Pragmatist Metaphysics: A Defense
In "Pragmatist Metaphysics? Why Terminology Matters," Charlene Haddock Seigfried argues that pragmatists should do away with terms like "metaphysics," "realism," and "rationality" (PM, 13). While I think that all three are worthy of retaining (with the possible exception of the third) my focus will be on "metaphysics." In her essay, she argues that the classical pragmatists were all, in the end, anti-metaphysical and that current dialogue would be best served by ridding ourselves of those aforementioned terms. While Seigfried is correct in her railings against essentialist metaphysics, her conclusions apply only to a certain kind of metaphysics, and not against the peculiar kind of metaphysics that characterizes not only the pragmatic tradition, but also numerous others who were writing in the same time period.
But if pragmatists don’t do metaphysics in the old style, then is it wise to retain the term? I argue that it is. While pragmatic metaphysics is indeed a peculiar kind of metaphysics, in one sense, it isn’t any more peculiar than Descartes was in his time, than Leibniz and Spinoza were in theirs, than Locke, Berkeley, and Hume (yes, Hume, regardless of his protests, did metaphysics)1 were in theirs. In spite of the much vaunted 20th century rejection of metaphysics on the part of continentals and neo-pragmatists, philosophy made much progress during the modern and the nineteenth century periods, and there were frequent "radical" breaks with the tradition, though those breaks did not occur in isolation and would not have been possible had it not been for their predecessors.2 Reading Seigfried’s criticisms, one might be led to think that pragmatism emerged in a vacuum, de novo, completely severed from the tradition that preceded it. However, it is my contention (indeed, a pragmatic one) that pragmatism emerged out of a cultural and historical context, and is, in many ways, a continuation of a dialogue that dates back at least to the presocratics.3 While a full defense of this claim would require at minimum a book-length exposition and is certainly beyond the scope of this essay, I will nonetheless attempt a defense of the use of "metaphysics" as both a term and as an enterprise for the pragmatists.
The Inevitability of Metaphysics
My defense of pragmatic metaphysics is going to have to begin with a bit of (mild) ad hominem in order to make the point that one simply cannot escape metaphysics. Specifically, Seigfried’s analysis, though purportedly anti-metaphysical, is replete with metaphysical claims that are worthy of some of the great metaphysicians of the 19th and 20th century. Many of her supposed non-metaphysical claims are explicitly delineated and endorsed (yes, even systematized) by some of the 20th century's greatest metaphysicians.4 While I will not belabor this point, a few observations are pertinent.
Before I get to the ad hominem, though, I must begin with some words of praise. Seigfried, more than many other pragmatist thinkers, has an excellent sense of the pragmatic starting point. She fully recognizes that legitimate philosophical analysis must begin with lived experience, with the concrete situation (PM, 15). Her praise for James consistently refers to his insistence that we must avoid the intellectualist fallacy and be true to experience. While I do not intend that these words of praise be faint praise, her conclusions from this incisive analysis simply do not follow. That is, starting with concrete experience does not preclude metaphysical analysis, not for James, not for Dewey, not for Whitehead.
Seigfried rightly recognizes that Peirce was explicitly metaphysical. In endorsing James’ break from Peirce, Seigfried writes:
¼ the pragmatists didn’t just take an anti-positivistic turn; they didn’t just reject the traditional subject areas of metaphysics. They grounded their analyses in the concrete conditions of everyday life. It is time to recognize that the formulation and analyses of these concrete conditions is a genuine alternative to metaphysics (PM, 14).
Most of this is exactly on target. The problematic part is the final sentence, which doesn’t seem to follow from the preceding. It is unclear how an analysis of the concrete is an alternative to metaphysics and not itself metaphysics. Yes, if we are to be faithful to an empirical method, we must ground our analyses "in the concrete conditions of everyday life." However, the importance of that grounding simply points to our starting point and our returning point, not to the generality of the analysis. While, indeed, we must ground ourselves in concrete conditions, and we must return to them, we cannot live on the ground without losing some of our most powerful tools of inquiry (and likely lapsing into nominalism). Dewey himself recognizes this in discussing his empirical method of metaphysical inquiry:
This empirical method I shall call the denotative method. That philosophy is a mode of reflection, often of a subtle and penetrating sort, goes without saying. The charge that is brought against the non-empirical method of philosophizing is not that it depends upon theorizing, but that it fails to use refined, secondary products as a path leading back to something in primary experience (LW1:17).
The test, then, is not whether we remain within concrete experience, but, rather, does our inquiry "end in conclusions with, when they are referred back to ordinary life experiences and their predicaments, render them more significant, more luminous to us, and make our dealings with them more fruitful" (LW1:18)? Moving beyond the concrete is, in fact, part of the pattern of inquiry (LW12:115-16). The question, then, is not whether an inquiry will move beyond the concrete, but how far will it go before it returns to concrete experience for checking and illumination. Metaphysical inquiry is not to be condemned simply because it takes us beyond the concrete—all inquiry does that—it is to be condemned when it 1) starts somewhere besides the concrete, 2) doesn’t go back to the concrete, and/or 3) takes its results to represent supreme reality, i.e., commits the philosophic fallacy. The results of metaphysical inquiry are not inherently different from the results of other sorts of inquiries—they are still hypothetical and subject to revision. The only differences between metaphysical inquiry and other inquiries lay in the degree of generality and in the designation of the subject matter. But, again, any inquiry requires generalization and designation.
In furthering her claims about James and concreteness, Seigfried continues:
James wants his pragmatist philosophy to remain religious like rationalist philosophies without losing the richest intimacy with facts insisted on by empiricism. How can pragmatism do both? It can do so, because facts, for James, are not devoid of values, as they are for the positivists. They include feelings and intentions, along with values, because facts are always facts for someone. Another term James uses at least as often as ‘facts’ is ‘concreteness,’ along with such variations as ‘concrete universe,’ and ‘existence in the concrete,’ and these terms emphasizing concreteness better express what he means when he refers to facts. In The Varieties of Religious Experience, he even calls concreteness the full fact, which is "a conscious field plus its object, as felt or thought of plus an attitude towards the object, plus the sense of self to whom the attitude belongs." (PM, 15-16).
How this (correct, to my mind) fascination with concreteness is taken to be anti-metaphysical is troublesome. On the contrary, this is metaphysics. Note the quotation from the Varieties--James is giving a description of any and every (the generic) full fact. Being generic, this description is true of any concreteness, of any actual occasion. As a generic, general description, this is metaphysics par excellence. Indeed, James' claim from the Varieties that "concreteness [is] the full fact" is reminiscent of Whitehead's ontological principle and his description of actual entities:
'Actual entities'--also termed 'actual occasions'--are the final real things of which the world is made up. There is no going behind actual entities to find anything more real. They differ among themselves: God is an actual entity, but so is the most trivial puff of existence in far off empty space¼ .The final facts are, all alike, actual entities; and these actual entities are drops of experience, complex and interdependent (PR 19).
It might be countered that James didn't develop a metaphysical system anything like Whitehead's, and that is correct--James was not so systematic. Nevertheless, he did develop a full-blown theory of relations that has a great deal in common with both Whitehead and Hartshorne.5 While James' philosophy is indeed anti-foundational, it is still metaphysics. In this regard, James is in good company--from the late 19th and through the 20th century many metaphysicians have been ultimately concerned with the concrete and have used it as a starting point, from James to Nietzsche to Whitehead to Dewey to Ortega to Heidegger, just to name a few. All of these thinkers, plus many more, are insistent on the primacy of concreteness, have distinctly metaphysical orientations, but, at the same time, are anti-foundational.
Concreteness and Metaphysics
The question, then, comes to this: Does taking concreteness as a starting point rule out metaphysics or metaphysical inquiry? The answer to this question depends, perhaps, on what one means by "metaphysics." If by metaphysics one means the search for a "first philosophy", a search for foundations, for absolutes, for timeless truths, then, yes, this starting point does indeed preclude that type of metaphysics. But why must metaphysics be built on such a foundation? The fact that so many great philosophers have engaged in metaphysical enquiry that is non-foundational indicates that the enterprise is at least viable. My claim is that it is not only viable, but also unavoidable. The reservations about non-foundational metaphysics seem to stem from a misunderstanding as to what that enterprise consists of. To illustrate this, I now turn to some of the specifics of Seigfried’s essay.
First, consider the following:
Thus, in his so-called metaphysics of radical empiricism, James does not step outside this pragmatic method or orientation. Radical empiricism restricts philosophic discussion to things that are or can be experienced. Radically empiricist philosophy, in short, doesn’t need metaphysical explanations. All the traditional metaphysical categories—cause and effect, entity or thingness, kinds, space and time, etc., are shown to arise naturally in experience as concomitants of language and fortuitous inventions, and found to be useful for organizing human experience (PM, 16, emphases added).
What marvelous metaphysics! Indeed, along with James and Dewey, Whitehead would be proud, and hard pressed to disagree. The very idea that we can talk about what "can be" experienced is in itself a metaphysical observation.6 As for "metaphysical explanations," the case is more difficult, given the ambiguity of the term. It seems obvious that Seigfried is talking about the old rationalist notion of "explanation" in the sense that a definite and complete reason can be given as to why things are as they are and not some other way; or, that the cause is fully explanatory of the effect; or that we can assimilate cause and effect to logical analysis. But pragmatic metaphysics (and some less pragmatic metaphysics) does not and need not talk that way. Let's consider two examples, one pragmatic (Dewey) one not (Whitehead). I'll start with the non-pragmatist.
One of the striking things about the quotation from the Varieties (viz., "concreteness [is] the full fact...") is how much it foreshadows Whitehead. James' insistence on concreteness is one of the strongest commonalties between him and Whitehead. Note the following from Process and Reality: "The ontological principle declares that every decision is referable to one or more actual entities, because in separation from actual entities there is nothing, merely nonentity--'The rest is silence'" (PR 264); and, "Finally, the reformed subjectivist principle must be repeated: that apart from the experiences of subjects there is nothing, nothing, nothing, bare nothingness (PR 167); and, "'Actuality' means nothing else than this ultimate entry into the concrete, in abstraction from which there is mere nonentity. In other words, abstraction from the notion of 'entry into the concrete' is a self-contradictory notion, since it asks us to conceive of a thing as not a thing" (PR 211). As much as James, Whitehead is the philosopher of the concrete.
It may be objected, however, that Whitehead is ultimately a rationalist, a school of which James is notably critical. While Whitehead does use much of the language of rationalism (he remarks that it is "the only school worthy of the name philosophy"), he is no traditional rationalist. I would argue that his usage of the term is actually misleading, causing interpreters to miss the empirical nature of Whitehead’s metaphysics. Indeed, rather ironically perhaps, Whitehead's so-called rationalism is very Jamesian. Take, for example, Whitehead's frequent talk of "explanation." As Seigfried rightly notes, "radically empiricistic philosophy, in short, does not need metaphysical explanations" (PM, 16). Exactly! While in his delineation of the categories, Whitehead puts for 27 "categories of explanation," he is not putting forth the same sort of "explanation" that Seigfried criticizes. Granted, on first glance, it may look as if Whitehead is using the age old rationalist belief that metaphysics must be explanatory as to why things are as they are and not otherwise, that metaphysics deals with necessity, a sort of necessity that rests upon assured and indubitable foundations. However, this is not what Whitehead means by "explanation." Whitehead is very clear that the limits of rationality are such that we simply cannot offer any reason as to why things are as they are and not otherwise (SMW 178). But such limits on rationality, though revelatory of Whitehead's anti-foundationalism, do not preclude the possibility of metaphysical analysis. Metaphysical analysis simply need not rest upon such foundations. Whitehead writes:
In this argument the point to notice is, that what is metaphysically indeterminate has nevertheless to be categorically determinate. We have come to the limit of rationality. For there is a limitation which does not spring from any metaphysical reason. There is a need for a principle of determination, but there can be no metaphysical reason for what is determined. If there were such a reason, there would be no need for any further principle: for metaphysics would already have provided the determination (SMW 178).
Notice that Whitehead's explanation is not "metaphysical" in the sense of showing us why things are as they are, but is rather "metaphysical" in the "categoreal" sense. As he writes in Process and Reality, "Explanation is the analysis of coordination" (PR 153), not the delineation of necessity or of foundations. This sort of categoreal delineation is exactly what James does when he analyzes a "full fact" as "a conscious field plus its object, as felt or thought of plus an attitude towards the object, plus the sense of self to whom the attitude belongs" (quoted in PM, 16). While James’ analysis is indeed an analysis of the concrete, it is a generic description that is applicable to any and every "full fact." In other words, James puts forth a description of the categoreal features of what it means "to be," and his description is one that looks very much like the description offered by Whitehead. Notice the parallels: "a conscious field plus its object as felt or thought"—a prehension; "an attitude towards the object"—a subjective form of feeling; "a sense of self to whom the attitude belongs"—its enjoyment or subjective immediacy. This sort of explanation is exactly the sort that Seigfried endorses when she writes: "Pure experience is such a fruitful notion because of its explanatory, not its descriptive, power" (C&C, 52). Seigfried’s own interpretation of James is quite metaphysical in this non-rationalist, explanatory sense. Her chapter "Relations and Pure Experience" (C&C, chapter III) is replete with categoreal (generic) descriptions of pure experience. This sort of metaphysical analysis is exactly what Whitehead sees as being the purpose of metaphysics.7
This takes me to the second example, John Dewey. Dewey, also, was of course critical of the traditional notion of cause and effect, of "metaphysical explanation." In his 1915 essay, "The Subject Matter of Metaphysical Inquiry" (MW8:3-13), Dewey addresses the traditional language of cause and effect, of explanation, directly. Dewey argues that traditional metaphysics has been mistaken in its characterization of its subject matter. That is, traditional metaphysicians’ concern with questions like "what is the ultimate origin or cause of the universe?" is sorely misguided. This question, Dewey argues, is a meaningless one. Consider what we mean when we ask how something came about, or about its cause. What we are looking for are the antecedent circumstances that led up to the situation at hand. Once we establish the antecedent circumstances, we can ask the question once again, and, this time we would look for the antecedent to the antecedent. Obviously there is a practical end to how far back we can go with this line of inquiry. This leads Dewey to conclude that:
Hence it may be said that a question about the ultimate origin or ultimate causation is either a meaningless question, or else the words are used in a relative sense to designate the point in the past at which a particular inquiry breaks off (MW8:5).
Questions of ultimate causes, then, are meaningless. The only way it makes sense to speak of causes is in the scientific sense of antecedent circumstances. The primary cause of one situation is the antecedent situation that gave rise to it. And this account of cause and effect does not belong as much to the realm of metaphysics as it does to science. But this analysis is not one that precludes metaphysics; it only precludes that old kind of metaphysics. Dewey insists that there are "ultimate, that is, irreducible, traits of the very existences with which science is concerned" (MW8:6, emphases added). Indeed, as Dewey points out, every scientific inquiry finds at least three such traits: pluralism, interaction, and change (MW8:6).
Dewey as Metaphysician
What Dewey accomplished in his 1915 essay is of course preliminary and suggestive, and he did not publish a full blown metaphysical inquiry for another 10 years. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Is it proper to call Experience and Nature a "full blown metaphysical inquiry?" One way of getting into this question is to consider the very interesting dispute over the title of this notorious book. Dewey himself planted the seeds of this dispute when he said, writing in the penultimate year of his life, that if he were to do it again, he would call the book Culture and Nature (LW1:361). While I hold that his not changing the name is a great fortune (if he thought "experience" was subject to misinterpretation, imagine the consequences if he had used "culture" instead!), his remarks have served to fuel the debate between those who see this work of Dewey’s as metaphysics and those who want to make it into something else. In her critique, Seigfried writes:
It is not insignificant that what is presumed to be his most metaphysical work is called by him Experience and Nature, not a Metaphysics of Experience and Nature. Against many subsequent criticisms, he did not make any supposed metaphysical underpinnings more explicit, but tried to avoid misunderstandings by proposing a title even less likely to be confused with metaphysics, namely Culture and Nature. And yet, for lack of a better term, the temptation remains to call the brilliant analyses in this book, which provide a background for his logic of inquiry, a metaphysics (PM 15).
I find this analysis to be both revelatory and troubling, and I will use it as a framework for defending Deweyan metaphysics. First, the title of the book, it strikes me, is very significant and revealing of Dewey’s method and outlook. Indeed, Dewey did not title the book A Metaphysics of Experience and Nature for a very good reason—that is not his project, and such a title would have been equally (or more so) as misleading as Culture and Nature. For Dewey, experience is not the subject matter of metaphysics, but rather is its starting point, just as it is the starting point for any inquiry.8 Dewey takes great pains to show this in the first chapter of that book. The title of the book, then, is a conjunction of his starting point (experience) and his subject matter (nature), and the conjunction indicates that there is no gulf between the two. Dewey clearly indicates that his motivation for proposing a title change is because of the persistent misunderstandings of his conception of "experience," not because of persistent claims that the book is "metaphysical." It is indeed a strange irony that Dewey scholars are frequently willing to get rid of the term "metaphysics" (a term which Dewey never rejected) because of its baggage, but are loathe to do the same thing with "experience," which, as Dewey’s frustration indicates, is perhaps his most misunderstood (yet most central) notion. And what frustration Dewey must have felt if he, the philosopher of experience, is frustrated to the point that he is willing to drop it from the title of one of his most important books. Imagine trying to understand Dewey without understanding what he means by experience! Yet, as he notes in the revised Introduction, the problems did not come about because of a misunderstanding of his subject matter, but because of a misunderstanding of his starting point. It seems that the term "experience" carries much more traditional baggage than the term "metaphysics," yet no Deweyan (to my knowledge) is campaigning to get rid of "experience."
If I am correct in claiming that experience is Dewey’s starting point and nature his subject matter, then, given what I have argued in the previous sections, we can begin to see how a pragmatist can and must legitimately do metaphysics. In a particularly revealing passing from Experience and Nature, Dewey both states his starting point and makes his subject matter explicit:
Suppose that we start with no presuppositions save that what is experienced, since it is a manifestation of nature, may, and indeed, must be used as testimony of the character of natural events. Upon this basis, reverie and desire are pertinent for a philosophic theory of the true nature of things; the possibilities present in imagination that are not found in observation, are something to be taken into account. The features of objects reached by scientific or reflective experiencing are important, but so are all the phenomena of magic, myth, politics, painting, and penitentiaries. The phenomena of social life are as relevant to the problem of the relation of the individual and the universal as are those of logic; the existence in political organization of boundaries and barriers, of centralization, of interaction across boundaries, of expansion and absorption, will be quite as important for metaphysical theories of the discrete and the continuous as is anything derived from chemical analysis. The existence of ignorance as well as of wisdom, of error and even insanity as well as of truth will be taken into account (LW1:27, emphases added).
We start with experience, and we take everything into account. Our metaphysics must be able to account for organism, for pluralism, and, indeed, for nature.
Dewey does not disparage metaphysical inquiry, not so long as it follows the denotative method. On the contrary, remember that Dewey's charge against traditional, non-empirical methods is not that they engage in theoretical (or metaphysical) reflection, but rather that they do not use the "refined, secondary products as a path pointing and leading back to something in primary experience" (LW1:16-17). Dewey points out that, in their failing to start with and return to primary experience, non-empirical philosophy has run into three problems. First, "there is no verification, no effort even to test and check." Second, "the things of ordinary experience do not get enlargement and enrichment of meaning as they do when approached through the medium of scientific principles and reasonings." And third, the result of this non-reference back to primary experience is that the philosophical subject matter becomes arbitrary, aloof and irrelevant. It becomes abstract, where "abstract" is used in the Whiteheadian sense: that is, "to designate something which exclusively occupies a realm of its own without contact with the things of ordinary experience" (LW1:17).
Empirical philosophy, on the other hand, begins and ends with experience. It has a:
faith in experience when intelligently used as a means of disclosing the realities of nature. It finds that nature and experience are not enemies or alien. Experience is not a veil that shuts man off from nature; it is a means of penetrating continually further into the heart of nature. There is in the character of human experience no index-hand pointing to agnostic conclusions, but rather a growing progressive self-disclosure of nature itself (LW1:4-5).
Through this penetration into nature, we inquire so as to describe the generic traits of existence. Indeed, Dewey's conception of generic traits is much like the Jamesian description of the features of immediate experience and Whitehead's (perhaps overly) detailed delineation of the categories. All three of them are doing a metaphysics of categories, categories, which, when delineated as thoroughly as possible, explain the features of experience and nature.
Assuming that all of what precedes is an accurate account of Dewey’s approach to metaphysics, there is one important question that still looms—why do we need metaphysics, what is its purpose? The clearest statement on this question comes from Dewey himself. Two quotations are necessary, the first (from "Context and Thought") regarding philosophy in general and the second (from Experience and Nature) regarding metaphysics in particular:
Philosophy is criticism; criticism of the influential beliefs that underlie a culture; a criticism which traces the beliefs to their generating conditions as far as may be, which tracks them to their results, which considers the mutual compatibility of the elements of the total structure of beliefs, whether so intended or not, in a projection of them into a new perspective which leads to new surveys of possibilities (LW6:19).
If philosophy be criticism, what is to be said of the relation of philosophy to metaphysics? For metaphysics, as a statement of the generic traits manifested by existences of all kinds without regard to their differentiation into physical and mental, seems to have nothing to do with criticism and choice, with an effective love of wisdom. It begins and ends with analysis and definition. When it has revealed the traits and characters that are sure to turn up in every universe of discourse, its work is done. So at least an argument may run. But the very nature of the traits discovered in every theme of discourse, since they are the ineluctable traits of natural existence, forbids such a conclusion. Qualitative individuality and constant relations, contingency and need, movement and arrest are common traits of all existence. This fact is source both of values and of their precariousness; both of immediate possession which is casual and of reflection which is a precondition of secure attainment and appropriation. Any theory that detects and defines these traits is therefore but a ground-map of the province of criticism, establishing these base lines to be employed in more intricate triangulations (LW1:308-9, emphasis added).
Philosophy is criticism, and metaphysics is the groundwork for that criticism.9 In order to do coherent philosophy, in order to keep oneself on the right road, one needs a map. Dewey’s use of the ground map metaphor is revealing. Note that Dewey did not undertake to construct such a map (a metaphysics) until after he had traversed much philosophical ground, some 35 years worth. Thus, Ralph Sleeper is correct when he argues that Deweyan metaphysics is not "first philosophy," as the map cannot be made a priori, but only after one has traversed much of the territory (WM, 184).10 But, notice—a map is never finished. Given the precarious nature of the terrain, we must continually reconstruct our maps to take account of the ever-changing landscape. But, to find our way, we must make a map.
The pragmatist not only can but ought to do metaphysics. All of the classical pragmatists recognized this, while recognizing at the same time that the traditional ways of doing metaphysics were misguided. But they also recognized that reconstruction was possible and that many philosophical concepts have been continually reconstructed throughout the history of philosophy, and they sought to reconstruct the notions of metaphysics and experience in ways that took account of contemporary concerns, just as philosophers have been doing for at least 3000 years. Pragmatists are part of that ongoing dialogue, and, indeed, part of a new milieu. The fact that many non-pragmatists reconceived the metaphysical enterprise in the same way that the pragmatists did is evidence of this fact. We do metaphysics. Indeed, we cannot avoid it.
1. While still a graduate student, I was working on my dissertation proposal and discussing it with one of my committee members. When I told him that I was going to argue in my dissertation that John Dewey has a metaphysics, he remarked that this was "a most uninteresting thesis. Of course Dewey has a metaphysics," he said. "Everyone has a metaphysics. The only issue is how good it is." He would have said the same thing, correctly, about Hume.
2. As radical as Descartes was for his time, his proof for the existence of God in the Third Meditation still relied on the old Medieval notion of ideas as "objective realities" and objects of ideas as "formal realities." As much as Descartes is seen as being new, he was still a creature of his time.
3. In a different context, Ralph Sleeper makes this point nicely when he notes that "James was still willing to 'flourish' Locke in the Principles and he dedicated Pragmatism to Mill" (NP, 217 n. 17). And, of course, where would Dewey be without Hegel? While both of these philosophers were indeed reconstructing the tradition, they were nonetheless in continuation of the tradition. Without their predecessors, they simply could not have done what they did. Seigfried, herself, recognizes James' debt to the British empiricists in her book Chaos and Context, chapter IV.
4. Whitehead and Hartshorne come to mind. I would also include John Dewey in this list, but he is one of the bones of contention. I will get to Dewey as metaphysician shortly.
5. A recent rereading of Hartshorne’s Divine Relativity was very revealing to me. The Jamesian nature of Hartshorne’s theory of relations is striking. And of course, Marcus Peter Ford, in William James’ Philosophy: A New Perspective, argues that Whitehead’s metaphysics is simply a systematic treatment of basic Jamesian insights. Ford’s book does an excellent job pointing out the connections between Whitehead and James.
6. In Science and the Modern World, Whitehead writes: "Induction presupposes a metaphysics¼ .You cannot have a rational justification for your appeal to history till your metaphysics has assured you that there is a history to appeal to; and likewise, your conjectures as to the future presuppose some basis of knowledge that there is a future already subjected to some determinations. The difficulty is to make sense of either of these ideas. But unless you have done so, you have made nonsense of induction" (SMW, 44). While Whitehead was addressing a specific issue, here, his point is well taken. The basic supposition that we can talk about something is itself a metaphysical supposition.
7. Even stronger, Whitehead notes in the Preface to Process and Reality that one of his preoccupations has been to rescue the thought of Bergson, Dewey and James from "the charge of anti-intellectualism" (PR xii). In regard to James, Marcus Ford (WJP) argues that Whitehead was successful at this task. Again, the influence of James on Whitehead, while frequently unacknowledged, is very evident throughout Whitehead's writings.
8. For a clear explanation of this, see Douglas Browning’s "Dewey and Ortega on the Starting Point" in the Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 34, Spring 1998.
9. Interestingly, Whitehead’s defense of speculative philosophy says essentially the same thing. Philosophy is the discipliner of the disciplines, and metaphysics is our guide. See PR, Chapter One.
10. While I do like Sleeper’s metaphor and am generally sympathetic to his reading of Dewey, I am a bit uncomfortable with his term "last philosophy," with its potential connotations of finality. Maps are constantly being revised, so that no map is ever truly "finished."
Dewey, John. "Context and Thought." The Later Works, Vol. 6, 1931-32. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985. Cited as LW6.
_____. Experience and Nature. The Later Works, Vol. 1, 1925. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988. Cited as LW1.
_____. Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. The Later. The Later Works, Vol. 12, 1938. Southern Illinois University Press, 1988. Cited as LW12.
_____. "The Subject Matter of Metaphysical Inquiry." The Middle Works, Vol. 8, 1915. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979, 3-13. Cited as MW8.
Ford, Marcus Peter. William James’Philosophy: A New Perspective. Amherst: The University of Massassachusetts Press, 1982. Cited as WJP.
Seigfried, Charlene Haddock. Chaos and Context: A Study in William James. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1978. Cited as C&C.
_____. "Pragmatist Metaphysics? Why Terminology Matters." Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 37 (2001), pp. 13-21. Cited as PM.
Sleeper, Ralph. The Necessity of Pragmatism: John Dewey’s Conception of Philosophy. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001. Cited as NP.
_____. "What is Metaphysics?" Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, Vol. 28 (1992), 177-187. Cited as WM.
Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. Corrected edition, edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald Sherburne. New York: The Free Press, 1978. Cited as PR.
_____. Science and the Modern World. New York: The Free Press, 1967. Cited as SMW.