Hilary Putnam, one of America's most distinguished philosophers, surveys an astonishingly wide range of issues and proposes a new, clear-cut approach to philosophical questions--a renewal of philosophy. He contests the view that only science offers an appropriate model for philosophical inquiry. His discussion of topics from artificial intelligence to natural selection, and of reductive philosophical views derived from these models, identifies the insuperable problems encountered when philosophy ignores the normative or attempts to reduce it to something else.
From the Back Cover
A renewal of philosophy is precisely the point of this book, drawn from the 1989 Gifford Lectures by one of America's most distinguished philosophers. In a wide-ranging survey of major issues, Hilary Putnam proposes a revitalized approach to philosophical questions. Putnam contests the view that only science offers an appropriate model for philosophical inquiry, that only a metaphysics congruent with physics suffices, while questions of art and ethics, love, death, and religion must be set aside due to the lack of an adequate language or perspective. His discussion of topics from artificial intelligence to natural selection, and of reductive philosophical views derived from these models, identifies the insuperable problems encountered by philosophy when it ignores the normative or attempts to reduce it to something else. Looking for a better way of doing philosophy, Putnam takes up the problems posed by religious discourse - often viewed by philosophers as prescientific and primitive, an unlikely survivor from the age of superstition. In luminous pages on Wittgenstein, he refutes this view and shows how the philosopher's frequently misunderstood forays into religious discourse actually open up philosophy to a broad range of practical, moral, and political issues. In closing, Putnam considers Dewey, who occupies a middle ground between metaphysics and skepticism, and whose broadly epistemological arguments in favor of democracy this book eloquently advances. Written in Putnam's characteristically lucid and engaging style, this is a compelling call to reject the confusions and reductions that obscure the human issues which it has always been philosophy's highest goal to articulate.