A System of Pragmatic Idealism, Volume III: Metaphilosophical Inquiries

A System of Pragmatic Idealism, Volume III: Metaphilosophical Inquiries

Nicholas Rescher
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 288
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    A System of Pragmatic Idealism, Volume III: Metaphilosophical Inquiries
    Book Description:

    This is the third and final volume ofA System of Pragmatic Idealism,a series that will synthesize the life's work of the philosopher Nicholas Rescher. Rescher's numerous books and articles, which address almost every major philosophical topic, reflect a unified approach: the combination of pragmatism and idealism characteristic of his thinking throughout his career. The three related but independently readable books of the series present Rescher's system as a whole. In combining leading ideas of European continental idealism and American pragmatism in a new way, Rescher has created an integrated philosophical position in which the central concepts of these two traditions become a coherent totality.

    The initial volume in the series was dedicated to epistemology, the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of nature, while the second dealt with issues of value theory, ethics, and practical philosophy. In Volume III Rescher examines the nature of philosophical inquiry itself, seeking to affirm the classical conception of philosophy as a significant problem-solving enterprise that draws on the whole range of human experience to attempt to resolve the "big questions."

    Originally published in 1994.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6383-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Displays
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    Philosophizing has been a major component of the Western intellectual tradition from classical antiquity onward But only since the days of Immanuel Kant have philosophers bestowed much attention on the nature of philosophy itself—with the embarrassing exception of the nihilistic skeptics who, almost from the start of the enterprise in classical antiquity, have maintained its total infeasibility Nowadays such a skeptical stance has once more become prominent on the contemporary scene, manifesting a widespread skeptical rejection of all philosophizing in the traditional mode and proceeding on the idea that we have entered a “postphilosophical” era in which this sort...

    • One The Mission of Philosophy
      (pp. 3-16)

      Philosophizing represents the human mind’s attempt to bring intelligible order into our often chaotic experience of the world’s doings. The history of philosophy constitutes the ongoing process of people’s attempts to deploy ideas to make the seemingly endless diversity and complexity that surrounds us on all sides rationally comprehensible. Philosophy’s instruments are concepts and theories—ideational structures—and it deploys them in quest of understanding, in the attempt to create a thought structure that provides us with an intellectual home that affords a habitable thought shelter in a complex and difficult world.

      The mission of philosophy is to ask, and...

    • Two The Holistic Nature of Philosophy
      (pp. 17-35)

      Economists characterize as “externalities” the costs that a given agent’s operations engender for others in the economic system They are expenditures that one agent’s proceedings exact—willingly or unwillingly—from other agents, operating costs that an agent simply off-loads onto the wider community One engenders such expenses elsewhere in the course of addressing one’s own economic concerns, as, for example, when a farmer’s fertilizers contaminate the drinking water of his neighbors

      It is interesting and instructive to observe that substantially the same phenomenon arises in philosophy as well In solving a problem within some particular philosophical domain, we also may...

    • Three Philosophical Methodology
      (pp. 36-58)

      Philosophers generally pursue their mission of grappling with the traditional “big questions” regarding ourselves, the world, and our place within its scheme of things by means of what is perhaps best characterized asrational conjecture. Conjecture comes into it because those questions arise most pressingly where the available information does not suffice, where they are not straightforwardly answerable in terms of what has already been established. What is needed here is anampliativemethodology of inquiry, one that is so in C. S. Peirce’s sense of underwriting contentions whose assertoric content goes beyond the evidence in hand.¹ We need to...

    • Four Conceptual Schemes and Philosophical Pluralism
      (pp. 61-78)

      Philosophers often say things to the general effect that those whose experience of the world is substantially different from our own are bound in consequence to conceive it in very different terms. Sociologists, anthropologists, and linguists say much the same sort of thing, and students of science have recently also come to talk in this way. According to Thomas Kuhn, for example, scientists who work within different scientific traditions—and thus operate with different descriptive and explanatory “paradigms”—actually “live in different worlds.”¹

      Supporting considerations for this position have been advanced from very different points of view. In the last...

    • Five Can Different Thinkers Debate the Same Issues?
      (pp. 79-88)

      Different conceptual schemes make for different approaches in philosophizing. Do they thereby render contact or clash between different philosophical traditions and schools of thought impossible? Do their different ways of thinking about things make it impossible for philosophers to come to grips—let alone come to terms—with one another in dealing with common issues?

      To all intents and purposes, philosophers fall into groupings that are internally united by an affinity of doctrinal fundamentals but divided from one another in distinct “schools of thought” and “traditions.” On even casual scrutiny, it certainly seems to be a fact of life that...

    • Six Against Exotic Hypotheses: The Need for Consulting Experience
      (pp. 89-103)

      Philosophy’s very reason for being is to enable us to categorize, describe, and explain what goes on—to understand the world about us and our place within its scheme of things The discipline exists to elucidate the issues arising out of what we encounter in experience Accordingly, the conceptions and categories in whose terms we pose the fundamental questions of our philosophical deliberations are rooted in those of everyday life, in which, after all, those questions initially arise And the conceptual machinery that we generally employ in everyday life is contrived through a historical course of development with a view...

    • Seven Philosophical Standardism
      (pp. 104-119)

      Traditionally, philosophers see philosophizing as a labor of pure reason and hold, with Spinoza, that “it is in the nature of reason to regard things not as contingent, but as necessary”¹ They construe philosophizing as committed to necessitarian aspirations by its very nature as a venture in rational inquiry But the very history of the discipline amply indicates that this position is altogether unavailing In philosophy, as elsewhere, reason without experience is blind Once we accept this and acknowledge that philosophizing too has an experiential dimension by virtue of which its deliverances become to some extent contingent and vulnerable to...

    • Eight Experiential Perspectivism in Philosophy
      (pp. 120-134)

      Our philosophizing is inseparably linked to the perspective on the world’s course of things that experience provides for us One’s rationally formed beliefs in all domains, philosophy included, are rooted in the experience-derived cognitive values, standards, and criteria that furnish us with norms of acceptability In consequence, the diversity of human experience makes for an inevitable pluralism in philosophy

      The view that different fundamental intellectual stances toward the nature of things mundane or divine engender a variety of different philosophical positions is virtually as old as philosophy itself In fact, no student of the history of the subject can fail...

    • Nine The History of Philosophical Taxonomy as Evidence for Empiricism
      (pp. 135-152)

      The history of attempts to devise a taxonomy of philosophy at large strongly indicates that what best accounts for philosophical diversity is the fundamentally empirical character of the subject For not only must the substantive content of philosophical teachings await the historical development of the subject, but so must the very shape and structure of philosophy itself Accordingly, our understanding of the whole field has to be formed inductively, where historical experience itself has to be our guide

      An early and enormously influential taxonomy of philosophy is represented by the organization of the Aristotelian corpus as canonized by Its Alexandrian...

    • Ten Dispensing with Consensus: Pluralism in Philosophy
      (pp. 155-167)

      Is philosophical pluralism’s prospect of omnipresent disagreement something we can accept as a tolerable state of affairs? Is it really possible—and appropriate—to abandon consensus as a demand of rationality in this domain? Or should we insist that there is really only one viable philosophy and that all the rest are enmired in misunderstanding, delusion, or error? Can one really come to terms with the idea that philosophers cannot reach a meeting of minds, that philosophy cannot attain consensus?

      Following in the footsteps of J S Mill, Charles Sanders Peirce never tired of insisting that where there is a...

    • Eleven Philosophy in Process
      (pp. 168-181)

      Philosophizing does not—cannot—erect a structure good for all times and places. In philosophy we have both a pluralism of doctrinal diversity at a given time and a historicism of doctrinal change over time. The items with which philosophy deals—questions, concepts, doctrines, and theories—are not fixed objects. They are in a state of ongoing flux, better considered as processes than as products. While philosophical concepts, arguments, and positions do have a characteristic identity, it is the identity of something that changes our lives, just as individuals and states do. For philosophy proceeds dialectically, and the various items...

    • Twelve On Classifying Metaphysical Positions: A Case Study in Pluralism
      (pp. 182-194)

      The pervasively pluralistic situation of philosophy is vividly illustrated in the checkered history of the attempts by its theoreticians to provide a taxonomy of metaphysical positions on a basis that is systematic rather than proceeding from merely contingent historical or biographical considerations. In pursuing this theme, the discussion will focus on proposed classifications of abstractly available metaphysical positions—or at any rate plausible ones—rather than on chronological groupings or periodizations of the particular views of particular individuals. It is, accordingly, the substantive/systematic rather than the chronological/historical survey of metaphysical doctrines that will be the object of present concern.¹


    • Thirteen Reactions to Pluralism
      (pp. 195-223)

      A pluralism of diverse positions is a fact of life in philosophy The most serious indictment of philosophy, so we are told, is its own history¹ Dilthey wrote “Claims to the universal validity of philosophical systems are destroyed by this unfolding of historical awareness even more thoroughly than by the strife of [contemporaneous] systems”² Every philosophical system lays an implicit claim to the unrestricted validity of its own assertions And yet the claims of each are countermanded by the no less emphatic and confident claims of its rivals The discipline seems to be destroyed by its own fertility, the plurality...

    • Fourteen Rejecting Philosophical Relativism
      (pp. 224-250)

      Perspectival pluralism in philosophy may well seem to lend aid and comfort to a doctrine that is widely advocated—and also widely denounced—under the heading of relativism When construed in terms of an orientation to particular theses, this doctrine of relativism stands roughly as follows “There are no absolute truths we are never in a position to claim with adequate rational warrant that any substantive thesispis actually true (Which is not to say that we cannot be certain of vacuous claims like ‘Ifpis true, thenp’ or ‘Eitherpis true or it is not,’...

  9. Appendix Pragmatic Idealism: A Schematic Sketch of the Overall Position
    (pp. 251-256)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-262)
  11. Name Index
    (pp. 263-266)
  12. Subject Index
    (pp. 267-269)