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Realism with a human face
Putnam, Hilary.
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1990.
Physical Description:
lxxiv, 347 pages ; 25 cm
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B835 .P87 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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skepticism. It is aimed primarily at philosophers but should appeal to a wide range of humanists and social scientists.

Author Notes

According to John Passmore, Hilary Putnam's work is a "history of recent philosophy in outline" (Recent Philosophers). He adds that writing "about "Putnam's philosophy' is like trying to capture the wind with a fishing-net." Born in Chicago and educated at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California at Los Angeles, Putnam taught at Northwestern University, Princeton University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before moving to Harvard University in 1965. In his early years at Harvard, he was an outspoken opponent of the war in Vietnam. Although he writes in the idiom of analytic philosophy, Putnam addresses major themes relating science to ethics and epistemology. If these themes are reminiscent of David Hume---as, for that matter, is much of analytic philosophy---his treatment of them is not. Putnam's work is far more profoundly shaped by recent work in logic, foundations of mathematics, and science than would have been possible for Hume; Putnam has contributed to each. He differs from Hume and stands more in the tradition of Willard Quine and American pragmatism in his treatment of the crucial distinctions between analytic and synthetic statements and between facts and values. Both distinctions, sharply made by Hume, are claimed by Putnam not to be absolute. He attempts to show, for example, that basic concepts of philosophy, science, and mathematics all are interrelated, so that mathematics bears more similarity to empirical reasoning than is customarily acknowledged. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In this excellent collection of thematically linked essays, Harvard philosopher Putnam argues that it is time for philosophy to leave its world of system-building and to return to its true place as a form of thought intimately connected with real life. Putnam begins with Kant, and in a wide-ranging study that ends with the likes of James, Peirce, and Nelson Goodman, makes a telling case for his belief that philosophy has an important part to play in human social life and values. Highly recommended as an antidote to much 20th-century analytic philosophy and the claimed ``death'' of metaphysics.-- Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ., Lennoxville, Quebec (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Putnam (Harvard) is well known for his opposition to traditional metaphysical realism in philosophy. This book collects 22 of his essays into 3 groups: metaphysics (Part 1), ethics and aesthetics (Part 2), and American philosophy (Part 3). Most of the essays were previously published in journals and anthologies during the 1980s, but one essay is from 1979, and six are either forthcoming elsewhere or available only here. Editor Conant has provided a substantial introductory overview of Putnam's recent philosophical work, with special attention to Putnam's overall view of what philosophy is. Putnam suggests that the essays are unified by the doctrine of conceptual relativity: the view that although there is an aspect of conventionality and an aspect of fact in every true claim we make, we go wrong if we infer that there must be a part of the truth that is "the conventional part" and a part that is "the factual part." This inference, Putnam claims, would commit a fallacy of division. The essays are generally nontechnical and self-contained. Recommended for any library supporting at least an undergraduate major in philosophy. -P. K. Moser, Loyola University of Chicago

Table of Contents

IntroductionJames Conant
Part 1 Metaphysics
1 Realism with a Human Face
A Realism
B Relativism
2 A Defense of Internal Realism
3 After Empiricism
4 Is Water Necessarily H2O?
5 Is The Causal Structure of The Physical Itself Something Physical?
6 Truth and Convention
7 Why Is a Philosopher?
8 The Craving for Objectivity
Part 2 Ethics and Aesthetics
9 Beyond The Fact/Value Dichotomy
10 The Place of Facts in a World of Values
11 Objectivity and The Science/Ethics Distinction
12 How Not to Solve Ethical Problems
13 Taking Rules Seriously
14 Scientific Liberty and Scientific License
15 Is There a Fact of The Matter About Fiction?
Part 3 Studies in American Philosophy
16 William James's Ideas (with Ruth Anna Putnam)
17 James's Theory of Perception
18 Peirce The Logician
19 The Way The World Is
20 The Greatest Logical Positivist
21 Meaning Holism
22 Nelson Goodman's Fact, Fiction, and Forecast