SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

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The Practical Turn in Pragmatism: Intellectualism, Pluralism and Material Culture

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Responding to the controversy over whether pragmatists may be pluralists, I urge that the later Dewey's idea of a “cultural naturalism” urges a practical turn in pragmatism that balances the intellectualism of scientific naturalist approaches. This turn is spelled out in terms of a research program that looks for ways of dealing with cultural pluralism (and engaging with other concrete problems) in terms of activities rooted deeply in the practical sphere of human activity.

I argue that such a cultural naturalism must begin from Hickman’s Deweyan insight that “productive skills that are pre-scientific and those that are scientific exist along a continuum….” I explore this program in relation to material culture studies, which “emphasiz[e] the dialectical and recursive relationship between persons and things: that persons make and use things and that things make persons.” Labor, productive practices, art and craft take the place of scientific practices as objects of study.


Kevin S. Decker    
Eastern Washington University
United States


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