Purity and Practical Reason: On Pragmatic Genealogy

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 10 (37):1057-1081 (2023)
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Pragmatic Genealogy involves constructing fictional, quasi-historical models in order to discover what might explain and justify our concepts, ideas or practices. It arguably originated with Hume, but its most prominent practitioners are Edward Craig, Bernard Williams and Mathieu Queloz. Its defenders allege that the method allows us to understand “what the concept does for us, what its role in our life might be” (Craig, 1990), and that this in turn can ground practical reasons to preserve or further a conceptual practice. In this paper, I argue that none of this is true, and that only a turn to the actual recent history of such practices can reveal those sorts of practical reasons.

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Nick Smyth
Fordham University


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