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I'm starting to read William James' Pragmatism. He introduces the philosophical place of pragmatism by discussing the rationalist/empiricist divide. Rationalist philosophies are based on schemas of grand cosmic order. Principles and concepts are more real than the physical world (Plato's idea of the Forms is a good example). Empiricist philosophies, on the other hand, are preoccupied with the particular evidences we have about the physical world. James will apparently argue (I haven't gotten that far yet) that pragmatism can bring together the best of both sides -- grounding in the material world and grand concepts.

It occurred to me that, in this way of dividing philosophies, postmodernism would be combining the worst (in James's view) of both sides. Postmodernism's central focus is on rejecting metanarratives. So it can't incorporate the idea of an ordered universe (which James seems to treat as synonymous with religion) from rationalism. Postmodernism likewise rejects materialism, holding that "reality" is socially constructed and that our perceptions of it are political acts. So it can't claim the groundedness of empiricism.


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