Capps – The ‘Eclipse’ of Pragmatism: Using Text-Analysis to Understand the Recent History of American Philosophy

John Capps, with Evelyn Brister, Kristopher Edelman, and Noah Collins

Rochester Institute of Technology

The “eclipse” of pragmatism has been a consistent issue in the history of recent American philosophy. Broadly speaking, the view is that American pragmatism—the philosophical approach historically associated with Peirce, James, and Dewey—was overshadowed by other approaches during the mid-20th century. Typically, the view is that pragmatism was displaced by logical positivism or by analytic philosophy in general. Some are inclined to view this as an unfortunate turn of events: a native, homegrown philosophy crowded out by exotic invasive species. This, in turn, raises a number of thorny issues, including how to define both “pragmatic” and “analytic” philosophy, their relationship to each other, and how contemporary philosophers define, and identify with, their own tools, methods, and history. Here we will address this question from a new direction by using a data set of several thousand journal articles published in 10 prominent philosophy journals between 1900 and 2016. This will help us determine how, whether, and in what sense pragmatism was eclipsed. Besides shedding light on the recent history of American philosophy, this bibliometric method is itself a pragmatic approach to settling questions in the history of philosophy.

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