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

John Capps

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.


Fesmire – Beyond Popcorn Solutions: Hickman’s Anti-Reductionism and the Quest for Irrecusably Right Mechanisms in Valuation

Steven Fesmire

Radford University

Taking Peter Singer’s work as a test case, this presentation draws on Dewey and Hickman to critique the contemporary quest in ethics and policy for timeless mechanisms that purportedly get at objectively preexisting answers. Building on Dewey, Hickman’s pragmatic philosophy of technology challenges the aggregating moralist’s reductionistic quest for a predetermined metric whereby we judiciously weigh matters so that the balance automatically tips toward the good—many contemporary economists and policy analysts say “optimal”—outcome supported by a universal welfarist principle. Such strategies are at least a counterweight to a do-nothing attitude about the welfare of others, but the quest for a cover-all metric that is “Right” once and for all is not essential to constructing precise quantitative welfare models, algorithms, and assessments. So Hickman’s advice is to drain the theoretic bathwater while evaluating the functional-operational baby by its directive power.


Garrison – Hickman, Buddhism, and Algorithmic Technology

Jim Garrison

Virginia Tech

This paper provides further reflections on my dialogue with Larry Hickman, director emeritus of the Center for Dewey Studies, and Daisaku Ikeda, president of the lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai International (SGI). The most surprising outcome of this dialogue is how similar Deweyan pragmatism is to many forms of Mahayana Buddhism including Nichiren Buddhism the source of SGI. I have explored some of these similarities elsewhere. Here I survey additional similarities in terms of Hickman’s philosophy of technology by emphasizing value creation and criticism. (Soka Gakkai means value creating society.) I explore Peter D. Herschock’s, Buddhism and Intelligent Technology relying on Hickman to rectify Herschock’s philosophy of technology before discussing Herschock’s insightful application of Buddhist ethics to AI and the internet. I conclude by identifying many of Herschock’s Buddhist principles in Dewey’s theory of inquiry and thereby showing how they reside implicitly within Hickman’s philosophy of technology.


Hildebrand – Hickman’s Meaningful Philosophy of Technology

David L. Hildebrand

University of Colorado Denver

Hickman’s work in pragmatism and the philosophy of technology have never lost sight of a goal basic to American philosophy — the project of making life more meaningful. This paper will look at several of Hickman’s most important ideas at the intersection of pragmatism and the philosophy of technology in order to understand how his pragmatic approach to technology resists the all too common faults of essentialism, pessimism, and utopianism.

Tools have always been with us, and their meaning rests with what we do with them and with how we conceive of our relationship with them. In the end, this becomes a question of what we want to become, and Hickman’s sensitivity to both the situational and experiential questions of technology provide a wider philosophy which aims at wisdom, in the classic sense of that term.


Ihde – Hickman, after 32 Years

Don Ihde

SUNY Stonybrook

Early convinced that the Praxis philosophies led philosophy to technology, I asked Larry Hickman to do a book on Dewey for the first series on philosophy of technology with Indiana University Press. He did, and thus John Dewey’s Pragmatic Technology (1990) was published along with Michael Zimmerman’s Heidegger’s Confrontation with Modernity (1990) and my own Technology and the Lifeworld (1990), a systematic redoing of my earlier Technics and Praxis (1979). By 2001, Larry had also published Philosophical Tools for Technological Culture with the Indiana series, thus making him part of this early American philosophy of technology generation.

I have followed Larry’s work all along, now 32 years. In the pragmatism of Dewey and Rorty, I recognized compatibility with the European phenomenologies of Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. All held in common an anti-reductionistic praxis, anti-early-modern body-mind epistemologies, and were pro-experiential and pro-perception in their outlooks (via animal models, not Cartesian-Lockean ones). So, what I admired early in Dewey was his Darwinian approach to experience–the animal-organism/environment model of testing for problems, which I saw echoed in phenomenology. This led, as we today know, to my post-phenomenological approach which began in l988 with my Rorty-inspired Gothenburg lectures. I have always owed Pragmatism its debts and have regarded Hickman as an inspiration.


Kramer and Waks – The Measurement Problem in the Academy: Algorithms, Bibliometrics, and Successful Career

Eli Kramer

University of Warsaw

Eli Kramer

Leonard Waks

Hangzhou Normal University

In this presentation, we offer a Deweyan assessment of the problematic situation surrounding how to assess successful scholarly work toward career advancement. Bibliometric assessment of the reach of academic essays poses a new method of assessing academic work. Yet this system poses new problems, focusing on surface popularity of research, increasingly designed to pop-up in Google Scholar, Academia, and other algorithmic search engines. When careers are assessed on such popularity, content is largely overlooked and is replaced by reach, without questioning the value of such audiences and their responses to this work. We survey different global attempts to utilize such assessment schemes, from the Netherlands to China, and suggest potential ameliorative paths forward.