royal institute

royal institute

Cheryl Misak: Cambridge Pragmatism (Royal Institute of Philosophy)

3mo ago
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C.S. Peirce and William James brought pragmatism into being in the 1870′s in Cambridge Massachusetts. By the early 1900′s, James’ version of it had become much discussed on both sides of the Atlantic – indeed, Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore in Cambridge England were savaging James’ view of truth. But in the early 1920’s, the young Frank Ramsey was taking a serious interest in Peirce’s neglected work. Had Ramsey lived past the age of 26, pragmatism’s fortunes would have been very different. For not only were Ramsey’s important papers on truth and probability heavily and explicitly threaded with Peirce’s thoughts about the relationship between belief and habits of action, but at the time of his death in 1930, Ramsey was working on a book that would have delivered what I shall suggest is the best version of pragmatism. Ramsey is usually taken to be a straightforward redundancy theorist. But his view is not that truth can be eliminated by asserting the sentences of which it is predicated. He takes his cue from Peirce and argues that all there is to the concept of truth is what we can get out of the practices of belief and assertion. But when we unpack the commitments we incur when we assert and believe, we find that our theory of truth must be substantive and normative.