Stoic Pragmatism (American Philosophy)
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John Lachs, one of American philosophy's most distinguished interpreters, turns to William James, Josiah Royce, Charles S. Peirce, John Dewey, and George Santayana to elaborate stoic pragmatism, or a way to live life within reasonable limits. Stoic pragmatism makes sense of our moral obligations in a world driven by perfectionist human ambition and unreachable standards of achievement. Lachs proposes a corrective to pragmatist amelioration and stoic acquiescence by being satisfied with what is good enough. This personal, yet modest, philosophy offers penetrating insights into the American way of life and our human character.
they will no doubt continue to be necessary for educating young professionals. But more and more philosophers will become attached to other departments, and double appointments and secondary appointments may open the minds of others to the areas of the university and of community life where they can make lasting contributions. The future lies in regaining for philosophy the power it once enjoyed and making it again a central player in the drama of gradual human self-improvement. WHAT CAN
of the monumental ﬁgures now called “Continental rationalists” and “British empiricists.” The great rationalists Descartes, Spinoza, and WHAT CAN PHILOSOPHY DO TO MAKE LIFE BETTER? 5 Leibniz were from the continent of Europe; the empiricists Locke, Berkeley, and Hume were subjects of the British crown. The rationalists recommended intuitively evident premises and logical reasoning as the method of philosophy. The empiricists, by contrast, maintained that philosophical knowledge must have its
on any idea and cannot present a single truth as authenticated by their methods? This is a conclusive objection to philosophy for those who prize unanimity. The leading faculty in philosophy, however, is the imagination, not reason. Philosophical thinking spreads a feast of alternatives. It opens the mind to the values of other people and enriches our sympathies for what may seem alien forms of life. It also presents diﬀerent sorts of belief, placing what we have been taught from childhood in a
not at all surprising. But it is particularly lamentable in America, where the tradition of the public intellectual and social critic goes back at least to Emerson and Thoreau. By the ﬁrst decade of the twentieth century, pragmatists such as William James and John Dewey had set the standard for the eﬀective involvement of philosophers in their communities. Seventy-ﬁve years later, all this seemed lost, as philosophers turned inward to focus their attention on their language and concepts. The
The World and the Individual, First Series (New York: Macmillan, 1923), p. 292. 25. See Character, p. 65ﬀ. AN ONTOLOGY FOR STOIC PRAGMATISM 153 Schopenhauer for the double-perspective view, but Santayana embraces what Royce rejects in the great pessimist, namely the dark vision of unredeemed suﬀering. Royce’s view of the uniqueness and insularity of individuals does not imply social isolation. To the contrary, he insists that the self can emerge only as a result of commitment to a cause,