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Metaphysics — Low in Price, High in Value: A Critique of Global Expressivism

Legg, C and Giladi, P (2018) Metaphysics — Low in Price, High in Value: A Critique of Global Expressivism. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 54 (1). pp. 64-83. ISSN 0009-1774


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Pragmatism’s heartening recent revival (spearheaded by Richard Rorty’s bold intervention into analytic philosophy Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature) has coalesced into a distinctive philosophical movement frequently referred to as ‘neopragmatism’. This movement interprets the very meaning of pragmatism as rejection of metaphysical commitments: our words do not primarily serve to represent non-linguistic entities, but are tools to achieve a range of human purposes. A particularly thorough and consistent version of this position is Huw Price’s global expressivism. We here critically appraise Price’s understanding of a commitment to pragmatism as a rejection of metaphysics, and argue that such rejection is not as easy or desirable as Price claims. First we argue that Price’s global expressivism itself draws on significant metaphysical assumptions (a ‘word-world’ dualism, and a nominalism concerning the meaning of general terms). Then we seek to resolve neopragmatist anxieties about metaphysics by arguing that metaphysics is indispensable for pragmatist philosophizing insofar as it seeks ways for human beings to realise themselves through practices of understanding reality and their place in it. If, as we argue, metaphysics consists in a maximally general inquiry into the nature and structure of reality, to try to block it seems a puzzling exercise in epistemic self-harm.

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