SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

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Radicalism, Pragmatism, and Critical Theory: A Peircean Response to Horkheimer's Critique

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Of all the critiques of pragmatism, none have been so scathing as Horkheimer's "Means and Ends" in Eclipse of Reason. Horkheimer's central concern was that pragmatism was raw "instrumentalism," the deployment of our cognitive faculties to ascertain the means to entirely externally prescribed ends not of our making (and in a milieu of commodity and capital, pragmatism was nothing but apologetic and reifying of the stifling milieu). I bring Peirce directly into conversation with Horkheimer and refute such a claim by appealing to Peirce’s deployment of abduction/induction, his critique of authority, his ultimate mandate (the first rule of reason), and his distinctions between “practics”/“ethics” and “purposiveness”/ “purposefulness.” I argue that Peirce was just as critical of instrumentalism (as Horkheimer defines it) as Horkheimer himself and, in fact, creates a nascent critical theory that viciously condemned the ingression of capitalistic values into the otherwise free-unfolding of inquiry.

Author(s):

Clancy Smith    
Duquesne University

 

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