Realism with a Human Face

Realism with a Human Face

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The time has come to reform philosophy, says Hilary Putnam, one of America's great philosophers. He calls upon philosophers to attend to the gap between the present condition of their subject and the human aspirations that philosophy should and once did claim to represent. Putnam's goal is to embed philosophy in social life.

The first part of this book is dedicated to metaphysical questions. Putnam rejects the contemporary metaphysics that insists on describing both the mind and the world from a God's-eye view. In its place he argues for pluralism, for a philosophy that is not a closed systematic method but a human practice connected to real life. Philosophy has a task, to be sure, but it is not to provide an inventory of the basic furniture of the universe or to separate reality in itself from our own projections. Putnam makes it clear that science is not in the business of describing a ready-made world, and philosophy should not be in that business either.

The author moves on to show that the larger human context in which science matters is a world of values animated by ethics and aesthetic judgments. No adequate philosophy should try to explain away ethical facts. The dimension of history is added in the third part of the book. Here Putnam takes up a set of American philosophers, some firmly within and others outside the canon of analytic philosophy, such as William James and C. S. Peirce, and he explores the pragmatist contribution to philosophy from James to Quine and Goodman.

This book connects issues in metaphysics with cultural and literary issues and argues that the collapse of philosophical realism does not entail a fall into the abyss of relativism and postmodern skepticism. It is aimed primarily at philosophers but should appeal to a wide range of humanists and social scientists.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 422 pages
  • 156 x 235 x 24.89mm | 544g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0674749456
  • 9780674749450
  • 884,252

Table of contents

Introduction by James Conant PART 1: METAPHYSICS 1. Realism with a Human Face A. Realism B. Relativism 2. A Defense of Internal Realism 3. After Empiricism 4. Is Water Necessarily H2O? 5. Is the Causal Structure of the Physical Itself Something Physical? 6. Truth and Convention 7. Why Is a Philosopher? 8. The Craving for Objectivity PART 2: ETHICS AND AESTHETICS 9. Beyond the Fact/Value Dichotomy 10. The Place of Facts in a World of Values 11. Objectivity and the Science/Ethics Distinction 12. How Not to Solve Ethical Problems 13. Taking Rules Seriously 14. Scientific Liberty and Scientific License 15. Is There a Fact of the Matter about Fiction? PART 3: STUDIES IN AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY 16. William James's Ideas (with Ruth Anna Putnam) 17. James's Theory of Perception 18. Peirce the Logician 19. The Way the World Is 20. The Greatest Logical Positivist 21. Meaning Holism 22. Nelson Goodman's Fact, Fiction, and Forecast Notes Credits Index
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Review quote

There are many strengths in these essays. Like all his work, they are highly readable; they are on deep and general issues; they contain forceful critiques, particularly of such diverse figures as Ayer and Rorty; and Putnam's first-order views in ethics are compassionate and imaginative... Any reader of these vivid and provocative essays will be forced to rethink his views somewhere. -- Christopher Peacocke * Times Literary Supplement * In this excellent collection of thematically linked essays, Harvard philosopher Putnam argues that it is time for philosophy to leave its world of system-building and to return to its true place as a form of thought intimately connected with real life... Highly recommended as an antidote to much 20th-century analytic philosophy and the claimed 'death' of metaphysics. -- Terry Skeats * Library Journal * My current favorite living philosopher is Hilary Putnam, as embodied in his book Realism with a Human Face... In a tone that is simultaneously witty and generous, skeptical and self-revealing, and in sentences that are often a pleasure to read... Putnam's philosophy is a philosophy for our world, a vehicle in which you can comfortably travel right now. -- Wendy Lesser * Threepenny Review *
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About Hilary Putnam

Hilary Putnam was Cogan University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University. James Conant is Chester D. Tripp Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago.
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44 ratings
4 out of 5 stars
5 30% (13)
4 45% (20)
3 20% (9)
2 5% (2)
1 0% (0)
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