This book may be of interest to many on the list, as it contains several
articles specifically dealing with Peirce. Review below by Vincent

Mara Woods

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From: Anastasia Friel Gutting <>
Date: Sun, Sep 18, 2016 at 10:00 PM
Subject: NDPR Gabriele Gava and Robert Stern (eds.) Pragmatism, Kant, and
Transcendental Philosophy

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

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Gabriele Gava and Robert Stern (eds.), *Pragmatism, Kant, and
Transcendental Philosophy*, Routledge, 2016, 297pp., $116.00 (hbk), ISBN

Reviewed by Vincent Colapietro, Pennsylvania State University

The aim of this volume is to explore *critically* the connections between
American pragmatism and transcendental philosophy in a strict Kantian
sense. Thirteen finely crafted essays follow a substantive "Introduction"
by the editors. The range of concerns explored is, in a sense, somewhat
narrow (also the range of classical pragmatists considered), with only one
essay being devoted to political philosophy (David Macarthur's "A
Kantian-Inspired Vision of Pragmatism as Democratic Experimentalism") and
one to some extent concerned with moral philosophy (Boris Rähme's
"Transcendental Argument, Epistemologically Constrained Truth, and Moral
Discourse"). In terms of figures, the tilt is decisively toward Peirce,
with Dewey, Mead, Lewis mostly pushed to the margins. James hovers between
the center and fringe of the contributors' consciousness.

The majority of the contributors focus on what broadly might be identified
as epistemological concerns (Gabriele Gava's "The Fallibilism of Kant's
Architectonic," Cheryl Misak's "Peirce, Kant, and What We Must Assume,"
Daniel Herbert's "Peirce and the Final Opinion: Against Apel's
Transcendental Interpretation of the Categories," Jean-Marie Chevalier's
"Forms of Reasoning as Conditions of Possibility: Peirce's Transcendental
Inquiry Concerning Inductive Knowledge," Marcus Willaschek's "Kant and
Peirce on Belief," James R. O'Shea's "Concepts of Objects as Prescribing
Laws: A Kantian and Pragmatist Line of Thought," and to some extent
Wolfgang Kuhlmann's "A Plea for Transcendental Philosophy"). But one of the
contributors focuses on freedom (Robert Stern in "Round Kant or Through
Him? On James's Arguments for Freedom, and Their Relation to Kant's"),
another on consciousness (Graham Bird's "Consciousness in Kant and William
James"), and yet another on subjectivity (Sami Pihlström's "Subjectivity as
Negativity and as a Limit: On the Metaphysics and Ethics of the
Transcendental Self, Pragmatically Naturalized"). While bearing
significantly on epistemological concerns, the two concluding essays
(Kuhlmann's "A Plea for Transcendental Philosophy" and Rähme's
"Transcendental Argument, Epistemically Constrained Truth, and Moral
Discourse") are best characterized as meta-philosophical exploration.

The volume opens with Sebastian Gardner's "German Idealism, Classical
Pragmatism, and Kant's Third *Critique*". The pieces are for the most part
not strictly historical, but intricate elaborations of what an imagined
form of philosophical pragmatism or transcendental philosophy would look
like. But these constructions appear to be rooted in an intimate
familiarity with historical figures and specific writings. Moreover, some
of the pieces (especially those by Gardner, Misak, Stern, and Bird) are
painstakingly historical. The title of Macarthur's contribution might be
taken as indicative of the spirit pervading this collection, with the
exception of Misak's truly exquisite essay: these are Kantian-inspired
interpretations and reconstructions. Her account of Peirce takes more
seriously than all of the other contributors the efforts of classical
pragmatism (more precisely, a particular pragmatist) to distance itself
from transcendental modes of philosophical inquiry. Even Misak's
contribution, however, highlights the affinity between pragmatism and
Kantianism. She does note, "Peirce spends precious little ink on trying to
get Kant straight" (p. 90). One might say this about all of the other
pragmatists, with the exception of C. I. Lewis. The contributors to n
effect seem to be devoted to rectifying this. Indeed, most of the essays
read as briefs against pragmatism insofar as it has allegedly failed to
grasp the fine detail and full import of Kant's transcendental turn.

At the conclusion of an extremely impressive essay, Gardner stresses: "What
separates the two developments [from Kant's *Critique of Judgment*] at
their historical root is . . . their attitude to apriority," rather than
their stance toward Kant's conception of regularity. In his transcendental
logic, Kant is of course an apriorist. "Peirce's *ab initio* commitment to
exclusively *a posteriori* grounds of knowledge precludes his taking the
path to objective idealism".  But this leads to a question. "Among the many
systematic [rather than merely hermeneutic or historical] questions we are
left with is that of whether Peirce, following an *a posteriori* path,
succeeds in making the transition from the purposivity of human cognition
to a conception of purposivity as a wholly general ontological structure"
((p. 40).  The implication seems clear: Peirce the pragmatist might lack
what only Kant the *apriorist* can provide. At the conclusion of the
penultimate essay (I wish it had been the final one since it would make for
a neater story!), Kuhlmann readily acknowledges: "The presented philosophy
bets on ultimate justification and infallibility." It does so not because
"it has fallen in love with security" or for other less than admirable or
questionable motives. It does so because we reasonably can demand of
philosophers an account of their own undertaking: "that philosophers can .
. . understand their own activity as rational in the sense of explicitly
and legitimately maintaining their own positions, is something one should
expect from philosophers" (p. 256). This supposedly drives us in the
direction of ultimate and infallible foundations, only obtainable by
transcendental arguments. This would have been a fitting conclusion for
this volume, since transcendental foundationalism is celebrated here as
having trumped anti-foundationalist pragmatism, especially of the Rortyean
stripe. (Short) Readers of Peirce might be reminded of an interjection in a
dialogue on pragmaticism: "Have the gracious gods confined us to two
alternatives?" (*Collected Pap*ers, 5.500). From the perspective of most of
the authors in this volume, the good news is Kant can save us from Rorty,
even more generally save pragmatism from itself. For some of us, however,
such salvation comes at far too high a price.

In any event, Peirce would count most of the authors assembled here to be
among "the starry host of Kant's progeny" (*Essential Peirce, *volume 2, p.
400). Formally, these papers are exemplary. Their authors manifestly honor
the ideals of clarity as well as (albeit with a crucial qualification)
probity, erudition, and rigor. Substantively, these essays are without
exception informative, insightful, and suggestive. But they are not fully
what the editors of this volume advertise them to be. The editors
emphatically assert that the collection investigates the relationship among
"pragmatism, Kant, and current Kantian approaches to transcendental
arguments in a detailed and *original* way" (emphasis added). The claim to
originality of these approaches is overblown. After all, none other than
Murray G. Murphey published in the third volume of the *Transactions of the
Charles S. Peirce Society* (i.e., in 1973) an article entitled "Kant's
Children: The Cambridge Pragmatism." In fact, this approach antedates by at
least several decades Murphey's article and, moreover, has been a dominant
current in the critical engagement with American pragmatism virtually from
Peirce's day to our own. Concerning the narrower topic of transcendental
pragmatism, especially as this approach has been ingeniously proposed and
doggedly defended by Karl-Otto Apel, we might recall C. B. Christensen's
"Peirce's Transformation of Kant," an article published in *The Review of
Metaphysics* in 1994. But this is only one essay in a far from
insignificant number of pieces in which an interpreter tries to show how
Peircean pragmatism is in effect a transcendental project. In light of
this, informed readers will not be persuaded of the originality of this

What is however most disappointing about this collection is the almost
complete absence of truly critical views. No Rortyean voice is to be heard
among the assembled chorus and, worse, no pragmatist who is deeply
skeptical of reading the pragmatist position as one in need of
transcendental justifications, arguments, of "foundations." Those who take
the pragmatists at their word--for example, Peirce in his later
characterization of Kant's first Critique as "the very chimæra of the
history of philosophy, according to the tongues of fame  . . .  but in
reality nothing more portentous than a sickly little nannygoat masquerading
as a world-shatterer" [MS 609: 10; quoted in Fisch 1986: 257])--are in
effect dismissed as "superficial" (p. 2). No one would ever claim that
classical pragmatism and Kant's critical project are "in complete
opposition" (description on page preceding the title page), though many of
us tend to think the obsessive focus on this particular connection occludes
some of the most important facets of the pragmatist orientation. Indeed,
Rorty is more right than wrong when he identifies Kant as not the way out
but the all too seductive entrance back into the modernist labyrinth.
Consider, for a moment, Kant's claim at the beginning of the first
*Critique* that hypotheses are contraband in philosophy. Is it superficial
to imagine that the pragmatists have a radically different understanding of
philosophical inquiry than that of the *a priorist* Kant? (Cf. however
Chevalier and Willaschek in the volume under review.) Of course, what Kant
lays out in later chapters (e.g., "The Architectonic of Pure Reason" and
"The History of Pure Reason") can and, in fact, did inform the work of
thinkers such as Peirce and Dewey who were convinced that hypotheses are
anything but contraband in philosophy or anywhere else. Conjectures are
indeed the only means responsible inquirers have at their disposal. Perhaps
like Sherlock Holmes some philosophers might insist, "I never guess," I
only produce demonstrative arguments based upon incontrovertible premises,
but Peirce, James, Dewey, and Mead would judge such philosophers to suffer
from methodological self-deception, a malady for which pragmatism in the
form most recognizable to me was designed to remedy.

For the sake of argument, however, let us grant transcendental pragmatists
their seemingly unshakable confidence in their philosophical stance. After
all, whenever competent persons disagree, this itself makes it clear,
Peirce suggests, that the matter is practically dubious. If those
pragmatists or interpreters of pragmatism turn to the task of editing a
volume devoted to exploring the connection between pragmatist and
transcendental approaches, they ought to include those who are radically
skeptical of (what these skeptics cannot help but judge to be) the
high-flown pretensions of transcendental approaches. Otherwise the
overarching ideal of "dialogical rationality," an ideal at the very heart
of pragmatism, has been desecrated (Richard J. Bernstein, *The New
Constellation*, pp. 48-49). Imagine a collection of essays in which
Catholic theologians debate with every appearance of intellectual candor
and genuine self-criticism the Lutheran position on the relationship
between faith and works. Actually, it is almost impossible to imagine such
a volume being undertaken at this time. The Catholic theologians would have
had the good sense to invite at least a Lutheran or two to join the
critical debate, in order that the debate might be truly critical. Things
are, alas, different in professional philosophy. Implicit orthodoxy tends
to be stricter than explicit.

There is an important methodological point here. We might recall Peirce's
all too demanding ideal of what any responsible inquirer ought to do when
commencing a genuine investigation into the truth of a controverted topic.
That person "should make a complete survey of human knowledge" (6.9). Short
of that, this individual should make as wide a survey as finitude allows.
In this volume, however, there tends to be too often only a ritualistic
acknowledgment of a contrary position and, worse, an apparent lack of an
intimate familiarity with rival traditions.[1]
<#m_7338125033547038606__edn1> As a result, there is an insufficiently
critical stance toward Kant's critical philosophy.

German scholars have a right to complain when Anglophone interpreters of,
say, Kant or Hegel take little or no account of the immense, rich tradition
of German scholarship. Is it valid then for an American scholar to issue an
analogous complaint about certain European takes on classical pragmatism?
In order to appreciate the spirit, not merely understand the letter, of the
pragmatists, perhaps Max H. Fisch, John E. Smith, John J. McDermott,
Richard J. Bernstein, Joseph Ransdell, T. L. Short, Sandra B. Rosenthal,
Nathan Houser, and, yes, Rorty are far from negligible.

Pragmatists take themselves to be committed to an ideal of criticism, above
all self-criticism, owing something to Kant but also to a host of other
predecessors. Hence, at least at a very high level of generality, there is
an undeniable kinship with Kant's critical project. But Kant's critical
philosophy is, from their perspective, only one variant of a critical
orientation and the critique of the very form and ideals of criticism is
central to their philosophical self-understanding. Their ideal of critique
is, I submit, one in which relentless, *immanent*, and ongoing criticism of
our historically evolved and evolving practices is alleged to be sufficient
unto the day. Makeshift, revisable justifications, in the inherently
disconcerting circumstances of our historical existence, are either the
best we can ever do or the best we are ever likely to achieve. While
understandable, the impulse to jump outside of the onrushing course of
human history and, thereby, to reach a transcendental perch might be
neither possible nor desirable. Might pragmatists be children of Vico
rather than progeny of Descartes,[2] <#m_7338125033547038606__edn2> hence
thinkers standing in a lineage including Hegel, Marx, Freud, R. G.
Collingwood, Oreta y Gasset, John William Miller, and Bernard Williams?
Might Kant in this regard be the illegitimate offspring of a noble
apriorist and an unabashed historicist who refuses to apologize for
consorting with historical contingencies and unavoidable revision, while
her son is so embarrassed by his historicist mother that he embraces all
too tightly the manners of his apriorist father?

What is most admirable and simultaneously most frustrating about this
volume is, to some extent, epitomized in the contribution to it by one of
the editors: Gava's "The Fallibilism of Kant's Architectonic." The piece is
admirable in its clarity, organization, and sharply focused attention to
the most salient details, and also admirable in the care with which a very
complicated argument is laid out in the most compact, cogent form the
complexity of the matter and (in my judgment) dubiety of the conclusion
permit. That conclusion is announced, or at least implied, in the title
itself: Kant is a fallibilist or, better, Kant can be read as a fallibilist
in a sense close to, if not identical with, Peirce's understanding of this
position. Despite appearances, fallibilism does not mark a divide between
Kant and Peirce, between the transcendental approach defended by the author
of the *Critique of Pure Reason* and the seemingly anti-transcendental
pragmatism championed by Peirce. Some might find Gava's argument
compelling. Others who read pragmatism as more of a departure from, than a
continuation of, Kant would be far from convinced. Is this admirable
sophistication or tortuous ingenuity enlisted in a desperate effort to
square the circle? In any event, a pragmatist would certainly draw back
from this conclusion and ask, what is its import? It seems to be that the
logic of Gava's argument drives us in the direction of christening not only
Kant but also Descartes as a fallibilist. While the Kantian might step back
from the argument and admire the formal elegance of its intricate
architecture, a pragmatist would suspect that it is unwittingly a reductio
ad absurdum. If by the logic of this argument even Descartes counts as a
fallibilist, there surely must be something wrong with the argument!

What's the use of calling pragmatism a variant of Kant's project[3]
<#m_7338125033547038606__edn3> and, in turn, what's the use of identifying
Kant as a proto-pragmatist? This volume is, in fact, a contribution to a
long-standing and ever-widening tradition of hermeneutic engagement and
critical appropriation. It is certainly admirable in its detail of
argumentation, if not its originality. It advances the cause of that
tradition, in suggestive and illuminating ways. But what Max H. Fisch wrote
over thirty years ago needs to be recalled: by 1894, Peirce had "read and
thought more about Aristotle than about any other man" (MS 1604, quoted in
Fisch 1986, 240). Fisch, Ransdell, and Short are immensely helpful in
reading Peirce as an Aristotelian, thus a philosopher more at odds with
Kant than virtually all of the contributors to this volume seem to
appreciate. Is it not richly ironic that the partial origins of pragmatism
in German thought are so frequently allowed to eclipse the dramatic
*outcome* -- the decisive turn away from the transcendental turn? In any
event, Peirce increasingly turned to the medieval schoolmen and, even more
fully, to the individual whom they referred to as "the Philosopher." Peirce
was more an Aristotelian and Hegelian than he was a Kantian.

The conservative character of so much professional philosophy, so bemoaned
by Dewey, is nowhere more apparent than in the questions to which we
obsessively return and the canonical positions highlighted on the
traditional maps on which we narrowly focus. What if we turn to pragmatism
not primarily as a source of novel answers to traditional questions, but as
an inspiration for novel questions, even ones not yet articulated (still
elusive and inchoate)? And what if we take the pragmatist conception of
historical emergence with the utmost seriousness, readily conceding that
emergent phenomena are always continuous with certain facets of the
historical circumstances out of which they flow, but adamantly insisting
that they almost always an irreducible novelty? In particular, what if we
take philosophical pragmatism itself to be such an emergent phenomenon,
hence not one reducible to (although of course continuous with) some
dominant feature of their antecedent conditions?

Rorty was right. Classical pragmatism was a radical departure from
traditional philosophy (a radical but not a complete departure). He might
have been partly wrong in identifying the respects in which it diverged
from the dominant tradition or the implications of this divergence, but he,
like Fisch, Smith, McDermott, Bernstein, Ransdell, Short, and a host of
others, was right in taking American pragmatism to be a game changer. With
several notable exceptions, this is what the contributors to *Pragmatism,
Kant, and Transcendental Philosophy* fail to appreciate.

[1] <#m_7338125033547038606__ednref1> See, e.g., John E, Smith's "The
Reflexive Turn, the Linguistic Turn, and the Pragmatic Outcome" (reprinted
in *America's Philosophical Vision*) or my "Telling Tales Out of School:
Pragmatic Reflections on Philosophical Storytelling" (*Journal of
Speculative Philosophy*, 27, 1, 1-32).

[2] <#m_7338125033547038606__ednref2> Kant is at least as much Cartesian as
the pragmatists are allegedly Kantian. He continues what Dewey disparaged
as the quest for certainty. There are those who have been weaned from the
breast of this ideal and, alas, those who have not.

[3] <#m_7338125033547038606__ednref3> One of the seemingly more mundane
uses is the opportunity for funding (see the Acknowledgments to this
volume). The German government has handsomely funded the research for this
project. The material conditions for our intellectual endeavors deserve
critical consideration. While I feel deep misgivings about noting this, I
feel even greater ones about lacking the courage to point this out. The
possibility that the direction of our research is shaped not only by an
immanent dialectic of intellectual history but also external conditions is
one to which a pragmatist is especially attuned.
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