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Rethinking Pragmatism: From William James to Contemporary Philosophy

ISBN: 978-0-470-67469-7
184 pages
December 2014, Wiley-Blackwell
Rethinking Pragmatism: From William James to Contemporary Philosophy (0470674695) cover image


Rethinking Pragmatism explores the work of the American Pragmatists, particularly James and Dewey, challenging entrenched views of their positions on truth, meaning, instrumentalism, realism, pluralism and religious beliefs.  It clarifies pragmatic ideas and arguments spelling out the significant implications they have for present-day philosophical controversies.


  • Explores the work of the American Pragmatists, especially James and Dewey, on the issues of truth, reference, meaning, instrumentalism, essences, realism, pluralism and religious beliefs.
  • The only available publication to provide a detailed commentary on James's book, Pragmatism, while exploring the implications of the American Pragmatists' ideas and arguments for contemporary philosophical issues
  • Challenges standard readings of the American Pragmatists' positions in a way that illuminates and questions the assumptions underlying current discussions of these topics.
  • Coherently arranged by structuring the book around the themes discussed in each chapter of James's original work.
  • Provides a new analysis and understanding of the pragmatic theory of truth and semantics.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii

Bibliographic Key ix

Introduction 1

Background Themes 9

1 The Place of Values in Inquiry (Lecture I) 15

2 The Pragmatic Maxim and Pragmatic Instrumentalism (Lecture II) 31

3 Substance and Other Metaphysical Claims (Lecture III) 52

4 Materialism, Physicalism, and Reduction (Lecture IV) 67

5 Ontological Commitment and the Nature of the Real (Lecture V) 78

6 Pragmatic Semantics and Pragmatic Truth (Lecture VI) 92

7 Worldmaking (Lecture VII) 124

8 Belief, Hope, and Conjecture (Lecture VIII) 140

Bibliography 157

Index 163

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Author Information

Robert Schwartz is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He has taught at Rockefeller University and CUNY and has been a visiting professor at, amongst others, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Vision: Variations on Some Berkeleian Themes (Blackwell, 1994) and Visual Versions (MIT Press, 2006) and the editor of Perception (Blackwell, 2004). He has published numerous articles developing pragmatic approaches to issues in epistemology, language, metaphysics, and the philosophy of science. 

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“Summing Up: Highly recommended.  Lower-division undergraduates and above.”  (Choice, 1 May 2013)

Robert Schwartz asks us to rethink pragmatism and he is especially enlightening on how to rethink the pragmatism of James and Dewey. This book will be an essential part in what is becoming a deeply interesting movement to reinvigorate pragmatism.

-Cheryl Misak, University of Toronto

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