Words and Life

Words and Life

3.53 (15 ratings by Goodreads)
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Hilary Putnam has been convinced for some time that the present situation in philosophy calls for revitalization and renewal; in this latest book he shows us what shape he would like that renewal to take. Words and Life offers a sweeping account of the sources of several of the central problems of philosophy, past and present, and of why some of those problems are not going to go away. As the titles of the first four parts in the volume--"The Return of Aristotle," "The Legacy of Logical Positivism," "The Inheritance of Pragmatism," and "Essays after Wittgenstein"--suggest, many of the essays are concerned with tracing the recent, and the not so recent, history of these problems.

The goal is to bring out what is coercive and arbitrary about some of our present ways of posing the problems and what is of continuing interest in certain past approaches to them. Various supposedly timeless philosophical problems appear, on closer inspection, to change with altered historical circumstances, while there turns out to be much of permanent value in Aristotle's, Peirce's, Dewey's, and Reichenbach's work on some of the problems that continue to exercise us.

A unifying theme of the volume as a whole is that reductionism, scientism, and old-style disenchanted naturalism tend to be obstacles to philosophical progress. The titles of the final three parts of the volume--"Truth and Reference," "Mind and Language," and "The Diversity of the Sciences"--indicate that the sweep of the problems considered here comprehends all the fundamental areas of contemporary analytic philosophy. Rich in detail, the book is also grand in scope, allowing us to trace the ongoing intellectual evolution of one of the most significant philosophers of the century.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 608 pages
  • 156 x 235 x 35.05mm | 771g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • None
  • 0674956079
  • 9780674956070
  • 2,710,570

Table of contents

Introduction by James Conant 1. The Return of Aristotle A. How Old Is the Mind? B. Changing Aristotle's Mind(with Martha C. Nussbaum) C. Aristotle after Wittgenstein 2. The Legacy of Logical Positivism A. Logical Positivism and Intentionality B. Reichenbach's Metaphysical Picture C. Reichenbach and the Myth of the Given D. Reichenbach and the Limits of Vindication 3. The Inheritance of Pragmatism A. Pragmatism and Moral Objectivity B. Pragmatism and Relativism: Universal Values and Traditional Ways of Life C. Dewey's Logic: Epistemology as Hypothesis(with Ruth Anna Putnam) D. Education for Democracy(with Ruth Anna Putnam) 4. Essays after Wittgenstein A. Rethinking Mathematical Necessity B. Does the Disquotational Theory of Truth Solve All Philosophical Problems? C. Realism without Absolutes D. The Question of Realism 5. Truth and Reference A. On Truth B. A Comparison of Something with Something Else C. Model Theory and the "Factuality"of Semantics D. Probability and the Mental 6. Mind and Language A. Artificial Intelligence: Much Ado about Not Very Much B. Models and Modules: Fodor's The Modularity of Mind C. Reflexive Reflections D. Reductionism and the Nature of Psychology E. Why Functionalism Didn't Work 6. The Diversity of the Sciences A. The Diversity of the Sciences B. The Idea of Science C. Three Kinds of Scientific Realism D. Philosophy of Mathematics: Why Nothing Works E. The Cultural Impact of Newton: Pope's Essay on Man and Those "Happy Pieties" Credits Index
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Review quote

Putnam has in mind the difference between respecting science and accepting materialist ideology. Specifically, he argues against metaphysical realism, the fact/value and fact/convention dichotomies, and reducing intentionality to physics or regarding it as a mere illusion, and for the connection between truth and justification...Putnam writes with his usual clarity and vigor. -- Robert Hoffman Library Journal Putnam is one of the foremost philosophers writing today and this volume collects many of his forays in current philosophical discourse. Reader's Review The book strikes one...as fresh and exciting. This is undoubtedly due to its highly critical approach to current analytical philosophy. Analytical philosophy seems recently to have been overcome by the need to reflect on and challenge its past. Putnam has earned the right to hit out at that past if anyone has. -- Max de Gaynesford Radical Philosophy
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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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