A Pragmatic Realism: Events, Powers, and Relations in the Metaphysics of Objective Relativism

Dissertation, University of Oregon (2013)
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The early twentieth century witnessed the emergence of "objective relativism," a distinctly American school of metaphysical realism inspired by the works of John Dewey and A.N. Whitehead. Largely forgotten, objective relativism provided a metaphysical framework, based upon an ontology of events and relations rather than substances and discrete properties, that has continued relevance for contemporary metaphysical discussions. In this thesis, I attempt to chart the boundaries and pathways of this ontology, outlining what Dewey calls the "ground-map of the province of criticism." In particular, the ground-map of objective relativism is invoked to situate and analyze the model of psycho-physical emergence outlined in Dewey's Experience and Nature. Because it is a relational ontology, objective relativism avoids problems with emergence common to substantival models. Additional analyses of its ontological premises, both in Dewey's writings and elsewhere, demonstrate how compelling accounts of causation, consciousness, and meaning may be formulated within this model.
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