In our current social landscape, moral questions—about economic disparity, disadvantaging biases, and scarcity—are rightly receiving attention with a sense of urgency. This book argues that classical pragmatism offers a compelling and useful account of our engagement with moral life. The key arguments are first, that a broader reading of the pragmatist tradition than is usually attempted within the context of ethical theory is necessary; and second, that this broad reading offers resources that enable us to move forward in contemporary debates about truth and principles in moral life. The first argument is made by demonstrating that there is an arc of theoretical unity that stretches from two key founders of pragmatism—Charles Sanders Peirce and William James—through the work of John Dewey and Clarence Irving Lewis. The second argument is made by engaging with contemporary debates concerning the truth-status of the judgments and assertions made in ordinary moral discourse, as well as the role and nature of moral principles. Toward a Pragmatist Metaethics will be of interest to scholars of American philosophy, American intellectual history, and moral and political theorists, as well as anyone interested in the contours and demands of shared moral discourse.
Table of Contents
Preface: Historical Orientation, Pressing Problems
Part I: Ethics & Experience in Early American Pragmatism
1. Charles Sanders Peirce: The Roots of Pragmatist Ethics
2. William James: Radical Empiricist, Moral Philosopher
3. John Dewey: Champion of Inquiry
4. Clarence Irving Lewis: The Bridge to Today’s Pragmatism
Part II: Pragmatism & Problems in Contemporary Metaethics
5. A Pragmatist View of Truth in Moral Inquiry
6. A Pragmatist View of Principles in Moral Inquiry
7. Making Metaethics Matter
Diana B. Heney is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University. She works in the history of American pragmatism, metaethics, and bioethics. Recent publications include ‘Reality as Necessary Friction’ in The Journal of Philosophy and ‘Practitioner Narrative Competence in Mental Health Care’ in Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology.
"Heney's application of Peircian ideas to the contemporary scene in meta-ethics is very valuable...Heney shows how pragmatism can offer compelling versions of both a cognitivist affirmation of the truth aptness of moral judgments and a generalist support for the role of principles in moral deliberation."—Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"This is an important book both for its technical discussions and for its practical relevance in a time when the very concept of ‘truth’ seems to have disappeared." – Jerome A. Stone in American Journal of Theology and Philosophy