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In this major new work, Richard J. Bernstein argues that many ofthe most important themes in philosophy during the past one hundredand fifty years are variations and developments of ideas that wereprominent in the classical American pragmatists: Charles S. Peirce,William James, John Dewey and George H Mead. Pragmatism begins witha thoroughgoing critique of the Cartesianism that dominated so muchof modern philosophy. The pragmatic thinkers reject a sharpdichotomy between subject and object, mind-body dualism, the questfor certainty and the spectator theory of knowledge. They seek tobring about a sea change in philosophy that highlights the socialcharacter of human experience and normative social practices, theself-correcting nature of all inquiry, and the continuity of theoryand practice. And they-especially James, Dewey, and Mead-emphasizethe democratic ethical-political consequences of a pragmaticorientation. Many of the themes developed by the pragmatic thinkers were alsocentral to the work of major twentieth century philosophers likeWittgenstein and Heidegger, but the so-called analytic-continentalsplit obscures this underlying continuity.
Bernstein develops analternative reading of contemporary philosophy that brings out thepersistence and continuity of pragmatic themes. He criticallyexamines the work of leading contemporary philosophers who havebeen deeply influenced by pragmatism, including Hilary Putnam,Jurgen Habermas, Richard Rorty, and Robert Brandom, and heexplains why the discussion of pragmatism is so alive, varied andwidespread. This lucid, wide-ranging book by one of America'sleading philosophers will be compulsory reading for anyone whowants to understand the state of philosophy today.