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Realism with a human face [Hardcover]

Hilary Putnam , James Conant


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Book Description

20 Sep 1990 0674749502 978-0674749504
The time has come to reform philosophy, says Hilary Putnam, one of America's great philosophers. He calls upon philosophers to attend to the gap between the present condition of their subject and the human aspirations that philosophy should and once did claim to represent. Putnam's goal is to embed philosophy in social life. The first part of this book is dedicated to metaphysical questions. Putnam rejects the contemporary metaphysics that insists on describing both the mind and the world from a God's-eye view. In its place he argues for pluralism, for a philosophy that is not a closed systematic method but a human practice connected to real life. Philosophy has a task, to be sure, but it is not to provide an inventory of the basic furniture of the universe or to separate reality in itself from our own projections. Putnam makes it clear that science is not in the business of describing a ready-made world, and philosophy should not be in that business either. The author moves on to show that the larger human context in which science matters is a world of values animated by ethics and aesthetic judgments. No adequate philosophy should try to explain away ethical facts. The dimension of history is added in the third part of the book. Here Putnam takes up a set of American philosophers, some firmly within and others outside the canon of analytic philosophy, such as William James and C. S. Peirce, and he explores the pragmatist contribution to philosophy from James to Quine and Goodman. This book connects issues in metaphysics with cultural and literary issues and argues that the collapse of philosophical realism does not entail a fall into the abyss of relativism and postmodern skepticism. It is aimed primarily at philosophers but should appeal to a wide range of humanists and social scientists.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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There are many strengths in these essays. Like all his work, they are highly readable; they are on deep and general issues; they contain forceful critiques, particularly of such diverse figures as Ayer and Rorty; and Putnam's first-order views in ethics are compassionate and imaginative...Any reader of these vivid and provocative essays will be forced to rethink his views somewhere. -- Christopher Peacocke Times Literary Supplement In this excellent collection of thematically linked essays, Harvard philosopher Putnam argues that it is time for philosophy to leave its world of system-building and to return to its true place as a form of thought intimately connected with real life...Highly recommended as an antidote to much 20th-century analytic philosophy and the claimed 'death' of metaphysics. -- Terry Skeats Library Journal My current favorite living philosopher is Hilary Putnam, as embodied in his book Realism with a Human Face...In a tone that is simultaneously witty and generous, skeptical and self-revealing, and in sentences that are often a pleasure to read...Putnam's philosophy is a philosophy for our world, a vehicle in which you can comfortably travel right now. -- Wendy Lesser Threepenny Review --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Hilary Putnam is Cogan University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of his best 5 Jun 2013
By Nuri K - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is my fav. Putnam book, among the few I've read.

The essays present a selection reflecting Putnam's interest in Kant, Wittgenstein and Cavell, with an eloquent introduction by Connant, who himself is a perspicuous voice on Wittgenstein. You may or may not agree with Putnam on certain grounds; if you have more of an analytic background, you may find him to be fetching it too far, particularly when he's attempting to reconcile his favored philosopher's approaches (esp. Kant) with everyday, 'human' realism (probably his most contentious project, hence the rumpus around Putnam's redefinitions of realism), or you may find him too technical and dry if you're more of a 'literary philosopher', like Cavell, but he's a voice worth hearing, and criticizing, as the late history of philosophical debates seem to have revealed.
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