American Realism in the Early 20th Century
 
 

Resources

Publications related to the project:



  • Neuber, M. (2022). Perry, the ‘Ego-Centric Predicament’, and the Rise of Analytic Philosophy in the United States. Journal of the American Philosophical Association. https://doi.org/10.1017/apa.2022.36

Abstract

This paper examines Ralph Barton Perry's analysis of the ‘ego-centric predicament’. It will be shown that Perry convincingly argued against prevailing contemporary versions of idealism and that it makes perfectly good sense to consider him a precursor of subsequent trends in American analytic philosophy. Perry's appraisal and promotion of the contemporary logic of relations in the framework of early twentieth-century American neorealism provides further evidence of his being a proto-analytic philosopher. His personal acquaintance with Bertrand Russell proved instructive in this regard. On the whole, Perry's distinctive approach to philosophy was instrumental in establishing the analytic style of reasoning in the United States. This paper is devoted to substantiating this claim. It is thus hoped that a clearer picture of early twentieth-century American philosophy will begin to emerge.




Abstract

The late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century debate over ‘internal’ and ‘external’ relations is well explored, as far as its course in Britain is concerned. F. H. Bradley’s idealistic internalism, on the one hand, and Bertrand Russell’s realistic externalism, on the other, were at the center of this debate. Less well known, however, is that there was also a discussion about relations in the United States at the time. The central figures in this discussion were Edward Gleason Spaulding and John Dewey. Like Russell, Spaulding advocated a realist-inspired externalism, while Dewey criticized this viewpoint from a pragmatist perspective. The aim of the present paper is to reconstruct the exchange between Spaulding and Dewey and to elaborate the specifics of this exchange. In doing so it will emerge, among other things, (1) that, in contrast to Bradley’s idealist rejection of externalism, Dewey’s pragmatist attempt at a refutation was more in line with common sense and science and (2) that Spaulding’s version of externalism differed markedly from Russell’s in its strong empirical orientation. Overall, an undeservedly forgotten chapter in the history of early twentieth-century American philosophy is revisited and reassessed.




  • Neuber, M. (2022). What We Talk About When We Talk About This Being Blue: C. I. Lewis and R. W. Sellars on the Object of Perception. European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, XIV-1. https://journals.openedition.org/ejpap/2804

Abstract

The relationship between American pragmatism and American critical realism needs to be reconsidered. The two currents shared many aspects, but there were also significant differences. One of these differences pertains to the object of perception or, more precisely, to the question of what we talk about when we talk about this, for example, being blue. By re-addressing that question, some light can be shed on the historical development of analytic philosophy in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. My case in point is the respective positions of C. I. Lewis and R. W. Sellars. I shall point out that Sellars’s view has more to recommend it because it provides a more compelling framework for a comprehensive explanation of perception.




  • Neuber, M. (2020). Two Forms of American Critical Realism: Perception and Reality in Santayana/Strong and Sellars. HOPOS: the Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, 10(1), 76–105. http://doi.org/10.1086/707651

Abstract

American critical realism emerged in two forms: an 'essentialist' version defended, with some significant divergences, by George Santayana and C. A. Strong, and an 'empirical' version primarily defended by Roy Wood Sellars. Both forms of American critical realism aimed at an epistemologically convincing 'representationalist' account of perception. However, they were divided over issues of ontology. While Santayana and Strong invoked the notion of essence in order to ontologically reinforce their epistemological conceptions, Sellars attempted a more empirical, evolution-based approach. It will be argued that Sellars's view has more to recommend it because it better explains the actual mechanism of perceptual representation.




  • Neuber, M. (2019). Between Pragmatism and Realism - The Philosophy of John Elof Boodin. European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy. https://doi.org/10.4000/ejpap.1547

Abstract

This paper explores the philosophical approach of the Swedish-born thinker John Elof Boodin. It will be shown that Boodin’s philosophical development ran through various stages, beginning with more or less "orthodox" pragmatism and ending with what he labeled "functional" realism. My principal thesis is that, in the last analysis, Boodin failed in establishing a stable systematic point of view. However, his philosophical development is worth considering in some detail because it nicely reflects the situation of a European-born philosopher in early-twentieth century America.




Abstract

It is shown that Külpe's critical realism anticipates several elements of modern scientific realism. Furthermore, a comparison with contemporary American critical realism is drawn. On the whole, it is argued that more intensive relevant research in the future is needed.