Words and Life

Harvard University Press, 1995 - 531 páginas

Hilary Putnam has been convinced for some time that the present situation in philosophy calls for revitalization and renewal; in this latest book he shows us what shape he would like that renewal to take. Words and Life offers a sweeping account of the sources of several of the central problems of philosophy, past and present, and of why some of those problems are not going to go away. As the titles of the first four parts in the volume--"The Return of Aristotle," "The Legacy of Logical Positivism," "The Inheritance of Pragmatism," and "Essays after Wittgenstein"--suggest, many of the essays are concerned with tracing the recent, and the not so recent, history of these problems.

The goal is to bring out what is coercive and arbitrary about some of our present ways of posing the problems and what is of continuing interest in certain past approaches to them. Various supposedly timeless philosophical problems appear, on closer inspection, to change with altered historical circumstances, while there turns out to be much of permanent value in Aristotle's, Peirce's, Dewey's, and Reichenbach's work on some of the problems that continue to exercise us.

A unifying theme of the volume as a whole is that reductionism, scientism, and old-style disenchanted naturalism tend to be obstacles to philosophical progress. The titles of the final three parts of the volume--"Truth and Reference," "Mind and Language," and "The Diversity of the Sciences"--indicate that the sweep of the problems considered here comprehends all the fundamental areas of contemporary analytic philosophy. Rich in detail, the book is also grand in scope, allowing us to trace the ongoing intellectual evolution of one of the most significant philosophers of the century.


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Words and life

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The book comprises 29 essays, including four appearing for the first time and about half of the rest first published in the 1990s. Throughout, Putnam (Renewing Philosophy, LJ 11/1/92) has in mind the ... Leer reseña completa


Introduction by James Conant
Aristotle after Wittgenstein
Logical Positivism and Intentionality
Reichenbachs Metaphysical Picture
Reichenbach and the Myth of the Given
Reichenbach and the Limits of Vindication
Pragmatism and Moral Objectivity
Universal Values
The Question of Realism
On Truth
Something Else
Model Theory and the Factuality
Probability and the Mental
Much Ado about
Fodors The Modularity
Reflexive Reflections

Epistemology as Hypothesis
Education for Democracy
Rethinking Mathematical Necessity
Does the Disquotational Theory of Truth Solve
Realism without Absolutes
Reductionism and the Nature of Psychology
Why Functionalism Didnt Work
The Diversity of the Sciences
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Sobre el autor (1995)

According to John Passmore, Hilary Putnam's work is a "history of recent philosophy in outline" (Recent Philosophers). He adds that writing "about "Putnam's philosophy' is like trying to capture the wind with a fishing-net." Born in Chicago and educated at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California at Los Angeles, Putnam taught at Northwestern University, Princeton University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before moving to Harvard University in 1965. In his early years at Harvard, he was an outspoken opponent of the war in Vietnam. Although he writes in the idiom of analytic philosophy, Putnam addresses major themes relating science to ethics and epistemology. If these themes are reminiscent of David Hume---as, for that matter, is much of analytic philosophy---his treatment of them is not. Putnam's work is far more profoundly shaped by recent work in logic, foundations of mathematics, and science than would have been possible for Hume; Putnam has contributed to each. He differs from Hume and stands more in the tradition of Willard Quine and American pragmatism in his treatment of the crucial distinctions between analytic and synthetic statements and between facts and values. Both distinctions, sharply made by Hume, are claimed by Putnam not to be absolute. He attempts to show, for example, that basic concepts of philosophy, science, and mathematics all are interrelated, so that mathematics bears more similarity to empirical reasoning than is customarily acknowledged.

James Conant is Chester D. Tripp Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago.

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