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XI-1, 2019 – European Pragmatism

“Pragmatism” can be understood in different ways: more narrowly as a specific school of philosophy, or more broadly, as a perspective on science and human life. C.S. Peirce and W. James understood pragmatism primarily as a distinctive ‘method’ for dealing with philosophical questions. Other proponents of pragmatism found it more important to emphasise its pluralism: in this vein, back at the beginning of the last century, A.O. Lovejoy distinguished thirteen and F.C.S. Schiller seven forms of pragmatism respectively. Recently, despite of many skeptical renounces to find a common ground for pragmatism, some authors interpreted classic American pragmatism as a common project (Calcaterra, Maddalena, Marchetti 2015), underlining pluralism as one of the characteristics of the project itself. When taken in this pluralist way, pragmatists were united – primarily or merely – by a common concern for overthrowing dualisms between theory and action, rationalism and empiricism, science and common sense. They tried different approaches to this common goal, individuating crucial issues as evolutionism, fallibilism, continuity, mediated forms of knowledge, respect for experiments and science.

According to the dominant narrative, pragmatism originated in the U.S. from where it spread to Europe and influenced a wide range of different authors. While there is much truth in this story, it fails to mention that pragmatist themes developed in Europe also independently from the philosophies of classic American pragmatists.

For example, some years after the stemming of classic pragmatism, this contrary stream of thought appeared in the philosophy of science, in which there was a convergence of European Logical Empiricism (e.g., R. Carnap, O. Neurath, M. Schlick, H. Reichenbach) and American Post-classic pragmatists (e.g., Ch. Morris, C.I. Lewis, W.V.O. Quine). However, also at the beginning of the century, there was an original reception of pragmatism in different parts of Europe. Sometimes, this original take developed a peculiar form of pragmatism, sometimes it contributed to the development of other philosophies, as logical empiricism in its different waves.

The purpose of this issue of the European Journal of Pragmatism and American philosophy is to identify and reassess different forms of “European pragmatism,” and how they interacted with American pragmatism.

This volume presents a selection of papers delivered at the International Conference “European Pragmatism. Historical and Contemporary Perspectives,” organized by the Institute Vienna Circle, University of Vienna, April 19-21, 2018. The topic and the quality of the interventions matched the long standing interest of our journal for the historical perspective on pragmatism in Europe. Therefore, the board of directors decided to prepare this special issue of our Journal, hoping that this initiative will foster and ignite further researches.

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