Pre-Pragmatisms and Robust Empiricisms: James, Whitehead, Wilson

Mon., Nov. 8, 2010, 4:30pm


Science and Society Lecture by Steven Meyer (Department of English, Washington University in St Louis). 4:30 pm, Monday, November 8, 2010 in Peter Wall Institute Conference Rooms.

In Wandering Significance (2006), Mark Wilson develops a dissenting "pre-pragmatist," post-Quinean stance with regard to the classical picture of concepts provided by Bertrand Russell in response to late-nineteenth-century crises in classical mechanics and applied mathematics. Although Wilson portrays William James as a "fully fledged" pragmatist, accounts by Isabelle Stengers and Bruno Latour strikingly characterize James in a manner that deserves to be called pre-pragmatist as well. Wilson's historical reconstruction of the crises also makes it possible, perhaps for the first time, to appreciate the motivation they provided for Alfred North Whitehead to move toward what James called a "process philosophy" and toward the more robust empiricism he shares with James and Wilson.

Steven Meyer teaches intellectual history at Washington University in St. Louis and is the author of Irresistible Dictation: Gertrude Stein and the Correlations of Writing and Science (2001). Among current projects he is completing Robust Empiricisms: Jamesian Modernism between the Disciplines, 1878 to the Present.

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