In Michela Massimi (ed.), Knowledge From a Human Point of View. Springer Verlag (2020)

Matthew J. Brown
University of Texas at Dallas
This chapter explores perspectivism in the American Pragmatist tradition. On the one hand, the thematization of perspectivism in contemporary epistemology and philosophy of science can benefit from resources in the American Pragmatist philosophical tradition. On the other hand, the Pragmatists have interesting and innovative, pluralistic views that can be illuminated through the lens of perspectivism. I pursue this inquiry primarily through examining relevant sources from the Pragmatist tradition. I will illustrate productive engagements between pragmatism and perspectivism in three areas: in the pragmatists’ fallibilistic theories of inquiry and truth, in their pluralistic metaphysics, and in their views on cultural pluralism. While there are some potential sticking points between pragmatism and perspectivism, particularly around the visual metaphor of perspective, these philosophical approaches nonetheless have much to learn from each other. Perspectivism is in danger of falling between the horns of pernicious relativism and a platitudinous view of the limits of human perception and cognition. The pragmatists accounts of truth and reality open the possibility of a more thoroughgoing perspectivism. I will follow this thread through Charles S. Peirce’s, William James’, and John Dewey’s theories of inquiry and truth, Peirce’s evolutionary metaphysics, James’ radical pluralism, Dewey’s cultural naturalism, Richard Rorty’s anti-essentialism, Jane Addams’ standpoint epistemology, W.E.B. Du Bois’ theory of race consciousness, Horace Kallen’s and Alain LeRoy Locke’s cultural pluralism, and Mary Parker Follett’s account of pluralistic integration.
Keywords American pragmatism  Perspectivism  Fallibilism  Standpoint theory  Pluralism
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