Pragmatism and Naturalism

Pragmatism and Naturalism

Scientific and Social Inquiry After Representationalism

Matthew C. Bagger, Matthew C. Bagger, Scott Davis, Nancy Frankenberry, Terry F. Godlove


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Most contemporary philosophers would call themselves naturalists, yet there is little consensus on what naturalism entails. Long signifying the notion that science should inform philosophy, debates over naturalism often hinge on how broadly or narrowly the terms nature and science are defined. The founding figures of American Pragmatism—C. S. Peirce (1839–1914), William James (1842–1910), and John Dewey (1859–1952)—developed a distinctive variety of naturalism by rejecting reductive materialism and instead emphasizing social practices. Owing to this philosophical lineage, pragmatism has made original and insightful contributions to the study of religion as well as to political theory.

In Pragmatism and Naturalism, distinguished scholars examine pragmatism’s distinctive form of nonreductive naturalism and consider its merits for the study of religion, democratic theory, and as a general philosophical orientation. Nancy Frankenberry, Philip Kitcher, Wayne Proudfoot, Jeffrey Stout, and others evaluate the contribution pragmatism can make to a viable naturalism, explore what distinguishes pragmatic naturalism from other naturalisms on offer, and address the pertinence of pragmatic naturalism to methodological issues in the study of religion. In parts dedicated to historical pragmatists, pragmatism in the philosophy and the study of religion, and pragmatism and democracy, they display the enduring power and contemporary relevance of pragmatic naturalism.