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74 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2001
This book is astounding! It manages to accomplish in around 500 pages the twin tasks of giving a functional outline of the rise and rise of pragmatic thought and also to give examples, old and new, of that same pragmatic thought. The three more well-known "founders" (popularisers) of this philosophical method slash attitude are here in C.S. Peirce, William James and John Dewey along with an interesting selection of more modern pragmatists, such as Richard Rorty (of course!), Cornel West and Hilary Putnam. One name that is missing from the contemporary selection is Stanley Fish, but since he seems to aim his sights indiscriminately he may be thought to be rather roguish for this sane and coherent selection of writings that the editor, Louis Menand, has pulled together.
In his introductory piece Menand charts Pragmatism's birth in the universities of north eastern America in the second half of the nineteenth century and points up some of its distinctives (of which there are very few and deliberately so). This piece is worth the price of the book itself for its clarity, insight and authority. The choices Menand makes in presenting the pragmatic thinkers will always be one of judgment and decision (Are the two writings he chooses from Richard Rorty's work, "Philosophy as a Kind of Writing" and "Postmodernist Bourgeois Liberalism" really more appropriate to this collection? I would choose others.) and we may quibble with one or two and suggest others but Menand has made his choices and given his rationale and we, as readers, can ask no more. What is served up is insightful and powerful (when taken together) as an example of pragmatic thoughts in practice and, as such, demonstrates the oft written thought of William James that Pragmatism "does not stand for any special results. It is a method only." James means that pragmatists don't have to agree to be pragmatic for being pragmatic is "trac[ing] out in the imagination the conceivable practical consequences.....of the affirmation or denial" (C.S. Peirce) of whatever belief, truth or proposal you have in mind. Thus, we realise that Pragmatism as a philosophy is at least contextual, subjective and case by case. As a reader in Pragmatism this book does a superb job of demonstrating this and Menand, as editor, is to be congratulated. Much recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2012
I have found that these single-subject anthologies do more than attempt to provide a baseline of knowledge of a given subject, they also act as an advertisement to get readers to further explore subject. On that note, I can summarize the quality of this anthology in three words: I am sold. I was so rapt in reading the "old school" pragmatists that I ended up going to the library and snagging the whole volumes that are included in the anthology, as well as some other by Peirce and James. Coming at this volume with only "The Varieties of Religious Experience" under my belt, I feel as though I have a pretty solid understanding on what pragmatism means, the kinds of ideas it advances, and the general sentiments of its proponents, regardless of what area of thought they specialize in (psychology, philosophy proper, law, social justice, etc.) -and it is thanks to the assortment of works compiled, here. I really do feel as though the texts chosen and edited create a very thematic whole, one in which I easily saw the isomorphisms among the choices.

Overall, I recommend this work to anyone seeking to just get feel for pragmatism, in general, or someone who is looking into whether they may want to read deeply into the pragmatists; or if you know approximately what the pragmatists are about, but don't know which ones you would like to read. I very much enjoyed this book.

I figured I would give a list of the authors included, since Amazon does not have a look-inside feature on this book yet: Charles Sander Peirce, William James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Dewey, Jane Addams, George Herbert Mead, Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, Steve Knapp, Walter Benn Michaels, Richard J. Bernstein, Cornel West, Richard A. Posner, Richard Poirier, Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2008
Could be considered the "sequel" to the other "Pragmatism" (by William James.) James sort of sketched the landscape and this book fills in the detail, with color. If you haven't read James's book, read it first, then this one.

Both eminently readable, but only for those who are into such things.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2014
A great follow-up reader in pragmatism for those who loved _The Metaphysical Club_, or for those just interested in pragmatism generally. A good survey of Pierce, Holmes, James, Dewey, etc. from which to branch off further.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2008
A very well written and illustrative introduction about history of pragmatism and its significance today. The articles and authors are well chosen and interesting
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