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Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate: Unfashionable Essays 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226311371
ISBN-10: 0226311376
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In defending the idea of honest inquiry, Susan Haack takes on the usual suspects: cognitive relativists, radical feminists, multiculturalists, self-styled neopragmatists such as Richard Rorty, sociologists of science, literary theorists--"a great revolutionary chorus announcing that disinterested inquiry is impossible, that all supposed 'knowledge' is an expression of power, that the concepts of evidence, objectivity, truth are ideological humbug." Although some readers will inevitably be reminded of works such as Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt's Higher Superstition, Haack's Manifesto stands out because of its distinctively philosophical orientation. The chief villains--Richard Rorty, Sandra Harding--are philosophers, as is the tutelary deity of Haack's enterprise, C.S. Peirce. Particularly worthwhile is "'We Pragmatists...': Peirce and Rorty in Conversation." Constructed from passages from the two philosophers and the occasional intervention by Haack herself, this dramatic dialogue painlessly illuminates not only the surface similarities of Peirce's pragmatism and Rorty's neopragmatism but also their profound disagreements. Also included are interesting but somewhat tangential essays on metaphor's role in science, affirmative action, and the future of the academy.

Although Haack is known in philosophical circles for her work in the forbiddingly technical areas of epistemology and the philosophy of logic, the 11 essays contained in her Manifesto are forthright, clear, and laced with pleasingly wry humor. (It is not every professor who would give an essay the title "Confessions of an Old-Fashioned Prig.") Regrettably, she shares the fondness of her philosophical hero Peirce for ugly neologisms: "preposterism" and "foundherentism" are two of hers. --Glenn Branch --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Haack (philosophy, Univ. of Miami; Deviant Logic, Fuzzy Logic: Beyond the Formalism, LJ 10/1/96) offers 11 essays that neatly demonstrate the multilayered truth of this collection's title. In a cleverly worded dialog between Charles Peirce and Richard Rorty, in a blistering strip search of the variant meanings and intentions behind "multiculturalism," and in several examinations of what it means to be a feminist as well as a female academic, Haack writes for an audience that shares her patience with ideas that run contrary to clearly felt personal opinion. Known for her critical research into the nature of inquiry and logic, Haack puts a welcome British spin on the very American school of pragmatism. Affordable and accessible, this collection belongs in both academic and public libraries where educated browsers will enjoy disagreeingAas well as admitting agreementAwith the author.AFrancisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., CA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226311376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226311371
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,190,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Currie-Knight VINE VOICE on November 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
Susan Haack is a pragmaticist. Don't let the label fool you. Notice I wrote pragmatICIST, not pragmaTIST. The difference, you ask? Well, in contradistinction to Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnams 'pragmatism' which stresses anti-science and devalues terms like 'objectivity' and 'truth,' Haack is a philosophical descendent of Charles Peirce and John Dewey (begrudginly, I'll throw William James' name in, but that's a stretch). These essays are brilliant defences of the pragmaticist vision of truth, scientific method (or, if we like, methods) and objective knowledge.

If all that sounds too philosophical to the average reader, it most likely is not. Haack writes with a down to earth style, a sparkling British wit and a very even flow; especially considering the complexity of some ideas expressed in these pages. It should be mentioned though that although topics covered in these essays include multiculturalism, feminist epistemology, sham reasoning and relativism, this book is much more philosophical in nature than others. Haack is not just another author throwing down the 'science wars' gauntlet (not that it hasn't been thrown down enough already). Whereas most books attacking the abuses of feminism, relativism and postmodern thinking in science, while rightfully exposing their disasterous consequences, end up more as social commentary than actual reasoned arguments; and nary a philosophical arguemt is launched. This is precisely the void that Haack so flawlessly fills.
Highlites include a brilliantly constructed 'panel' discussion between 1800's pragmaticist Charles S. Peirce and modern neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty. Haack constructed the dialogue using exerpts of their work and she does a beautiful job making it feel like a discussion.
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Haack's book seeks to respond to the increasingly noisy voices in the academy which are clamoring for all the typical postmodern tenets to be taken as brute fact....the non-existence of any essential anything (especially selves), the pure relativism that chops the universe up into a fractured perspectivalism, and the mistrust for "methodology" of any sort as a "hegemonic discourse." Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate makes an epistemologically sound reply to that academic cacophony; Haack relies on C.S. Peirce's thought to establish the legitimacy of the scientific method, the possibility of the existence of Truth, and the good old-fashioned "wissenschaftlich" approach to philosophy. It is the first time that I have encountered a thinker who manages to balance the commitments of contemporary, liberal academics with traditional philosophical hermeneutics. Well-written, never dry (except when quoting from Peirce!), and generally very refreshing. Anyone in the academy can benefit from her perspective. Bravo to Haack for seeking a responsible end to the posturing and absurdity of so much of the postmodern "platform."
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Susan Haack is a moderate, passionately so. She rejects both the Old Defential view of science ("science has a priviledged epistemic position and produces objective results"), and the New Cynic position ("science is nothing but a social construct"). Rather, she stakes out a thoughful and forceful middle ground, one that recognizes both the social dimensions of science, while at the same time pointing out that science deserves not a priviledged position, but certainly one that is worthy of respect and consideration.
The essays in this collection expand on these themes. Most of the essays are adapted from presentations Dr. Haack had given, and therefore present a somewhat dizzying mix of the overview-for-the-layman with the chat-with-other-experts. Much of the discussion of, for example, the New Cynic position takes for granted that the reader is familiar not only with the arguments advanced by the postmodernist deconstruction movement, but also the particular players in the movement. On the other hand, there is enough information for the layman to get his or her bearings on the thrust of these arguments.
The essays cover a number of interesting subjects: in "Is science social? Yes and no", Haack discusses what benefits may be obtained from recognizing the social forces in the sciences, while at the same time making a convincing case that "science is social" is either a trivial observation, or an incorrect one. Another essay addresses affirmative action from a somewhat outsider's point of view (Haack is british), and takes a refreshing tack: what is affirmative action meant to accomplish, and why? And does it actually accomplish this?
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Haack is to be commended for having compiled these essays and made them available to the educated public. It is refreshing to hear someone "talk sense."

A little background on one point: Richard Rorty was an Ordinary Language Philosopher. When it became clear that OLP was exterminating all other schools of thought in philosophy departments by hiring only OLPs, a group calling itself the Committee for Pluralism in Philosophy called the attention of those remaining to this problem. To counter this, some of the OLPs began to take upon themselves the names of the schools that were being extinguished. Rorty chose to call himself a Pragmatist. He never was and never has become a Pragmatist. (Neopragmatists were an outgrowth of classical pragmatism and specialized in the philosophy of science. Prominent names are Sidney Morgenbesser, Hilary Putnam (in his earlier years), W. V. O. Quine, etc.) There is nothing pragmatic or pragmatist about "postmodernism".

Haack's main concern in this book is science. For a similar approach focussing on literature, see A Book Worth Reading. This book offers a pragmaticist approach to the philosophy of literature, taken as the question, What makes a book valuable or good?
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