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Pragmatism: A Reader [Paperback]

Louis Menand
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 7 1997 Vintage
Pragmatism has been called America's only major contribution to philosophy. But since its birth was announced a century ago in 1898 by William James, pragmatism has played a vital role in almost every area of American intellectual and cultural life, inspiring judges, educators, politicians, poets, and social prophets.

Now the major texts of American pragmatism, from William James and John Dewey to Richard Rorty and Cornel West, have been brought together and reprinted unabridged. From the first generation of pragmatists, including the Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and the founder of semiotics, Charles Sanders Peirce, to the leading figures in the contemporary pragmatist revival, including the philosopher Hilary Putnam, the jurist Richard Posner, and the literary critic Richard Poirier, all the contributors to this volume are remarkable for the wit and vigor of their prose and the mind-clearing force of their ideas. Edited and with an Introduction by Louis Menand, Pragmatism: A Reader will provide both the general reader and the student of American culture with excitement and pleasure.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-openingly Good! Feb. 10 2001
Format:Paperback
This book is astounding! It manages to accomplish in around 500 pages the twin tasks of giving a functional outline of the rise and rise of pragmatic thought and also to give examples, old and new, of that same pragmatic thought. The three more well-known "founders" (popularisers) of this philosophical method slash attitude are here in C.S. Peirce, William James and John Dewey along with an interesting selection of more modern pragmatists, such as Richard Rorty (of course!), Cornel West and Hilary Putnam. One name that is missing from the contemporary selection is Stanley Fish, but since he seems to aim his sights indiscriminately he may be thought to be rather roguish for this sane and coherent selection of writings that the editor, Louis Menand, has pulled together.
In his introductory piece Menand charts Pragmatism's birth in the universities of north eastern America in the second half of the nineteenth century and points up some of its distinctives (of which there are very few and deliberately so). This piece is worth the price of the book itself for its clarity, insight and authority. The choices Menand makes in presenting the pragmatic thinkers will always be one of judgment and decision (Are the two writings he chooses from Richard Rorty's work, "Philosophy as a Kind of Writing" and "Postmodernist Bourgeois Liberalism" really more appropriate to this collection? I would choose others.) and we may quibble with one or two and suggest others but Menand has made his choices and given his rationale and we, as readers, can ask no more.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A good selection of readings with all sorts different authors. Putnam, James, Rorty, Dewy and West--just to name a few. The selections are interesting and varied enough to give the beginner to pragmatism an interesting first or second taste. For those that are more familiar with pragmatism, this gives a selection of authors that one may not be familiar with (be they contemporaries like Putnam or one of the originators like Dewey). Pragmatism apart from being (arguably) "true" (and any pragmatist should understand the scare quotes) is also a whole lot of fun!! An anthology with variety and short-ish readings is doubly so. Also, the introduction I think, is to be commended. It's pretty good and would be worth reading apart from this collection.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
74 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-openingly Good! Feb. 10 2001
By peculiar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is astounding! It manages to accomplish in around 500 pages the twin tasks of giving a functional outline of the rise and rise of pragmatic thought and also to give examples, old and new, of that same pragmatic thought. The three more well-known "founders" (popularisers) of this philosophical method slash attitude are here in C.S. Peirce, William James and John Dewey along with an interesting selection of more modern pragmatists, such as Richard Rorty (of course!), Cornel West and Hilary Putnam. One name that is missing from the contemporary selection is Stanley Fish, but since he seems to aim his sights indiscriminately he may be thought to be rather roguish for this sane and coherent selection of writings that the editor, Louis Menand, has pulled together.
In his introductory piece Menand charts Pragmatism's birth in the universities of north eastern America in the second half of the nineteenth century and points up some of its distinctives (of which there are very few and deliberately so). This piece is worth the price of the book itself for its clarity, insight and authority. The choices Menand makes in presenting the pragmatic thinkers will always be one of judgment and decision (Are the two writings he chooses from Richard Rorty's work, "Philosophy as a Kind of Writing" and "Postmodernist Bourgeois Liberalism" really more appropriate to this collection? I would choose others.) and we may quibble with one or two and suggest others but Menand has made his choices and given his rationale and we, as readers, can ask no more. What is served up is insightful and powerful (when taken together) as an example of pragmatic thoughts in practice and, as such, demonstrates the oft written thought of William James that Pragmatism "does not stand for any special results. It is a method only." James means that pragmatists don't have to agree to be pragmatic for being pragmatic is "trac[ing] out in the imagination the conceivable practical consequences.....of the affirmation or denial" (C.S. Peirce) of whatever belief, truth or proposal you have in mind. Thus, we realise that Pragmatism as a philosophy is at least contextual, subjective and case by case. As a reader in Pragmatism this book does a superb job of demonstrating this and Menand, as editor, is to be congratulated. Much recommended.
PoSTmodERnFoOL
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Anthology by Any Standard Dec 29 2012
By David Milliern - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have found that these single-subject anthologies do more than attempt to provide a baseline of knowledge of a given subject, they also act as an advertisement to get readers to further explore subject. On that note, I can summarize the quality of this anthology in three words: I am sold. I was so rapt in reading the "old school" pragmatists that I ended up going to the library and snagging the whole volumes that are included in the anthology, as well as some other by Peirce and James. Coming at this volume with only "The Varieties of Religious Experience" under my belt, I feel as though I have a pretty solid understanding on what pragmatism means, the kinds of ideas it advances, and the general sentiments of its proponents, regardless of what area of thought they specialize in (psychology, philosophy proper, law, social justice, etc.) -and it is thanks to the assortment of works compiled, here. I really do feel as though the texts chosen and edited create a very thematic whole, one in which I easily saw the isomorphisms among the choices.

Overall, I recommend this work to anyone seeking to just get feel for pragmatism, in general, or someone who is looking into whether they may want to read deeply into the pragmatists; or if you know approximately what the pragmatists are about, but don't know which ones you would like to read. I very much enjoyed this book.

I figured I would give a list of the authors included, since Amazon does not have a look-inside feature on this book yet: Charles Sander Peirce, William James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Dewey, Jane Addams, George Herbert Mead, Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, Steve Knapp, Walter Benn Michaels, Richard J. Bernstein, Cornel West, Richard A. Posner, Richard Poirier, Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob.
31 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Helpful and interesting. 3-stars...but I'm hard to please... July 8 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A good selection of readings with all sorts different authors. Putnam, James, Rorty, Dewy and West--just to name a few. The selections are interesting and varied enough to give the beginner to pragmatism an interesting first or second taste. For those that are more familiar with pragmatism, this gives a selection of authors that one may not be familiar with (be they contemporaries like Putnam or one of the originators like Dewey). Pragmatism apart from being (arguably) "true" (and any pragmatist should understand the scare quotes) is also a whole lot of fun!! An anthology with variety and short-ish readings is doubly so. Also, the introduction I think, is to be commended. It's pretty good and would be worth reading apart from this collection.
20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You have to be into the subject matter! Oct. 2 2004
By Reviewer X - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent and vert comprehensive overview of Pragmatism. This is only one thing that needs to be pointed out that wasn't directly stated in the other reviews. You have to be extremely interested in the subject matter and have a background in philosophy to firmly grasp the complex issues. Some chapters are more accessible to the layman than others, while the slight majority of them are difficult reads for anyone. I enjoyed the book and I absolutely loved some of the writings, especially William James's works, but it was not an easy read.

Lastly, the book was a little too dry. I have read other pragmatist works that were humorous and insightful while also being easily accessible to virtually all readers. This volume had none of these and that is a shame. Other than that the book was excellent and highly informative.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Feb. 10 2008
By Zorro-3 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Could be considered the "sequel" to the other "Pragmatism" (by William James.) James sort of sketched the landscape and this book fills in the detail, with color. If you haven't read James's book, read it first, then this one.

Both eminently readable, but only for those who are into such things.
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