PRAGMATISM AND THE RECONSTRUCTION OF RATIONALITY

ALEXANDER RALPH EODICE, Fordham University

Abstract

Traditional epistemological theories engender a seemingly unending dialectic between forms of objectivism, on the one hand, and forms of relativism/skepticism on the other. The contemporary crisis in epistemology is characterized by a radical questioning of the entire matrix within which such dichotomies are drawn. Does epistemology, as traditionally conceived, offer the best account of rationality? This dissertation is an attempt to show that it does not.^ Though traditional epistemology may be inadequate to the task of giving an account of rationality, it does not follow that we have to give up concepts of certainty and knowledge altogether. Pragmatism gives up the concept of foundational certainty, but replaces it with a new conception. At the same time, pragmatism rejects skepticism, because it is only with respect to foundational notions of truth and certainty that skepticism gains its significance. Pragmatism rejects the theorization of knowledge under some foundational model of truth and rationality. This is no simple skepticism.^ The dilemma that faces the pragmatic critic of epistemology is whether, within the scope a new conversation about knowledge and rationality, he will be able to find a suitable alternative that (1) does not lead back to some version of objectivism (foundationalism) and (2) does not lead back to some form of relativism (skepticism). Pragmatism can supply this alternative by way of a reconstruction of the concept of rationality.^ Rationality is neither an abstract epistemological property of theories nor a method, but a condition of persons. In making this suggestion, I hope to avoid the tragedy of skepticism and preserve a sense of reasonableness and objectivity in knowledge and action. How can a conception of rationality avoid the pitfalls of both objectivism and skepticism? How is such a view not relativistic, and how can it account for objectivity? These questions pose the most serious challenge to the pragmatist who holds both the failure of the tradition and the possibility of rationality. This set of concerns constitutes the major problem of my dissertation.^ In the course of this investigation, I examine themes from Dewey, James, Wittgenstein, Davidson and Putnam, and adopt, on the basis of their views, a critical stance toward objectivist and skeptical critics of pragmatism. ^

Subject Area

Philosophy

Recommended Citation

EODICE, ALEXANDER RALPH, "PRAGMATISM AND THE RECONSTRUCTION OF RATIONALITY" (1987). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8714580.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8714580

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