV Wittgenstein's Linguistic Turns

A. The Linguistic Turn

B. Logic as the Essence of Philosophy

C. Wittgenstein's Theory of Signification

D. Tautologies and Contradictions, Their Unique Status

E. The Nature of Philosophy

F. The Tractatus as an Ethical Deed

G. From Meaning to Use

H. The Crystalline Sphere

I. Mathematics Forms a Network of Norms

J. Philosophy as Captive and Escape from Captivity

V  The New Way of Words

A. Pure Semiotic and the Formal Mode of Speech

B. Philosophy as Logical Syntax

C. The Pure Theory of Empirically Meaningful Languages

D. Two Species of Psychologism

E. Naturalism without Psychologism

F. Linguistic Pluralism and Scientific Realism

G. The Linguistic Turn and the Philosophy of Language

VI The End of Epistemology

A. The Crack in Tradition

B. Platonic Imagery and Aristotelian Principles

C. The New Way of Ideas

D. Kant's Transcendental Turn

E. A New Concept of Secular Reason

F. Quine's Holistic Empiricism

G. Groundless Belief

H. From Epistemology to Hermeneutics

I. After-thoughts

VII The Need for Cognitive Integration

A. In Search of Common Ground

B. The Priority of the Intentional Subject

C. Personal Appropriation

D. The Limits of Behaviorism

E. The Risk of Psychologism

F. Transcendental Method

G. The Centrality of Insight

H. Realms of Meaning and Heuristic Structures

I. Critical Realism: Epistemic Objectivity and the Knowledge of Being

VIII Philosophical and Cultural Conflict

A. A History of Conflict

B. Dialectical Principles and Strategy

C. Cognitional Theory—Positions and Counter Positions

D. A Defense of Critical Realism

E. The Critical Appropriation of Tradition

F. The Love of Wisdom




This book presents a sympathetic yet critical treatment of the major philosophical attempts to define a viable project for philosophy in the face of historical changes. McCarthy, then, proposes a comprehensive, critical, and methodological strategy of epistemic integration that fully respects the progressive and pluralistic character of contemporary science and common sense.

The programs of Frege, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Sellers, Dewey, Quine, and Rorty are carefully presented and an assessment is made of their merits and limitations. This assessment results in a defense of Lonergan's integrative strategy — a nuanced philosophical strategy around which a gathering center could be built. McCarthy presents Lonergan's work as containing the firm outline and partial execution of a philosophical project continuous with philosophy's historic purposes and equal to the exigences of the present.

The book examines a broad range of seminal topics and, after extended dialectical treatment of them, develops a coherent account of their interdependence. These topics include psychologism, intentionality, the limits of naturalism, semantical and epistemic realism, historical belonging, epistemic invariance, foundational analysis, the limitation of logic and of the linguistic turn, generalized empirical method, the interdependence of mind and language, the interplay of nature and history, and the critical appropriation of tradition.

Michael H. McCarthy is Professor of Philosophy at Vassar College.


"This book ranks among the best studies of the difficulties deeply troubling our culture. It cogently articulates the crisis of philosophy in our time. The reader is promised a resolution at the end of the Introduction, which is enough to keep her or him convinced that the narrative theme of crisis is not going to deconstruct in a dead-end. Then in the final two chapters the reader's efforts are very richly rewarded. The crisis of philosophy, which is fundamentally a cultural crisis, is seen as a challenge — as an invitation to a new and exciting stage of meaning in human history. " — Matthew L. Lamb, Boston College