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Pragmatism's EvolutionOrganism and Environment in American Philosophy$
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Trevor Pearce

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226719887

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226720081.001.0001

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(p.332) Conclusion
Pragmatism's Evolution

Trevor Pearce

University of Chicago Press

The conclusion returns to some of the questions posed in the introduction and summaries the book’s answers. For example, Herbert Spencer was at least as important as Charles Darwin for the first-cohort pragmatists, and he was arguably even more important than Darwin for the older members of the second cohort. Thus, evolutionary ideas in the late nineteenth century were not synonymous with those of Darwin. Turning to the implications of the book’s final chapters, the conclusion notes that although there are some ethicists today who have self-consciously adopted a pragmatist approach to moral and social problems, it is an open question whether a specifically biological pragmatism is still relevant in ethics. It also observes that recent developments in the philosophy of science have undermined the view that pragmatists are enemies of objectivity. Finally, it suggests that there are resources within pragmatism—William James’s discussion of saintliness and W. E. B. Du Bois’s defense of activism—that may allow pragmatists to respond to Leonard Harris’s accusation that pragmatism is incompatible with revolutionary action.

Keywords:   Herbert Spencer, Charles Darwin, William James, W. E. B. Du Bois, Leonard Harris, pragmatism, objectivity, philosophy of science, revolution

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