Pragmatism and other essays

Can one be a strict pragmatist? It seems unlikely if one is to steer clear of dualisms, recognize the tentative nature of concepts and theories and avoid commitment to a supposed First Philosophy. Pragmatism does not merely reach out in all directions to all forms of thought: it is self-conscious and self-reflective and self-critical. That is, it is prone to examine its own ideas as tentative. We may one day need to reformulate parts of some of our thinking about ourselves. And finally, no parts of our thinking are immune to the weight of evidence that might come in future experience.

In response, Peirce says that it would not be false to say that the diamond in question was soft. He states that, “there is absolutely no difference between a hard and a soft thing so long as they are not brought to the test” (Peirce 1992-94, vol. II, p. 131). Peirce’s unwillingness to say that the diamond is hard is, in part, a consequence of the way he ties his pragmatic maxim to his account of inquiry. Since any belief that we form about this particular diamond will fail to meet with recalcitrant evidence (there is no longer a diamond to conduct tests upon and so no possibility of confirming or dis-confirming the statement about the hardness of the diamond) we can form any belief we like about its hardness; it is largely a matter of “verbal disagreement.”

Reader Response critics reject one of the central tenets of the New Critical school that dominated American literary theory for decades. They claim that the reader’s intellectual and emotional reaction to the work is as ripe for anaylsis as the text itself. The reader’s interpretation of the text is influenced by his or her personal background, and thus reading is not a passive experience of objective reality but an active interaction between reader and author through the medium of the written word. Reader response critics such as Louise Rosenblatt investigate the elements that are involved in this crucial interaction.

Pragmatism and other essays

pragmatism and other essays

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