The Ontological Grounding of Diversity:

A Pragmatic Overview


Much contemporary philosophy, like pragmatism, rejects foundationalism or positions which hold  there is something objective which justifies rational arguments concerning a single best position for making available or picturing the structure of reality as it exists independently of our various contextually set inquiries.  However pragmatism, in rejecting foundationalism and its respective philosophic baggage, does not embrace the alternative of anti-foundationalism or its equivalent dressed up in new linguistic garb.  Rather, it rethinks the nature of foundations, standing the tradition on its head, so to speak, and this rethinking incorporates the ontological grounding of diversity.   In returning  to the richness of primal experience and the interactive unity of humans and nature pragmatism calls for a pluralism of valid frameworks while yet allowing for their openness onto both the "other" of different perspectives and a thick, independent universe to which they are answerable.  The present paper explores this rethinking of foundations and the pattern of ontologically grounded diversity that pervades the pragmatic vision and weaves it into a systematic unity.

The uprootedness of experience from its ontological embeddedness in a natural world is at the core of much contemporary philosophy which, like pragmatism, aims to reject foundationalism in all its forms, positions which all hold, in varying ways, that there is a bedrock basis on which to build an edifice of knowledge, something objective which justifies rational arguments concerning what is the single best position for making available or picturing the structure of reality as it exists independently of our various contextually set inquiries.  There can be no non-perspectival framework within which differences--social, moral, scientific, etc., can be evaluated and resolved. These positions may, like pragmatism, focus on the pluralistic, contextualistic ways of dealing with life, on the role of novelty and diversity, on a turn away from abstract reason to imagination, feeling and practice, and on the need to solve the concrete problems of political, social, and moral life. However pragmatism, in rejecting foundationalism and its respective philosophic baggage, does not embrace the alternative of anti-foundationalism or its equivalent dressed up in new linguistic garb.  Rather, it rethinks the nature of foundations, standing the tradition on its head, so to speak, and this rethinking incorporates the ontological grounding of diversity.

This rethinking, which incorporates the essentially perspectival nature of experience and knowledge, goes hand in hand with pragmatism's radical rejection of the spectator theory of knowledge.  All knowledge and experience are infused with interpretive aspects, funded with past experience.  And, all interpretation stems from a perspective, a point of view.  Knowledge is not a copy of anything pregiven, but involves a creative organization of experience which directs the way we focus on experience and which is tested by its workability in directing the ongoing course of future activities.  In this way, experience and knowledge are at once experimental and perspectival in providing a workable organization of problematical or potentially problematical situations. Not only are perspectives real within our environment, but without them there is no environment. 

Further, our worldly environment incorporates a perspectival pluralism, for diverse groups or diverse individuals bring diverse perspectives in the organization of experience.  The universe exists independent of our intentional activity, but our worldly environment is inseparable from our meaning or intending it in certain ways, and these ways are inherently pluralistic.  However, such pluralism, when properly understood, should not lead to the view that varying groups are enclosed within self-contained, myopic, limiting frameworks or points of view, cutting off the possibility of rational dialogue, for two reasons.  It will be seen first that perspectives by their very nature are not self-enclosed but open onto a community perspective, and second that perspectival pluralism provides the very matrix for rational dialogue and ongoing development. And, it is within the core of human selfhood that the primordial ontological embeddedness of diversity within the very nature of, indeed as constitutive of, human experience can be found.

For pragmatism, mind, thinking, and selfhood are emergent levels of activity of ontologically "thick" organisms within nature.  Meaning emerges in the interactions among conscious organisms, in the adjustments and coordinations needed for cooperative action in the social context.  In communicative interaction, individuals take the perspective of the other in the development of their conduct, and in this way there develops the common content which provides community of meaning and the social matrix for the emergence of self-consciousness.  In incorporating the perspective of the other, the self comes to incorporate the standards and authority of the group; there is a passive dimension to the self Mead calls the "me".  Yet, the individual responds as a unique center of activity; there is a creative dimension to the self, the "I".[1]   Any self thus incorporates, by its very nature, both the conformity of the group perspective and the creativity of its unique individual perspective.[2]  Without the internalized social environment, the internalization of what Mead calls the "generalized other", there is no self.  As Dewey notes, it is through social interaction that "the self is both formed and brought to consciousness."[3]

However, the "me" or conforming dimension has itself been formed in part from the past creative responses of the "I".   The creativity of my responses changes the "me", which in turn resituates and alters the possibilities for future choices by the "I".  The self thus arises as an ontological "thick", inherently relational, dynamic center of agency in an ongoing process of adjustment within the context of creative diversity and conformity.  As Dewey puts it, the tension between conservative and liberating factors lies in the very constitution of individual selves.[4] 

These same internal dynamics are operative in the culture or community. The individual is neither an isolatable discrete element in, nor an atomic building block of, a community.  Rather, the individual represents the instigation of creative adjustments within a community, adjustments which creatively change both poles which operate within the adjustment process.  There is an intimate functional reciprocity between individual and social intelligence, a reciprocity based on the continual process of adjustment.  This adjustment is neither assimilation nor fusion, but can best be understood as accommodation. In the continual interplay of the adjustment or accommodation of attitudes, aspirations, and factual perceptions between the common perspective as the condition for the novel emergent individual perspective and the novel emergent as it conditions the common perspective the dynamic of community is to be found. The ability to provide the organs of adjudication within the ongoing dynamics of socializing adjustments constitutes a community of any type as a community. The relational process of adjustment or accommodation between the novel perspective and the common perspective is the essential communicative dynamic.

The adjustment of incompatible perspectives at any level requires not an imposition from "on high" of abstract principles but a deepening to a more fundamental level of human rapport.  The understanding of a radically diverse way of life, or way of making sense of things, is not to be found from above by imposing one's own reflective perspective upon such diversity, but rather from beneath, by penetrating through such differences to the sense of the various ways of making sense of the world as they emerge from the essential characteristics of beings fundamentally alike confronting a common reality in an ongoing process of change. Such a deepening does not negate the use of intelligent inquiry, but rather opens it up, frees it from rigidities and abstractions and focuses it on concrete human existence. In this way, over the course of time, incompatible perspectives may be resolved as reasons and practices are worked out in the ongoing course of inquiry.

To understand one's own stance on any issue is to understand its inherently perspectival approach and the illuminating light which other perspectives can rightfully cast upon it. The development of the ability to create and to respond constructively to the creation of novel perspectives, as well as to incorporate the perspective of the other, not as something totally alien, but as something sympathetically understood, is at once growth of the self. Growth of self incorporates an ever more encompassing sympathetic understanding of varied and diverse interests; involves as well the concomitant reconstruction of the socio-cultural environment which becomes incorporated within the self's conserving dimension; and at times demands also a reconstruction of the very standards of mediation which ground such reconstructive dynamics. Growth of self, then, involves the internalization of ever widening and evolving relational contexts of diverse perspectives. To deepen and expand the horizons of community is at once to deepen and expand the horizons of the selves involved in the ongoing dynamics of adjustment.  Growth involves not only diversity but the ongoing resolution of conflicts to which diversity gives rise.  As Dewey points out, growth involves the rational resolution of conflict,[5]  and Peirce can "bless God for the law of growth with all the fighting it imposes."[6]

It has been seen that selfhood develops as an emergent level of activity, and the operation of reason cannot be isolated from the concrete human being in its entirety. This biological rootedness pervades and is a necessary basis for epistemic activity at all levels, from common sense to the most abstract science and logic.  One of the most distinctive and most crucial aspects of pragmatism is its understanding of experience as a rich ongoing interactional or transactional unity between organism and environment, and only within the context of meanings which incorporate such an interactional unity does what is given emerge for conscious awareness.

Moreover, this interactional unity is value laden throughout.  Our moral claims are about something that requires experimental integration: ontologically emergent value qualities within the relational contexts of organism-environment interaction, emergents providing a value laden qualitative dimension of concrete human existence. Humans have a plurality of values emerging from their organic embeddedness in a natural and social world.   These value situations, like all situations, are open to revision and require the general method of experimental inquiry by which to progress from a problematic situation to a meaningfully integrated one. 

The situations which yield immediately experienced valuings for individuals may vary from individual to individual, and different individuals may organize these diverse valuings in different ways to yield differing normative claims, differing claims about what is valuable, about what valuings ought to be pursued.  Yet, some valuings and their situational contexts demand promotion, while others must fall by the wayside.  Some normative claims about what is valuable work in enhancing the value laden dimension of concrete human existence, while others do not.  At both levels the unique creativity of an individual enters into what emerges, but also entering into what emerges is an ontologically dense universe with the capabilities to enhance or to mutilate human experience in the long run. 

Ongoing dialogue and debate must ultimately be rooted in an attunement to the concrete valuings of humans, or there is nothing for the debate to be about.  And, the ontologically emergent value dimension of concrete human existence is located neither in the individual or the particular culture alone, nor in the inherent nature of an independently existing universe alone, but in the context of the interactive unity of both at the heart of concrete experience.  It is this which provides the basis for the development, verification, and ongoing revision of moral norms as experimental hypothesis for the expansion and reintegration of value laden problematic contexts.

This position of course rules out absolutism in ethics.  But what must be stressed is that it equally rules out subjectivism and relativism, for normative hypotheses are rooted in, and ultimately judged by, the conditions and demands of human living and the desire for meaningful, enriching lives.  We create and utilize norms or ideals in the moral situation, but which ones work is dependent upon the emergent but real domain of conflicting immediately experienced valuings which need integrating and harmonizing. 

Our primal interactive openness onto the ontologically dense universe, then, is an openness onto the experience of concrete value qualities as real emergent features of human existence. The incommensurable, historically contingent value systems have arisen out of the directly felt value textures of experience as these emerge in our concrete interactive contexts.  And, the deepening process of reason can regain touch with the concrete richness of the experience of value as it emerges from humans fundamentally alike, confronting a common reality which they must render not only manageable and intelligible, but also enriching of concrete human existence, through the diverse interpretive nets offered by diverse cultural histories. In the area of value as in other areas of human inquiry, what is involved is not a linguistic or cultural self-enclosed relativism, but an ontologically grounded open perspectivalism which accommodates diversity of perspectives but not any and every perspective.   

It has been seen that the adjustment of perspectives through rational reconstruction requires not an imposition from "on high" of abstract principles but a deepening to a more fundamental level of human rapport. While experience arises from specific, concrete contexts shaped by a particular tradition, this is not mere inculcation, for the deepening process offers the openness for breaking through and grasping different contexts. Ongoing dialogue and debate about experimental reconstruction of problematic situations, and about resultant new norms and ideals which develop as working hypotheses out of such concrete situations, must ultimately be rooted in the creative utilization of an attunement to the valuings of humans and their ongoing flourishing.  Reconstruction of concrete situations in their richness as involving authentic growth thus ultimately requires both a deepening attunement to the pulse of human existence and the development of creative intelligence.  In this ongoing process, differences are not to be eliminated or melted down, for these differences provide the necessary materials by which both humans and societies alike can continue to grow.

The interactive ontological unity of organism-environment transaction at the heart of experience is more than a postulate of abstract thought, for it has experiential dimensions; it is reflected in the phenomenologically grasped features of experience.  That which intrudes itself inexplicably into experience is not bare datum, but rather evidences itself as the over-againstness of a thick reality there for my activity.  Awareness is awareness of reality as it intrudes within our interpretive field of active engagement with it.  The phenomenological features of experience themselves point toward a concrete organism immersed in a natural universe and belie any interpretation of the field of awareness as any type of self-enclosed experience, linguistic or otherwise.

Thus Lewis asserts that independent factuality "does not need to be assumed nor to be proved, but only to be acknowledged",[7] while Dewey observes that experience "reaches down into nature; it has depth."  As he elaborates on this point, "Experience is of as well as in nature . . .  Things interacting in certain ways are experience; they are what is experienced.  Linked in certain other ways with another natural object--the human organism--they are how things are experienced as well."[8]  This description of the ontological dimension of experience is well evinced in Mead's claim that, in becoming an object, something has the character of "actually or potentially acting upon the organism from within itself."  He calls this character that of having an inside.[9]  Such an acting upon the organism cannot be understood as passive resistance, but as active resistance, resistance to our organic activity. Peirce captures this ontological dimension of experience in his understanding of the Dynamical Object, which is "the Reality which by some means contrives to determine the Sign to its Representation." [10]  Signs engage the interpreter with a dynamic reality through habits of action as living meanings.  In this way habit creates the "immediate" or interpreted object under the constraints of the dynamical object which is its ultimate referent, and provides the vital, living link between signs and the universe.  

The interactional unity contains a two directional openness: the  primordial openness of the character of experience itself opens in one direction toward the features of the human modes of grasping the independently real, and in the other direction towards the features  of the independently real, for the character of experience emerges from an interaction of these two  poles and thus reflects characteristics of each, though it mirrors neither exactly.  In the interactional unity which constitutes our worldly experience, both poles are thus manifest: the independently-there otherness onto which worldly experience opens, and the structure of the human way of being within whose purposive activity worldly experience emerges.

The pervasive textures of experience, which are exemplified in every experience, are at the same time indications of the pervasive textures of the independent universe which, in every experience, gives itself for our responses and which provides the touchstone for the workability of our meanings.  Peirce captures the import of this in his claim that though "everything which is present to us is a phenomenal manifestation of ourselves," this "does not prevent its being a phenomenon of something without us, just a rainbow is at once manifestation of the sun and the rain."[11] For all the pragmatists, the flux of life as it concretely occurs contains already a phenomenological dimension of human thrown-outness onto the universe through a vital intentionality constitutive of the nature of experience as experimental. Thus, the being of humans in the natural universe and the knowing by humans of the natural universe are inseparably connected within the structure of experience and its pervasive textures, which include the features of continuity, temporal flow, novelty and vagueness. As Peirce states of this processive reality, it "swims in indeterminacy."[12] 

In this way, there is an elusive resistance at the basis of meaning selection which must be acknowledged in our creative development of meaning systems and choices among them.  Moreover, the very textures of experience indicate that this resistance cannot be understood in terms of discrete, structured realities as the furniture of the universe which we merely find, and the finding of which requires that we in some way escape our interpretations and the structures they provide. Rather, this resisting element provides a general compulsiveness which constrains the way networks of beliefs interrelate, and may at times lead to changes, sometimes radical changes, in our understanding of the world which our beliefs--both perceptual and more reflective, incorporate. 

What we experience, what we know, then, is reducible neither to what is antecedently there nor to a social construction.  There is no sharp distinction between the natural and the social in the sense that one can situate particular objects exclusively within one or the other.  The contextualism of pragmatic philosophy is rooted in a naturalism which both gives rise to interpretive activity and is the test of its adequacy.  Our interpretive activity emerges within and embodies organic activity and is grounded in a world not exclusively of our own making. At the very heart of the temporal stretch of human behavior as anticipatory is a creativity, expressive of the experimental nature of experience, that is at once unified with an ontological presence but that renders its grasp in terms of any absolute grounding impossible. As such, human awareness is at once theoretical, practical, and ontologically embedded, as well as inherently creative and perspectival.  This rich epistemic-ontological unity at the heart of experience, rather than any falsely reified interpretive content emerging from it, provides the foundational level for ongoing human activity, both as a way of being and a way of knowing.

Perspectival pluralism, though incorporating at its deepest level the endless activity of adjustment rather than convergence toward final completed truth, does not involve the stultifying self-enclosement of a relativism in terms of arbitrary conceptual schemes or an historicism in terms of present happenstance.  Rather, it involves an ontologically grounded temporalism in which perspectives emerge within the context of a past which presents itself in the richness of the present and which is oriented toward an indefinite future.  What is involved is not a liberation from the ontologically grounded possibilities presented by the past, a position which houses its own kind of cultural historicism, but a liberation from a restricted access to them. Our primal epistemic and ontological openness to "the other" and its demands, as understood within pragmatism, results in more pluralism, not less.

Neither intelligibility nor truth requires either the ontologically discrete or the ontologically determinate.  Neither the ceaselessly "becoming other" of reality nor its inherent indeterminacy leads to unintelligibility. The postmodern tendency to so relate the two stems from the refusal to separate intelligibility from discreteness and fixity.  The reality of the continuity of becoming other and the indeterminacy this brings with it provides for rational discourse and ongoing inquiry which is rooted in and provides perspectival knowledge about reality, so long as knowledge is not understood as a direct, uninterpreted seizure of what immediately "is", and truth is not understood as conformity or correspondence to the fixed discretes of a fully determinate reality. 

Underlying the supposedly necessary choice between the groundlessness of Derridian play or Rortyian conversation on the one hand and the grasp of reality in its "pristine purity" on the other is the assumption that without a "place" for the fully determinate, the groundless alternative wins out, an assumption that flourishes within frameworks that ignore the fundamental, creative, interactive unity at the heart of lived experience which is central to the spirit of pragmatic philosophy. Pragmatic naturalism demands the recognition of the constraints imposed by a thick ontological presence, but demands as well that the understanding of our engagement within it be reconstructed to rid itself of all vestiges of and trappings surrounding the spectator theory of knowledge and the concomitant correspondence theory of truth and fully structured reality of traditional realism. We do not think to a reality to which language or conceptual structures correspond, but rather we live through a reality with which we are intertwined, and the intertwining with which constitutes experience.  Our primal interactive embeddedness in the world is something which can never be adequately objectified.

The indefinitely rich concreteness of a processive universe is revealable in various ways through various meaning structures, and is universalizable and "intelligible" through the network of such structures, though "in itself" it contains no inherently intelligible order.  However, as Dewey carefully points out, this "does not mean that nature has lost intelligibility.  It rather signifies that we are in position to realize that the term intelligible is to be understood literally . . .  Nature is capable of being understood . . .  The devotion we show to the ideal of intelligence determines the extent" to which the universe "is congenial to mind."[13]

Our perceptual environment, which grounds the emergence of facts and objects and provides the foundation for other, more abstract or more imaginative environments, is existentially one with the spatio-temporal unfolding of an indeterminate reality. It is, metaphysically, that independently real.  Yet, our various environments are dependent upon the meaning systems or interpretive contexts which grasp in a way in which the full concreteness of spatio-temporal reality is not, for they are perspectives of the indefinitely rich reality which have been "fixed" or "carved out" by  systems of meanings.  Knowledge is abstractive and selective.  Our everyday environment, though concrete, is nonetheless selective in the sense that it is the concrete content denoted by a system of meanings, a system that is one way in which the indeterminate concreteness of reality can be delineated or "fixed." 

A system, once chosen, limits the alternatives possible within it, but alternative systems may be possible.  The indefinite richness of a processive universe is there.  Where the conceptual "cuts" are imposed is, in part, our decision.  Any environment is delineated by a system of facts, but facts are not independent of the selective knowledge process, for facts are abstracted portions of interacting continuities.    As Peirce stresses, "nothing else than a Fact possibly can be a 'witness' or 'testimony'",[14] and facts are not "a slice of the Universe"[15] but are always relative to the framework of a discriminating mind.  Yet the "witness of a fact" is the real, "since it is truly in that which occurs."[16] As Lewis captures the import of this, "It may be that between a sufficiently critical idealism and a sufficiently critical realism there are no issues save false issues which arise from the insidious fallacies of a copy theory of knowledge."[17]

Truth is relative to a context of interpretation, then, not because truth is relative, but because without an interpretive context the concept of truth is meaningless.  Truth is not an absolute grasp, a correspondence with an external reality, but neither is it relative.  It is perspectival.  We create the perspective, but whether or not it allows us to grasp in workable ways that which enters into experience is dependent not on our creativity but on the resistant features of that which enters our perspectival net and provides the touchstone for the workability of our interpretations. Truth as workability is understood in terms of answering. Peirce claims that a true thought is one which answers, which leads to thoughts in harmony with nature.[18]  The relation of "answering" is ultimately two directional.  Reality answers our questions, and determines the workability of our meaning structures, but what answers it gives are partially dependent on what questions we ask, and what meaning structures work are partially dependent upon the structures we bring.

Throughout many levels, truth is both made and found.  The so-called tensions between truth as made and truth as found, between truth as changing and truth as fixed, result from focusing on diverse dimensions operative within the intertwining of human interpretive activity and the temporal unfolding of a processive universe.  We create the interpretive frameworks within which beliefs can emerge and be found true or false and within which investigation can tend toward agreement.  The creative intelligence involved in radical changes and shifts of interpretive frameworks is influenced by socio-cultural conditions, but is ultimately founded not in a relativistic, perspectivally closed historicism, but in an ontologically grounded, perspectivally open temporalism.  The various claims that knowledge as perspectivally and temporally rooted involves relativism and historicism sever experience from its creative, interactive unity with, and openness upon, that which is independently there.  Instead of the stultifying self-enclosement of a relativism in terms of arbitrary conceptual schemes, this pragmatic view houses an open perspectivalism in which perspectives open onto the common concrete ground of their possibility.  Instead of an historicism of present happenstance, it involves a temporalism in which historical rootedness is at once rootedness in a thick, resisting, natural universe, and in which the rootedness of perspectives emerge within the context of a past that presents itself in the richness of the potentialities and possibilities of a processive present oriented toward a novel and indefinite future.   Valid knowledge claims are fallibilistic, perspectival, temporal, and pluralistic, but nonetheless grounded in a thick reality.  The criterion for adequately cutting into the indefinitely rich array of possibilities of experience offered by the dynamics of an indeterminately rich concrete universe is workability, but workability can be established only relative to some meaningful network by which experience is "caught". 

The purpose of knowledge is not to copy reality but to allow us to live in it in enriching ways by grasping the ways it reveals itself in various types of workable contexts. Pragmatism holds that we can do more than, as Rorty puts it, "converse about our views of the world", "use persuasion rather than force", "be tolerant of diversity", and "be contritely fallibilist".[19] We can also recognize, via the method of experimental inquiry, that some perspectival nets are more successful than others in rendering intelligible a reality which is not beyond the reach of experience, which may be unknown in many ways, but is eminently knowable, though always via a perspectival net by which we render intelligible its indeterminate richness. 

When a community is operating within a common system of meanings on any one issue, then investigation can tend toward convergence.  But, when different segments of interpreters experience different facts because of different sets of meaning structures for cutting into the indefinitely rich continuity of possibilities of ordering, then such convergence cannot occur.   Thus there may be a plurality of interpretations among varying groups of interpreters on any topic.  For, each group, identifiable by varying nets or perspective for the catching of experience, are variously structuring some contours of an environment.  But, even the lines of demarcation of distinct groups of interpreters are difficult to discern, for such differing networks are embodied in differing attitudes of response and may be present when disagreeing interpreters think their differences can be resolved merely by "collecting the facts."  In this way, the essential pluralism is often hidden from view in the misplaced drive toward a common conclusion based on "the evidence". 

Such pluralism must ultimately be dealt with in terms of a generalized stance of agreement concerning what standards are to be applied in making decisions among "incommensurable" frameworks for delineating facts.  Such standards may be difficult to elucidate, but as implicitly operative they can be elicited for clarification.  However, perspectives may emerge which are not only "incommensurable" with another conceptual net for the catching of experience through the determination of what kind of facts exist in the world, but which also incorporate standards and criteria and solutional goals, or kinds of problems important to resolve, which are "incommensurable" with those of another perspective.  Thus, there are not only different facts, but different methods, standards, and criteria for determining which system of facts should be accepted.

The function of "persuasion" comes into play here.  Persuasion, however, does not involve a contrast between the rational and the non-rational, but rather requires a new understanding of the nature of rationality.    Pragmatism implicitly reveals the way in which the rational cannot be confined to what can be explicitly formulated in a series of propositions, for facts and their propositional formulations emerge from the backdrop of a horizon of meaning which by its very nature cannot be brought to such formulation.   As Peirce stresses, the irrationality of humans consists in "an exaggerated loyalty to their own principles"[20] rather than willingness to change in the light of the dynamics of scientific method.  This method incorporates at all levels of its functioning the vague sense of workability and, as holistic in nature, is not reducible to rigid rules of procedure. 

Incommensurable perspectives, whether at the level of common sense or science, though in a sense structuring differing "worlds", cannot, by their very nature as opening onto a natural universe with which we must successfully interact, be closed to rational discussion.  In the ongoing course of experience some arguments or reasons gain vitality while others fall by the wayside.  Though neither is proved right or wrong, we "get over" some, but yield to the force of others.  Such a "getting over" or reinforcement is based on rational discussion, guided by a vague, elusive, but real sense of the inescapable criteria of workability.   Knowledge as cumulative and knowledge as changing do not lie in opposition. Rather, knowledge as changing is also knowledge as cumulative, for any novel perspective emerges from a cumulative process or history which yields enrichment of intelligibility both of the old and of the new.  But, to demand of such a cumulative process that it tends toward a final unchanging truth is to misunderstand the nature of the indeterminately rich natural universe, the nature of noetic activity, and the nature of the interactive contexts within which both are unified. 

It can be seen, then, that pragmatism attempts to reveal the way in which there is an ontological rootedness at the very heart of the experience that allows for, indeed calls out for, the flourishing of diversity, but a responsible diversity that remains answerable to its demands. The position attempts to draw one toward an awareness of the interactive openness, at the heart of experience, of humans and the natural universe in which they are embedded, and in so doing provide the path for freeing thinking from premature ontological assertions, from illicit reifications, and from a tradition of philosophy which, in its search for supposed foundations, lost the illusive but pervasive experiential-ontological foundations of its search.  The language of philosophy is born of a tradition which ignores this interactive unity, and hence it reinforces problems and alternative solutions which the present position eludes.  The alternatives, whether expressed in older or newer fashion, of correspondence or coherence, realism or idealism, empiricism or rationalism, foundationalism or anti-foundationalism, realism or anti-realism, objectivism or relativism, subjectivism or objectivism, play or pure presence, conversation or a mirror of nature all are alternatives which grow out of reflective frameworks which ignore the fundamental, creative, interactive unity at the heart of lived experience which is central to the spirit of pragmatic philosophy.  The unity denies the arbitrariness of antifoundationalism, antirealism, relativism, a historicism of present happenstance, while the temporally founded creativity denies the absoluteness of foundationalism, realism, objectivism, the absolute grasp.

In returning  to this interactive unity in the richness of primal experience pragmatism calls for a pluralism of valid frameworks while yet allowing for their openness onto both the "other" or different perspectives and a thick, independent universe to which they are answerable.  And thus the position avoids the extremes of either relativistic   irresponsibility or dogmatic commitment or imposition, replacing both with the importance of  ongoing inter-perspectival dialogue which allows for the advancement of knowledge and the ongoing enrichment of human existence.   It calls for commitment to one's perspective as it proves to advance these goals, but yet openness to other perspectives which may, in their own way, be accomplishing the same goals.  And if, as pragmatism holds, the pulse of human existence at its very core is, both ontologically and epistemically, creatively and perspectivally intertwined with, and thus attuned to, an indeterminately rich universe which reveals itself in various ways both within and among various levels and modes of human activity, then attunement to this sense of human existence can yield at once both a more demanding and more tolerant master than any of the diverse second level articulations to which it gives rise.  The spirit of pragmatism and the paradigmatic novelty it provides charts a course into the future which winds its way between the self-defeating alternatives of a long philosophical tradition, and what gives contour to this course is the sturdy pattern of ontologically grounded diversity that pervades it.

[1] The "I" and the "me" are neither numerically, ontologically or existentially distinct but rather represent two dimensions of the functioning of the concrete "body-self".

[2] See Mind, Self, and Society, ed. Charles Morris (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934), passim.

[3] Art As Experience, The Later Works, ed. Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale and Edwardsville:  University of Southern Illinois Press, 1981-989), Vol. 10, (1987), p.286.

[4]John Dewey,"Authority and Social Change", The Later Works, Vol. 11 (1987), p.133.)

[5] Dewey, Ethics, The Middle Works, ed. Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1976-1983), Vol. 5 (1978), p.327.

[6] Charles Peirce, Collected Papers, Vols.I-VI ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1931-1935); Vols. VII and VIII ed. Arthur Burks (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958), 6.479. Hereafter cited using only conventional two-part notation.

[7] Lewis, Mind and the World Order (New York: Dover Publications, 1929), Appendix D, pp. 425-426.

[8] Dewey, Experience and Nature, The Later Works, Vol. 1, 1981,pp.12-13.

[9] Mead, The Philosophy of the Present, ed. Arthur Murphy (La Salle, Illinois:  Open Court, 1959), p. 137.

[10] Peirce, 4.536; See also 8.314

[11] Peirce, 5.283.

[12] Peirce, 1.171-172

[13] Dewey, The Quest for Certainty, The Later Works,  Vol.4, 1984, p. 215.

[14] Peirce Manuscripts, Harvard University Library, MS 647, p.26

[15] Peirce, MS 647, p.8

[16] MS 647, p.9

[17] Lewis, Mind and the World Order, p. 194.

[18] Peirce, MS 934, p.24.

[19] Richard Rorty, "Pragmatism without Method", Philosophical Papers, Vol.I, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 67.

[20] Peirce, 6.181