||This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2007)|
Neopragmatism, sometimes called linguistic pragmatism is a recent (since the 1960s) philosophical term for philosophy that reintroduces many concepts from pragmatism. The Blackwell dictionary of Western philosophy (2004) defines "Neo-pragmatism" as follows: "A postmodern version of pragmatism developed by the American philosopher Richard Rorty and drawing inspiration from authors such as John Dewey, Martin Heidegger, Wilfrid Sellars, Quine, and Jacques Derrida. It repudiates the notion of universal truth, epistemological foundationalism, representationalism, and the notion of epistemic objectivity. It is a nominalist approach that denies that natural kinds and linguistic entities have substantive ontological implications. While traditional pragmatism focuses on experience, Rorty centers on language. Language is contingent on use, and meaning is produced by using words in familiar manners. The self is seen as a "centerless web of beliefs and desires", and Rorty denies that the subject-matter of the human sciences can be studied in the same ways as we study the subject-matter of the natural sciences." (Bunnin & Yu, 467)
Also see Postanalytic philosophy.
It has been associated with a variety of other thinkers as well, among them, Hilary Putnam, W.V.O. Quine, Donald Davidson and Stanley Fish though none of these figures have called themselves "neopragmatists".
Neopragmatists, particularly Rorty and Putnam, draw on the ideas of classical pragmatists such as Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. Putnam, in Words and Life (1994) enumerates the ideas in the classical pragmatist tradition, which newer pragmatists find most compelling. To paraphrase Putnam:
- complete skepticism (the notion that a belief in philosophical skepticism requires just as much justification as other beliefs);
- fallibilism (the view that there are no metaphysical guarantees against the need to revise a belief);
- antidualism about "facts" and "values";
- that practice, properly construed, is primary in philosophy. (WL 152)
In 1995 Rorty wrote: "I linguisticize as many pre-linguistic-turn philosophers as I can, in order to read them as prophets of the utopia in which all metaphysical problems have been dissolved, and religion and science have yielded their place to poetry."
Rorty and Pragmatism : The Philosopher Responds to His Critics, edited by Herman J. Saatkamp (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1995).
This "linguistic turn" strategy aims to avoid what Rorty sees as the essentialisms ("truth," "reality," "experience") still extant in classical pragmatism. Rorty writes:
"Analytic philosophy, thanks to its concentration on language, was able to defend certain crucial pragmatist theses better than James and Dewey themselves. [...] By focusing our attention on the relation between language and the rest of the world rather than between experience and nature, post-positivistic analytic philosophy was able to make a more radical break with the philosophical tradition."
Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 21, no. 1 (Winter 1985).
Three basic moves
Linguistic pragmatism revises pragmatism in three basic moves. First, one applauds pragmatists such as James and Dewey for repudiating a variety of methods and goals in traditional philosophy. Second, one renounces their attempts to reconstruct what should not be reconstructed. Finally, one accepts the idea that only language is available to furnish philosophy's material. This step complete, one can create freely, even poetically, in service of whatever ends seem best.
Many people are now writing about "neopragmatism" and so we can expect that definitions will proliferate.
See also↑Jump back a section
- Bunnin & Yu, The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy, p. 467
- Malpas, Jeff, "Donald Davidson", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/davidson/>
- Macarthur, David. “Pragmatism, Metaphysical Quietism and the Problem of Normativity,” Philosophical Topics vol. 36 no. 1 (2009)
- Hildebrand, Beyond Realism and Antirealism: John Dewey and the Neopragmatists (Vanderbilt University Press, 2003) 
- Hildebrand, David L. "The Neopragmatist Turn." Southwest Philosophy Review Vol. 19, no. 1 (January, 2003)