Idealism & Pragmatism: Convergence or Contestation? è l’interessante progetto sviluppato da Department of Philosophy at Sheffield insieme ai dipartimenti di filosofia delle Università di Cambridge, Columbia, Frankfurt, Pittsburgh, Sydney, Vanderbilt e con il Collège de France che si propone di studiare le relazioni tra l’idealismo e il pragmatismo.
“Idealism and pragmatism are two of the major schools in philosophy, where both have distinguished histories as well as considerable contemporary resonance.
Idealism is the older tradition, with roots in Plato and Platonism, and has developed into a myriad of forms: for example, platonic idealism, Berkeleyian idealism, rationalist idealism, Kantian idealism, and absolute idealism. Underlying this variety is the claim that reality contains more than matter, but is also constituted by ideas or mental structures, where it is an issue for dispute within this tradition whether these ideas are outside and prior to individual minds, whether they only exist in such minds along with reality itself, or whether reality consists in some combination of mind-imposed ideas and mind-independent elements. The intellectual power of this tradition is indicated by its longevity, where amongst other things it claims to offer a unique solution to questions concerning knowledge, the law-like features of the natural world, freedom, and the place of norms and values within reality.
Pragmatism as such is a more of a new-comer, with its acknowledged origins being traceable to the work of philosophers such as C. S. Peirce and William James in the mid nineteenth century – though arguably the antecedents of this tradition go back to earlier figures such as Thomas Reid. The outlook can be summarized in the so-called pragmatic maxim of Peirce, that ‘a conception, that is, the rational purport of a word or other conception, lies exclusively in its conceivable bearing upon the conduct of life’. As such, pragmatism offers a distinctive account of meaning, knowledge and metaphysics, which is opposed to the abstractions of a philosophy that has no relation to our activities within the world.
Laid out as such, it may seem that idealism and pragmatism have little to do with one another and could indeed be seen as intellectual opponents; and some of their defenders have in fact viewed their relation in this way. So, it may appear on the one hand to pragmatists, that the idealist represents just the kind of empty and abstract metaphysical theorizing that they want to overturn, while to idealists on the other hand, the pragmatist may be viewed as offering a position that cannot resolve the problems that concern them, in refusing to engage with such problems properly by offering instead a crude appeal to ‘practical consequences’. It could be assumed, then, that these two traditions will simply confront each other as philosophical opposites.
However, on closer inspection, it is clear that historically this has been far from the case, while looking forward, there is much to be learned from exploring common ground, as well as thinking more deeply about where the divergences between them may lie”.