Keeping the pragmatism in neuropragmatism
Whenever I hear the term "neuropragmatism," I am reminded of J. L. Austin's opening words in his famous article "Performative Utterances," where he says, "You are more than entitled not to know what the word "performative" means. It is a new word and an ugly word, and perhaps it does not mean anything very much."1 Likewise, you are more than entitled not to know what "neuropragmatism" means. It is, indeed, a new word, and it is perhaps an ugly word, but I daresay that it is not an inconsequential word. Therefore, the first question to ask is what the term might mean. The second and more important question is why we ought to care about neuropragmatism. I shall argue that, although we have good reasons for thinking that cognitive neuroscience has a great deal to offer toward a psychologically sophisticated view of mind, experience, thought, and language, our enthusiasm for cognitive neuroscience should always be tempered by a critical and more comprehensive perspective supplied by pragmatism. What pragmatist philosophy has to offer is the broader philosophical context necessary for understanding the grounding assumptions of cognitive neuroscience, its fundamental limitations, and its place in a more expansive pragmatist framework for approaching both philosophy and our basic life problems. In short, pragmatism without neuroscience is (partially) empty, but neuroscience without pragmatism is (partially) blind.
Johnson, M. (2014)., Keeping the pragmatism in neuropragmatism, in T. Solymosi & J. Shook (eds.), Neuroscience, neurophilosophy and pragmatism, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 37-56.
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