Bite Size Theory: Ontological Relativity

“Ontology is indeed doubly relative. Specifying the universe of a theory makes sense only relative to some background theory, and only relative to some choice of a manual of translation of one theory into the other”.

W.V. Quine, 1969, Ontological Relativity and other essays, Columbia University Press.

Who’s a pragmatist now, then?

Via Leiter Reports, a link to a short piece by the editors of a new Reader on Pragmatism, challenging the standard narrative of the ‘eclipse of pragmatism’ in post-WWII US philosophy – a narrative ascribed to the influence of Richard Rorty’s self-representation of his own post-Analytical apostacy, but also to books such as Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club and John McCumber’s Time in the Ditch which tell the story of this eclipse as political tales, and against which the emergence of ‘neo-pragmatism’ since the 1980s is usually asserted. In line with this argument, the Reader includes pieces by philosophers not usually associated with the ‘canon’ of philosophical pragmatism – Carnap and Quine for example; it also includes Richard Posner, who is often ignored in accounts of the resurgence of pragmatism (not least, for example, when pragmatism in human geography is being discussed; here is Rorty on Posner), and whose inclusion tends to play havoc with a conventional interpretation of the politics of pragmatism as naturally ‘leftish’ (although Posner has recently had a semi-conversion of sorts to a Keynsian-esque position on certain things).