Reconstructing Pragmatism: Richard Rorty and the Classical Pragmatists

Reconstructing Pragmatism: Richard Rorty and the Classical Pragmatists


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Lynn Library Catalog Record


The figure of Richard Rorty stands in complex relation to the tradition of American pragmatism. On the one hand, his intellectual creativity, lively prose, and bridge-building fueled the contemporary resurgence of pragmatism. On the other, his polemical claims and selective interpretations function as a negative, fixed pole against which thinkers of all stripes define themselves. Virtually all pragmatists on the contemporary scene, whether classical or "new," Deweyan, Jamesian, or Peircean, use Rorty as a foil to justify their positions. The resulting internecine quarrels and divisions threaten to fragment and thwart the tradition's creative potential. More caricatured than understood, the specter of Rorty continues to block the road of inquiry and future development of pragmatism.

Reconstructing Pragmatism moves beyond the Rortyan impasse by providing what has been missing for decades: a constructive, non-polemical account of Rorty's relation to classical pragmatism. The first book-length treatment of Rorty's intellectual debt to the early pragmatists, the volume establishes his selective appropriations not as misunderstandings or distortions but a sustained, intentional effort to reconstruct their thinking. Featuring chapters devoted to five key pragmatist thinkers--Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, John Dewey, Josiah Royce, and Jane Addams--the book draws on archival sources and the full scope of Rorty's writings to challenge prevailing misconceptions and caricatures. By elaborating Rorty's still largely untapped reconstructive resources, the book reveals limitations in predominant views of the classical pragmatists in current debates and opens up new modes of understanding pragmatism and why it matters today.

Book Format



College of Arts and Sciences



Publication Date



Oxford University Press


New York, NY

Reconstructing Pragmatism: Richard Rorty and the Classical Pragmatists