Margolis as Columbia Naturalist

Metaphilosophy 52 (1):49-59 (2021)
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Is Joseph Margolis a member of the often neglected school of “Columbia naturalism”? Columbia naturalism promoted a distinctive non-reductive nationalism in mid-twentieth-century America. Inspired by pragmatism, and Dewey in particular, its members included Ernest Nagel, John Herman Randall, Joseph Blau, Herbert Schneider, and Justus Buchler. Margolis received his degree from Columbia in 1953. Neither his early work in aesthetics nor his mature attempt to justify pragmatic themes in an uncompromising dialogue with analytic and continental philosophy seems particularly “Columbian.” Neither does his radical endorsement of a kind of relativism. However, Margolis is after all some kind of naturalist. Furthermore, the Columbians shared a forgotten doctrine, called “objective relativism.” If the combination of naturalism and relativism is a Columbian fruit, Margolis may have has fallen closer to the tree than first appears.



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Lawrence Cahoone
College of the Holy Cross

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