Edgar M. Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies.
University of Virginia.
1540 Jefferson Park Ave,
Charlottesville, VA 22903;
John E. Smith argued that there were almost as many pragmatisms as pragmatists. Almost all pragmatists criticized abstractive and reductive reasoning in the modern academy, but most entertained different visions of how and to what end academic reasoning should be repaired. Smith’s vision was shaped by his strong preference for the classical pragmatisms of Peirce, Dewey, James and also Royce, whose differences contributed to the inner dynamism of Smith’s pragmatism. Smith was far less impressed with the virtues of neo-pragmatists who rejected key tenets of the classical vision. My goal in this brief essay is to outline a partial list of these tenets, drawing on Smith’s writings and those of a sample of recent pragmatists who share his commitment to the classical vision, such as Richard Bernstein, John Deely, and Doug Anderson. I restate the tenets in the terms of a pragmatic semeiotic, which applies Peirce’s semeiotic to classical doctrines of habit-change and reparative. I conclude by adopting the tenets as signs of pragmatism’s elemental beliefs. Consistent with Peirce’s account of “original” beliefs, these are not discrete claims about the world or well-defined rational principles but a loose and dynamic network of habits. The habits grow, change, inter-mix or self-segregate through the run of intellectual and social history. They can be distinguished but only imprecisely, described but only vaguely, encountered per se only through their effects. Among these effects are sub-communities of pragmatic inquiry, sub-networks of habits, and existentially marked series of social actions and streams of written and spoken words: including context-specific, determinate claims about the world, about other claims, and about habits of inquiry like pragmatism. Among these claims are my way of stating of the tenets and my arguments about the history of pragmatism. Such claims are determinate, but the habits and tenets of pragmatism are not.