The Linguistic-Pragmatic Turn in the History of Philosophy

Human Affairs 21 (2):280-293 (2011)
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Did the pragmatic turn encompass the linguistic turn in the history of philosophy? Or was the linguistic turn a turn away from pragmatism? Some commentators identify the so-called “eclipse” of pragmatism by analytic philosophy, especially during the Cold War era, as a turn away from pragmatist thinking. However, the historical evidence suggests that this narrative is little more than a myth. Pragmatism persisted, transforming into a more analytic variety under the influence of Quine and Putnam and, more recently, a continental version in the hands of Richard Rorty and Cornel West. In this paper, I argue that proof of the linguistic turn’s presence as a moment in a broader pragmatic turn in philosophy can be garnered from close examination of a single article, W. V. O. Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” and a single issue: whether the analytic-synthetic distinction is philosophically defensible.

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Shane Ralston
University of Ottawa (PhD)


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