Radical Pragmatism

THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO PRAGMATISM pp. 324-344 (Alan Malachowski, ed. 2013)

GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2014-39

GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-39

19 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2014 Last revised: 31 Jul 2014

See all articles by Michael Sullivan

Michael Sullivan

Emory University - Emory College of Arts and Sciences

Daniel J. Solove

George Washington University Law School

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

“[P]ragmatist theory of law is, like much pragmatist theory, essentially banal.” So wrote Thomas Grey at the dawn of pragmatism’s renaissance in legal theory. Several contemporary pragmatists, as well as a number of critics of pragmatism, view pragmatism as a thin theory, more of a method than a philosophy with substantive commitments. For example, Richard Posner, one of the leading contemporary pragmatists, asserts that “pragmatism is more a tradition, attitude, and outlook than a body of doctrine” and that it has “no inherent political valence.” Likewise, Richard Rorty contends that pragmatism “is neutral between alternative prophecies, and thus neutral between democrats and fascists.”

Under this view, pragmatism generally leads to cautious common-sense policies. It is far from radical and unsettling, for it is too lacking in substantive value commitments to be otherwise. In this book chapter, we contest this account of pragmatism and offer a thicker account. Pragmatism does indeed have a political valence. It has substantive values. And, far from being banal, it is radical at its core.

Keywords: pragmatism, John Dewey, Richard Posner, Richard Rorty, legal theory

Suggested Citation

Sullivan, Michael and Solove, Daniel J., Radical Pragmatism (2013). THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO PRAGMATISM pp. 324-344 (Alan Malachowski, ed. 2013) ; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2014-39; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-39. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2461918

Michael Sullivan

Emory University - Emory College of Arts and Sciences ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

Daniel J. Solove (Contact Author)

George Washington University Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-9514 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://danielsolove.com

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