Pluralism, Pragmatism and American Democracy: A Minority Report

Newcastle, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2017)
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This book presents the author’s many and varied contributions to the revival and re-evaluation of American pragmatism. The assembled critical perspective on contemporary pragmatism in philosophy emphasizes the American tradition of cultural pluralism and the requirements of American democracy. Based partly on a survey of the literature on interest-group pluralism and critical perspectives on the politics of globalization, the monograph argues for reasoned caution concerning the practical effects of the revival. Undercurrents of “vulgar pragmatism” including both moral and epistemic relativism threaten the intellectual and moral integrity of American thought – and have contributed to the present sense of political crisis. The text chiefly contributes to the evaluation of the contemporary influence of the philosophy of John Dewey (1859–1952) and his late development of the classical pragmatist tradition. In comparison to Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), William James (1842–1910), and earlier currents of American thought, Dewey’s philosophy, dominated by its overall emphasis on unification, is weaker in its support for the pluralism of cultural and religious contributions which have lent moral self-restraint to American policy and politics, both foreign and domestic. With all due homage to Dewey’s conception of philosophy, centered on human problems and the need for our ameliorative efforts, the argument is that in the contemporary revival, Dewey’s thought has been too often captured by “post-modernist” bandwagons of self-promotion and institutional control. This work defends democratic individualism against more collectivist and corporatist tendencies in contemporary neo-pragmatism, and it draws upon up-to-date political analysis in defense of America’s long republican tradition. Pragmatism will not and cannot be removed from, or ignored, in American intellectual and moral history; and its influence on disciplines from law to politics, sociology and literary criticism has been immense. However, pragmatism has often been weak in commitment to cultural pluralism and in its accounts of truth.

Author's Profile

H. G. Callaway
Temple University


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