Language or Experience? – That’s not the Question: A Case for Reflexivity

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Analytic philosophy of language has often criticized classical pragmatism for holding to an unwarranted notion of experience which lapses into epistemological foundationalism; defenders of the classics have denied such a consequence. The paper tries to move this debate forward by pointing out that the criticism of the empiricist “given” is not wedded to a specific philosophical method, be it linguistic or pragmatist. From a broader historical perspective drawing in particular on Kant, antifoundationalism turns out to be deeply rooted in modern western philosophy and its ambivalent attitude towards the success of the empirical sciences. This diagnosis allows to reassess classical pragmatism beyond the perceived alternative “language vs. experience”, and to concentrate on antifoundationalism as the real challenge to any modern, epistemologically oriented philosophy. In that perspective, classical pragmatism’s genuine contribution is to do justice to antifoundationalism by focusing on the experimental dynamic of scientific practice, which is most commonly ignored by the analytic tradition. Pragmatism identifies rationality with the practical operation of reflexively determining and articulating what is being experienced. With this approach, it is argued, experiential pragmatism serves modern antifoundationalism ends better than its analytic siblings.
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Empirical Content.Davidson, Donald

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